Tax vs Audit: How to Choose a Career Path

In accounting, your career could go in many different directions, but most of your choices will fall under tax or audit. So which track is right for you?

It really is all about the right fit – which one better accommodates your lifestyle and career goals? What’s going to make you happy? While tax and audit can functionally be very different from each other, there are some common values you need to take into consideration. We asked two Becker experts to weigh in, and here’s what they recommend.

Test the waters

Get internships in both tax and audit. There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s no better way to scope out these careers than actually being in them. Try a smaller firm and a larger firm. Look at the lifestyles on both sides:  how much are people traveling? Are they on location with clients or in a centralized office? Talk to as many employees as you can to get a real-feel for working in that industry.

What do you want out of a career and life?

Do you want to be the road warrior who gets to travel to different cities and constantly meet new people, or are you more comfortable being in a local firm with colleagues who are more like family to you? Are you looking to start a family someday and will need more flexible work hours? While yes, it’s important to soak in the professional experience, take careful note of the people side of the industry as well.

What if I make the wrong choice?

It’s called a learning experience – you learn from it and you move on to something better. You are not tied down to only working in tax or only working in audit your entire career. In fact, it’s rare now to work at one place or even one industry until retirement. Get your experience (typically two years before getting your CPA license), then pick your options. If you spent your first two years in tax and hated it, then show employers how transferrable your skills are and get into auditing, and vice-versa.

Find your passion

Both tax and audit span to just about every industry you can think of. If nonprofit work motivates you, work for an organization you’re passionate about. If finance, retail or manufacturing really catch your interests, go do tax or audit for one of them.

Keep in mind…

Employers want talented people with diverse skills, and they want hard workers. If you have a strong work ethic and put in the hours and do your job, the firms likely don’t want to lose you. If you’re doing a great job, but feel like something is “missing” and want to explore another track, employers are willing to have those talks with you.

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Hannah Kohut