Big Four Questions
May 7, 2010 at 10:08 pm #157658
Couple of questions for a college student:
1. Is the Big 4 all it's cracked up to be in terms of the resume builder?
2. Is the day to day as bad as I've heard? Do people really hate their job as much as is claimed?
src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js">May 8, 2010 at 12:17 am #228447
the Big 4 is not as bad as everyone says it to be. The Big 4 gives you the opportunity to learn and be exposed to diverse accounting areas. My experience has been great as I ask to be transfered to other groups within the company so I learn more. I have so far worked with federal, Private company services, SALT….so I personally love it and yes at times you do work a lot, but I don't mind it as they really appreciate your hard work and compensate you accordingly with bonuses at the end of the year!May 8, 2010 at 12:34 am #228448
1. This is an easy answer. Yes, I can sure for sure that is definitely an amazing resume builder. No employer is ever going to value Big 4 experience less than any other public accounting experience. Many job descriptions say “Big 4 experience preferred” or even required. There's no arguing this point – Big 4 experience is very very valuable. This does NOT mean that you don't get good/equal/better experience at smaller firms, or can't get the same/better jobs that Big Four alumni get – however, understand that Big 4 experience certainly would make it happen easier in any given situation.
2. I think this is based on your region/office/function/team/engagements. I've had good experience, lots of growth, lots of personal and professional development. Others I know feel the same, while others I know get stuck on engagements or teams that they hate. Hours can be rough, but during summer, most people leave at 5:30. The ones I know who hate it – they left, and took jobs that pay MUCH more (70-90k from my experience, where they were floating around 55-65k at the Big 4).
Personally, I don't think Big 4 experience is something you pass up, especially if you are young. I would not recommend it to folks with families or children.May 8, 2010 at 2:52 am #228449
i have no clue about tax
but as far as audit goes, talk to someone who has worked in big 4 for more then 2 years, who has been an acting senior, an actual senior, and so on. you'll get a much different response from people that are still there, vs people that have left for a better opportunity. The people that stay truly like the work, hours, etc. They will still complain a lot, but its their life, they love the emails all day, the mileage reimbursement, the free dinners, travel rewards etc. It is great for your resume, but depending how fast you can get out you'll really take a toll on your life. The big 4 concept is work everyone to death and weed the people out that actually want to have normal lives. My advice is network outside this blog because I get the impression most people on here only have internship experience or are basing it off what they have heard.May 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm #228450
^^ these are the people who are unhappy and leave (or in his case, laid off).
I agree with: Big4 is great for your resume, and certainly network outside this forum to get more/better opinions. I also agree that work/life balance is a struggle with most big four employees, but to varying degrees (which, as I alluded to earlier, depends on your age / family obligations).
I disagree with: his overall tone (you can tell that he's a bit older than the young people starting out at the firms, and clearly looks down on them) and perspective of why people continue to work there. It is not because of the mileage reimbursements (this is not unique to big four accounting firms or accounting industry at all), travel rewards (big four auditors aren't known for traveling overnight, but I guess that can depend on the location of your office), or love e-mails (??). He sounds a little cynical, right?
Point is, there are pros and cons, and going back to my earlier point, it will depend on your unique situation when you land with a big four. If you don't like it, then you can always leave. I think if you were choosing between a big four and a smaller firm, you would pick the one that you think you would like the best (based on interviews, feedback, office visits, etc). If you're truly unsure – I would say pick the big four.
