Connections Drive Success for CPAs in Business & Industry
The CPA career journey can take many twists and turns. For decades, the traditional route for CPAs and future CPAs was to start in public accounting and, after gaining experience and servicing various clients in different industries, make the transition to private industry. In many instances, this leap means going from an organization of many CPAs to an organization with sometimes only one other CPA or just enough CPAs to field a bowling or softball team. The demands and rewards are different between public and private or other segments such as government or academia but being part of a community of like-minded professionals and making rewarding connections will help all CPAs succeed.
Licensing and CPE
A key issue for business and industry accounting professionals is the maintenance of their CPA license and meeting CPE requirements. CPAs in public accounting at midsize and large firms often have their CPE credits and license renewal managed by their firm. CPAs working in a finance department or as a CFO may have to manage this on their own.
Carefully keeping track of one’s CPE can help smooth the process of maintaining license requirements. The NJCPA CPE Tracker (njcpa.org/cpetracker) tracks and provides a report of CPE credits for courses taken both through the NJCPA and external providers. The report is accepted by the New Jersey State Board of Accountancy in the event of a CPE audit.
Another related concern is the cost of taking CPE when an employer does not provide or reimburse for education. While there are many third-party providers of CPE, the NJCPA also has opportunities to take free CPE. NJCPA members automatically get 20 free CPE credits on technical and other professional development topics (njcpa.org/plus). Free CPE is also available by participating in the Business & Industry Professionals Interest Group, and low-cost options exist through the Virtual CPE Pass (njcpa.org/eventbundles) and in-person chapter programs (njcpa.org/chapters).
Additionally, education and networking needs change when one makes the transition to industry since a CFO or finance director’s focus becomes solely based on their company’s industry, such as insurance, construction, finance or pharmaceutical. Also, the available time for obtaining CPE can change. Though a CPA may not have 60-plus hour work week schedules during busy season as they did in public accounting, they will have to juggle around month-, quarter- or year-end reporting.
At the root of NJCPA membership is connection. Especially in today’s hybrid work environments where face-to-face interaction and interaction outside one’s immediate circle of contacts may be limited, connection and feelings of belonging are critical for success both personally and professionally. Maintaining a link to the CPA profession through NJCPA membership allows those working in the corporate sector to stay current on technical accounting topics and remain embedded in a community rich in knowledge, business connections and personal relationships. When asked about the advice she would give to members in private accounting, Kathleen Powers, CPA, 2022/23 NJCPA president and CFO of the Matheny Medical and Educational Center, urged, “stay connected to the NJCPA — its members will be your lifeline not only in the work that you do but also for your whole career.”
The NJCPA Business & Industry Professionals Interest Group (njcpa.org/bip) exists because members in business and industry needed their own forum to discuss unique challenges with issues such as human resources, risk management, technology, finance and operations. Led by Christopher Schiffer, CPA, MBA, CFP®, AIF®, CPFA®, senior vice president at the Wealth Enhancement Group, along with vice leader Caren Jesseman, CPA, MBA, owner and president at CFO Solution, LLC, the interest group has helped members navigate topics during the pandemic, such as Paycheck Protection Program requirements, work-from-home policies and hiring and staff retention during the Great Resignation. The group meets virtually 10 times per year and provides free CPE on relevant topics. Members also engage via the interest group’s forum on Connect (connect.njcpa.org). Jesseman explains, “As a finance professional in industry as opposed to public, you are exposed to a lot more than just accounting. You will also need to become well versed in the operations of an organization to be an effective financial steward.”
Susan M. Dyer
Susan M. Dyer, CAE, is the membership development director at the NJCPA.