I'm going to give you two answers - one about the job environment. Then, below that, an answer I gave to a CPA who wanted to know why she should become an enrolled agent.
Good luck in your endeavors!
Eva Rosenberg, EA
First let me tell about the work environment. These days, as an enrolled agent, you can work practically anywhere - from your kitchen table to the big national CPA firms. Everyone recognizes the strength of the EA designation. - Check out CareerBank, Monster or whoever and search for 'enrolled agent' or 'tax' in your area and you'll see what I mean.
You can start out, with no experience, in places like H&R Block, or volunteer for IRS's VITA program (great training!) or AARP's Tax Aide program. Or perhaps your college has a volunteer program. Those are some good ways to get quick hands-on experience. That will give you enough experience to start your own practice, working with individuals.
If you want to work with businesses, I'd urge you to get training first. Dealing with the business issues for someone coming in cold, with no experience is tough. And your clients suffer if you know nothing but what you've read. It's better to spend some time in a tax office working with business clients in the fields you want to concentrate on.
One of the things you might consider doing is find the kind of clients you'd love to have, and interview their tax professionals to get more information. Odds are, not only will you get information, you'll be offered a job.
Second answer - The other day, a CPA asked about why should get her EA.
Why bother, when you're already a CPA?
First of all, your license comes from your state and your state's CPA society. Enrolled Agent's get their mandate from the U.S. Treasury Department. As a result, the EA is recognized nationally - in fact, internationally, wherever there are Americans needing tax returns or representation assistance.
Second, although the CPA is a very prestigious license, and not easy to earn, the education and training is really mostly about write-up and certified audits. The tax education leading up to the Accounting degree is really quite superficial. (No doubt, it's gotten better since I was in college, but...from what I am seeing in the field....not much.)
Third, to get your T-Card (Treasury Card), you're going to have to pass a really tough series of IRS exams on taxation, representation and practice. It's much harder than you can imagine. In the process of passing these exams, you will learn a great deal about tax audit and collections law and representation rules and techniques - areas most CPAs never practice in. In fact, these are areas of tax law to which most CPAs have never been exposed. I held a series of Insiders Workshops with IRS for about three years. Instead of IRS's usual
boring presentations, I posed a series of questions on 6 or 8 topics. They took up the challenge with gusto - and sent their best managers to do the presentations.
CPAs, many of whom had been practicing for 20 years or more came up to me after the workshops. They told me what an eye-opening day it had been. In all their years of practice they'd never known about these laws, loopholes, opportunities, or resources. These are things EAs grow up knowing about and using everyday.
Fourth, and you're really going to hate this reason. Believe me, though, sadly, it's true. IRS examiners hate to deal with CPAs. They often tell me CPAs come in pompous, overbearing, rude, uncooperative - and unprepared for the audit. If only you could hear the stories these examiners tell me when I walk in with everything they need to
sign off on a 'no change' audit - usually in an hour or less. We spend the other hour just chatting and laughing. (There's the time a famous actor's son was audited, represented by a CPA. The guy was so obnoxious the auditor disallowed everything, assessed understatement penalties and preparer penalties, and sent him away to get better substantiation for the expenses before she posts her audit report as final. She told me, she felt really sorry for the taxpayer. She knew that if he had come in alone, she'd have allowed practically everything. She would have explained to him what he did wrong on the few other things - and not assessed any penalties. But the CPA was such a jerk, she wasn't going to let him get away with that behavior.)
Fifth, when dealing with IRS, remember, they get paid much less than the typical CPA - and it's made quite clear to them that CPAs consider the examiners to be inferior and less educated than the CPA. IRS examiners and collections officers relate to Enrolled Agents because they can automatically get their T-Cards after serving IRS for over 5 years in certain capacities. We're one of them - or vice versa.
Sixth, if you're planning to build a practice around taxation, the EA is the only way to go. It is the only license of any kind t