Public or Private Accounting?

Are you a recent accounting graduate having trouble deciding what the right career path is? Vaco works with public and private accountants daily, so we highly encourage you to give us a call (859-514-6055) for FREE advice and counseling on what will work best for you – no strings attached! In the meantime, below are some general facts on public accounting and the private sector to help you determine the right career path for you.

The accounting sector has two major career paths: public and private. Public accountants (external) offer services to a variety of clients surrounding audit, tax, and consulting. Private accountants (internal) work for one company and are responsible for the financials.


A bachelor’s degree in accounting is a requirement for both private and public sectors. Beyond a bachelor’s degree, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license is required for public accountants to progress further in their career. A CPA license can be valuable to both private and public in growing an individual’s career and climbing to the top of the professional ladder.


Public accountants have experience in multiple industries and with working on multiple clients’ financials with duties that usually center around testing and analyzing financial information. Private accountants will have single industry/company knowledge with duties around journal entries, reconciliations, analysis, etc., and will generally have a deeper understanding of the financials for a specific company.

Work environment

Both accounting sectors have busy times but the work environments can be quite different!

Private accountants work for a single company and will generally have more stable, regular hours with minimal to no travel. Private accounting is considered to be the more stable option as far as a regular work schedule and consistent location in comparison to public. Public accountants work for a variety of clients and will experience long hours, a lot of travel and strict deadlines. They travel to the client’s location and work in a space provided by the client. Most public accountants can expect 40+ hours per week, especially during busy season.

Job Fulfillment

Many individuals who recently graduated begin their careers in private and public sectors. Most universities tend to speak about public accounting more in class and generally speaking, most individuals begin their career in the public sector. However, public accounting is a less-popular choice for a long-term career due to the hours, travel, and stress level. Job fulfillment tends to be higher in the private sector due to a fixed schedule, being involved in business transactions, and having an impact on the day-to-day operations of the business.


Whether you decide to go into private or public accounting, both salary and hiring outlook are strong. Salaries are generally higher in public accounting but private does seem to be closing the salary gap and offering additional benefits (bonuses, vacation, flexible hours, etc.).

Regardless of whether you choose public or private, it’s important to know that a great deal of accounting professionals have been involved in both industries at one point or another with TONS of success!


Roberts, Jordan. Fri, 3 Feb 2017. “Pubic or Private Accounting?” Article Retrieved from: