Holy Crap, This Really Sucks

Some may have been wondering where I have been. Lately, I have been somewhat too disillusioned by the accounting profession to bring myself to right about it. Two months in, and I really HATE public accounting. I started off with a positive, “gotta pay your dues” attitude. Everyone does. But it wears thin not long after your training. First, you begin to realize that all of the other associates and senior associates also dislike their jobs, yet they keep doing them irregardless of this fact. You especially begin to notice that the senior associates have arguably the hardest, most time consuming job which they must do for very little pay. I must say, they are troopers and so far my seniors have been very supportive, but it gives you little to look forward to with that “paying your dues” attitude. After all, if what I have to look forward to is 60-70 hr weeks planning and supervising audits for what DEFINITELY is the LOWEST salary for someone putting in those kind of hrs, then hope feeds quite quickly. One senior told me everyone starts off thinking that they will do their 5-6 yrs, get to the Manager level and then leave. This too fades, and you begin to understand why so many leave after getting their designation.

To be continued…


885 Responses to Holy Crap, This Really Sucks

  1. Tom Chen says:

    How much do seniors make?

  2. audit says:

    Depends on the location. From what I have heard, in Toronto its in the mid 60s, Montreal the 50s and bonuses are practically non existant.

  3. Krupo says:

    A lot of people ditch audit for tax and other speciality departments, partly for those reasons.

    I started in a specialty department, so I’m loving my job despite occasional long hours (especially in the fall).

    All told, it’s not that bad for me. I understand where you’re coming from though – good luck!

  4. H. says:

    Gosh, I just signed on with one of the Big Four. You mean all that fancy dining at Canoe comes to an end? They suck you in with nice gifts and then work you like a dog? j/k good luck… and I guess I get to look forward to being equally as unhappy

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  6. he Anonymous Accountant (TAA) recently wrote a post declaring his hatred of his new big four employment position.

    Lately, I have been somewhat too disillusioned by the accounting profession to bring myself to right about it. Two months in, and I really HATE public accounting. I started off with a positive, “gotta pay your dues” attitude. Everyone does. But it wears thin not long after your training.

    It seems that the long hours and brutal working environment are beginning to take there toll.

    After all, if what I have to look forward to is 60-70 hr weeks planning and supervising audits for what DEFINITELY is the LOWEST salary for someone putting in those kind of hrs, then hope feeds quite quickly. One senior told me everyone starts off thinking that they will do their 5-6 yrs, get to the Manager level and then leave. This too fades, and you begin to understand why so many leave after getting their designation.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. Although I have openly questioned the work hours of public auditors…I think TAA isn’t taking into account the non-immediate compensation that is being earned by all that work. A person taking a job at a big four firm generally knows that the hours suck and the pay is sub-par. People accept this because they know once they have put in a few years and get their designation/CPA they have soo many doors open for them that it makes the ordeal a painful right of passage to a luxurious and rewarding career in corporate accounting, finance, or upper management. I don’t feel bad for those who accept that path. You made the choice…the information was available to let you know what a pain in the ass it is…and you chose to take that path anyway. If you are a rational person, then you weighed the costs and benefits and decided a job at a big four firm was the optimal path at the time of the choice.

    The problem TAA is experiencing is what I like to call the ‘time discount factor of pleasure and pain’. Immediate pain is always worse then pain sometime in the future. The farther in the future the pain is expected the less a person’s decision are effected by it. The same theory works for pleasure. TAA is feeling lots of pain at the moment and all of the pleasure that TAA will be rewarded with is so far in the future that, although the volume of pleasure is likely to be drastically more rewarding then the pain it is being paid with, TAA can not see why all of the long hours and monotony are worth it. They may not be…but TAA should have explored that possibility before taking a job that requires soo much from it’s employees.

    For me a big-four job, especially on the terms that TAA is complaining about, is not worth it…and I would never take a job with one of the big firms. I work for a regional firm and love it. The hours suck some months…but most months are reasonable. We don’t audit fortune 100 companies…but then again, when I audit a company I know all the pieces of that companies business. I don’t spend 2 months auditing assets without any idea how any of it ties in with cash, debt, risk management, etc. I like my job as an auditor…and remember, this is coming from an economics PhD that dropped out and took a job as an auditor as a filler until I figured out what I want to do with my career. I very likely will remain an auditor for the remainder of my working life. If TAA doesn’t like his job, that doesn’t mean that he dislikes auditing….just like a bad girlfriend shouldn’t dissuade you from dating another girl.

    Chin up ole’ chap.

  7. Hang in there man. I may be the exception but I’ve started liking work more since moving from junior up to the seniorish position I’m in now. As a junior there’s a lot of mind-numbing work and little respect. It gets better. And if not, take solace in the fact that you only need 30 months to get the CA.

  8. Chath says:


    I been reading your blog and wanted to ask a few questions. I am currently in IT and want to switch careers. I like economics and finance. I was thinking of joining the MMPA program at U of T Mississauga campus. What is your opinion about this program. From your blogs, it seems that you dont really like your current job at the big 4 firm. The thing is that I never had an accounting job, so I dont know if I will like it or not, even though I love reading accounting books especially the ones about corporate finance. How is the auditing like ? What do you do in a typical day? What is it, that makes you dislike your job ? I am thinking of doing either CMA or CA. CMA, because its easy and I can study part time and still do it. For CA however the only way is to go to MMPA program. What career opportunities other than working for big 4 firms, are out there for CAs?


  9. Krupo says:

    And to answer your other question, CAs can work for virtually any company in the accounting department or in the top positions depending on the individual’s experience and goals, or for themselves as independent accountants, or simply entrepreneurs with the whole CA skill-set going on. 🙂

  10. Krupo says:

    I wrote a message before that one which seems to have disappeared – anyway, I was going to say check out my ASX-related posts for other views on the profession and what it’s like in the first year: krupo.ca, with the ASX tags.

    Also, considering your background, don’t neglect the possibility of working as an IT auditor – you can get a CISA designation instead, or in addition to accounting designations, and still work at Big 4 firms.

  11. Jaylee Olson says:

    God, I just cracked up at this. I just started accounting in September 2006 with a big firm from the West Coast. It totally sucks. I too, was disillusioned. I thought “Wow” I will finally have a decent career that I worked my ass off to get – I worked as a cashier at a grocery store while I went to school and suffered through all the ridiculous hundreds of hours studying for the CPA exam – which now in hindsight seems to be like a vacation compared to actually working in the field. It just plain sucks. You have worked hard to learn all this crap and then you start out as staff and they just throw all this stuff on you that you thought you were well prepared to handle, but now looks totally foreign and impossible. It is just a pressure-filled business and I really don’t think anyone is happy doing it. I could go on and on. But the firm environment is very freaky and I think they have all brainwashed themselves into believing they are doing the noble thing by continuing their suffering in it.

  12. Henry says:

    I say working in big 4 accounting firm is really something bro. I envy people who survive to get into the company, considering they have to struggle to compete with thousand of other candidates. Well I think you have to thankful for what you have now. If I could swap my career with you now, I would be extremely excited for I dreamt to be involved with that big 4 the whole time.

