Small firm experiences?

Hi all,

I'm looking for some advice about returning to public accounting in a small firm setting.  I graduated with a BA in Accounting in 2008 and have been a licensed CPA since 2010.  I worked as a staff accountant for a very small CPA firm (4 accountants) for 1.5 years and didn't mind the work or the hours– at such a small firm I would put in 55-60 hours a week max during busy season.  I worked in both tax (personal and small business) and audit (small companies, not-for-profits, governmental, etc.) and didn't really have a preference for one over the other.  The pay was terrible, but I didn't mind the job itself.  I left for small private industry for circumstantial reasons that didn't have anything to do with disliking public at the time.  For the past five years, I have been in a stagnant role at a small, old-fashioned private company, and I need out.  I've stayed because my starting compensation was excellent, but it has hardly increased in my time here and this dead-end job is no longer worth the pay (approx. $70K per year).  I work 45 hours per week and get 9 vacation days per year, and I only have maybe 5 or 6 hours of "work" to do each week. Although I was hired as an "accountant," the "work" is mainly monotonous secretarial bs with some A/P functions thrown in.  I answer phones and make coffee and am so BORED here; it's a joke.  Career suicide.  I'm strongly considering returning to public in a small firm setting (maybe 20 or so accountants).  I miss the challenge and variety that comes with public accounting work.  I'm completely burnt out with my current job, so I'm worried that my judgement is off right now.  Can anyone give me any advice about returning to public accounting given my current situation and my work history?  Particularly anyone that has any experience with small firm culture?  I know I would probably be starting at the bottom no matter where I choose to work, so I anticipate a pay cut.  Other than that, I really don't know what to expect.  My biggest concerns are career satisfaction and work-life balance; I am a mother to two small children that are my priority.  Right now, with a 45 hour work week, I technically work 260 hours of "overtime" each year anyways plus only have 9 days of vacation– not sure how much worse working at a small firm could be.  Could anyone provide any insight about whether or not going back to public is a smart move?  Or any other advice you can give would be so appreciated.  Thanks in advance!                     

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