(I do apologize for the condescending tone – I just find it insulting to hear him speak so matter-of-factly about his senseless BS. I always shake my head, too, when I hear former Big Four employees who love their new, high-paying job, yet continue to bash the big four and discourage people from joining one. My question to them is “how the hell do you think you got to where you are now?” Some people just can't look “big picture” and realize what has helped open these doors..).May 8, 2010 at 10:42 pm #228451
wade, you feel the need to personally attack me, thats really great of you. your response is the exact reason i told him/her to talk to people that worked from associate up past senior. obviously not you, because no senior in big 4 is leaving at 5:30. The average partner life span is 65 for a reason, people in big 4 are held to a completely different level. nothing else matters other then work. I could go on and on for days. I said its a great place to start, and stand by that, but yes, the day to day work is brutal – and especially brutal if you are in to things outside life, like being healthy, working out, having relationships outside work, etc. its no secret, there are a lot of “boring” accountants, so some people dont mind sitting there for 12 hours a day year round and thats there life. its a case by case basis, you are right, which is why i said talk to people who have ACTUALLY worked in big 4 for more then 2-3 years.May 8, 2010 at 11:30 pm #228452
I'm not sure how you know how long I've worked there – but since you seem to know every big four senior as well as you know me, then that's a pretty good indication that you don't know anything.May 9, 2010 at 12:17 am #228453
jeff @ another71.comKeymaster
My advice as someone who has worked with peers from Big 4, as well as the Big 4 auditors themselves:
1. Go the Big 4 route if you can…it will do wonders for your career.
2. Don't look down your nose at non-Big-4 alumni once you jump to industry. You will look like a tool.May 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm #228454
I agree with most comments here.
Big 4 helps your career along a ton, I'd do it. I have a client courting me with a very enticing offer right now, and have a non-client that's heavily interested in me as well. I'd like to stay where I am for a while – been here 2 years (came on experienced). I would like to at least stay Big 4 until I hit manager.
The hours can be rough, but it also depends on how good you are and how vocal you are. So far I have been treated well within the firm and compensated fairly for my efforts.
I take great satisfaction that if/when I do decide to jump ship, I should be able to land somewhere else with a great offer.May 11, 2010 at 5:24 am #228455
I have been working at a big 4 for 2 years and feel like i'm being abused. I do feel fortunate for having a job and proud about attaining employeement with the best of the bunch but at the end of the day I feel discouraged. I work so much that I have lost my social life completely. And to add insult to injury, I can't afford a nice car or will not be able to buy a house any time soon. Getting married and having kids will be tough to. The money is just not worth it when you calculate an hourly rate.
If you like working and don't mind the fact that you're probably not going to make bank, then accounting is for you. If you like having a life, sorry, you're out of luck.
The partner I work for is in love with a high end Lexus but can not buy it. He probably needs to save up for hid kids college and stuff of that nature but still …. he worked his entire life, probably didn't sleep much, or get laid often, and can't even afford a nice car. Why?May 11, 2010 at 5:28 am #228456
Sorry for the intense negativity, I'm just upset. I would appreciate if some of you older, wiser folks would offer encouragement and tell me that i'm wrong. I hope i'm just young and that everything will be alright and everything isn't as bad as you constantly, Constantly, hear.
Again, I apologize for my sinicism!May 11, 2010 at 5:53 am #228457
While I would not consider myself one of the “older, wise folks,” seeing you this discouraged is depressing me so I'm going to attempt to cheer you up. And if you think I'm out of my league, you can just disregard what I say!
I think that everyone agrees that the main point of going the Big 4 route is gaining experience. While the pay is decent (you normally wouldn't exactly starve to death on what they're giving you), it is in no way commensurate with the hours you are putting in. But if you think about it, you are really getting more than the actual $ amount by working for the big 4…you're getting the name and experience to be able to put on your resume. Don't undervalue this!! Because it seems to me that if a person sticks it out there for a couple of years, when he switches to another firm (private or public), he enjoys a nice sized increase in salary and much better hours. So if you think about it this way, the hours you're putting in now will result in a bonus for you if you leave the big 4! And let's face it, most people do end up leaving the big 4 eventually…there's a reason why not everyone makes partner. If however, you are one of the people who wants to make partner, you will indeed reap the awards in terms of salary once you achieve that level. I can't tell you 100% why the partner you work for can't buy a nice lexus, but maybe his kids are all in expensive schools, maybe his wife makes him save most of his salary, or maybe he just has poor personal spending habits and can't save up the cash. Oh yea, and maybe he decided that he wanted the car just when the recession hit and that was when the partners' bonus pool was very slim. I have yet to meet a partner in a large firm, be it big 4 or not, who isn't being paid nicely for his work. But you do not have to be a partner in big 4 to make a nice living in accounting!!
