What it’s like working for the Big 4

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Many professionals entering the world of accounting work hard to win a position at one of the Big 4 accounting firms: PwC, Deloitte, E&Y, and KPMG. These coveted positions are often touted as the best start to an accounting career one can get, and as such, accounting students across the country seek to get the education that can impress a hiring manager at one of these firms.

The Big 4 require incoming professionals to have at least a bachelor’s degree, The Accounting Path noted. However, applicants who have a bit more education may rise to the top. Earning a master’s degree in accounting is an excellent way to boost your resume and give yourself a better shot at getting a call back from one of the Big 4.

However, just like any other career path, it’s important to understand what to expect from a particular job, including day-to-day responsibilities, work culture, general expectations, and the overall experience. What is it really like to work for the Big 4?

Learning doesn’t stop at graduation

You may be excited to conclude one leg of your academic journey when you graduate from your Master’s in Accounting program, but that doesn’t mean your learning experience is over. Because the Big 4 are the largest accounting firms, they have clients from a wide range of industries. As such, employees have ample opportunities to gain experience with accounting, auditing, and consulting for technology, health care, retail, and many more types of companies.

By learning the unique traits of so many areas of business, employees of the Big 4 are constantly learning, especially when they first come on board. Broadening your knowledge base through these many types of clients can provide you with a hands-on, fast-paced learning experience.

Further, because you’ll get a feel for many different companies, you’ll be able to learn which industries you’re more drawn to, which you naturally have a gift for, and which you would prefer to stay away from. This is beneficial because if you intend to eventually leave the Big 4 and seek out employment at a smaller firm as an in-house accounting professional or as a self-employed consultant, you’ll be able to craft your career path in the best way that suits your interests and strengths.

Get ready to work hard

During your time in a master’s degree program, you may have gotten used to long hours of work, study, and class time. If you pursued a professional license like the Certified Public Accountant or the Certified Managerial Accountant certificates, you also likely adapted to a tough work and study schedule. In each of these cases, your long hours of dedication paid off, and you may feel proud of the time you put in. Likewise, the many learning opportunities you’ll be exposed to at one of the Big 4 firms will require dedication and time.

One of the reasons the Big 4 are so revered is because they produce high-quality talent. Intelligent young professionals may begin a job at one of the Big 4 shortly after graduation and, after some years, are highly sought after by other accounting firms. This prestige comes as a result of hours of dedication and a challenging learning curve. Employees of the Big 4 may be expected to work late nights and even on some weekends.

Some employees report a work-life balance that tilts more toward the former than the latter. But, as with the reward and pride you likely gained from the hard work you put into your education, you may find the long hours you put into your work at one of the Big 4 to be well worth the effort.

Responsibility comes quickly

For a first-year employee, the corporate ladder within a Big 4 firm may look like a tall one. But just because you’ll be a new employee doesn’t mean you won’t have responsibility. Part of succeeding at one of these corporations means learning on your feet and taking on challenging work quickly.

When you’re faced with a unique problem or a situation you’ve never worked with before, keep in mind that your career path is a constantly evolving learning journey. Have confidence in your education and drive, and don’t be afraid of making a mistake. When you practice initiative, self-confidence, and humility, you develop the qualities you need to be a good employee and a strong candidate for advancement.

The second rung in the Big 4 ladder is often a senior. This position typically comes after three to four years of work, according to an excerpt of the book, Working for the Big 4: The First Year All-Star (A Battle Plan to Be #1 In Your Class), published on Accounting Today. Next up is manager, which may come after several years.

Some Big 4 employees can scale this ladder quickly, achieving a managerial position within a relatively short time frame. But this isn’t for everyone. Not all Big 4 employees are seeking to advance in the company or to work toward partnership. Additionally, while earning a position at a Big 4 firm may be highly valuable experience, you may find that you’d rather work for a smaller company in the long run.

As you move forward in your career, make sure you’re self-evaluating to determine if you’re still doing what’s right for yourself, your ideal lifestyle, and your family. Accounting comes with a bounty of opportunity, both within and outside of large-scale firms like PwC, Deloitte, E&Y, and KPMG.

Celebrate your accomplishment

There are some major milestones along the accounting career path that are worth celebrating. You should feel proud when you graduate with your bachelor’s in accounting and master’s in accounting. Earning your CPA, CMA, or another professional licensure should also give you a feeling of satisfaction. Because the Big 4 are considered to be prestigious employers, you should feel accomplished when you are offered a position or experience a success at work.

Propel your career with a Master of Accounting from the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Your career path begins with a sound education. When you complete your online master’s in accounting at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, you may have myriad opportunities in front of you. Not only will you be in a good position to pursue jobs at renowned employers like the Big 4, but you’ll also have the knowledge and educational basis you need to begin working toward professional licensure. To learn more about the online learning opportunities at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business, connect with an enrollment advisor.

Recommended Readings:
Master these skills for a successful career in accounting
What to know about accountancy professional licensure

Accounting Today
The Accounting Path
LinkedIn Pulse
University of Alabama at Birmingham Online Master of Accounting