Starting out in Private

I'm at the point in my education where I'm debating how to start my career in accounting. I'm currently interning with a regional firm (just outside the top 100) located close to home/school for the summer. I've been here since January and plan to remain through the fall semester while I finish school. The managing partner and another have made it well known to me that there is a spot for me here after school if I want it. Come December when I finish school though, the plan has always been for my fiancee and me to move back to her hometown. It is a much more urban area compared to where we currently live, and there are more opportunities for work, i.e. every Big 4 has an office plus several other national and regional firms with lots of industries as well.

Apart from geography being the main problem with where I am now, I also have a lot of doubts about working in public. Work/life balance is obviously a huge issue for those working in public accounting and is a primary reason why people leave. I happen to view work/life balance as arguably the most important factor for me when looking for a job. Even other benefits and having a job that I can tolerate or even semi-enjoy on a daily basis are much more important to me than salary. I've always viewed myself as being much more inclined to work and thrive in private accounting. As a result, I'm strongly considering getting a job in private right after school. Having said that, if I were to start out in public, I know that I would be much more comfortable in a regional type firm where the atmosphere is more casual and new associates are given the opportunity to explore different areas/industries with greater flexibility; however, I have a difficult time seeing myself staying in public for more than a couple years.

This all brings me to a few questions: 1) is starting out in private worth it if I know it's where I'd prefer to be or will it be detrimental to my long-term career? 2) Is it better to get just 1-3 years in public at a regional firm before making the jump to private? And, 3) how would going straight into private affect any attempts to get my CPA or would it even be necessary?

Any and all input is greatly appreciated!

 

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