I forget where, but if you are interested in seeing how much people were being offered when they switched to private from the big 4, there was a blog someplace online where people were posting their offers. If I find it, I'll post it here.
I hope this helped somewhat in cheering you up. After all, if you are planning to switch eventually, knowing that there's an end in sight somewhere down the line does help boost the spirit (lol, thinking about my CPA exam here). There are many, many jobs where you can have a good work/life balance with a decent salary once you've got the experience. And you've managed to stick it out for 2 years, so I'd say you're in a good position!May 11, 2010 at 12:05 pm #228458
You make very valid points which I agree with. I appreciate ur input and will try to work with a smile on my face today. A big four job, at worst, can be seen as an extension of college, except u get paid decently. At the end of the ay, I don't regret my move to join them.May 11, 2010 at 1:47 pm #228459
I'd love to get some Big 4 experience, and my resume has the chops to get a position with any of them. But I have a young child, and would like to have another baby in the next couple of years. Should I forget about it? I work in corporate taxation now, and I'm used to a nice work/life balance. I could give that up for a year or two if it meant getting something amazing later, but would I get something better than what I have already?May 11, 2010 at 2:10 pm #228460
I'll lay it out here…..Big 4 brings you in as a campus hire somewhere around $50k in my market. When you hit senior (2-3 years in) you are near $60k. Of course, this is a little skewed given the economy in 2009 – we didn't have raises, therefore, people are a little under right now. Either way, you're not going to easily get that at a small public firm (as a general statement).
I am a Senior in my firm, and have learned a ton here. I'm confident that I could switch to a smaller firm, although I am fairly sure I wouldn't make as much. Additionally, my client is currently very aggressively courting me – not exaggerating, I am thinking I could jump ship to them as a Senior Analyst and probably make $80k-$85k a year. Not too shabby.
I am choosing to stay Big 4 because of the growth I'll achieve here. I'd like to AT LEAST stay on until I am a manager. We'll see how life is treating me then.
Also, keep in mind “Big 4” is a wide variety. For example, D&T and PwC pay more than EY from what I understand. I think EY is a little more people focused. Additionally, there's a disparity between hours worked and pay when you look at Audit, Tax, and Consulting (I am in consulting). Right, wrong, or indifferent, consulting currently generates much more revenue.
I don't mean to sound like I am drinking the Kool-Aid here – there are negatives too. Big 4 is a lifestyle. In consulting, I work more of a 45-50 hour week year round rather than 60+ for months and then slow for months. Some people travel exclusively – (knock on wood) I haven't. Some love to travel, some people hate it (I hate it). Big 4 is not for everyone – hell, I am not sure if it's for me. I like the growth I've experienced here, so I will stick it out for a while still. Overall I am happy with the firm and my role. 1 year, 2 years down the road who knows how I'll feel? I'll address it then. I do think it's a great item to have on your resume though, and you have the potential to get exposure to various industries and jobs.May 11, 2010 at 11:07 pm #228461
I'm fresh meat at one of the Big 4s, and I can already say that I think it's an excellent point of discussion in any conversation. It's impressive to be able to say that you work for a Big 4, and nice to get some recognition when you're out there networking with people.
I don't think the work is anything exciting – I also think that the firms boast how flexible they are in being able to get lots of exposure, but that hasn't been my situation. It's very difficult to get out of a particular practice or field once you get settled. Networking and making key connections are so crucial that to try and branch out into something different puts you at risk, I feel.
