In my experience, the different places you can start all have pros and cons, and it depends on your long and short term goals. The Big 4 (PwC, Deloitte, EY, KPMG) will most likely provide you the best foundation for your future career. However, the hours can be brutal, especially if you're in certain groups. Smaller public accounting firms would most likely provide fewer hours and less stress but without some of the future career benefits of a Big 4 firm. Going directly into industry would provide provide the best work-life balance, but much fewer exit opportunities. Ultimately, it depends on what you're looking for in your workplace
As others have stated, one of the best places to start your accounting career is at a public accounting firm. The Big 4 public accounting firms (PwC, EY, Deloitte, KPMG) would provide the most opportunity for your career progression, however, there are many smaller firms that would still be a great start to your career and may not have as long of hours. When it comes to access to training and the most up to date technologies, your best bet would be Big 4. I started my career at PwC - the learning opportunities and quality of people that I work with make the time commitment worth it.
In my opinion, the answer is two fold - First, I believe that it's very beneficial to begin an accounting career in public accounting for a number of reasons including exposure to a multitude of different concepts/industries/areas of technical accounting/etc., ability to gain a lot of experience and learn a lot in a short amount of time (including a large growth potential), seeing the inner working of an audit (would be beneficial if you go to private industry as you'll be involved in the process from the "client" side), etc.
If you decide to start in public accounting then the question will come down to, "Which firm do I start at?". This question boils down to personal preference and experience with various firms (in terms of recruiting). Ultimately, I would suggest applying and interviewing with firms from each tier level (Big 4, Large National, Regional, Local). This will allow you to access specific questions about what your experience would be at different firms/levels and will allow you to determine where you'd feel most comfortable. Almost everyone will tell you the people you work are the most important, so find a place where you feel comfortable with the people around you!
I completely agree with the other answers provided on this thread. Big 4 firms are great places to learn about the accounting field and business in general. My word of advice - don't start at a big 4 firm with an end date already thought about. I feel too many people start off closed minded thinking "I'm only going to stay at x firm for 2 years then leave" (people say this on day 1). I have found it is much better to keep an open mind and take every challenge that comes your way with a good attitude. You may actually decide you like public accounting. Attitude is everything.
The Big 4 is a good place to start, but any accounting firm would provide experience and knowledge that would help to grow and further your career in the accounting industry.
You will get exposure to a variety of different clients and industry.
Most people start in public and then transition to industry to find a better work life balance.
I am glad to hear you are interested in working in accounting! There are many options in this field. You can work for a large accounting firm, a smaller/regional accounting firm, or you can work at the accounting department of a company. I love working for a large accounting firm for several reasons: first, the training and hands on experience I have is amazing; second, I have very different and interesting clients and third, I work with very smart, determined and creative people. However, a large accounting firm is not the only option. I would suggest that you meet someone who works in accounting and "shadow" a day or a couple of hours of their day to see what it is like.
I will definitely recommend to start with Big 4, as it will help you lay a very solid foundation for your future career in terms of network, techniques, and experience. If you are not able to start with Big 4 right after graduating from college, don't panic, can also start with some smaller firms, get some experience, talk to various persons, and then decide if you want to stay in industry or apply to Big 4 as experienced hire. All roads lead to Rome.
I believe the best answer to your question is based on what you want out of your career. What i mean by this is the type of work you want to do, the type of schedule you want, the type of work environment would work best for you.
Working in Public Accounting will give you the best diversity and knowledge to help you in your career. Working in Private would more than likely allot you a better work/life balance. If you are ok with working a little bit more in the beginning to gain the extra knowledge and background, public accounting would be the best place to start. Then moving on to private if you so choose.
What I like most about public accounting is the diversity; the different clients and industries. Private can get mundane for some, as you do essentially the same things daily, but this also works for some.
I would say think about where you want to be in your career and at the end of your career, that would be your first step to put a plan in place.
To begin your career, I think the best place to work as an accountant is a professional services firm such as EY, Deloitte, KPMG or PWC. If you can handle the long hours and travel, there is no better training firm than a big professional services firm. If you prefer a smaller firm, you can still get great experience at a smaller local maybe solo practioner accounting firm in your town. I love my accountant and she's been in business for 30 years. She did begin her career at EY and later opened her own accounting firm.
Find people you enjoy being around and would like to work long hours with in the future! These are going to be people you spend a lot of time with, so finding people you connect with is a HUGE advantage. I also encourage you to take a look at the different companies and their initiatives/passions. Do they align with yours? Do they value what you value? That will go a very long way for you.
Hi Elizabeth, I think it is depends on what you want out of your accounting career and how a career can meet your values/needs. Some people like to start in one of the Big4 Accounting Firm because it is a great foundation to their accounting career. However, working in a big accounting firm, we also work long hours and often have tight deadlines to meet. Some people may not work well under stress while other do. However, in Big4, we also learn a lot of information in a short period of time. That is a big plus as this can help you in the future. On the other hand, if you do not like working under stress or pressure, working at Big4 can also burn you out quickly as there may be time where there is not much of a work-life balance. In industry, you will be working under a less stressful environment, only focus on a few areas to learn at a time, and you will have more of a work-life balance. All in all, I think the best place to work or start working would be whichever place that meet the most of your values and needs for both short term goals and long term goals. I would suggest weight out pros and cons for all your options in short term and long term and go from there.
As an accountant, you will encounter various different types of opportunities where you could work and apply your accounting knowledge and skills i.e. public accounting firms, private accounting, industry, etc. Many students after college pursue a career within the Big 4 accounting firms. As I am currently working in one of them, I would say that public accounting is a great place to get exposure to different clients and industries. However, I would say that one of the most important aspects that you should consider is the workplace "culture", and meeting the people that you will work with beforehand. At any job you will be able to learn a lot, but it is very important that you like where you work at and the people you work with.
After earning your CPA and working at a Big 4 firm for a few years, you may find that the benefits of the Big 4 may no longer outweigh the burdens depending on your talents, interests, and values. For example, as you are promoted, you will face greater responsibilities to manage engagements profitably and to sell work to clients, and the time commitment can become more demanding. Consequently, many accountants pursue other environments such as moving to their clients in private industry or transferring to a smaller public accounting firm or even taking a cut in monetary compensation to work for a government or non-profit organization where some of the rewards are non-monetary and come from the satisfaction of working for a cause.
There is no single best place for an accountant to work since "best" is a value judgment and different people value different things. Furthermore, no workplace is perfect, and each one involves trade offs of pros and cons. In very general terms, public accounting firms offer good compensation and the opportunity to work on cutting-edge issues for a wide array of clients; however, the high pay usually requires a heavy time commitment and depends on one's ability to sell work. Private companies come in many sizes and industries, so experiences will vary widely. If you work at a Fortune 50 company, you may find the same depth of technical issues and time demands as the Big 4; if you work for a small business, you may find yourself less technically challenged. There may also be less job security at private firms, which may cut budgets or go through acquisitions and restructurings. Government jobs generally offer the best job security and work-life balance, but the compensation may be lower, and the work may possibly be repetitive or less technically demanding. Finally, non-profit organizations generally offer the least monetary compensation, but you may find the low pay offset by the enrichment of working for a good cause.
I hope that this explanation has been helpful and wish you the best as you pursue your career!
If you are starting your career then the best place to work would be Wells Fargo, Franklin Temple ton like organization.