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  14. Andile, africa says:

    It is not nice working long hours auditing, but if you think about it, 3 4 years time you will be earning the pension payout of a factory worker in 1 year. A Komani,east london, South Africa

  15. Janny says:

    Do not worry…the salaries of the big 4 accounting firms should be adjusted soon, though it will be not as high as what the banks are offering now. Big 4 is bleeding talents now, they have to acknowledge that graduates are really looking at the immediate monetary compensation, instead of the long term benefits

    You can refer to my blog for some career advice: http://how-to-be-rich-and-happy.blogspot.com/

  16. Don't Work To Be Rich says:

    I avoided the crazy hours of Big 4 firms. I worked at a small firm and with money saved, invested in real estate. Long story short, I did pretty well and reaped a six-figure gain from the recent real estate boom. I am blessed to have made a good amount of what I call “retirement money” without having to sacrifice family, social life and my soul. Good luck to you all!

  17. Steve says:

    I thought I was the only one who thought accounting sucked. I am two months into it and hate it already. Planning to finish my Commerce degree and pursue a marketing major and career. A career where I can maybe use my creativity and personality in. I too was lost after my BA, and decided to pursue a career in Accounting based on my love for math and problem solving. But now that I am in it, I really have no desire to be involved in any high level accounting role, whether Big 4 or in a public or private company. The firms definition of work life balance is far different than mine, I want to be able to hit the gym every night after work and have time for friends and family. Not finish work at 7pm, go home and do homework to get my CA designation, just so I can climb the corporate ladder in 2 years and get dumped on even more. I guess I should blame myself at this point for not doing enough research before I started applying for CA jobs. I admit it felt great being offered and accepting the job, but now I know better. I’m hoping a few years from now I can be creating ad campaigns or pitching new product ideas, or even doing market research. Anyhow, I love this website…it has made my day and made my decision to head back to University in January a no brainer.

  18. Accounting sucks. says:

    I stumbled upon this blog while surfing the net because I am extremely bored and depressed at the Big 4 firm that I’m in, and it was so reassuring to see that there are so many other people who hate accounting so early in the game. I, too, am only 3 months in, and I can honestly say I’ve never in my life been so miserable. I don’t hate it; I DESPISE it. My biggest dilemma is that all I hear is “you can’t leave now, you’re only 3 months in, stick it out for a few years.” But I can’t go on being miserable. Any suggestions? What will happen if I leave now?

    • Jennifer says:

      life is too short to be miserable. Find something you love to do.

      I used to love the idea of teaching kids and music. Since my family immigrated to Canada after I graduate from High School in Asia. My mom basically told me studying to be a teacher or musician is not an option for me because it doesn’t make any money.

      So I enrolled in business and the only thing in business I was interested in is accounting. I am working as an audit trainee in one of the utility crown corporation in Canada and I am telling you, I hate my job so much. I hate auditing and hate working in a business environment.

      Everyday, I am thinking to myself what I have done. The pay and benefits are really good in crown corporation. Yet, I came to realize that life is not all about money and benefits you can get from your job. I am almost done with my CGA and afterwards, I am thinking to do something else to be happy.

      If you hate your job at work, trust me, you will not be happy when you get home. And, you don’t want to get up in the morning to go to work because there is nothing to look forward to it.

      So before you leave, you need to figure out what kind of jobs makes you happy and go for it. Have a great plan ahead so you are able to see the future 🙂

      Good luck and don’t beat yourself up too much. It is not the end of the world if you don’t like accounting 🙂


  19. bono says:

    guys i absolutely also hate my job. somehow i have stuck it in for now 1yr 3 monmths, and its been the worst 1 yr 3 months of my life. its also one of the big 4 i work for, and its a co,bination of factors that makes me hate it.

    firstly its the lack of recognition you get for literally working your ass off. you get paid to do 9-/530, but your always working till like 7-8. If i got paid for these extra hours that would be ok but the fact you dont is pathetic. on one client, i worked from 8am in the morning to, 2am the next day. I had a 25min lunch break and 45min for dinner. the two weeks at that client were the two worst weeks of my life. Sometimes the job is ok, but that is a rarity. I don’t mind the audit side of it, if it was 9-5 and that was it, id be able to last the rest of it and get my CA. but it seems i always et shitty clients and then i get screwed with major hours.

    Also now im so called experienced, i’ll be teaching te junioirs how to do specefic auditing sections, however sometimes i still feel like i dont have a clue what im doing.

    I totally feel like im doing the wrong job, but because ive been in it for so long, im wondering should i stick it out for the next 1 yr 9 months and get qualified, or should i ditch it, or should i move to a smaller firm, where i here its a lot moe enjoyable and you do 9-5 and thats it.

    i need help, lifes turning into a bitch, i used to be healthy and fit, now ive put on 1 1/2 stone since i started this job, and my healh has totally deteriorated.

    p;us the pathetic wage we start on at the big 4 is ridiculous, i know in the long run it’;ll be worth it, but it feels like too much man.

    i have exams coming up soon too, and i dont feel like i can handle them..

    • Jennifer says:

      I would suggest to go to the smaller firm. They are not as busy as the big 4.

      I don’t understand why so many people are so fascinated or eager to get in big 4. Big 4s are modern sweat shops! and if you have a family, you won’t get to spend any time with them!

  20. DollarAL says:

    I know exactly how you guys feel. I worked in the tax department of a fairly large public accounting firm. It was the worst 4 months of my life. One day, during busy season I worked from 8am to 1am the next day (17 hrs.) only to catch a few hours of sleep to work another 12 hrs. to send out a return for some rich guy in California, at the last minute. After that day I started looking for a new job somewhere in industry. I’m so excited because yesterday was my last day in public accounting. Now I get to take it easy working my 40 hr. a week job and have plenty of time to study for the CPA exam. I say quit. Life wasn’t meant to be spent feeling miserable. Sure I had to take a pay cut, but I’m so much happier now!

  21. anon says:

    agreed. accounting is garbage

    I’ve been doing public accounting with a medium size firm for about 7 months now. what the hell else can I do with all these accounting credits? I’ve learned so much useless stuff that can’t be applied to anything else. Overtime hasn’t been required since it’s not tax season… so I’m sure it would just be worse if the hours were heavy, and it definitely will be in tax season

    Now I’ve got a bunch of loans that need to be paid and feel like I’m stuck with accounting for a few years while I dig myself out. SUCKS, if there was any reasonable option I would just quit

  22. CoolRabbit says:

    Dear collegues,

    all of you are very lucky as in Ukraine’s Big 4 audit firms people work
    60-70 hours for gross annual salary 13k-30k USD!

    please visit blog for accountant and auditors of Big 4

  23. Sad Accounting Student says:

    Wow, I kind of want to change my major now. But I’m afraid it’s already too late. Does anyone know what kind of job is the best (least hours worked) for an accounting graduate? Is working in the private sector a lot easier than being in public accounting?

    • Ryan says:

      change your major, go into science. Accounting is lame. I live in a college town, catch beers after work, and usually strike up a conversation with some others, id say 80% of the time when I tell people im an accountant, they give me that look like, oh that must be really boring and they usually feel bad for me

    • onlywanttobeasenioraccountant says:

      “Does anyone know what kind of job is the best (least hours worked) for an accounting graduate?”

      Well let me tell you what I do which is not glamorous but wooh I only work 20 hours and get paid for 40 hours and that is a security guard. What you do is you get to sleep sometimes and of course if you want to study for the CPA exam you can do that too. Of course this is during graveyard when there really isn’t anyone around. I leave work recharged and refreshed from getting to walk around after a break from studying for the CPA license. If I work more than 40 hours I get paid overtime. I can create my own busy season by calling into my supervisor who needs to fill in a call off or no show.

  24. anon says:

    it really depends on the company. Try finding a medium size firm and see what they have to say for hours, etc.

