What are your hours during busy season? Big 4

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  • #184720 Reply

    Just curious. Been hearing horror stories and I start in two months. Hoping to get this exam out of the way before.

    #559698 Reply

    I'm 5+ years into Big 4 and it depends on your office, your client, your team, the partners/managers you work for, etc.

    My first 2 years SUCKED. We're talking 7 days a week for 2 months during January and February (Monday-Thursday were 15 hour days, Fridays and Saturdays were 8-9 hours, and Sundays were 6-8 hours) after doing 5-6 day weeks all October and November (Monday-Thursday 10-11 hour days and Saturdays 4-6 hours).

    The next 3 years have been 10 hour days October and November (8 hours on Fridays), then 13-14 hour days January and February (still 8 hours on Fridays), with Saturday as needed. We've been able to get rid of Sundays all together, except for the occasional Sunday at home.

    #559699 Reply

    And to add for some prospective, I took my exams in August (REG), November (FAR), early January (FAR Retake – got a 74 first time), mid January (AUD), then April (BEC).

    #559701 Reply

    The normal week for me during busy season is usually about 70 hours. 13 Hours Monday-Thursday. 9 hours Friday-Saturday.

    This lasts for a month and a half. It literally feels like one long day. You wil realize that driving to and from work is the only time you get to relax.

    Once it is over you will find yourself asking yourself, “How did I do that?”

    Its definitely not for everyone. Including myself. Every day I wonder if it will be my last day working at Big 4.

    #559702 Reply

    Does anyone have any experience with busy season from the tax perspective at Big 4?

    #559703 Reply

    I finished my first busy season, and it wasn't too bad. usually work 9am to 11pm everyday workday and 8-5 Saturday and sometimes Sunday. I did end up working until 3am on a friday night once.

    Overall, I didn't think it was too hard. However, it can be really damaging to your health. I didn't get anytime to workout (I normally work-out 5 days a week), and the teams always order the most unhealthy crap for lunch and dinner. Moreover, snacks are available at all times. I ended up gaining 7 lbs. 7 lbs in only 1.5 months!

    Next year, I am going to push back for the sake of my health. I want to get off at 10:30 at least three times a week, so I can work out, and I am going to bring my own food or only eat Salads from the menus. I conformed this year because I didn't want to be the odd-man out as a staff 1. Next year, however, I am not going to give into the peer pressure to eat all that garbage food. It's not worth it.

    #559704 Reply

    Regional firm- Monday through Thursday 8-8, Fridays 8-5 (longer if workload demands it), Saturdays 8-3.

    #559705 Reply

    # of CPA's in office = 2

    Current time = 8:40pm CST

    Est. Time of Departure = Bwhahahahahaha!!!!

    #559706 Reply

    Beginning of January through the end of February on my primary client and we never had a week below 70 hours. Topped 100 once or twice. Did not get a day off during the last 5 weeks.

    I got a few days off after we filed and before I was pulled onto a couple more March filers this past month. So I finally finished (at least I hope) a couple days ago.

    It's like it was New Year's, I blinked, and now it's April.

    I don't understand why this is legal.

    #559707 Reply
    Study Monk

    I am planning to get back into public accounting, but it should be illegal to work anyone 100 hours. I don't think I can handle more than 70 hours, so it doesn't look like Big 4 is right for me.

    #559708 Reply

    Wannabe are you serious with this

    “I finished my first busy season, and it wasn't too bad. usually work 9am to 11pm everyday workday and 8-5 Saturday and sometimes Sunday.”

    9am to 11pm 5 days a week + saturdays and “it wasnt too bad” .

    You have no life to do anything other than working .. have you even calculated your hourly wage ,

    I am going to assume you make around 55k a year. That is $1058 a week….

    you are working

    (5*13)+ 8hrs on saturdays= 73 hrs

    1058/73 =$14.50 /hr. Did we really go to school for 4-5 years and pass this hard ass exam to make 14.50 / hr and put our health at risk.

