Looking for some career advice for a 35 year old new to accounting.

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    John Doe 15

    I am rehashing an older post because I need some advice as I feel lost with where to look to start a career.

    I am switching to accounting after having tried a career in healthcare.

    My degree is in accounting and I am CPA eligible. I am currently studying for the CPA exam.

    I have zero accounting work experience…absolutely no background other than my coursework.

    Where do you recommend I start looking for that “first job?”

    Every entry level position is asking for two years experience. I was on Glassdoor the other day and I found a few positions for graduating students with a 3.0 and the 150 credits. I didn't know if this was for 20-somethings and or what the position entails but should I be looking for a position like that or something else?

    I want to start a job and get a lot of experience there while completing the CPA exam. After a few years there, I then hope to move forward.

    What are your thoughts about places to look?


    My suggestion would be a smaller firm. You are pretty much screwed without having any experience.
    You might have to start out at an H&R Block type place to get some tax prep experience before any other firm will touch you.

    It's tougher for “non-traditional career path people” but its not impossible.
    Hurts to say it, but take ANY job that gets your foot in the door.

    Memento Mori - Kingston NY CPA & EA (SUNY Albany 2002)

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    I would apply for the jobs you assume are for 20 somethings and be ready to sell yourself.

    When I graduate from College I had a finance degree but the market was awful. So I decided to go into nursing because I would be guaranteed a job. I got a job in audit with a local company and relocated. I was in my late 20s. I ended up leaving after 5 years for a Big 4 firm. Just throw you name in the hat. One thing I was told was to remove my graduation date from my resume. Occasionally I would have recruiters ask when I graduated but that stopped me from the age discrimination.

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    I can't speak about public accounting as I have little experience there.

    In regards to private you'd probably have to go for entry level positions doing basic accounting functions. These pay horribly but it's needed to get in the door. Excel at what you do, try to get around to a couple different departments for experience, then try to get into a management or staff accountant position. Then if you have CPA and built your skill-set up properly you can get into assistant controller or senior management positions. It will take a lot of hard work and a lot of luck to get very far starting at that age. I started into accounting at 29 (undergrad was electrical engineering, then was in Navy for a couple years) so I know the pain. Lack of experience is killer, got passed up for a lot of promotions because so-and-so had more years at the company/in the field than I did even though my qualifications were better. Still working on my CPA so I'm hoping that will open up a lot more doors for me. I'm 37 now by the way.

    Studying with Gleim
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    Don't underestimate yourself before you even start. I took a long winding road to achieving my associates degree. I like to call it my 14 year associates degree. I took a class here and a class there while I was starting a family and holding down the home front for my military husband. I jumped in to obtaining my bachelors degree and finished it along with obtaining my 150 hour requirement in 2 years.

    Like you I knew it was going to be difficult to get my foot in the door somewhere, but that didn't stop me from applying everywhere! I do have a strong GPA, which I am sure helped. I really wanted to go into auditing. While the “Big 4” obviously wasn't interested in someone with as much life experience as I have, I found the firms just below them and smaller regional firms were! I landed numerous interviews and went with a smaller firm. That smaller firm balanced with my home life the best. I have been there just over a year and have advanced quickly. Be confident in your life experience and sell it! 🙂 I turn 36 next month!

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    Definitely don't discount any opportunities. You have one thing that I didn't have when I changed to accounting when I was 34, and that's an accounting degree. Make sure you highlight the skills and experience in your previous field that apply to accounting. Also, I never put my graduation date. Honestly, I really do feel like there's a lot of luck and being in the right place, at the right time. But there is also a lot of having to prove yourself way more when you do finally get a foot in the door.