    A lot of the smaller ones have a lot more employee friendly policies. A good private sector job (with experience that is good enough for a designation, etc) may be hard to find as a first accounting job. This is why a lot of people work public accounting jobs they don’t like, to get the required experience for their designation

    just research well the company you’re going to work for.

  25. KPMG NOT FOR ME says:

    I’ve been at a big 4 firm auditing for 3 months now, and it’s been miserable, does anyone know just how bad it really looks on a resume to quit after about 4 months on the job? The job can be described with one word, RIDICULOUS the hours, the way they choose your clients, the type of work your doing, it’s all arbitrary and it seems no matter what happens you always end up with the short end of the stick.

  26. Chase Johnson says:

    Wow, I’ve seen this site a few times but the number of posts since I last checked in September has grown.

    I’m also wrapping up my 3rd month at a big 4 and all I can say is this job is a stinker. I’m so glad I do NOT have a degree in accounting. I at least have more flexibility in changing my career. Adding the fact that I have no debt makes cutting and running all the more attractive. The pay isn’t very good, the hours are even worse, and best of all the office politics are self destructive in nature.

    I knew deep down in my heart I didn’t like this job when I did my internship, but I fell for the “it’s a Big 4 Firm, you’ve made it!” rhetoric and ignored my gut. Always follow your gut people.

    There is no such thing as work life balance, I work around directors and managers who probably go home for all of 8 hours a week. These people literally live their adult lives in their cubicles.

    I don’t mind the boring “paying your dues” work they give us new-hires, I don’t feel insulted by it. I feel like I’m helping the team. However, I do mind the petty, childish system my firm has of delegating work. We basically beg higher-ups for work and are at the mercy of them playing favorites with client billable hours. So some of us are 40% billable and others are near 150% billable and have the same skills. There isn’t much you can do when Suzie thinks Jim is cute and gives him all the billable work. Or Bob gives Mark billable work AFTER you’ve already asked him 5 minutes before because they are drinking buddies.

    There are some cool people at the Big 4. But the majority are only out to step on you to get ahead. Most would backstab their own mothers if it meant making senior 6 months earlier. I’m not that type of person, I’d rather focus on getting work done. But that’s me

    TIP for aspiring accountants: DON’T let all the free booze, dinners, and trips cloud your judgment. There is a high turnover rate for a reason, and I’m starting to think it’s not just because the hours suck…

  27. El Gordo says:


    This is interesting. I am currently working in Digital Media as a designer/compositor and I really really hate my job and I have been looking into accounting. The way I figure is: if your job is gonna suck you may as well get paid for it.

    Im earning just under 100k now but I do work quite a lot and there is in my opinion nothing worse than being a designer. You constantly work with complete idiots (Marketing people) and there is nothing even remotely creative in design. I spend most of my days hiding behind my computer pretending to work. I get away with it casue everyone else in the office os so damn incompetent there is no way for them to see Im not doing anything.

    A bit concerned about what I am reading on this blog though…
    Can there be a worse job than digital design and am I doing the wrong thing by changing?

  28. Former Big 4 Senior says:

    My suggestion to all accounting majors is to find employment at a small to medium sized firm for your 30 hours. You learn a lot more about business processes since the clients you see are usually smaller owner managed ops, and how everything ties in than you ever will as staff at a Big 4, as well you have a work/life balance and are treated as a human being, and you can really learn about personal taxes.

    After you get your CA, quit to move to a Big 4. Work there for 1 to 1 1/2 years, then move into industry. Try to only work ONE busy season, then in the quiet time, start listening to the recruiters who will be calling you at least once a week. Find a reputable one to work with, OR ask your friends who have left for industry if they know of any opportunities.

    Yes, certain things will not be fair (coming on boards as an intermediae, not a senior is one of them) but you get the benefit of Big 4 without paying for it.

    Remember, The Big 4 don’t care about you, why should you care about them?

    To El Gordo above – accounting may not be the best choice for you if you’re looking for something based only on money, the pay is pretty bad (I made about $21/hour as a Big 4 Senior), they treat you like a replacable cog (their business models are based on staff turnover rates greater than 60%) and you’re still dealing with complete idiots. The work you do is NOT exciting, you DON’T make a difference and you CAN’T talk details with non-accountants, because their eye’s glaze over and they start drooling as they descend into a stupor caused by your detailed discussion of how Sarbanes Oxley testing differs from sample selections you have to make. On top of that, people think Auditors are scary and boring and will treat you differently because of that.

    • Martha Zettle says:

      I am a partner in a small CA firm. We are small, but do interesting work – typically bread and butter accounting and tax work, but also government projects, international accounting and tax work, tons of business advisory services that pull on a host of business skills, not just accounting. I became a CA at this firm (and subsequentlya CPA since we also do a fair bit of US tax work). The work is generally interesting and fulfilling as I deal directly with business owners. The CA students and staff CA’s at our firm are encouraged do develop technical and soft skills so that they can progress to be trusted advisors down the road to our clients. It pleases all the partners to see staff take on more responsibility when they are ready to do so. We invest a lot of money in PD in house and outside the firm to allow staff to develop the skills they want to become full professionals. We pay them well (we think). We are not in a big city, but most CA’s earn anywhere from $65K to $100K per year (up to 5 years experience). After that, they can be promoted to associate partner and share in profits. Some staff people are directly compensated pursuant to their billings – they get a base that is very competitive. From there, if they want to earn more, all they have to do is work hard and the can earn well over $100K.

      One of the biggest beefs that I have as a partner is that the Big 4 have reduced their hirings of CA students. We spend 3 years training a CA student, help them through the CA exam and then as soon as they qualify, some leave to get jobs at the Big 4 – jobs that the Big 4 will only offer to qualified CA’s. Of course, not all of our students do this because many have stayed with us and are clearly on partner track at our firm. We have heard many stories wherein the new CA left us, took a job a the Big 4 and hated it – they were stuck auditing, long hours at a client’s place of business – the work/life balance was crappy. Many left the Big 4 within 2 years of working there.

      Our firm as so many good opportunities for young professionals and we are incredibly patient bringing them along. You have to find the right firm that is run by partners who truly value their clients and are trusted advisors to those clients. When you find such a firm, be patient – learn and absorb from the talented people around you. Do not jump ship too soon, Ask questions about work that you might be doing down the road – educate yourself before switching to a Big 4 or industry. There are wonderful opportunities in public accounting if you bring the right attitude and truly want to become a professional. It does not happen overnight or in a few years. It takes a long time for a new CA to become a truly, independent advisor.

  29. El Gordo says:

    Former Big 4 Senior

    Thanks for the response.

    Interesting point you make about the money.
    I thought youd make more than $21/hour, you get that in a retail shop.

    How long is the period of being underpaid before you real the awards?
    Would an MBA be a better choice for me or maybe something else?

  30. Joey says:

    Hey, I’m majoring in Accounting at a school on the west-coast, namely UCSB, I didn’t even apply to any of the Big 4 and am looking at working at a mid-sized firm this next Fall…the only thing that is on my mind is whether or not I should just go to law school to not get side-tracked with auditing, my ultimate goal is law school.

