How are the working hours at the Big 4?

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    Mr CPA

    I never worked in the Big 4 and I thought I slipped by easy because many people told me the hours there are ridiculous! When I got out of college, I started working in a Private Equity firm. The hours were consistently 9am to 7pm all year round. We report quarter end, so we're always busy and when it gets really busy, we can work as late as 9pm or even 10pm if things get extreme. One of my colleagues at this firm used to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers as an auditor and he actually told me that these 9-7 hours at our Private Equity firm is crazy compared to what he was used to in public accounting. He said, yes hours got bad at PwC when he was there, but it was just seasonally when he had to stay late. During down time, there would be nothing to do, people would be leaving the office early and taking extensive vacations. But the fact that we were working until 7pm consistently throughout the year is insane, according to him.

    Well, I believed my colleague and got out of there and just started a new job at a fund administration firm. And man oh man, I thought I was ready to celebrate some freedom by changing to a supposedly better job, but it's not. Right now, it's their down time and we're working until 7:30-8pm everyday. When year end hits, they told me to expect to work until midnight and some weekends in the mix.

    I can't believe how bad these hours are at these places I go to. The fact that my former colleague complained about the hours after having slaved at a Big 4 firm just goes to show how bad these hours are. And no matter where I go, I end up working so many hours and it's driving me insane!!

    So please be honest…. Is my former colleague right when he says that working 9am-7pm consistently all year round is really bad? Are the hours at the Big 4 better than that?


    I think it will depend on what clients you’re at. Where I was at PwC I did financial statement audits, compliance, and a small mix of consulting in there. Busy season is 7:30am-1am for three months, then because of other engagements throughout the year I would frequently do 7:30-11 or so. Busy season I didn’t have a weekend. The slowest it ever was when I was there was about 60 hours, busiest hitting right around 100. Just my experience though, it is probably different for everyone and depending who your manager / staffing / and situation is.

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    At some offices, i was told that often at late hours, you are visited by Ghosts of Past Accountants warning you about how your life would be should you continue to work in public accounting.

    It is rumored you were often visited by 3 ghosts; Ghosts of Accountants Past, Ghosts of Accountants Present, And Ghosts of Accountants Yet to Come.

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    I was curious about this too but I'd rather be unemployed begging on the street than working the hours you all are describing.

    I was thinking busy season was like 60 hours, working maybe to 7 or 8 each day and maybe one day on the weekend or something. But to 11 or 1 am? That would mean literally no life outside of work and not even enough time to sleep, good way to make your health go to crap.

    40 regular and 60 for a few months a year I felt would be fine to gain the experience, but if its near as bad as mentioned here I'll reconsider applying.

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    Biff Tannen

    Totally depends on the office you’re working at. If you’re working say, at the Houston or Dallas office, most of the client are publicly traded with fiscal year ends. This means that multiple busy seasons scattered throughout the year are the norm. You could very well find yourself working 60-80 hour weeks year round. If you work at a smaller office with smaller clients the hours are less but can still be brutal during busy season

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    “An investment in knowledge pays the best dividends” - Benjamin Franklin

    Non-audit perspective:

    Hours in the office, WFH, etc. are very flexible when we're not on-site. Most of my team travels 25%, I travel 80%. Average week is about 50-60 hours a week, plus travel. We usually do 10-11 hours a day in the client office when we're on-site Mon-Thu or Mon-Fri (or a different schedule), a bit more back in the hotel, take a red-eye back home, WFH or go into the office for coffee/lunch on Friday to catch up with colleagues. As deadlines approach, 100 hour weeks aren't unheard of, but 70-80 is more realistic most of the time. All-nighters (30 hour days) can happen when we're really under the gun, but we try to avoid them because they're not good for anyone. Plus about 10 hours of BD a week (gets put on the backburner during really crazy weeks), and for me, studying for a second masters degree, which quite a few of us do after the CFA.

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    Manager, Big 4 Corporate Finance, CPA (WA)

    I worked in a large metro BIG 4 office years ago.

    The hours are exactly like what you hear about…pretty insane. This is the case on the audit side of things but I never heard much different in tax.

    On an average day 9-10 hours was generally the minimum time investment unless I was temporarily stationed at the office (waiting for an assignment which was usually a few days at most). However 11-12 hours was probably the more typical day. There were many days when it was down to crunch time where 12-15 was typical.

    No one will tell you how much to work and many of the hours can be done offsite (at home) which can make it more bearable.

    You are a professional and it's up to you to decide how much time to devote to complete the assigned workload.

    If you plan to work in a large corporation commonly found in the metro areas then BIG 4 is a great way to go. Working in a BIG 4 firm is like going to an Ivy League school because it can open many doors for you that would otherwise be closed.

    I sacrificed much of my life during that time but don't have many regrets.

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    Mr CPA

    But how is it during down time at the Big 4?

    What is making people think that my hours are insane is that my hours are CONSISTENTLY busy. So, if you're working until 2am, but it's only for 3-4 months during busy seasons and then the rest of the year, you're chilling and leaving at 5pm or even earlier, than you're working less hours in total than I am. While a real busy time for me may be until 11pm or even 12am (if things get real bad), we never leave leave before 6pm ever. But what's crazy is that we report quarterly, which means a lot of busy time for us. We only get 3-4 months of downtime during the year and even during those down time, we're busy with other catch-up projects and other tying up of loose ends that we never leave before 6pm. Not to mention that those 3-4 months are the only times of the year we can take vacation. So combine the catchup project we need to do during the our downtime combined with using up our vacation time. So the fun just never ends. In fact, we even stay past 8pm on several days during our down time. It's just consistently busy and I've had people who worked in the Big 4 that tell me my hours are crazy!


    I was at a small cpa firm once that paid much less than the big 4. During tax season, they typically worked 110 hours/week. It was insane. I would hear typing at 7 am and 11 pm. Granted, they did have half day Fridays, during the summer.

    The hours at that firm were much worse during tax season, than at most larger firms.


    Depends on the firm. I worked at a non-Big 4 firm being told that I’d have better hours, more flexibility, and opportunity to do more than just personal returns. They delivered on the last bit, and I was able to specialize in international tax and large corps with presence in all 50 states plus foreign. But then those clients requested me on loan CONSTANTLY, and when it wasn’t busy season, I was living at a client’s HQ doing their quarterly estimates or international returns, 80 hrs a week (they had 300+ filing companies, all with different tax years and CTB’d all of them TWICE my final year). I had to push my wedding back twice because my firm kept sending me out for 3-8 months at a time. I finally scheduled my wedding two days before Christmas, because surely my company wouldn’t send me out then, right? Especially right after I told the managing partner my issue, right?

    Wrong. I turned in my two weeks a few days after they told me they were sending me out again.

    Since then, I’ve heard that regional firms tend to have the worst loads because they pick up more volume—the guys that can’t afford a Big 4 minimum engagement fee. I can believe it. Everyone who transferred to my firm from Big 4 said they only had one busy season per year. And there I was sitting with 4-6 busy seasons per year, wondering what I’d done with my life.

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