    How long does this last for? Sometimes i just think i should have done computer science.

    My friends make 60k a year right out of college after 4 years degree. They didnt have to do 150 credit hours didnt have to study for months/years for a hard ass exam.

    They have the nerve to complain to me when they work 55 hrs on their busy season.

    #559709 Reply

    I agree with wannabe…thats not terrible. you know what you are getting into with accounting/audit/tax. if you want to work a hard 40 you need to work for the govt

    AUD - 75
    BEC - 77
    FAR - 78
    REG - 82
    AUD: 61-67-75 (Thanks ninja aud)
    BEC: 77
    FAR: 78
    #559710 Reply


    I really like my job to be honest, and time seems to go by really fast. I feel like I never have enough time.

    I try not to think about my salary per hour because that would be depressing, but I am not here (at the Big 4) for the money. I am here for the experience and the education. I have fun too.

    #559712 Reply

    @taxman89 I'm one of those that didn't know what I was getting into. When I was in highschool, a lot of people suggested accounting to me because it was something that could get good money from part-time work. Now that I'm in accounting, I wonder WTH people were thinking, cause there's nothing part-time about accounting! I enjoy working and have no problem with working full-time, but I keep seeing things that make it look like being in accounting requires 55+ hours as a regular thing, even in private. I didn't know I was signing up for that. :- I love accounting work and can't think of a job I'd rather do, but sometimes I wonder if I'll be able to find a job that actually makes use of or appreciates the fact that I'm a CPA and doesn't require me to work 100 hours a week! I feel a little bit like this should've been shared by someone sometime somewhere, but oh well – I am where I am now, and I love the work, so I should be thankful. I'm actually happy when Monday rolls around and month-end closing is some of my favorite days on the job, so maybe I should just let my inner workaholic take over and stop worrying about having a life outside of work (which today consists of writing forum posts, eating the last of the Valentine's candy, and then probably hauling trash out of my yard…whoopie…remind me again why I'm eager to maintain this part of my life? 😉 )

    #559713 Reply


    “When I was in highschool, a lot of people suggested accounting to me because it was something that could get good money from part-time work.”

    Wait….we're any of these people actually working in the accounting field? Because if not, then it's kind of on your shoulders to figure out I imagine. That's like me buying a car because people have seen it in a movie, but never actually owned one.

    #559714 Reply

    @Mayo And how is a high school student supposed to get to know accountants? *scratches head* My dad owned a small business and his CPA did it part-time, so the only accountant I had any contact with did it part-time.

    I didn't go into this expecting to work part-time – my goals were more towards full-time, gainful employment. So, I'm not saying that I have buyer's remorse, but rather that the reputation of accountants varies depending on where you are and what people have seen, so people can get into accounting without knowing that it's a high-hours job. Honestly I didn't realize till I was on here how ridiculous most accountant's hours were – didn't hear it in college (and I went to a total of 4 colleges, so you'd think at least one of them would have mentioned it), or in my limited accounting work. (When I worked in taxes, we worked crazy hours through tax season [though not as crazy as Big 4 or anything like that], but then my boss just worked at or below 30 hours the other 9 months of the year, so I didn't realize even then that most people in public work long hours year-round.)

    I'm happy with my career choice – if I decide to stay where I am, working 40 hrs except month-end close, I still make enough to pay off my house way ahead of schedule and live with some level of comfort. I'm prone to being a workaholic, so if I didn't have family to keep me grounded, I'd jump feet-first into 100+ hours a week to climb the ladder as quickly as possible…and if I was single, then a 40-hrs job would drive me crazy cause it'd be too little time. I'm not complaining…but just pointing out that not everyone knows when they pick the career all of what they're signing up for! Luckily for me it was still a good bargain overall, but it wasn't what I was “sold” at all.