    But anyways, I really thank you all for your input from the Big 4, I was recently thinking of contacting their recruiters and trying to get a late interview, this website stopped me

  31. Melina says:

    very interesting. i’m adding in RSS Reader

  32. Associate says:

    Wow! I’m glad I’m not the only one with these thoughts. I just started in Septemeber as an audit associate at a very large firm and absolutely hate it. I want to quit every single day but somehow want to make it through my first busy season without losing it. Public accounting has a way of making me feel like I’m sooo slow and a huge idiot. I am thinking about after busy season switching to a smaller firm and getting into the tax side. Is there anyone on here that has done both and likes tax? I’m read studies that tax is less stressful. I’m half way through with my CPA exams and luckily in Florida there is no work requirement.

  33. Auditor trainee says:

    I am working as a trainee in a small accounting organization and I am doing lots of junior level auditing work. When I started working there in October last year the work was manageable. However things have been hectic since November where I’ve been getting new work which is more challenging. I feel lost. At the moment I don’t know what I’m doing 😦 I need lots of help but it seems like everyone’s too busy to help me out. The work I’m doing isn’t meant to be extremely difficult, but I don’t understand a lot of it. My progress is really being hindered due to my lack of understanding of my tasks, I am afraid I may get in a lot of trouble when my manager sees that I have not progressed far. The disadvantage of working in a smaller org is that there aren’t many sophisticated training facilities. You’ve really gotta pull your weight as everyone needs to share the workload amongst a small number of ppl.
    The environment’s friendly enough I guess and I don’t have to work over 50 hours at this point. I’m glad I don’t work for a big 4 firm, but even where I am working now I feel so miserable and lost. I probably have it very easy compared to all of you who work in larger organizations, but everyday is a struggle. Sometimes I even go home in tears and cry for a solid half hour. My roomates tell me that they hate seeing me so sad and that i should try something else.
    I don’t know if the problem is with me, not appreciating what I have or not working hard enough or if the problem is with my job if the teaching methods at my work really suck. I dont know if I should stick it out or find another job. Im starting to strongly doubt my ability to progress in the future if i cant even handle this low level work.And Im even scared of getting the sack.
    Those of you working in larger organizations might find the small company a lot easier to work in.

    • consequence says:

      Auditor Trainee

      Don’t despair. In this line (audit), if you’re not in over your head, then something is wrong. It’s supposed to be like this. Just make sure you know what you’re doing by diligently questioning everything. Ask the nicer seniors. Understand what you’re doing, not just the “how” but the “why” as well.

      Always fall back on the fundamentals of auditing. Then, from what you’ve learned and absorbed, form your own opinion, ideas, styles.

      I’m working in a Big Four in Malaysia and I also face the same problems as you before this. Prior to joining the Big Four that I am in now, I worked in a medium audit firm, but I was lucky as the seniors there were very helpful, even if the hours were hell.

    • Kenny says:

      I know exaftly what you mean. I worked as a staff accountant for a mid-sized cpa office specializing in taxes, and it was terribleeeeee. It wasn’t even during the tax season when I got hired, but other staffs were too caught up with their stuff that they couldnt provide enough guidance or thorough explaination of my tasks; as a result, I had to spend half the time trying to figure out what I needed to do/how to do the tasks.

      It’s totally not your fault because as a staff/entry accountant, the company should offer proper guidance until you are comfortable with what you are doing. As for that CPA firm I used to work, 6 people got hired, and only 1 person ended up staying while rest of the people left within 4 months.

      I remember feeling like giving up and pulling my hair out until I clocked out, and feel depressed when I get home. Right now I work as an accountant for a credit card company and they gave proper training so I know exactly what I’m doing. HOwever, its still accounting, and it sucks –just a little less than when I worked at CPA office.

  34. anon says:

    auditor trainee
    I started in a small firm with little education and no experience. I felt the same as you do. Exactly the same (even though I’m not the crying type lol)

    The absolute most important thing is that you stop applying these self-pressures. Just do what you can and don’t worry about what you can’t control.
    I can tell you that they EXPECT you to screw up and accomplish very little if you’re in over your head.
    You must take the attitude that you’ll just work hard on what they give you, and it’s not the responsibility of a junior employee to worry about productivity, recovery, etc. If you screw something up just tell yourself “it is what it is” and go on to the next task……

    When you’re learning 1000 new things your brain doesn’t have room for stress you’re applying to yourself.

  35. Sydney Accountant says:

    If you despise accounting early on you could still despise it in 20 years time. Change or re-train before you have too many commitments.

    The Big 4 are good at marketing the upside of audit work but often the reality is far different.

  36. There's a light somewhere says:

    If you ever watch closely, a lot of the partners/managers in accounting firms have no lives (and probably no wives anymore) outside of work. They really don’t know anything about moderation (ever notice how much some of them drink), so there’s no such thing as work-life balance. Many have little to no social skills, know little to nothing about themselves, nor do they care to know much about others. It’s hilarious how easy it is to psycho-analyze and psycho-dissect some of the transparent, crappy, coping walls of defense some of these pathetic creatures create.

    Auditing sucks – what can I say? I can summarize what I do on a daily basis like this – does this number on this document match the number on that document? If so, put a tickmark! If no, do a do-si-do (and find out why). Does the total on this sheet of paper match that sheet of paper? If yes, put a tickmark, if no, find out why! Wash, rinse, repeat. You probably get the idea – really, how much brain power does one need for this?

    Auditor trainee – don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up. It’s like trying to teach yourself calculus using a physics book – you’re not dumb by any means; someone needs to just outline/summarize what’s going on (by comparing it to what you know from school to how the client actually does things), otherwise it’s just a jumble of sh*t.

    Accounting seems like a relatively easy, universal profession – mostly an undergrad degree (and even some people don’t have that), and it really doesn’t matter what school you go to. But remember why the salaries are relatively high – the turnover in public accounting is high, and it’s bad (higher than 60% might be a bit worse than some retail jobs). People figure out relatively quickly (as you can probably guess from the “I’ve been here 3 months and it blows” posts) how mind-numbing and stupidly political it is, and run out the minute their work requirement has been fulfilled; hence the tremendous salary numbers for “seniors” or those with at least 2 years experience. Very few care to stick around.

    I think the only saving grace of this profession is that it’s slightly better than law school, although it strongly mirrors it (lotsa schools, lotsa graduates every year, the lure of high salaries, disillusionment, job misery). People walk out of law school with 100k in debt or so, and most really do have no choice but to take a law job, any law job, even if it only pays $20/hour.

    People – I hope you are able to find something else to stay entertained and sane. Auditing is really boring, time-consuming, a poor use of brainpower, and the corporate politics drama just adds to the misery.

    All I can say is this – b/c it might help for those of you (probably all!) who want out of this pinwheel – if you can bond with any of the staff/managers at a client site, b/c it’s definitely a potential job opening in the future (maybe not public accounting, but something else. And hey, you’re practically getting on the job training anyway by auditing their books!) Think of it as a possible insurance clause/escape route when you are done with your 2 years or whatever.

    Remember, client personnel are only used to dealing with PITA, unhappy auditors. It takes a certain personality to be happy, cheerful and pleasant, while dealing with 1) something as idiotic as auditing 2) getting information from and giving out extra, unpaid work to already-over-worked-client-staff. (I’ve already had a client manager who wanted to offer me a job; his entire staff treat me like I’m one of them, by inviting me to lunch, and generally chewing the fat/joking around about movies/books/food/family, and I’ve only been there 2 weeks) I hope this helps you guys a little bit. But I hear you about the disillusionment and disappointment.

  37. anon says:

    I am tired. Very. Tired.

