The Big Four accounting firms are often lumped together in the minds of candidates. All are prestigious. All employ and hire tens of thousands of people each year.
But this doesn’t mean each Big Four accounting firm is the same. There are big differences between working a PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG. Below, based on testimonials of current employees on Vault.com and our own interviews, are the key things you need to know when deciding which large accounting firm to go for.
Why you will love working for PwC
PwC employees say that it’s great because it’s “the most prestigious firm.” It has “very smart people.” It’s the “industry standard” and is the equivalent of “going to Harvard” when you work in accounting. It also offers “frequent and thorough training,” has a “great culture” with “flexible hours” and makes you feel appreciated.
Why you will not love working for PwC
As we reported previously, the downside of working for PwC is the possibility that you will be worked to death. Employees complain of being worked “like crazy.” They say that PwC people can be “arrogant and snobby – like a cutthroat investment banker.” Everyone’s competitive and type A. And according to PwC’s own employees, it doesn’t pay as well as competitors, although that was a common refrain across the board.
Why you will love working for EY
EY employees say they love working there because there are “opportunities to grow and learn daily,” there’s “challenging and enjoyable work” and there’s “incredible exposure to well-known clients.” It’s also described as “top dog” and “highly professional.”
Why you will not love working for EY
On the other hand, EY’s employees also say that it’s “stuffy and harsh,” “arrogant and stuck up”, “old and stagnant” and that working there involves long and unpredictable hours.
Why you will love working for Deloitte
People say they love working for Deloitte because it’s “friendlier and more compassionate” than the three other Big Four firms. It also offers “prestige” and “professional growth.” The people who work there are “top-notch, highly talented, very intelligent” (or so they say).
Why you will not love working for Deloitte
Less glowingly, Deloitte’s employees complained to the Vault about low base salaries, lack of work/life balance, regulatory pressure and stuffiness in general.
Why you will love working for KPMG
KPMG’s employees are into their employer because it pays them well, it’s reputable, it’s filled with “intelligent, talented, friendly, down-to-earth co-workers,” and there are good “training and career advancement opportunities.”
Why you will not love working for KPMG
KPMG’s co-workers are less keen on their place of work because they say it’s the “least prestigious of the Big Four,” it involves long working hours between January and April, with “unpredictable schedules,” and the compensation is not as great as it might be.
Pros and cons that the Big Four share
Regardless of which area of the Big Four you work in, or which firm, you will be required to go to wherever the client is and this can involve a grueling travel schedule. To thrive, you’ll not only need to adjust to this, but to combine it with a competitive drive to move up the ranks.
“The Big Four are also very competitive environments and if individuals are not able to grow their business-development skills, it is very hard for them to advance up to the higher levels of the organization,” says Barrett. “At a Big Four firm, your career is usually only heading in one of two directions: You are either moving up, or moving out.”
It doesn’t help that at the lower levels, junior Big Four employees work in fast-paced, constantly changing environments which can be stressful, he says. On the other hand, senior Big Four professionals have more control over their workloads and are more likely to attain something resembling work/life balance.
Still, anyone joining a Big 4 accounting firm can expect to work long hours. Many times, current staff don’t have the capacity or required technical expertise to handle the compliance demands on the firm.
According to Vault.com’s survey results, a former KPMG employee said, “Work hours can be VERY long sometimes depending on the client you get. Investment banking hours with accountant pay can be discouraging and frustrating.”
One former Deloitte employee cited “long hours and with an on-call mentality,” while another complained about “long hours with no overtime or additional compensation.”
A former EY employee said that the firm “initiated flexible work hours so that people can better determine their own preferential start and stop times in the day … except that the work loads are so intense … you are expected to continue working past your expected leave time … rendering flexible work hours pointless. Also, one could argue that you are leaving ahead of your peers because you arrived earlier, but you will be demerited because you are not ‘integrating with your peers.’”
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