Firm, independent, SME or large company – which is the best choice? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of business for an accountant?
According to statistics from the Ordre des CPA du Québec, in 2016 a majority of students (65%) chose to do their internship in an accounting firm rather than in a business or in the public sector. However, the Ordre estimates that only 20% of accountants would stay there for their entire career.
The others will go to work in a company, for the public administration or on their own, as is the case for Annie Desjardins, an accountant who today works on her own after completing an internship in a large Montreal accounting firm.
“In an accounting firm, we benefit from a lot of support and coaching. There are specialists who can help us on every subject. At the beginning we also have less responsibility.”
Accountants who stay in a large accounting firm will be called on to specialize, Annie Desjardins explains. Those who choose to work in a company will have a single client, which is the company itself. Bookkeeping, audit preparation… A routine sets in.
As an independent, an accountant sets sail according to the assignments offered, as well as the clients who repeat. “Some clients retire, others arrive. The assignments are very varied,” Annie Desjardins says.
In a SME, it’s a completely different story. “There are not many accountants. It’s a job that is in demand and well paid, so small businesses cannot necessarily afford it.”
However, it is not uncommon to see an accountant get the entrepreneurial bug and join the founders of a start-up to take care of the financial side. He will then live on a roller coaster, with the highs and lows, and moments of high intensity.
Financial considerations and lifestyle
Although salary is the leading criteria for career choice, an ambitious accountant will then want to climb the ladder within a firm. According to the 226,750 salary guide from the Robert Half firm, the average maximum is $226,750 in a large international firm and $152,750 in a small to medium firm, while the “ceiling” salary is $115,500 in a company.
Annie Desjardins chose to start out on her own since she wanted to have control over her schedule. “I had a toddler and it seemed to me to be a good way to reconcile work and family. By working on my own, I can choose my clients and my schedule. On the other hand, there is a financial pressure that must be borne.”
Self-employed workers don’t have sick days, group insurance or a pension fund.
For accountants looking for security, stability and predictability, private enterprise will undoubtedly be a good option.