  38. nc intern says:

    I am doing a tax/audit internship in NC for $20 hr + OT but it sucks. I am doing tax returns and have no idea what I am doing or how to use the software. It took my 36 hours to do 1 c-corp. The whole file did not transfer in correctly from the audit software. I have only been there 2 months and I was only shown 1of each type of return with no complexities. The returns I am getting would only take anyone in my office 1 hour max. I hate it already.

  39. Sleepy accountant says:

    nc intern – I think once you become familiar with things at your work, things will get better. I also don’t think you’ll have to do tax returns forever. It might be good to give it time, perhaps a few months. But if you do hate it after a few months, it’s probably not a good idea to stick around at a job that you hate.

    Anon – I’m also tired. very tired.

    Auditor trainee – I haven’t done auditing work before, but I think I can relate to some of what you’re saying. When I started working, I also lacked in experience and training and I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I still feel that way sometimes. I also need helps of help 😉 As the others have said, definitely don’t beat yourself up about making mistakes. That’s where I’ve learnt all my lessons. And btw, if you’re struggling that’s a sure sign that your work isn’t easy! They wouldn’t just hire any moron. As I was saying to nc intern, if you’ve been feeling miserable for way too long, might be best to consider resigning…

    One thing I find difficult to deal with in public practice is billing my time. I’m so used to taking my time with learning new things which you get to do at school. I’m able to do great things once I’ve given myself plenty of time to learn something, but I feel like I don’t get that opportunity in a public practice. I understand time is money in the workplace, but it seems to be especially important in public practice. Am I in the wrong job?

    Does everyone here work to a timesheet? How do you all find it? I feel like I’m being watched. I know I work diligently throughout the day, but my timesheets make me look slow and lazy …

  40. anon says:

    when you start in public accounting they expect you to take way too much time. Even when you’ve been there years you’re still going to get the odd file where you stumble and there is not chance of billing it at your normal rate.

    You shouldn’t be worrying about billing at all unless you’re the partner or whoever it is doing the billing. If you’re too slow they will tell you, and then you just say “I’m learning, improving” etc and give it no consideration.

    My job in public accounting is simply to get things done, work hard, and not worry about stupid things like billing. I log my time, and after that it is what it is.

  41. Auditor trainee says:

    Thanks all for your responses, the advice really helped me out. Things are still hard at work, but i’m learning to relax a bit more. I appreciate everyones help, I felt really alone before I commented here.

    Yeah I have to keep a timesheet to and log everything I do.

    You are right anon, you make a mistake and move on, it is what it is. I cry alot less now lol

  42. Krupo says:

    Surprisingly lively discussion here.

    I’ve written up another response, specifically in response to several of the comments raised here, some good stuff on the advice @At


  43. stephen m says:


    I use to be a teacher, but hated the hours of planning,teaching,grading. To add to it, the pay is pretty bad. I thought about getting a masters in accounting, but it seems just as crappy of a job (perhaps more money). I don’t think I’m going to go in the 40K debt to get that degree. thanks guys

  44. Anon_person says:

    Alright dudes,

    I’m currently doing a placement in a big four with auditing… yeah totally agree with this post. Some people in the office actually enjoy doing this crap. Most people will leave after qualifying but some will stay on to become managers where they will just plan and review audit files, unlike us noobs who get paid even less to do a monkey’s job out in the field.

    The only thing that keeps my colleagues going is the fact that once they become chartered, the world’s their oyster. I for one cannot put up with the ridiculously low pay for long unpaid overtime going up to clients and asking them how they arrived at each figure they put into their accounts and then asking them for backup and recalculting their methods and tracing to invoices and bank statements and blah blah blah. It’s tiresome and there is zero job satisfaction. Becoming chartered isn’t worth it IMO. Without sounding too big headed, I can easily get a better paid job and earn as much as a chartered accountant in the same time through different routes.

  45. Krupo says:

    Uh, if that’s the case, go and do it. 🙂

  46. Senior Associate says:

    I would appreciated if you guys stated where you are writing from.
    I am in NYC and the average pay for an audit associate at the BIG 4 is 60K + 3K – 5K signing bonus.

    Everyone knows that you will work long hours at the Big 4; but many of you say that the salary sucks. 60K in NYC is a modest salary not good not bad but modest, but if you factor in the long hours than I guess one can say the salary is low.

    I am thinking many of you are 22 -24 year olds that are not used to working, maybe you feel you should be rewarded just for showing up.

    If you were not able to see, while in school, that accounting, finance and other business related fields, are the foundation of our capitalist society; or if you are not able to gain a deeper understanding from working in the field; than perhaps you should change careers.

    If you pick up the NY Times to look for a job, most if not all of the high paying jobs require or prefer Big 4 experience.

    Stop bitching and moaning, pay your dues, and if you are too weak or insecure, move on after you get your CPA. Two years will pass whether you are at one of the Big four or hanging out with your buddies pumping iron preparing to go clubbing. It is much better to see those 2 years pass by and get and internationally accepted recognition.

    Remember that everything that is worthwhile requires effort and sometimes sacrifice.

    The long hours

  47. James says:

    Hey don’t go off on us, I happen to agree. Public accounting is definitely not for everyone, I find it demoralizing and depressing. The pay is perfectly good considering I’m 22 but I would rather work for 35k and actually enjoy my life a little more. It takes more than two years to get your CPA, generally. And what good is a CPA if you hate your chosen career? It’s depressing when you realize you hate the field you spent four years of college training to enter.

  48. Krupo says:

    It goes without saying you should find work you enjoy doing. Ultimately, you’ll probably have a more successful career if you enjoy what you’re doing.

  49. Gary says:

    You guys just need to get away from the big firms. I worked at what was Coopers & Lybrand in 1979-81 and it was the worst two years of my life. I quit and took a summer off. Then I stared with a small firm which was a good learning experience and you actually deal with real people and can help them. Now I’m with a firm with 70 people, all real nice and we work hard but have alot of laughs.
    The managing partner is a great guy, all of the partners work hard but realize there is more to life than being a CPA. After 29 yeas in this, I wish I had chosen something else but there is something for security and making > $200K is ok too. I’d say get out of the big firms, find a firm with 40-100 people, find something you like and go for it. All firms will accomodate someone who has a passion for what they do.

  50. Anonymous says:

    I will give my background in public accounting at the Big 4 as I find it humorous compared to some of the blogs I’ve read tonight. I interned in audit and worked full time for 15 months. I reached a point where I had passed my CPA exam and thought that would be the greatest thing. It wasnt. I thought I would try tax out. Since there was no room in corporate tax in my office, I decided to get experience for the meantime in an estate and trust tax group. After 5-6 months in this group, I decided to swith back to audit. Surprsing huh? Just know that there are things perceived to be worse than audit.

    At this point I am two weeks away to being officially certified and I am looking at offers from regional firms and also have an interview slated with another Big 4 in audit. I must say, I am fairly convinced that I can have a lot more satisfying career at a regional firm. I attempted to switch back to audit at my current big 4 firm, and even with the support of audit partners and my tax partner it did not happen. I have been scarred from the experience, and ultimately, will likely never look back from big 4.

  51. Lucy says:

    I started in public accounting (not big 4 but national) in September 07. I thought it was okay at first, but now I hate it! The hours are terrible, everyone talks behind each others backs. Staying within the time budget is impossible for a new associate. They expect us to work a minimum of 55 hours/week but not blow the budget on poorly scheduled jobs. I’ve realized I don’t just hate my job because of the hours or people though, I hate the work! Most of the jobs I have are in financial services, which is actually interesting to me and I somewhat enjoy, but they keep sticking me on manufacturing jobs where I am totally lost and feel like a total moron and the work is terrible!! I have to say that anyone who stays in public accounting more than 3 years is certifiably insane. Good luck! I don’t even think I am going to make it to the 1 year mark in september it is so bad.

