A group of aspiring accounting professionals engaged in financial analysis with charts and calculators, reflecting the hands-on experience gained while articling at DMCL.

Public vs. Industry Accounting: Navigating Career Choices for CPA Students

April 3, 2024

Choosing between industry or public accounting is a major decision for CPA students, shaping their career trajectory. Both paths offer unique advantages and disadvantages that align differently with career goals. 

Public Accounting 

Public accounting refers to a business or individual accountant that provides services for multiple clients. The ‘Big 4’ (Deloitte, EY, PwC, and KPMG) are often top-of-mind in this category, however public accounting also includes mid-size firms like DMCL, all the way to local ‘mom-and-pop shop’ accountants. 

Public accounting provides a broad exposure to various industries and clients, making it an excellent training ground for CPA students. Known for having a more rigorous environment, this path is often associated with professional prestige, facilitating a steep learning curve, and long hours during peak seasons. 

Public accountants usually receive higher salaries compared to those working in private accounting, and are tasked with a wider variety of responsibilities including: 

  • Financial statements preparation  
  • Tax advice and filing  
  • Audit and assurance services 
  • Consultations on managing and improving financial performance 

Industry Accounting 

Industry accounting, also known as private or corporate accounting, refers to accounting within a specific company or organization. This allows CPA students to delve deeply into a specific sector, with a more consistent work-life balance. The scope of work in industry accounting is more focused on the specific needs of the employer. This may offer a sense of belonging, with a team focused on company’s growth, however, might limit exposure to the breadth of experiences available, potentially narrowing future career moves. 

The responsibilities of industry accountants include: 

  • Financial reporting 
  • Budgeting and forecasting 
  • Cost accounting 
  • Tax planning and compliance 
  • Internal controls and audits 

DMCL understands the significance of choosing between public and private accounting, a decision influenced by one’s career goals, work-life balance, and personal growth. We emphasize the importance for students to find learning environments that prioritize their development and provide support. This approach allows CPA students to make informed choices about their future, recognizing that their decision affects not just their immediate job, but also the kind of professionals they aim to be. 

To read more on choosing industry or public accounting, visit CPA Canada. Visit our Careers page to learn more about DMCL’s CPA Program and life in a public accounting firm.