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Considering a Career in Accounting?

5 Key Things You Need to Know

If you’re looking for an exciting career, and one that won’t go out of fashion, consider accounting. Individuals and businesses alike are always in need of someone who can help them manage their finances. While tax season certainly sees an uptick in demand for accountants, according to a recent article in the CPA Journal, the profession is also facing a shortage of qualified professionals to fill jobs.

We reached out to Ricardo Buenrostro, an instructor in UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s Accounting Program with over a decade of experience working in finance at UC Davis, for a closer look at the profession and what you should know before getting started. Here are his insights.

1. Is accounting a good career? 

headshot of UC Davis Accounting instructor Ricardo Buenrostro
Ricardo Buenrostro works in the UC Davis Finance Department as the director of Tax, Compliance and Controls.

Having immersed myself in the field of taxation and accounting, I can confidently say that this profession is not only intellectually stimulating but also highly rewarding.

One key aspect that makes accounting an excellent career is its versatility. Regardless of whether you work in higher education or operate a private practice, the skills acquired in accounting are valuable across various industries. The ability to navigate complex financial landscapes, interpret tax laws and provide strategic financial guidance make accountants indispensable assets to any organization.

Taxation adds a layer of complexity and importance to the profession. It requires a deep understanding of ever-evolving tax codes, meticulous research skills and the ability to provide comprehensive tax planning and preparation services. Staying current on tax law changes is crucial for tax professionals. Being able to guide clients through these changes and tailor solutions to their unique situations requires technical expertise and effective communication skills.

The role of an accounting professional extends beyond numbers. It involves maintaining compliance with regulatory standards and contributing to the overall financial health of an organization—making ongoing education crucial for success.

The ability to make a tangible impact on financial outcomes, coupled with diverse opportunities for specialization and career growth, solidifies accounting as an excellent and fulfilling profession.

2. How stressful is tax season? 

Tax season can be hectic and exciting—and it’s longer than you may realize. The filing deadline is April 15, but there’s a surge of IRS correspondence throughout the summer. Then there’s the clients who like to wait until October 15 to submit their documentation and some who wait even longer until the IRS closes the e-file service sometime in late November, just in time to unwind for the holidays. Your clients will depend on you and expect you to be accessible throughout the year as tax planning concerns come up. Tax season can definitely be a burst of money, but you have to match it with a burst of energy!

3. Is CPA better than an enrolled agent? 

Enrolled Agents (EAs) and Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are both valuable professionals in the field of taxation and accounting. The key differences are in their roles, qualifications and scope of practice.

Credentials and Licensing:

  • EAs are federally authorized tax practitioners licensed by the IRS, and their authorization allows them to practice across state lines without the need for state-specific licenses. They earn their EA status by passing a comprehensive three-part exam or through relevant work experience at the IRS.
  • CPAs are licensed by state boards of accountancy and their practice is typically limited to the state(s) where they hold a license. They must meet specific education, experience and examination requirements. CPAs may need to obtain additional licenses to practice in multiple states and may represent clients before the IRS.

Scope of Practice:

  • EAs specialize in tax matters and have unlimited practice rights, meaning they can represent taxpayers before the IRS for any tax matter. They often focus on tax planning, preparation and representation in IRS matters. EAs may work independently or within tax firms.
  • CPAs have a more extensive scope of practice that includes not only tax services but also auditing, financial accounting, consulting and advisory services. CPAs can work in various industries, providing a broader range of financial services beyond taxation.

Professional Expertise:

  • EAs are tax specialists with in-depth knowledge of tax codes and regulations. They are particularly well-suited for individuals and businesses seeking expertise in tax planning and compliance.
  • CPAs have a well-rounded education and experience in accounting, finance and taxation. They may be involved in financial reporting, auditing, budgeting, strategic financial planning and tax-related services.

4. Is corporate or individual taxation better for getting started? 

Both corporate and individual taxation have their merits, so the choice depends on your interests and career goals.

Want to learn more about taxation?

Whether you’re interesting in becoming a tax professional or want to become more familiar with your own tax circumstances to better manage your finances, Ricardo Buenrostro’s course, Individual Income Taxation, can help. You’ll gain the confidence and knowledge to prepare your own tax return and the curiosity to pursue the specialization that interests them.

Working in corporate taxation often involves dealing with the tax implications of business transactions, compliance and planning for corporate entities. For those interested in business finances, who enjoy working with complex financial structures and want exposure to various tax issues affecting companies, corporate taxation may be a good fit.

Individual taxation focuses on helping people navigate their personal tax obligations. This may include tax planning, preparation and advising on personal financial matters. It can be a good starting point for those who enjoy working directly with clients and want to build strong client relationships.

Ultimately, the best choice may depend on your personal preferences and career aspirations. Some professionals may start with individual taxation to build a foundation before transitioning into corporate taxation, while others may prefer to specialize in one area throughout their careers. Exploring both realms through internships or entry-level positions can provide valuable insights and help you make an informed decision about which field of taxation you prefer. Most of my experience is in individual taxation, and I have found that building strong client relationships is something I value.

5. What skills do you need to be an accountant? 

If you're looking to succeed in tax accounting, honing your technical proficiency, building strong relationships with clients and developing your professional acumen are all vital steps toward achieving your goals. A strong accounting skill set includes:

  • Technical Taxation Knowledge
  • Analytical and Problem-Solving Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Attention to Detail
  • Time Management
  • Client Relationship Management
  • Ethical Judgment
  • Technological Proficiency
  • Networking and Professionalism

About the Author

Ricardo Buenrostro works in the UC Davis Finance Department as the director of Tax, Compliance and Controls. He is skilled in tax research, tax preparation, financial aid administration, supervisory management and budget management. Instructor in the Accounting Program at UC Davis CPE.

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