Career Considerations: Accounting Fellaships

Right about now, you're probably too preoccupied with the fact that even though it's Thursday, tomorrow really won't truly be Friday. So occasionally this busy season we'll give you some ideas of some things of things to do when you've had enough of public accounting. If you jumped the fence and found greener pastures and feel compelled to inspire others, share your story with us.

Do you think the people that make the rules have all the fun? Are you one of those people that squirm with glee when your firm's technical update emails come through? Do you kinda wish you spent your entire day squirming with glee because you can't really get enough of intricate accounting and financial reporting guidance?  Then maybe you should consider a fellowship with the SEC of FASB.

No, you might not be breaking free from the grip of business casual dress or be able to bring your dog to work, but hey, it's something!

No really, you'll get some pretty interesting experience and it'll make for a nice little section on your résumé. Let's look at the details.

FASB
The FASB website lists three different fellowships, two for those in public and one fellowship that pulls someone out of industry. All three have a max term of two years, at which point you'll return to your old firm or company.  

Practice Fellowship Program — The PFP requires nine years experience and is designed for those public accountants who need a break from the sitting in the pre-partner parking lot or the FASB description: "[those] considered for partnership within two or three years from the beginning of their terms." Here's the skinny:

The Practice Fellow’s role is to act as a project manager focusing on implementation and emerging practice problems. This means making recommendations to the Board on technical issues; developing and drafting Statements, Interpretations, FASB Staff Positions (FSPs), and Questions and Answer Implementation Guides; preparing Issues Summaries and minutes; and leading discussions at meetings of the Emerging Issues Task Force. Practice Fellows research problems; analyze comments from business, academic, and practicing members of the FASB constituency; and lead Board discussions on current accounting issues. Practice Fellows typically concentrate on projects that require quick attention and timely response by the Board. 

So if you're really passionate about never-ending projects that really have no specific goals in mind (read: convergence), then this isn't for you. 
 
Associate Practice Fellowship Program — The APFP requires four to seven years of experience and a commitment of 18-24 months and you'll get to know some of those IASB people:
In light of the FASB and IASB’s 2008 revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the increased focus on joint projects between the FASB and the IASB, the Associate Practice Fellow’s role is to act as an assistant project manager focusing on one of the joint projects. This means working with project managers and practice fellows through the Board’s decision process. Associate Practice Fellows research problems; analyze comments from business, academic, and practicing members of the FASB constituency; and will be called upon to formulate solutions and to significantly contribute to the standards-setting process.
In other words, if you're sick of being bossed around in a CPAs, you can switch it up for burgeoning technocrats.
 
Industry Fellowship Program — If you've already ditched public for industry but could still use some variety in your life, then the IFP could for you. The requirements are a little more vague: "The president or chief financial officer of a company that wants to take part in the Industry Fellow Program can nominate an outstanding, mid-career employee who has maximum potential for advancement." This role sounds a little like the PFP but with an industry flair:
The Industry Fellow’s role is to act as a project manager focusing on implementation and emerging practice problems. This means making recommendations to the Board on technical issues; developing and drafting Statements, Interpretations, FASB Staff Positions (FSPs), and Questions and Answer Implementation Guides; preparing Issues Summaries and minutes; and leading discussions at meetings of the Emerging Issues Task Force. Industry Fellows research problems; analyze comments from business, academic, and practicing members of the FASB constituency; and lead Board discussions on current accounting issues. Industry Fellows typically concentrate on projects that require quick attention and timely response by the Board. 

Sound good? Okay. Does it sound better than whatever it is you're doing right now? Great. Email the Financial Accounting Foundation personnel manager.

SEC
There are lots of jobs for accountants at the SEC, including in the Division of Corporation Finance, Division of Enforcement and the Office of the Chief Accountant, but it looks like if you want a fellowship, then OCA is where you'll be. The Fellowships with the OCA require 9-10 years experience, with 3-4 as a manger manager and are typically for two year terms and here's what your life will consist of:

[S]tudy and development of rule proposals under the federal securities laws. They also serve as liaisons to professional accounting and auditing standards-setting bodies and consult with registrants on accounting and reporting matters.

Here's a more detailed description of the Professional Accounting Fellow Program although it is from 2002:

The PAFs will be assigned to work under the direct supervision and guidance of the Chief Accountant to the Commission. Specific work assignments will be developed jointly by the Chief Accountant, Deputy Chief Accountants and the PAFs and will depend upon the needs of the Commission at the time and the interest and personal qualifications of the PAFs. Typically, the assignments will require the PAFs to develop innovative ideas and problem-solving concepts within the framework of SEC accounting policies and generally accepted accounting principles. The PAFs' responsibilities will include the study of significant accounting and auditing issues or concepts, participation in rulemaking initiatives, and evaluation of current reporting by registrants.

Last year, interested applicants had to submit an 8-12 page essay on "current accounting topic […] in which they possess expertise, and includes consideration of one or more interrelated policy-level issues." So if writing isn't your thing, then you may want to reconsider.

Overall, a fellowship is more like an extended sabbatical or something. It could be just thing to get you to miss public accounting (or your industry job) just enough that you want to go back. Any FASB or SEC current or former Fellas out there? We'd love to hear from you in the comments or email us about your experience. 

Have something to add to this story? Give us a shout by email, Twitter, or text/call the tipline at 202-505-8885. As always, all tips are anonymous.

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