In today’s world of competitive job-seeking, the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential is one that continues to be recognized by employers. Students become aware of the “Big 4” Accounting Firms (PWC, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, and Ernst & Young) very early in their accounting education, and thus set their sights on gaining employment with one of them. These four firms generate tens of billions of dollars of revenue and each has around 200,000 employees or more. There is no doubt that subsequent employers are pleased to see the name of a Big 4 firm on an applicant’s resume.
However, many accounting students and graduates overlook the nation’s biggest employer – The United States Government. The government provides jobs for over two million of its citizens. Of course, many people are familiar with agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, Social Security Administration, Department of Justice, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Education. But, there are many more, and they are not located only in Washington, D.C. Other agencies like the Railroad Retirement Board, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Defense Contract Audit Agency, Department of Transportation, Labor Department and more, all of which offer the same kinds of accounting-oriented job that you may come across within any organization or corporation. A quick search on the USAJobs website yielded 394 jobs open to the public for “accounting,” and 159 jobs for “certified public accountant.” USA jobs does not even contain all government jobs, it’s just the biggest and most known.
A job classification called “Criminal Investigative Series, 1811” consists of the kind of jobs that students often desire because of what they have seen on television or in movies. These include special agent roles with the Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Homeland Security. Many students are often surprised to learn that these agencies highly value the CPA license, and those with the license and/or an accounting degree are certainly eligible to apply.
Of course, this is not to say that acquiring a position at one of these aforementioned agencies is an easy route. The government hiring process can often include extensive background checks, hiring freezes, and additional steps not found in other lines of work. That being said, reports available today note that about 15% of the baby boomer generation of government employees is eligible for retirement, with that number set to nearly double within the next five years. So, many agencies are looking to hire in waves in the near future simply because they will have to fill in those who retire or exit. Students ought to be aware that the CPA license will provide outlets to opportunities they may not have considered before, and one of them may be working for their country in a position they did not even know was an option.