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The Difference Between Careers in Assurance vs. Valuation

Oct 11, 2022
Breaking down the differences in required skill sets, work-life balance, and more

By Arial Starks

Are you interested in accounting, but you’re not sure what a career in the industry would look like? The Vanderbilt Business Master of Accountancy (MAcc) offers students 2 accelerated programs, Valuation and Assurance, that teach students how to speak the language of business and help them jump-start their careers in accounting. We spoke with Edward Wilkins, Adjunct Professor at Vanderbilt Business, who shares some insight into Assurance and Valuation and some differences between the two career paths.

Edward Wilkins

What educational background do I need for a career in Assurance vs. Valuation?

To jump start your career in accounting, whether you are interested in assurance or valuation, a MAcc degree is a good starting point. At Vanderbilt Business, all MAcc students are learning technical skills including financial reporting, taxation, and cost accounting. Wilkins says this is done strategically to prepare students for the working world, where their roles will likely overlap. 

“As a valuation specialist, your biggest client is the audit or assurance professional. That’s why you need to understand some of the assurance components, because you can’t deliver a product if you don’t know your customer,” he said.

The 2 programs differ in how they prepare students to enter the industry. Valuation students will gain more skills in areas including valuation and financial statement analysis, while assurance students will need more auditing knowledge. Students looking to work on the valuation side are prepared to take the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam, while the assurance students prepare for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam. 

Both the CPA and CFA are essential to the career trajectories of assurance and valuation professionals. 

What are the differences in assurance and valuation roles? 

Assurance professionals provide financial audits to clients, while valuation specialists help clients determine the value of their business. They also interact with clients differently. Assurance professionals are more client-facing and require more interpersonal communication skills, while valuation specialists work more behind the scenes. 

Wilkins points to the opportunity assurance associates have to change their career trajectory. Since valuation associates take on a more specialized role in accounting, they have fewer opportunities to work in other areas of the industry. On the other hand, auditors can go on to work in other roles due to their more general financial knowledge. 

“On the assurance side as a public accountant or auditor, you have the ability to go in many different directions. You can go into consulting, private wealth, or even valuation,” Wilkins said. “It’s not impossible for a valuation specialist to branch off into auditing, but it will be a much more difficult task due to the continuously evolving technical accounting skills required.”

How is the work-life balance different between valuation and assurance? 

Assurance and valuation professionals work closely together, but the 2 still have different styles of work and face different challenges in their day-to-day tasks. Valuation specialists will have more highs and lows when it comes to their projects, because their client requests are determined by the health of the economy. Wilkins notes that, just as with the economy, these specialists should always be ready for the unexpected. 

“You may have been having a normal work week, and then all of a sudden, you need to help out on a big project where you will have to hop on a plane in a moment’s notice because a transaction is across the country,” he said.

In contrast, assurance associates have a more consistent workflow and a set ‘busy season,’ giving them a better idea of what to expect. 

“Assurance professionals will have mostly recurring audits. You will have that intensity from around January through mid-March, where you will be working 60-80 hour weeks, but you know it’s going to happen and you can prepare for it, because it’s much more predictable,” Wilkins added.

To learn more about careers in assurance and valuation, click here.

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