  52. Krupo says:

    It’s not easy, but do all you can to get yourself pulled off your manufacturing jobs into finance audits.

    This actually shouldn’t be as hard as doing the opposite, as from what I’ve seen, people usually prefer the stuff you’re doing compared to finance!

    Speak up and let all your managers and partners know. No sense suffering in silence

  53. Ken Lay says:

    Krupo is on the right track. I’m an auditor in the states and the stress / boring work is no secret in the field. Managers want to hear that you don’t want to do boring work and be stuck behind a desk–shows that you aren’t in it just to suffer in silence paycheck to paycheck and want to make a difference.

    I haven’t heard one person say anything good about the big 4 firms…ever. Starting out, try to find a small to medium sized firm with 20-75 professionals. You will gain MUCH more experience in MUCH less time than at the big 4. You will be exposed to many different industries and sectors, as well as a variety of tasks instead of staying up for 2 weeks finishing plant and equipment for a fortune 500 company.

    If you are wondering what its like to work for a big corporate firm, get the book: Monkey Business, Swinging through the Wall St. Jungle. — It is hilarious and very informative about the corporate culture.

  54. Alexander Rivera says:

    Me cago en la madre que pario la contabilidad publica, hijos de putas

  55. sardaukar says:

    This question is related to the Canadian CA designation (Ontario). Apparently a lot of people leave the Big 4 after being chartered… my question is, where do they go to? Can someone give examples of the kinds of jobs available to a freshly chartered accountant (a 1st-yr or 2nd-yr senior)?

    I’m thinking management consulting or private equity… any thoughts?

  56. Krupo says:

    Accounting manager, accounting analyst, risk and compliance manager, Bill 198 officer. SOX compliance officer. It goes on and on.

    Oh, and internal audit.

    There are huge lists of jobs in industry.

    These are just basic pure accounting/audit positions. Some people start their own firms or go in completely different directions, such as consulting or equity as you cite.

    Basically whenever you have a medium-large company that deals with auditors, they often hire a former auditor to liaise.

    Hope that helps.

  57. corina says:

    hi to all of you.
    i am also working for a big4 and i am also really disappointed.

    My mistake was that i had a 4 years’ experience in a smaller company before entering the big4 company. Consequently, they promised to give me a “senior” title & money, but all I know is that I started as an assistant, being payed as a dog. Please note that in my previous job I was payed double!!
    They dont pay extra hours, they send me all over the town to clients and they never pay for my distance-costs. At the end of the month I am totally out of my budget without any luxuries.
    Apart from the pitty money, their behavior sucks. They treat you like a fool, promise you things to get you to work and when they get their work done they have amnesia…
    All I know (from my 9 months experience in a big4) is that they are a bunch of bullies and they dont respect anyone. In my company, managers come from rich families and work for hobby and glamour. They know who will be promoted and the rest should just do the work and after 3-4 years should go to hell.
    Sick and tired of them. I will resign this week.
    Good luck to all of you

    – A girl from Greece

  58. No more Big four says:

    Started in January with KPMG, I hate this shit. I don’t mind long hours, but this shit is repetitive and boring. Don’t give me that, “it’s better when you’re a manager”, right force myself to work 5-6 years for that. Even if i’m a manager, it’s still boring and repetitive. I’m planning to go back to school. Most likely mba, or jd.

    We don’t get paid a lot. Per hour rates it’s embarassing. I’m getting paid 50k from KPMG and work 60-70 hrs a week. It doesn’t even crack $20 per hour. Those hrs don’t even include work i bring home.

    My friend is a staff accountant at yahoo, she gets paid 45k but only works ~40hrs a week. Yes, some weeks she works about 30hrs. She gets paid more per hour and has a life. She’s trying to get me a position at yahoo. I pray to god they have a opening. FUCK KPMG.

    • Diane says:

      Yep I agree – KPMG sucks. They are so arrogant they think you should feel honoured to work for them and why would you leave such a prestigious firm like KPMG. To hell with them I hate them – I resigned today.

  59. Accounting Student says:

    Wow, just wow, reading this blog has been such an eye opener, I am a University student from Alberta (thats in Western Canada my American friends) . I was thinking of going to one of the Big 4 but now am having huge doubts. Problem is I don’t have any close friends in the big 4, and only know one guy articling with a big 4, he was warning me about how depressing it is but I just blew it of as him being lazy or something. He told me he is quitting, and I will admit he looks rather depressed cause his family will kill him if he does,(their Asian), and I think reading this would help him know hes not alone.

    Now I think i’ll try with one of the smaller to mid sized firms , I mean quality of life is not just money, I like to have time to myself and like to go to the gym at least 5-6 days a week, plus I don’t want to work late into the night everyday, which is something I think can happen, I don’t mind working very hard 9-5 and maybe sometimes extra to meet deadlines but it sounds like big 4 people get screwed a lot in that area, I dunno.

    What about CMA or CGA (these are only in Canada) what do you guys know about them, all i’ve heard is CA this and CA that is it really worth the grind or are there other paths to make the same amount of money?

  60. Accounting Student says:

    Oh guys one more thing, in terms of the big 4 or even a small to mid size firm, what kind of GPA do you need and do they look at your overall GPA or last 10-12 courses(which would be more relevant) I ask cause my business stuff is good, but I took some really crappy and hard options in my first and 2nd yr, like moral philosophy and some bullshit sociology courses with insane philosophical readings and 10 page research papers, I got C’s in them , I mean now i know which are the easy options and profs to take but back then I had no one to guide me.

    Is it worth going back and retaking your options to bring up overall GPA?

    • Anon says:

      Depends on the your school, program, etc. I conduct interviews for one of the big 4 and will tell you that I haven’t seen GPA matter much after you have the initial interview. Big 4 firm life suck and I’m a manager. However, the training is exceptional.

  61. anon says:

    small or mid sized firms will likely look at the whole transcript, and not just the overall GPA. So, poor marks in worthless classes won’t matter much.

    Overall GPA may be a screening process at larger firms.

    CGA and CMA are also good paths to a good career They aren’t less work though, I can tell you that. The CGA program is long

    From what I’ve seen and from personal experience I would recommend each designation in these situations:

    If you’re completing an accounting degree, it is probably faster just to go CA if you have a lot of the credits.

    If you want to start working full-time sooner and can handle doing courses on the side for a few years, CGA can be a good option. You can just do an easy 2-3 year diploma then go right into their program.

    CMA is mainly a better choice only if you know you want to focus on management accounting.

  62. anon says:

    Another thing to add.

    I work at a mid-size firm, and the hours aren’t long. I don’t like public accounting all that much, but the firm is pretty good.

    The minimum hour requirement average for the whole year is only 38-39 hours (lower summer, higher tax season). Some people work more, but it’s rarely absolutely required.

    It depends on management if it’s small. You really have to ask some questions and find out a bit about the place if it’s a small firm, because you can find one that values a work/life balance.

    Alternatively, you could tell them after you get hired that you have 3 kids and then keep leaving early for “daycare”, and calling in sick because your kid isn’t feeling well! Highly recommended.