Hours? I know people who are slaving away on financial funds or huge public companies. I went the Not-For-Profit route and love the flexibility, relatively pain-free hours, and the fact that senior and manager alike are none too pleased when we work past 7:30.May 12, 2010 at 12:44 am #228462
I work at one of the big 4, and I just started to peruse the forum at 5:30 because my all of my managers and partner have already gone home for the day. I think I will sit here and study for a little while for my BEC exam coming up. In my experience (which is not very vast), during busy times, your really really busy, but not during a quarter review or a YE audit, the hours are pretty much 40 hrs a week. That's what it has been like for a lot of my friends who work here too.May 12, 2010 at 11:58 am #228463
Saying that you work for a big 4 is impressive? I don't know if I agree with the fact that anything having to do with being an accountant is impressive. The only comment I get from ppl when I say I'm an accounting is “can u do my taxes”. I'm not sure if that's the recognition I'm looking for.
On a positive note, big 4 firms are returning to raises. Whether a whopping 2% or a 15% (pre. Recession rate) can be expected …who knows!May 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm #228464
NJ – you're right – amongst non-accountants “Big 4” means nothing. However, when you go to get a job in a smaller firm, or in industry, it's a huge difference and very impressive to have Big 4 experience.May 13, 2010 at 1:18 am #228465
I disagree with those people who think the Big 4 aren't recognized by people outside of accounting. Any educated person in the business world needs to know a thing or two about big companies, such as the Big 4. If nothing else, they recognize them as their auditors (or their competitors' auditors). I think when you're out there talking to recruiters, too, it makes a better start to a conversation by saying you work for a Big 4 than some tiny, little-known accounting firm. If you're talking to the right people, then they'll recognize the Big 4 names and also realize you have to at least be doing some things right to work for one.May 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm #228466
Big 4 experience is very valuable if you wish to pursue a career that utilizes accounting but isn't just an accounting job. Perhaps I can clarify this. If your goal is to be an auditor or tax accountant, then either the Big 4 or other “smaller” firms will be great for you. You will most likely have more free time with a smaller firm, but you'll probably be exposed to a bit more in the Big 4 (larger companies, more complex transactions, etc.). So, if you want to be an accountant, it wouldn't hurt to stray from the Big 4.
Working in the Big 4 provides a massive networking channel. Not only do you have contacts throughout the firm throughout the world, you develop relationships with the many clients you work with. Many of my colleagues have been asked to work for their clients in business fields that require accounting knowledge (but not only as internal auditors, treasurers, or controllers). The Big 4 experience has opened many doors for them.
I am still in my first few years of Big 4 experience and, while the hours really suck sometimes, I view this time as an investment in my future. I might be working 2x as much as some of my friends from college that went to local or smaller firms, but I also have been exposed to more than 2x the accounting complexity. I see this as a fast track to building a real-world foundation in business.
Now, I'm not saying that the Big 4 is the only way to get such experience. However, it is all that I know for now (aside from some ultra-boring industry accounting). It has become much more difficult to secure a Big 4 job but it's still possible.
Just my two cents…May 13, 2010 at 11:33 pm #228467
I'm not a fan of complex work or long hours. Is there a job that fits my preferences?May 14, 2010 at 1:05 am #228468
NJDevils…I work for a small firm that does governmental audits (schools districts, cities/towns, public trusts) we also do income taxes, from individuals to corps. The latest I've ever worked is 7:30pm and only because we had a backlog of audits when 2 people left. The work is interesting and I find it challenging as our clients are small school districts (altho many are single audit) we do their draft financial statements also. I get to see everything from preparing financials to include disclosures along with every type of audit procedure out there.
Even better once I finish and get my CPA if I want to buy into the firm I can which means I could be partner in as little as 3 years from my start date. Granted I probably won't be pulling in the big bucks but I also don't work more than 40 hours and can take days off whenever I need to, even during “busy season”.May 14, 2010 at 8:26 pm #228469
I'm on the Advisory side, not Audit or Tax, but definitely go Big 4 if you can, even if you “only last” for a few years. The experience is invaluable, you learn a lot, meet a lot of great people, make a lot of great contacts (within the firm and at clients) and you may potentially start your career at a higher base salary. Yes, you will work your butt off, but if you wanted it easy, you wouldn't be studying your butt off for this test. Nothing worth having is easy, and working at a Big 4 is no exception. It's not all Roses and Apple Pie, but it's worthwhile, and at least worth considering.
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