Big 4 accounting firms hold a lot of temptation for young CPAs. Many young accountants or students see working at a Big 4 company as the goal they are working towards; a marker of success. There are undeniable benefits to working at Big 4 companies, especially early in your accounting career. The in-house training at these huge firms is comprehensive, and they can allocate time and resources to train new employees and prepare them for licensing exams.
The daily realities of working at a Big 4 company long-term, however, can be less appealing, and there are benefits of smaller firms to consider when contemplating your future career goals. Whether you’re looking for your first job out of school or you’re an employee at a large accounting firm already, it is worthwhile to consider the competitive perks of working at a smaller company.
Working at a Big 4 firm may mean sacrificing time by putting in more hours on the job. Big 4 firms serve the largest corporations, resulting in a larger workload, higher expectations and demands, and strict deadlines. Late nights are often in the Big 4, and 60+ hour work weeks are quite frequent.
When professionals move to a smaller firm, they will find more free time, moderate deadlines, and a better balance of work and personal life. With a smaller firm, you can still be committed to your career without sacrificing your quality of life.
At a large firm, there are hundreds of employees and layers of authority between you and the senior partners of the company. With less face time to form relationships with management and co-workers, the company culture may not be as close-knit due to the quantity of employees.
Smaller accounting firms allow for one-on-one interaction between employees and partners, creating personal relationships between you and your employer. You will form closer relationships with coworkers and find a friendly and personal culture in the workplace. Similarly, you can form closer relationships with your clients in a smaller setting, providing personal service to those clients and increasing satisfaction.
Opportunity to Advance
At smaller accounting firms, you will find visibility that makes you likely to be recognized for your hard work. With more opportunity to take on new projects and a smaller pool to choose from for promotions, it is easier to advance in a small company, where you can use the close relationships formed with managers and partners to propel your career.
Varied work experience
When working for clients in a Big 4 firm, you can specialize in areas of audit or tax, in specific industries. Employees may benefit from this exposure, but at a smaller accounting firm, you are likely to work on multiple projects with a variety of clients across different industries. You are likely to run audits from start to finish at a small firm rather than working on one part of a large account, giving you experience in the full process of a project.
As the Big 4 firms are appealing, there are many benefits to working at a smaller firm. Forming closer relationships both with other employees in the office as well as with senior partners and managers makes for a closer company culture and could result in more guidance from superiors and opportunities for advancement within the firm.
Smaller accounting firms can offer a more personal working experience with coworkers and clients, can expand on your skill set, and offer a better work life balance.