    #559715 Reply

    I agree not everyone knows what they are getting into with accounting. I had no idea it was such low pay for the hours worked. I don't mind working with numbers and being ultra anal but I often wonder why I even went to college. I got about zero exposure to job fields in high school. It isn't like you get to shadow an accountant, carpenter, sales person, etc. You learn about stuff you won't apply so they can babysit you and then college you get to pay for that same treatment.

    Rant over.

    #559716 Reply

    Last semester in my capstone 400 level Business Strategy course (top 20 undergrad business school), my class just happened to consist of 95% accounting majors. At some point my professor realized this and posed the question, “How many of you are going into accounting for your love of accounting?” Haha not a single student raised their hand. Then he rephrased his question to, “Okay, how many of you are going into accounting for the salary and job security.” As expected, every accounting major in the room raised their hand.

    At my (former) school I felt like the accounting program had a MAJOR emphasis on going Big 4. The top four employers of students graduating from my undergraduate business school just so happened to be the Big 4. Having that been said, I felt that the accounting program adequately prepared us to exepect long, crazy hours. My good friends who went through WVU's accounting program claimed that they weren't even made aware that they needed to graduate with 150 credits to become a CPA. (I just don't know how that's possible)

    But what i'm getting at is that I believe a college's accounting program is hugely responsible for the expectations of their graduates who enter the world of accounting. Although I don't start full-time until late July, I know exactly what to expect and have accepted it. ( I must admit, I don't know what it feels like mentally or physically to work 60+ hour weeks so that will be interesting)

    #559717 Reply

    Working 60 hours a week is nothing. I am serious when I say that. It's not bad at all.

    As a staff accountant, I feel that I am overpaid for the level of work that I do. It's not very challenging at all. It's just tedious. I spend most of my time documenting and writing tickmarks. you really don't use much of what you learned in class. It's just a foundation.

    #559718 Reply

    Wait you're overpaid but in another post said you didn't want to look at your pay per hour because it would be depressing?

    60 hours a week sucks. If you want to have no hobbies or life sure 60 hours isn't bad.

    #559719 Reply

    55K is too much for what we do. I don't work 70 hours year round. In a way, the firm get's the true value of my work during busy season.

    I don't see how 60 hours a week is “too much”. That's basically 9 to 9 five days a week. That's not really that bad. What is there to do on the weekdays anyway?

    I don't work during the weekends on the off season.

    If you think 60 hours “sucks”, then I think you need to reconsider accounting as a career. when I am a senior, and I see staff complaining about hours, I don't think I am going to have much patience for it.

    There are partners that I personally know who work all day. I mean they literally get up at 5am, start working from home until 8am get to the office/client site at 9am, and continue to work until midnight if not later. That's the “tone at the top”, so if you want to work in Public Accounting you going to have to get with the program.

    I am not trying to be an A-hole or some internet “bad-A”. I am just trying to let you know how things are in the Big 4. If you aren't prepared for this, then don't apply.

    #559720 Reply

    I personally think the hours/demands are high for the compensation. 60 hrs can easily hit 70-80 during peaks, and now even the “off season” hours are starting to increase with the big push to pull work forward ahead of busy season. Tax preparation accountants may have their work basically done after 4/15, but corporate tax also has another busy season in late summer, and audit is starting to turn into a year-round busy season.

    It's natural for people to gripe about being underpaid. Especially since starting salaries for new hires are barely up by 10% from the early 2000s until the recent 2013 new hires (as far as I've been told anyway). Given the significant increase in workload, especially in audit but also likely in tax, it appears pay has basically just tracked inflation.

    With that said, I hope more people are told the truth and are driven away from accounting (or away from Big 4) early on as that would force the firms to improve working conditions or increase compensation to hire enough people.

    #559721 Reply

    Life is about balance.

    There is a substantial cost to not spending time with your loved ones (e.g. Wife, son,daughter,etc…)

    Time is something you can't get back

    What is the point in having a “successful” career if your personal life is in shambles?

