Accounting careers: Should you join an industry or practice?
January 23, 2023

Accounting Careers: Should You Join an Industry or Practice?

Determining which type of accounting stream you want to work in can feel like a daunting task. While there are some similarities between the different options available—public, private, or your own firm—the differences are often what make or break the decision. 

Depending on your personality traits and current professional goals, you may feel more inclined to choose one stream over the other.

As experts in accounting staffing in Toronto, our team at AHK Accounting Recruiters understands the importance of finding a role that offers the professional growth and satisfaction you need to thrive.

In this article, we’ve broken down the major differences between all three accounting options to give you a more in-depth perspective on what each entails and what is required to succeed.

What are the different types of accounting?

Public Accounting

Being a public accountant means you are not employed by a single client. Rather than being a part of the client’s internal corporate structure, a public accountant is hired to be an external expert that provides various accounting services. These can include—but are not limited to—financial advisory, tax support, and audit services. 

The public accounting sector is an ideal option for people who enjoy the challenge of tackling more than one project or account at a time. The fast-paced environment requires individuals to regularly learn about new industries while solving numerous different problems. 

A Certified Public Accounting accreditation is required to work as a public accountant.

Private Accounting

Also referred to as industry accounting, private accounting involves working for a single government office, business, or agency. This often involves a more focused workload with fewer accounts at one time. 

Professional accountants opt for this stream because it offers a more consistent work/life balance, a predictable schedule, and the ability to focus on a single company’s financial status. 

For private accounting, it is not required to earn a Certified Public Accounting accreditation. However, this type of license can be beneficial if an individual wants to work for certain government agencies or other positions.

Owning a Firm

The final stream of accounting employment is choosing to own a firm. This particular path can be for both entry-level accountants (although it may be difficult) and seasoned professionals. 

It shares similarities with the other two options in that you work for a singular company—your own—while also having the opportunity to support different accounts and clients as needed.

A Certified Public Accounting license isn’t necessarily required to own a firm. However, it is recommended to acquire one if you plan on working with certain companies and agencies that require certification. 

Being a leader in accounting recruitment and permanent staffing, AHK Accounting Recruiters have a great understanding of what an accounting professional possesses. This makes it easier to work with clients across different industries, and connect them with great candidates. We are confident that our team of recruiting experts can help every business find the right candidate with results that continue to go above and beyond client expectations.

The Benefits (and Downsides) of Each Stream

Public Accounting:

Wider Experience

A major benefit of being in public accounting is the ability to gain exposure to different industries, positions, and specializations. The clients you work with will always be changing, along with the industries they’re in, giving you the opportunity to move around and experience different things.

Team Environment 

Working in public accounting means you’ll be involved in team projects more frequently. While there is a degree of autonomy, a significant amount of the work gets completed in teams and/or departments. Being able to thrive in this type of environment will ensure your success in the long-run.

Variety of People

From changing teams and new clients, public accounting involves a rotating wheel of people. While this can cause a certain level of uncertainty, it is also exciting because there’s an opportunity to work with fresh faces on a regular basis.


Due to the volume of clients and accounts, the working hours in public accounting tend to be longer than other sectors. That said, individuals who work in this stream long enough learn how to balance their work and become experts at utilizing free time to their advantage.

Private Accounting:

A Single Company

While public accounting may provide exposure to different aspects of the industry, there’s more room for professional growth within a single company. By focusing on the individual goals of one business, a private account can more easily drive success and demonstrate consistent, ongoing results.


Having access to a more consistent work schedule means that private accountants can better plan around their own lives. Although crunch times are expected during tax-heavy seasons, the predictability of private work allows for a better work-life balance to be achieved.


Unlike working in the public sector, when you are a part of an individual company, fewer people may be on a team. This often means that only one accountant looks after the entire portfolio of work being completed. Although this could lead to an increased workload, it also means there are greater opportunities for autonomy over your projects and ability to manage tasks individually.

Owning a Firm:

Risk vs. Reward

In some cases, owning your own firm can be more financially beneficial than working for an industry company. However, this level of reward doesn’t come without its own set of risks. Without the fail-safe of an established company to fall back on, going out on your own can feel risky. In many cases, though, independent accountants earn more than those working at public and private sector firms.

Varying Clients

Similar to when you work in the public sector, every client you encounter as an independent accountant will be different. This means you’ll have the same opportunities to work within different industries and roles as you would at a public firm. However, working for your own firm means you’re responsible for finding and maintaining a consistent client pool. In order to build a reliable contact list to support your business, effective people skills are essential.

Long Hours

A busy schedule is expected when running your own business. As an individual who wears multiple hats at one time, the working hours will end up being more open-ended than if you were at a private firm. The amount you work depends on how many clients you’re able to take on and the extent of work that every task entails. 

As experts in accounting staffing in Toronto, our process of referring great professionals is of significant value to each employer, regardless of their sector. We ensure that we’re able to learn everything about our candidates through in-depth, personalized discussions and assessments. In turn, we provide a thorough, detailed analysis highlighting candidate qualifications and achievements to help you make an informed decision before scheduling an interview.

What different career paths exist in accounting?

  • Tax Accountant: These are professional accountants who help individuals and organizations file their taxes, take advantage of deductions and credits, avoid audits, and receive the maximum available return.
  • Financial Accountant: They are responsible for evaluating a company’s financial performance.
  • Government Accountant: A specialization within public accounting, government accountants manage the financial records of local, provincial, and federal government agencies, making sure these bodies follow regulations when collecting and spending funds. 
  • Management Accountant: They help companies make better financial decisions by creating budgets, planning for business costs, supervising investments, and developing strategies to enhance performance. 
  • Auditor: They examine a company’s financial activities to ensure it properly manages revenue and adheres to internal policies and external regulations. 

Rather than a standard resume and cover letter, our team in Toronto provides a more detailed analysis that’s been vetted and built around the needs of your specific role and company, going beyond the standard job posting.

How to Determine the Right Sector for You

Knowing which stream of accounting is right for you depends on several different factors. As discussed above, while there is a distinction between public and private accounting, the overlaps make it possible to find a niche that best suits your interests and professional growth goals.

Hiring our team of experts who specialize in accounting staffing in Toronto ensures that you’ll have a better chance of finding the best role for you.

To learn more about how we can help you land the right job for your professional objectives, call AHK Accounting Recruiters at 833-399-1663 or contact us here.

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