April 2002

Disputing That the Profession Is in Decline

I don’t know how long Robert Sonnelitter [“Letters to the Editor,” February 2002] has been in practice, but it does seem a shame that he is so dissatisfied with the nature of practice that he “cannot recommend a CPA career for any young person.”

Public practice can and should be an exciting, interesting, stimulating, and intellectually fulfilling profession. And profession it is! Using Mary Ellen Oliverio’s criteria (“Is the Public Accounting Profession in Decline?”; November 2001) certainly defines the practicing CPA’s role.

I would dispute Mr. Sonnelitter, who “see[s] little or no tendency toward intellectual operations and little or no altruistic motivation from practicing CPAs.” Dealing with clients and their personnel, bankers, the IRS, attorneys, and other professionals; being aware of the world about you, changes affecting the profession, and business in general can provide “intellectual stimulation” and challenges that indeed usher the practicing CPA into a “learned profession.”

It’s true that schools, image-marketers, and the occasional Enron-type lapse do not emphasize that the CPA practice is a people-oriented profession. Numbers and auditing activities are a means to an end, especially in a small and medium-sized practice. The information gathered from financial statements and auditing procedures are tools that enable the practitioner to communicate and guide people and help clients grow their businesses. The intellectual stimulation and operations, coupled with the responsibilities involved, are mind-boggling.

Being a practicing CPA seems to include a natural tendency toward altruistic situations. Again, dealing with people and businesses of all kinds leads to involvement in acts of kindness, charity, and other unselfish endeavors. In practice, a “sales-oriented individual [who] fails to recognize that competent professional service is as crucial as rainmaking” won’t last in business any longer than a competent professional who doesn’t recognize the importance of sales-oriented rainmakers.

The profession is not limited to auditing, as some would have us believe. A true professional would not have gotten involved in the Enron disaster, but that’s another discussion. A young person who chooses a career as a CPA has a fantastic opportunity for personal and professional growth. Today’s CPA is a leader in the business and financial world. There is no level in commerce, trade, or industry that cannot be attained by a practicing CPA.

I would heartily recommend a CPA career for any young person who is people-oriented, wants to live an exciting life filled with continual learning and intellectual challenges, and wants to help people and businesses to grow.

Edwin J. Kliegman, CPA
Massapequa Park, N.Y.

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