CPA has the skills--but not the work

Here's a good career path: Become a CPA, discover IT, earn an Oracle Financials certification, and find lots of work. For one TechRepublic member, everything is in place, except for the work. Here's the advice we have for him.

Tim Heard is a technical recruiter for JC Malone, a career placement service. Tim shares his career advice by answering questions from TechRepublic members.

I am a CPA with 13 years of experience. A few years ago, I got a gig as a functional consultant for a dysfunctional company. I was the liaison between the IT and finance departments. I spent 16 months working for them on one project after another, even though I was hired for a two-week initialization of their financial reporting package.

Their software was extremely customized. I built documentation for them and delivered it on site to their personnel across the U.S. When that wrapped up, I decided I liked that work better than typical CPA work. I then looked for the most complex financials package on earth and found Oracle Financials. After a lot of work, I received my certification.

Of course, I did this under the “more skills equals more jobs” theory, but my trouble, as you may have guessed, is that I am not a techie, so I’m having difficulty connecting with the opportunities that I do find. Do you have any tips for a "hybrid" such as myself?


My first thought was that with your attention to detail and the technical aptitude that you’re beginning to demonstrate, you might do well working in a large information systems group as a business analyst. These individuals typically serve as liaisons between the software developers and the clients. They do things such as translating the clients’ needs into specifications that the developers can get their arms around.

The only real downside to this option is that you have no experience in this area, so getting your foot in the door might be a challenge. I recommend that you first begin targeting financial institutions or software companies that develop financial applications.

My next thought was that a very promising role might be to get into the field of information systems auditing. In this capacity, you would be able to combine both your attention to detail and your new interest in technical issues.

Following this train of thought, I contacted Bill Cole, the president of AuditScope Consulting Services in Atlanta, and shared your e-mail with him. He suggested that you consider enhancing your professional qualifications. Based on your brief work history, he recommended one or more of the following certifications:
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and/or Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Depending on professional orientation, academic pursuit should be either toward acquiring an MBA or a Master of Information Systems (MIS).

I would also suggest a Certified Financial Systems Auditor (CFSA) certification. Finally, you might want to consider obtaining your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, although I think that the other choices are probably better suited to your skills at this point.

Keep in mind that certifications are just one part of the equation. While prospective clients will be impressed with both your Oracle Financials and any other certifications you decide to pursue, your ability to make your living as a CPA with technical skills will flourish only if you couple it with real-world experience. To gain experience, you may have to take a few nuts-and-bolts technical contracts before you begin to move into the kind of strategic consulting that utilizes your background as a CPA.

Considering your Oracle certification, you might also consider contacting your nearest Oracle users group or attending a few of their meetings. It can be a great way to find work before the rest of the world knows about it.

Good luck in your search. I hope that you find this to be helpful.

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