  63. Accounting student says:

    Thank you anon for your advise, I really appreciate it. I guess I won’t go CGA cause i’m in a Univesrity degree program, I guess CA or CMA is the way to go.

    Hopefully I’ll get in with a midsize firm I guess, so I know the big 4 are huge on leadership and extra curricular stuff, since you are already in a mid size, what kind of leadership or extra curricular stuff are they looking for. So far i’ve only done some volunteering tax with revenue Canada, and did play sports in high school and did travel a lot but thats kind of it. Haven’t been involved in any campus clubs, still have 2 yrs to graduate though.

    I dunno would a B+ or A- in senior accounting courses be good enough for a midsize firm?

    I know that with big 4 you need pretty much all A’s or its pretty much over. I still have quite a few senior accounting courses to take, plus a senior finance course which in Alberta is required for Casbe.

    LOL I would try the kid thing, but I am a guy so they might not believe it, plus I’m only 19.

  64. Shawna says:

    Hi Accounting Student. I’m in Winnipeg, working in a small-midsized firm (about 30 people) and I did not have all that great grades. I had a couple A’s and B’s in accounting courses, but also a C and a D in Corporate Finance. What’s more important is to make an impression during the interview, if you get one. I know plenty of people with much higher grades than mine that couldn’t get jobs because they had no personality. It’s a lot more important to be able to get along with people in a smaller firm, so try to be friendly and outgoing.

    Either way though, if you’re planning to get your CA, it’s going to be a lot of work. CASB takes up a solid 15 hours per week for each 10 week module, on top of whatever hours you happen to be working.

    I’ve heard good things about MNP (although it’s not where I work) so I would definately suggest applying there.

  65. anon says:

    accounting student,

    Which designation you should choose can also depend on what your program is designed for. Some programs (many colleges, some universities) design their program to get you the largest amount of CGA transfer credits in your time there. Accounting programs at some universities design it so you don’t have to take a ton of courses before you can write the CA exams

    Regarding your marks question, it really depends on the firm whether or not it’s “good enough”. If a lot of people apply, and they ask for transcripts from everyone, you may not even get an interview if there are a lot with higher grades. If you just seem like a good fit and have a good interview it may not matter at all. Just do the best you can and apply at lots of suitable places, and something will work out. And once you have experience, they don’t really care about your transcript anymore, and you can move somewhere else.

  66. Josh says:

    I read a post earlier where someone said he did not feel bad for those who enter the auditing profession, because everybody should research and know the long hours involved, etc.

    This post if mainly for those thinking about becoming an accountant/aduitor or who are about to be entry-level accountants. While everybody knows that many/most accountants work long hours, this is not what makes accounting a hard profession. Hours per se don’t necessarily tell you anything about the quality of life you’ll have as someone as a member of a profession. What makes accounting very rough is the stress associated with the job period, regardless of the amount of hours you’re working. The job for an entry-level associate can not only be extremely tedious and boring, but also difficult. You should not expect a whole lot of direction. Combine low pay, boring work, and also hard/difficult work. This makes for a bad job in my opinion, but the work of an entry-level accountant is basically treated as something like a commodity, so what do you expect I suppose.

    Especially at entry-level positions, you either get the job “done” or you don’t. And you’re timed as well on your timesheet, which is used for billing as well as performance purposes, if you’re in public accounting. Dealing with real-world data obviously is important in the real world, but this is also much harder than dealing with questions out of a book. At higher levels, the fact still remains that you either get the job done or you don’t, but you at least can use your judgement a bit more I think if something isn’t clear and things need to be done quickly. You’re working mostly at a broader level made possible by the grunts and entry-level people below you who do the reconciliations, expense testing, etc. This may seem obvious, but another piece of advice for entry-level accountants would be to get very familiar with Microsoft Excel, if you’re not. Dealing with messy real-world data of a large organziation is MUCH MUCH more difficult than dealing with questions from a book. Learn how to use PivotTables in Excel. Learn how to sort, subtotal, use SUMIF, VLOOKUP, and just overall get a good feel for Excel. Also, if you’re determined to become an accountant, DO NOT LET YOURSELF GRADUATE WITHOUT GETTING SOME SORT OF REAL WORLD ACCOUNTING EXPERIENCE. This should be required really.

    In the end, accounting in the real world is much more difficult than accounting in school. Just because you’re good at paper tests, doesn’t mean you’ll be a good accountant. Dealing with people and getting people to help you and do things for you and just LIKE YOU is important. That’s why you see that a lot of accountants have similar personalities, especially in public accounting. If a lot of people just don’t like you, especially early in your career, it can basically mean you fail as an accountant. Communicating with clients and customers, other co-workers, is something not taught in school, so that’s why several work experiences/internships while in school are extremely important. If nothing else, it’ll show you that you DON’T WANT TO BE AN ACCOUNTANT, unless you have the personality for it — that is, unless you fit in.

    • Rocky says:

      i worked for a big 4 firm in a 3 month tax internship at a very, large bank – hated it…. i didnt work that hard though because i was taking 15 credits and i didnt really care at the time. i proceeded to graduate with a masters degree in accounting, accepted a job offer from a much smaller accounting firm, worked very long hours, and got fired in 3 months after tax season ended because i wasn’t “getting it.” During that 3 month period, i accepted a job offer at another big 4 accounting firm in audit. i just took regulation and i wasn’t confident at all… my FAR exam is in 4.5 weeks and i haven’t started studying yet but im not working. i am nervous as hell – i start at this place in october and i am afraid i will be terminated again. i dont know what to do; it takes me 5 minutes to muliply 17 x 3 in my head. when i was fired, i told them about my offer at the big 4 firm and they told me that i would be a much better fit there because the nature of entry level work is less complex at larger accounting firms. i have no problem with the idea of comparing 2 numbers on 2 separate documents to see if they agree, then tickmarking it, and proceeding to do this same task for 12-14 hours each day. What do you think?

  67. James says:

    Let me first start by saying that by reading this blog, I have been comforted to know that I wasn’t the only one out there feeling negative about public accounting.

    I graduated college in May of 2007 with that “super” job in public accounting waiting for me September. I had interned at this particular firm the summer before and I came to the realization that I didn’t mind the people at the firm.

    September 2007 came and so did my first, post-college job but as the profression likes to call it my first “career.” I started out doing a lot of internal control testing which I didn’t mind. I found the concept easy to understand and it basically just involves vouching receipts and disbursements and looking for needed information.

    As the months went on I began to notice the political environment in the office and the way people above me were stressed on a perpetual basis and never seemed to have down-to-earth attitudes or even like their job for that matter. I also found myself getting overwhelmed by the amount of work that confused me. I found myself countless days trying to figure things out but couldn’t quite grasp it.

    I also looked at the bigger picture. Do I want to live my life (or better yet, lack of life) calculating numbers in a spreadsheetand and seemingly screwing up almost everything bit of information I worked on?

    I don’t like public accounting because the bigger picture is easily determined. You work very long hours only to become tired, fatigued, depressed, demoralized, and unhealthy. You see how miserable the people above you are but they still continue doing what they do for this utopia of happiness once they get to partner. The word Supervisor, Manager, and Partner doesn’t give me a positive vibe. It’s just a continuation of a lifeless, overworked lifestyle that is not for everyone.

    Currently, I’ve been checking out the classified for potential jobs where I can use my interpersonal skills more. I dread Sundays and knowing I have to go to my cubicle the next day to work on something I hate and don’t even fully comprehend.!!!

    Stay strong guys. This stuff isn’t for everyone!