    I knew I had my work cut out for me starting with no experience. So I was willing to take any kind of job in accounting. My first job was as a commercial collector. It was fun, and because I had decent Excel skills, I did a lot of reporting that my boss didn't want to do. That got me noticed by one of the accounting managers at my company who encouraged me to apply for a staff accountant position (even though I NEVER considered it because of my lack of experience). Surprising to me, they hired me. And after 2 years, I was promoted to Sr. Accountant. Then to Accounting Manager. I've been working in accounting now for over 10 years (primarily for large, public companies), and am now a Controller (in a public company), and will be taking my first CPA exam in April. It's definitely not impossible to make a career transition at 35. I changed my careers 2 times before I decided on accounting!! Believe me, I was CONSTANTLY asked why I changed careers so often. But, apparently, that wasn't a big enough negative for hiring managers. Good luck!

    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ―Aristotle

    For what it's worth – I switched to accounting at the age of 30 after working as a legal secretary for about 8 years. I was bored at that job and just kept gathering education until I decided to get an MBA with an accounting concentration and prepare myself for the CPA. I started applying for jobs right at the end of my MBA program. I applied to everything that even looked remotely interesting. I just needed one person to give me a chance.

    I got hired on at an extremely small, and fairly new CPA firm. I was the first full-time employee besides the 2 founding partners. My admin experience was a big help to me getting hired on. I didn't make a ton of money before, so I didn't have to take a pay cut which I was worried about.

    So my advice is to just keep applying. Apply for absolutely everything you find that looks like it will fit, even if you don't have all the experience required. Someone, somewhere, will finally give you a chance.

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    Licensed in IL & MO

    Have you thought about government? There are opportunities in State, Counties, Cities and Federal.


    As a 44 year old struggling to land that first job (been trying for over 2 years), I can attest that it's tough.

    My career advice:

    1. Network—People will often hire on who they know as opposed to the best person for the job.
    2. Pass several sections of the CPA exam—Your best bet to get firms to notice that you exist.
    3. Keep researching new things—Swapped out my resume and looking into a career outline in hopes of changing my career trajectory. Learning doesn't end with that degree.


    The problem isn't age so much as it's entry into the market through non traditional means. I went back to college to finish my degree at 43. I got my BS in Accounting, joined Beta Alpha Psi, did an internship during my last year, went through fall recruiting and secured a job at a top 10 firm in the location we wanted to relocate to (back home). What secured that job – the fall recruiting that was open to me via Beta Alpha Psi.

    If possible, could you go back and do a Master's program just to get access to recruiting? I don't know of anyone who wasn't getting offers, other than possibly the 60+ retired military vet. She might have secured something too, I didn't hear for sure. I do know the other woman older than I, in her 50s, was able to secure a job with a local firm. College recruiting is the doorway into entry level public accounting. It's a tough road any other way. These firms just don't typically look anywhere else for that level.

    In my firm's local office, I'm not the oldest entry level either, and I'm 45. There's a few of us in our mid 40s. So, the opportunities are there, it's just the path to get to those opportunities is pretty limited.

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    Coffee is my favorite coworker.

    If you want to go industry, try working with Robert Half's Accountemps. I was in a similar position after my undergraduate education. B.S. in mathematics, no work experience whatsoever, and was able to get entry level jobs through them which provided the experience and references needed to get better jobs later.

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    John Doe 15

    Hi guys,

    Good advice. I tried Robert Half when I was still in school. They put me in this hell hole that had a 1.0 rating on Glassdoor and I left in two weeks. Never using Robert Half again.

    I think it is going to be a hard sell for a 35 year old guy with zero experience and 150 credits to get an entry level position that is a good fit for me.

    What do you think about going back to school to get a MAccy? I already have 150 credits and a lot of people get a masters degree to get to the 150 but I was thinking of doing the MAccy for the networking and career services opportunities. Is that crazy? If that plan were to work, I'd have a master's degree but also an opportunity to land an entry-level position that might be better than the opportunities currently available to me.

    My state school is waving all requirements since I graduated with >3.0. So no GMAT, no letters, just apply.

    John Doe 15


    I typed my last post w/o even looking at what you wrote. What a coincidence! Maybe this is a sign.


