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Old 20.08.2020, 04:30
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Utility of a US Accounting Degree in Switzerland

My wife and I are thinking about relocating to the US for the next 5-6 years and then moving back to Switzerland. She is considering going to a university to earn a bachelor's degree in accounting while there. We are trying to figure out how transferrable the education and work experience she obtains in the US would be to the job market in CH.

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  1. She is a Swiss citizen and completed the matura in German-speaking Switzerland. So no language/cultural or work permit issues in regards to working in Switzerland. She is fluent in English.
  2. I am a US citizen and familiar with the university education system in the US. However, I am not in the accounting field and have zero domain and industry knowledge in this area.
  3. Considering our intended timeline, she would only have had roughly 1-2 years of working experience in the US post graduation, before moving back to Switzerland.

  1. How transferable is an accounting education across national borders? My impression as a total outsider is that the studied materials could be country-specific due to differing financial regulations and business practices. How easy is it to remedy knowledge gaps due to these differences through self-study? Would it be necessary to obtain specifically the Swiss CPA certification, and if so, how much overlap would there be?
  2. As a US expat who has filed tax returns with the IRS the entire time I've been in Switzerland, I am aware that US-credentialed CPAs do exist here locally (and seemingly always charge a pretty penny for their tax preparation services). How common is it to find a job here that actually benefits from familiarity with US accounting methods? Do such jobs extend beyond personal tax preparation (e.g. accounting for businesses that operate internationally)?
  3. Will her non-local education plus limited work experience put her at an untenable disadvantage in the Swiss job market? It would be OK if she were able to be hired into a firm at an entry-level, so as long as she can build up experience and adapt her knowledge and training to local conditions. What she hopes to avoid is getting "stuck" without a way to get a foot in the door once back in CH.
  4. How can she tailor her studies to make this plan more feasible? For example, would it be a good idea to gear her curriculum towards topics like international accounting? Seeking internships at multinational companies?

Your insights are much appreciated, thanks!
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Old 20.08.2020, 11:45
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Re: Utility of a US Accounting Degree in Switzerland

Here’s the thing, in the world of accounting a bachelors degree does not count for much even if it is in accounting, it might get you a couple of exemptions at the professional exams but that is about it. The bulk of the education in law, taxation etc comes during the professional exams after you get the degree. The intake at any of the big four accounting firms each year will consist of people from various academic backgrounds, the one thing they will have in common is a strong history of consistent exam results ending with a first class honors degree or at least a second class honors upper division.

At this stage I’d say the best is to get a degree from a known university, not some community college no one has heard of and concentrate on getting goog year on year results.

What the jobs market will be like in 5 years time is anyone’s guess.
"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." - Nelson Mandela
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