November 21, 2018

Beyond Accounting Firms: Should You Work for a Public or Private Company?

private accounting

We all know the story. It follows a classic 3-act structure:

Act I — A young student discovers accounting and falls in love with the potential it will have for his career. Our protagonist believes that a job with an accounting firm will lead to great success, and that he will follow the steps of many who have come before and went on to great prosperity as controllers and CFOs in public companies.

Act II — Discouraged by public accounting villains and obstacles, our hero presses on. His superiors insist that his career will take off as long as he stays until manager. So he persists, despite enticing offers from prestigious public companies.

Act III — After a final confrontation with a partner about an obscure portion of some recent derivative accounting guidance, our hero storms out of the office, never to look back. He literally walks into a public company CFO on the street whose controller just moved to Wichita to take care of his aging mother. “You wouldn’t happen to know of anyone with 8-10 years of public accounting experience and excellent communication skills who’s looking for a new job, would you?” the CFO asks.


Hollywood has yet to capture this gripping tale of man-meets-numbers on film, but it’s only a matter of time.

Isn’t it time for a new story?

But what if the story were to change a bit? What if the accountant in Act I only thought he wanted a career with a public company, but in Act III discovered a private company accounting job that made him just as happy?

As the complexity of our economy grows, the once sharp lines between public and private accounting are beginning to blur. There are now a number of private organizations that can provide just as many benefits as a public company.

A private company could be a better path

One example of a private company that could sway our hypothetical accountant away from the standard career path is found within health insurance giant BlueCross BlueShield. Part of the reason for this is that BCBS’s unique corporate structure allows it to offer advantages to its financial professionals that other private businesses generally can’t.

Unlike traditional enterprises, BCBS operates as more of an association of licensed sub-companies, each of which has some leeway in corporate structure.

Some members of the BCBS Association, including BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, have chosen to conduct business as a non-profit. While BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is licensed to offer certain products and services under the corporate brand, the organization runs as an independent, locally governed private company.

Accountants at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee benefit from the enormous financial, technological, and informational resources of the BCBS network. And as employees of a non-profit, non-public company, they get the job satisfaction that comes from working to improve the health of people, not just the health of the company. It’s like the best parts of public and private accounting merging into one hybrid organism of awesomeness.

Act IV: A New Hope

Maybe it’s time for the story to change. As the profession continues to mature, building a successful, fulfilling career within private organizations is becoming an increasingly viable path.

Your public-to-private or even private-to-private transition can start right now. If you’re in the Chattanooga area or are interested in relocating there, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is currently hiring.

About BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

As Tennessee’s largest health benefit plan company, we’ve been helping Tennesseans find their own unique paths to good health for over 65 years. More than that, we’re your neighbors and friends – fellow Tennesseans with deep roots of caring tradition, a focused approach to physical, financial and community good health for today, and a bright outlook for an even healthier tomorrow.

Open Positions

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Company: Morgan Stanley
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See the full description at the GC Career Center and if this position doesn’t tickle your get your ass off the couch/ship-jumping bone, go to the main page and find your next temporary dream job.

Recruiting: Considering the Non-Big 4 Employers

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For the recruits out there, are you giving serious consideration to taking a position with a non-Big 4 firm? For the rest of you, is starting your career at a Big 4 the only way to go or can relative happiness and success be found elsewhere?
Discuss in the comments.