    How many entry level jobs have you applied to and how many interviews have you had? I can almost assure you very few people getting these jobs actually have two years experience. A master's has its place but not for landing a first job.

    Old timer,  A71'er since 2010. Licensed since 2012-non reporting MA CPA.

    Finance manager/HR manager



    John Doe 15

    Is it a wrong strategy to look at the MA as another tool in the job search? The jobs that I am getting positive replies for are temp positions or accounts payable. I feel that I could get those jobs even without the accounting degree.

    My theory on the MA is that it lets me brush up on some accounting which will be useful for the CPA anyway and it opens up some recruiting and networking that could possibly land me a better job than a temp position.

    What do you think?


    A MA “may” be helpful when it comes to recruiting but it's no guarantee. It's a gamble and for most a pretty expensive one. Poke around on this forum and you'll see folks with a master's who are struggling with a job search and others who easily find positions. Have to remember that job sewrches are as much about being a better candidate for a position than the dozens of others who have applied to the same position as meeting the minimum requirements for a job.

    Despite being in another field there must be some soft skills you've got that translate well to accounting. Don't put on your resume that you can run the latest and greatest CT scan machine but do put your ability to prioritize tasks and manage multiple deadlines. You can spin your skills and experience in a way that makes you desirable in an entry level job especially since you've been in the workplace many years.

    Hands down the best way to get a job is any relevant experience. If you're looking at public a foot in the door at any firm is positive even if not big 4. If you're looking at industry even an AP job is better experience than an unrelated field.

    Old timer,  A71'er since 2010. Licensed since 2012-non reporting MA CPA.

    Finance manager/HR manager




    Honestly you are young in your career. Sure not a 22 year old, but who cares? Listen at the end of the day you have a degree in accounting. You can secure a 40-50K staff accountant role, and only move up from there. Especially if you are getting your CPA. Don't doubt yourself. Just hit up as many jobs as possible. Anywhere in USA (if you can). Good luck.


    I was about the same age when I landed my first job in public accounting. Not sure if it helps, but here's what I found useful:

    1.) I leveraged the applicable skills in my prior job (library materials acquisitions specialist). Interviewers were impressed that I was able to pull out those connections, such as organization, attention to detail, and accounts payable. They're small, but if you can focus on those, it's a start.

    2.) I made a connection in each of the firms to which I applied–LinkedIn is perfect for this. As annoying as it may seem, look for those “second connections” or whatever they are, where you know someone who knows someone else in the firm. Ask them to introduce you. Most firms have a referral bonus, so they'll be happy to give you time and encourage you to apply. I think this step was crucial in the “bites” that actually held.

    3.) Make it known that you intend to take the CPA. Most firms interview expecting to hire someone who they see as being “partner material”, knowing that some will move on after a few years.

    Most of my applications focused on local and regional firms. Big-4 was out of the question because of their reputation of throwing you at the wall to see if you stick. I ended up at what some would call a “niche” firm, where I'm actually the average age for new hires. You'd be surprised by how many people use public accounting as a career augmentation or simply start out later.

    Right now, the hard part is getting through these stupid exams…actually just FAR. Understand that if you have family responsibilities, getting through the exams is significantly more difficult (as in my case), and that you will need to demonstrate your fierce devotion to passing the exams.

    I definitely feel for you since this sounds just like my experience, so please keep us posted.



    Have you taken other parts? Or is FAR your first? I am studying for FAR right now and it's my first part. It's a lot of info. I am able to spend 40 hours a week on studying though since I am not working currently and I still feel overwhelmed.


    @Von I took FAR and failed, but continued with the other three and passed on my first try. I've retaken FAR two more times, and currently waiting to hear back…but not feeling good about it. If I didn't pass, I'm losing REG at the end of February and BEC at the end of April (all during busy season). But it's part of being a parent: for the two most recent tries at FAR, our toddler decided that the week before the exam was a great time to be up most of the night. That said, I don't want to externalize my failures, and it's still up to me to pass.

