Upper-division accounting students frequently direct their public accounting careers toward audit or tax “tracks” based on what appears to be limited information. Surprisingly, prior research has not investigated the factors that affect this fundamentally important career decision. We conduct two surveys to investigate the relevant factors of the audit-tax decision from the perspectives of upper-division accounting students and experienced public accounting professionals. Our student survey documents the underlying factors that influence the audit-tax decision. For example, accounting students who plan to pursue careers in audit believe that they will have more client interaction, better future job opportunities (i.e., industry positions), and greater knowledge of business processes if they work in audit (as opposed to tax). In contrast, accounting students who plan to pursue careers in tax perceive that they will have a more stable daily routine, develop more specialized skills, and build more collaborative client relationships if they work in tax (as opposed to audit). While our public accounting respondents agree with many of the students' perceptions, professionals also disagree with several of the students' perceptions, suggesting misimpressions of practice. Our results should be of interest to the accounting professionals, firm recruiters, and accounting professors who advise future accounting professionals.
Data Availability: Data are available upon request.