    #559722 Reply

    “But what i'm getting at is that I believe a college's accounting program is hugely responsible for the expectations of their graduates who enter the world of accounting.”

    See, I just don't get that. I mean when I was a student I took the time to contact the career center and get in touch with alumni in the field. I was engaged in on campus organizations which gave us access to accounting professionals on a weekly basis. These are things that the school made available to me, but it was me who was proactive in pursuing these opportunities. Had they not been available, there is still other organizations, like CPA societies, that would have given me that exposure.

    I'm not sure shifting the burden of planning, researching, and understanding your future career and how your education impacts that to the university is entirely appropriate. I mean we're all adults here right? We all have access to the internet right? So, what's with the “hey my school didn't tell me, so I have no idea” syndrome?

    Not trying to flame here, but it's just shocking how far we've removed ourselves from our own education. Especially since a lot of us (including me) must finance said education with large loans. I mean….I dunno. I just find that insane.


    #559723 Reply

    @CPAintheCA I completely agree. So what if I retire a billionaire, but live with strangers since I've barely spent an hour per week with my family? I've seen several speeches, articles, etc., recently about what it takes to be successful and climb to the top, and truth be told it just doesn't seem like it's worth it! It's like, I'd like to get a Master's degree, but I wouldn't like to have the job that utilizes it. 😛 My boss right now – private accounting, “Accounting Manager” – usually works before she gets to the office, is at the office all day, leaves around 6 on an early day, and then at least has to check her work email a few times at home and more often than not ends up working for awhile – it's not uncommon to hear her say that she was working on stuff till 10 at home for the auditors or for her boss or for someone else…and that's not during month-closing or busy times like that. I've heard her say many times that she regrets the time it has taken away from her husband and son. It seems like the only way to take a career far in the business world is to sacrifice relationships for it. 😐 So, @wannabe, in answer to “what is there to do on the weekdays anyway?”, my answer would be “Spend time with the people you love.” I love month-end closing, when we work 12-14 hour days and don't think twice about it…but by the 2nd or 3rd day of it, I'm sorely missing the time spent with my loves.

    @Mayo When I was a student, I didn't have a career center that provided any access to alumni in the field. Our career center was a place that held workshops with print-outs from quick Googling. 😛 We did have an adjunct professor who was a full-time CPA that just taught a class or two on the side, and I tried to reach out to her to learn more about the “real world” of accounting (and made sure I called in the off-season etc.), and received very little information. I didn't know about CPA societies that would appreciate having students join. I researched for many many hours online, but the difficulty of researching blindly is that you don't know what questions to ask or where to ask them. I thought I knew a lot about the career, but apparently didn't! I think that “reputable” sources are so removed and cut-and-dry that you never see reality; random postings online are hard to wade through when you don't know enough about the people and situation to know what to take to heart and what to take with a grain of salt.

    Like your illustration about buying a car… If you look up reviews on KBB, the most reliable cars can have some really crappy reviews, and you have to know enough about how cars work and what ruins them to understand the elements that go into someone else's experience with the car and what your experience can be. One person's car quit on them at 10k miles, and they're from [fill in blank with region that drives their cars hard – don't want to make people mad by supplying my best guesses 😉 ]. One person's car is still going strong at 300k miles, from what they say it's clear they are familiar with how to properly maintenance their car, and they're from [region that drives their cars easy]. Luck, or an indication of what can be expected with different levels of care? Same thing when you're trying to research topics like real life as an accountant. One person whines that they're overworked and underpaid; another says they work hard, but it's fair and awesome and the pay is great. Whose telling the truth? Or are they both? Which should you expect? Etc.

    Oh, and I did even better than think about large loans looming over me – I had to work to pay it in advance throughout. When you go pay $1000 for a class and that cost you 153 hours of minimum-wage work (post-taxes), you make darn sure you do the best you can with that $1000 class!