    Honestly, the most frustrating part of working in a firm is that I'm surrounded by others who passed all four parts in their first year on their first try. Alternatively, I also get frustrated with colleagues fresh out of college with nothing else to do but work, and say they'll take the exam some other time. The not-frustrating thing is that I work for partners who recognize the challenge of having a family while working full time and studying for the exam (if they ever try to fire me for not passing the CPA, I'll show them cute baby pictures–that will melt the heart of the most hardened accountant).



    Oh I totally understand. Thanks for your input and best of luck.


    @Kodiak‘s story was very inspiring. I was able to land a job in public accounting via a Masters program as well. Although like Missy mentioned, not all Master students would land a job. You will have to work hard and get some luck. Also, you will need to consider whether or not the program is heavily recruited by firms. Regarding the AP job, I wouldn't recommend to consider it. I have a friend who has several years of experience in AP. With his excellent resume, he can't find a job which will pay better than his current rate. It all depends on your area, but an AP job is not really an accountant. Even if you build a career in AP, I wouldn't think it will make you go that far. Anyway, 35 is still very young. When I first started my accounting career, I was your age. You could do this. All the best.

    CPA/ MST/ Roger CPA Review

    Depending on where you live, if there are some highly recruited state schools where tuition is cheap, a master is a good idea. Helps you be part of the recruiting process which is how most of these bigger firms hire. I was 30 and did not have an ounce of accounting experience. Did not even take an accounting class. Went back for a MBA in accounting, went through the recruiting process and now working at a big 4. It's no guarantee but the recruitment process at college opens up lots of doors.

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    Oh Hi There
    John Doe 15


    Yes, my state school is highly recruited by the Big Four so that's one of the reasons why I'm looking into this option. The program is a hybrid though. It offers on-campus classes for one summer and then the fall and spring is a hybrid of mostly online class work and one or two on-campus classes.

    Any tips on what recruiters would be looking for someone at my age going back for a masters with no experience? Is it grades or more than grades?

    John Doe 15


    Thanks for your input on the AP position. I feel the same way about it too. You don't need an accounting degree for that so I think that is a terrible choice for someone who is looking to even start a career.

    The frustrating thing that I am seeing is that with the accounting career, you need to start off on the right track it seems or else you fall behind in a way. With healthcare, you go to school and their is such high demand that you get a job right away. That was the lure for me. I wish it was that easy to finish up business school and then apply to a nice entry-level position easily.

    Robert Half put me in a terrible AP position when I was still in school and that experience actually made me give up on accounting and go the healthcare route. I'm keeping an open mind and just saying that it was one bad experience and this time I will actually do my research with positions instead of taking the first one that comes my way. Hence, my delay and looking at all options available…including going back to school to get a masters.


    Access to college recruiting helps, but also just sending out resumes to every firm within 100 miles during hiring season is what another option to do is, id skip recruiters and job sites since you have no experience.

    and obviously dont bring your age up…when you're 50-60 and a partner those youn 35 year olds will look like babies, so you look younger then you think.

    I got my first job at 30 they all thought I was 25


    I graduated at 30 in accounting. Interviewed on campus and got offers from midsize firms. If you can work at a CPA firms I would highly suggest it for the experience and exposure. I want to go back to a CPA firm as odd as that sounds. I'm bored to death at my local government accounting job, but I need my CPA license first.


    I am close to the same age and I am not sure what to do. When I apply for staff accountants, the recruiter tells me they won't people who have experience as a staff accountant. I interviewed on campus, but because I didn't watch a specific TV show, I came off as not personable. I need help and don't know where to go. Should I jump off a bridge?


    For those still looking, where are you located? Anyone in PA? I may be able to help.


    …I ask because I work at a publically traded company currently hiring entry level to mid level positions for staff accountants ( I hope this isn't considered “soliciting”).

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