The Evolution of a CPA’s Career

The skills a CPA needs at the beginning of their career shifts over the years and depends heavily on the path chosen. Let’s a take a look at that shift as a CPA career progresses.

Early Stages of a CPA’s Career

In the beginning of a CPA’s career, the skills and expertise are developing and growing. It can seem a bit intimidating when you’re just getting started but there’s no need to panic. Just set a few goals to achieve each year and in just a few years, you’ll look back and see how much has been learned. Here are a few areas to focus on developing your skills.

Become technically proficient. This is probably one of the easiest skills to develop. Knowing how to account for expenses, prepare a tax return or conduct an audit are foundational skills that you need to learn according to your role. These are the things you will do consistently and learning often happens just by performing at your job. As you take on more responsibilities, technical proficiency will expand.

Gain understanding beyond your area of service. If you are creating journal entries and running financial reports for clients, you may find your experience in tax or entity advising has room for improvement. Make every effort to learn more about these areas. Talk to coworkers, attend webinars and read articles to expand your knowledge. While these areas may not directly relate to your role, it can help you perform your tasks better and create new career paths.

Be responsive to your client. Even if you aren’t in a client facing position, your clients are the firm leaders. If you are preparing a tax return or working on an audit, your client is the manager or partner who has provided you with your marching orders and their client is the individual or organization paying your firm. You can advise your client the same way they do theirs. When you find something that manager or partner needs to be aware of, advise them of the information and if a solution is required, be ready to present it. This is good practice for when you are working directly with firm clients.

Ongoing Career Skills

As a CPA advances in their career, their knowledge and expertise needs to grow with them. After a few years in a career, it’s important to start learning how to manage client relationships and people, as well as to develop other soft skills.

Expertise Growth. As a CPA rises through the ranks, they will be asked to advise at a higher level on more complex issues. The more knowledge they have about accounting and tax and the more they understand the needs and concerns of businesses and individuals, the more successful they will be. Additionally, senior level CPAs are often asked to help train and mentor newer ones. It is important to develop not only your technical expertise, but also your business and advisory acumen.

Relationship Management and Business Development. Learning how to grow current client relationships and identify potential clients and develop a relationship is a critical skill to learn if you aspire to become a manager or partner. The more you nurture relationships with clients, the more likely you are to know their business and will be able to see other ways your firm can grow that relationship through other services you offer. 

Communication and Public Speaking. Being able to communicate at the level of understanding of your client while educating them is an art. You can have all the technical expertise available, but if you cannot communicate it in a way that others can understand, you will not have an effective relationship with your clients. Additionally, as a CPA’s career advances, there may be a need to speak in public. Whether this is training associates, speaking on webinars and at events or taking part in meeting with clients, you will be called on to share your expertise in various ways. You can develop these areas by starting small and soliciting feedback so you can improve.

No matter how well you plan out your career path, you may be presented with new opportunities that you want to pursue. If you nurture your own development, you won’t be bound by a plan but will be able to grow in your career as a CPA and be a valuable advisor for your clients.

If you are interested in working with us, you can apply through Glassdoor or on our website. Learn more about open positions and life at LvHJ on our careers page at


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