    #559724 Reply

    I work at a 30 partner, ~200 employee firm in tax. More specifically doing work on high net worth individuals. I usually do between 55-60 billable during busy season. Some weeks can be more. I billed 70 this week and next week is going to be worse. Non billable time is probably another 5 hours a week. Throw in my crappy commute of 2-3 hours a day and a 60hr billable week is usually 75-80 hrs away from home.

    Currently making $53.5k, which is great for the town I commute from. However its really starting to feel like its not worth it. I'm married and have a 3 year old son and want to have another. I really dislike only seeing them both on the weekends. When I work weekends I usually work after they go to bed and stay up late which makes me pretty useless during the day when my son wakes me up at 7am. I feel like my wife takes care of everything for me because I am never home. On the weekends she does akk the shopping and cleaning that she isn't able to do during the week by herself, since she works to, so her and I really don't get much time together.

    I was told that when its not busy season its pretty slow but my firms still requires 40 hours and there are always special projects with there own deadline that causes me to put more time in. I've been told constantly that I am a top performer and that I get a lot more work done. So works gets piled on. Even with my long commute I am often the first one in and the last one to leave.

    I guess I'll just keep chugging away hoping that it will pay off jut I don't think it really does in this like of work unless you make partner. I don't know if that's even possible but 10 years of this at Senior Manager making around $100k doesn't sound great. Feel envious of everyone's facebooks posts of all these vacations, ball games and other things they get to do with their families. I really don't want to miss out on those things.

    #559725 Reply

    @Lilla, I see your point. I just remember that a large portion of my research on accounting careers was initially done online. It didn't seem that tough back then, but maybe I just got a bit lucky. And you also make a good point about a school having a good career center or not. I attended two universities (long story), and one had a very good one. The other was a one person shop who referred you to 10 year old books on generic careers. Accounting was like 2-3 pages, and didn't even have updated CPA requirements :/

    I guess my last two posts were just a reaction to the general feeling I get whenever I talk to some students when we're recruiting. In my head I'm just “How can you not already know this? You're about to graduate!”

    #559726 Reply

    @wannabeCPA123 “As a staff accountant, I feel that I am overpaid for the level of work that I do.” and then later “55K is too much for what we do.”

    The experience is great for the resume, but I really don't understand this attitude about the compensation. You can make significantly more than that delivering boxes for UPS or Fed Ex with a high school diploma, while working more humane hours as well.

    #559727 Reply


    “I don't know if that's even possible but 10 years of this at Senior Manager making around $100k doesn't sound great”

    I completely agree with you, which is why I decided public accounting was not for me (long term). There was no way in hell I would be willing to put up with the demands of a life as a Big 4 auditor to barely make $100K as a new senior manager in a Tier 2 city (not NY, Chicago, SF, LA, Boston…), or even 10% more in a big city.

    Something in Big 4 audit has to give because it will be impossible to retain good talent over the long term if that's all they can offer to someone who is definitely worth more. I think it's a function of the downturn, but price competing in professional services is just the wrong strategy. Part of it is also probably the partners from the early 2000s who are used to hitting huge bonus figures due to all the SOX implementation/compliance work from that time.

    #559728 Reply


    I completely agree. Accounting is ok but why did I get into a career where you need a degree and need your CPA? And then don't make more than your high school friends that didn't go to college, didn't incur debt and actually made money while you went to college, who never had to study for a ridiculously hard test. Then you find out they are making more than you. Its a joke!

    And then there is this underlying theme of giving up everything for your career that it must be done to make good money. And that it is noble and respectable to work 70+ hrs a week. I just don't get it, I like having a life and hobbies. At 70 hours I find it hard to not be mentally exhausted all the time (I've dreamed about doing taxes, that's not sleep that's torture). On top of that a commute of any kind along with normal house chores leave about zero time for actually enjoying life.

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