Working for a Big 4 Accounting Firm

Working for a Big 4 Accounting Firm

Many people who have studied accounting will, at least at some point in their career, have aspirations to work in one of the “Big 4” Accounting Firms. While many have this aspiration only a few will achieve this goal.

In this article we will explore how to open up this door and give yourself the best chance of working for one of the largest Accounting firms in the world.

Which firms make up the Big 4 in Australia?

PWC (Price Waterhouse Coppers) is the largest public practice for Accounting in Australia and in 2012 lay claim to over 6,000 employees in Australia. The other firms are Deloitte, Ernst and Young (EY) and KPMG.

Something important to note; while they all provide accounting services, they are diversified businesses that provide many services in addition to Financial Advice and Consulting. With this in mind there are many employment requirements that are outside Accounting.

What type of Employment Opportunities are on offer?

To understand the type of Accounting roles that are likely to be offered lets first look at the services these businesses provide. For example PWC divides its business into 4 main areas – Assurance, Advisory, Tax & Legal and Private Clients. Interestingly enough around 35 % of PWC’s revenue comes from its assurance team, so you can expect a lot of job opportunities in Audit & Risk, Corporate Reporting and Internal Audit. The presence of Audit as a large contributor to revenue is consistent across all the top 4.

Specialist Taxation roles; did you know that the big 4 provide specialist tax advisory to SME and Medium sized firms as well as to large corporations? There are many opportunities for legal-minded people who have the capacity to interpret legislation and make it practical. Areas could cover International Tax, pricing Transfers or even FBT and many more. In these areas expect to be very specialised. Be aware; when the demand is high, working in a specialised field gives you the opportunity to command a higher salary, however, when the demand for that skill falls you could easily find yourself having to significantly re-skill.

The “Middle Market” is aggressively targeted by these firms and as a Business Services provider they tap into this space in as many ways as possible. As an Accountant in this area expect to be proving Strategic, Financial and Taxation services to businesses that include; Private and Public Companies, Non for profits, Government and High Net-Wealth Individuals.

Who do the Big 4 look for when Hiring?

The 2 most common entry points for professional roles are:

  • Contingent Vacancies
  • Graduate Positions

Contingent Vacancies arise due to a skill shortage, usually created by someone leaving a team or sufficient growth to require an extra resource. Due to the nature of this skill shortage, the requirements are very specific and preference is always given to people who have exact tangible experience to the role requirement. This is both technically and from an organisational culture perspective. For these roles you will need to be an experienced accountant, working on similar clientele and for an organisation as similar in size as possible. The most common place the Big 4 source these people from are Second Tier Firms, Larger Mid Tiers and of course other Big 4’s.

While there is a significant number of graduates hired every year, students will find a great way to succeed is through an Internship Program. RMIT and Swinburne University’s offer 4 year degrees that consist of a 12 Month Internship as part of the degree. Interns that perform well will likely be offered a Graduate Role. One of the challenges here is that there is often very little choice in what area you go into, so you may have to show some flexibility here.