Don’t Overlook Government Accounting.

BY TERI-ANN JAMES

Out of a love for the work I had performed as a bookkeeper, I began to study accounting and earned my accounting degree at a relatively “old” age. When researching positions in the profession, I quickly discovered the horrendous hours and travel requirements often demanded of accountants in both industry and public accounting. With a six-year-old daughter and a husband subject to overnight travel on a regular basis, that type of schedule was not an option for me at the time.

Through discussions at an annual reception held by the professional club at my university for students and representatives from all accounting sectors, I realized that the government sector would be the best fit for me.

Given this background, when I read “ Practitioners as Mentors ” ( JofA , Jun.03, page 39), I expected to learn that the mentoring program developed by the Boler Business School at John Carroll University would include practitioners from various areas of the government sector. On the contrary, the article states the “program draws mentors from both public accounting and industry.” Government was not mentioned, which, I believe, is an unfortunate omission.

The government sector offers opportunities and flexibility that public accounting and industry may be unable or unwilling to offer. As in any comparison, each sector has its strengths and weaknesses. Experience in the government sector may not have the prestige the public accounting (especially Big Four) experience possesses. Often salaries in government, especially starting ones, are not as generous as those offered by industry and public accounting. On the other hand, government offers family-friendly benefits such as shorter workdays, compensatory time for overtime work, generous sick, holiday and annual leave, flexible schedules, longevity pay and even work-from-home options for some positions. The work is varied and interesting, and for those who wish, there are opportunities for advancement. However, those who do not want to advance are not penalized for preferring to remain where they are. For me, the lower starting pay and lack of prestige were more than offset by the flexibility and family-friendly milieu that allowed me to work and to watch my daughter grow up.

Many areas within the government sector offer interesting and challenging accounting positions for both traditional and nontraditional students. To exclude the government sector as an option for accounting students does them a disservice.

Teri-Ann James, CPA
Smyrna, Tennessee

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