Although the state and federal wage and hour laws
governing eligibility for overtime pay are complicated, the public policy
issues they present for audit firms are not.
The largest public accounting firms want entry-level
accounting graduates to feel like professionals, by virtue of their university
degree, the potential to take the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exam, and
their eligibility to be licensed eventually. But when it comes to eligibility
for overtime - or rather exemption from overtime - it's not who you think you
are or where you came from but what you actually do that matters most.
The education of accounting majors consists, in the worst
case scenario, of being "taught the exam" and, in the best case, of four to
five years of head-down, hard-core study and rote memorization of facts with
rarely any time for other outside reading, enrichment, travel, or world view
development. If all goes well, the student gets the highest grades - the Big 4
limit interviews to only tippy-top students - and has a choice of internships
and then full-time positions.
The firms take that raw material and, via constant
on-the-job training, turn it into a finished product that can hopefully perform
some portion of an audit of a public company after five or six years. The roles
and responsibilities - and time served - at each level within the firm are
rigidly defined. At each step along the way, there is another young
professional with only a year of experience more who is assigning tasks and
reviewing your work, until you're promoted to manager.
At the manager level, most firms require you to be
licensed - even though the only one who can take ultimate responsibility
for an audit and sign the opinion is a qualified partner - and the assignments
are more focused on the industry or technical aptitude you may have
demonstrated along the way. Until then, most firms still treat individuals as
fungible, pooled resources, assigned to teams or tasks by a central scheduler
based on availability, location, and personal qualities. Dynamics between team
members and between team members and client contacts become more important
success factors over time.
Read this article in its entirety at the re: The Auditors, a blog by
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