  68. anon says:

    hey James,

    At a certain point you will have the knowledge and tools to have a lot fewer “what the hell am I doing” days. I have worked in public accounting for a little over a year, and I can figure out the majority of everything they throw at me, or at least know where to find out, who to ask, etc.

    I think the most important thing is your mindset. I don’t think about work for a single second when I’m not there. And when I’m there I don’t label whatever they give me as “idiot work”, “boring”, etc. I just do it, it is what it is, and move on.

    I also don’t see being a future partner as all that interesting. I’m paying into a house (equity, slowly), saving money, etc, and i”ll use my good business sense and education to do something on my own in the future. The road out of serfdom starts somewhere.

    I wish you good luck in finding something that you can use your interpersonal skills a little more. I am trying to do the same thing currently, even though I will only move if it’s something I KNOW will be a good fit. No rush

  69. James says:


    Thanks for your kind words. I really just dislike what I;m doing. Like when I’m at work, I don’t feel that I have the personality (or lack there of) or the mindset to do this stuff for the rest of my life. Financial Statements don’t interest me or excite me and neither do 1040’s.

    I never take any assignment I am given for grantite. To be honest, I don’t mind getting “idiot” work because I always know I have the ability to do it, so when I get easy tasks to do I’m usually not stressing out or hating things. Even when I was was in school getting my degree in accounting, I questioned my choice to study this stuff. It is extremely dry and it leaves people numb in the brain and empty. I try to have a good mindset about it all but it just hasn’t been the case, especially in the last couple of weeks. I appreciate your comments.
    I was possibly thinking about going the alternate route and teaching, doing recruiting work, or possibly even doing human resources. I don’t know, it’s very stressing because I have like 50K in student loans and I want to pay them off and I’m sure if any of the above would pay me that amount of money. I guess trying to figure out what I would do after accounting is half the stress in this battle.

  70. Accounting student says:

    Hang there in James, your doing better than a lot of people out there, at least your an educated professional man, I still see so many guys from high school once in a while doing nothing, and they always tell me how they wish they had studied in high school and gotten into University.

    One thing I found here (and some other places) was a lot of people talking about how when their new at work with a firm or whatever they really don’t know what to do.

    So what do you guys do? I would guess you have to ask someone sooner or later, do they get pretty irritated or do they expect that?

    Also how realistic is it to even get to be a partner, I heard even if you put in your hours, tough it out, there is still a lot of office politics involved and you have to kiss a lot of ass to make it that far, have even heard stories about some women having to put in some ‘special’ favors in order to be partner?

    Is that stuff true?

  71. James says:

    Accounting sucks
    It’s meant for people with no personality who have zero people skills and love excel and calculators. Buttom Line.

    These people have nooooo personality whatsoever.

    • Victoria Reid says:

      I’m glad I stumbled across this website. I just landed my very first job in accounting. I have a four year degree and work for a private company as a bookkeeper. I have no accounting experience, so I settled for what I could get. The job I do is ok, but I can’t say I’m excited about it. I work through a temp agency, so the pay is ridiculously low even for someone without a degree. I’m thinking about going back to school to earn more credits so i can sit for the CPA exam and hopefully find a job in public accounting. After reading the posts on this site I’m really second guessing. I wonder if I should invest my time and effort in getting a degree in something else.

      • Michelle says:

        Victoria– please don’t bother with public accounting! I am three years in and sorely regretting it. Especially since you are willing to go back to school, I’m sure you can find something that will be much more rewarding mentally and financially. Better to invest the time and effort in changing direction now, rather than a few years from now.

    • john says:

      I agree! F’em

  72. Josh says:

    One reason accounting sucks is that very few people really want to do it.

    So, the ones who end up doing it not only probably don’t want to do it themselves but have a shortage or workers with which to work. You would think the market would adjust and increase salary to an optimum level, and this does happen to a certain degree….

    But what also happens is what you saw happen with Enron. That is, the work just doesn’t get done properly. Since accounting is treated as a commodity by so many in society, the ones who can cut costs the most win. Enron was bound to happen because of this tremendous pressure on efficiency over quality, among other reasons.

    It’s just the way it is. In my opinion, audits would probably be more effective if done randomly by a government agency.

  73. Sad Accounting Student (not 'Accounting Student') says:

    Hi wow, I’ve posted a few months back in December. Nice discussion going here.

    Josh, is it really true that accounting on the job is harder than accounting in school? I am not even doing so well in my accounting classes–getting Cs and barely scaping by–but I am almost done with the major. Once on the job, you will be trained right? Do you still got to memorize lots of info? I’ve worked for around 6 months as an accounting clerk (the only accountant) and at a small business, but no internship with a firm or anything. Reading that it’s even tougher on the job than at school, makes me very worried.

    I’ve been thinking just to finish the degree and see if I will be able to find a job in a different field.

  74. Accounting student. says:

    Sad Accounting student, if its any consolation at all I have heard from a lot of people people working at firms that a lot of stuff you learn is on the job and they expect you to have a lot of questions, even a lot of posts here hint towards that. I guess they expect you to know the basics but one of my profs (who is a CA use to work for E&Y) said that a lot of calculations and stuff at work is done differently than at school, I dunno, I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you.

  75. anon says:

    school is just to teach you fundamental principles and give you a decent start.

    If you start in public accounting it’s all going to be new. (probably similar for other accounting jobs too)
    You will have 10 new programs to learn, a bunch of excel spreadsheets that don’t make sense to you, and files that are over your head.

    That being said, everyone at the firm knows there is a very steep learning curve the first few months, and they expect you to accomplish very little.

    Your mindset is very important though. You absolutely can’t go in with expectations of accomplishing a lot right away and put pressure on yourself to do so. The “am I incompetent, am I going to get fired, am I going fast enough” voices in your head will cause a lot more stress that the actual work. If you just go in with no expectations other than learning, you will do fine

    “I just took 4 years of school so I should be able to do these things efficiently”.

  76. Accounting student says:

    Thats true, I mean in University you take a lot of bullshit stuff like there is only like what 8 accounting classes out of 40, and some stuff you prob will forget, esp a lot of the tax rules and stuff, but I guess the point is if you’ve been through it before and you’ve gotten through it , then you are up to the challenge.

  77. P says:

    You are all immature, and don’t realize that in order to be successful it takes long,hard hours of work. I have been working at a Big 4 for 6 months now, and can say that my experience has been more than what I expected.

    Of course the hours during audit season suck, but they are not any better at smaller firms. Typically, you are supposed to work 55hr weeks during busy season. I have a friend at a midsize firm and works the same hours. Actually during this busy season I was only working about 50 hours, while he was working more like 60 hours. But realize that the amount of hours you have to work is ENTIRELY dependent on your client and their needs. If you get thrown on a audit that has a year-end in two weeks or on a merger, expect to work long hours because they have deadlines too. Most of the time, you don’t have a set schedule with hours. You are assigned work and have to complete it by the deadline. That simple. Plus with AS5, work weeks are becoming shorter. Anyway, I don’t see the problem with working long hours when you are performing work for mergers, especially when its a merger between companies Pathmark and A&P. Put that on your resume, and employers will be drooling for you to come work for them.

    As for the pay, its better than any of my friends who have entry level jobs in other areas of business. Unless, your an engineer or investment banker..you wont make more money than an accountant.

    As for work-life balance..this takes some practice. After 6 months I am finally settling down into my own rhythm. Sure we work long hours during busy season, but when you are not assigned to a client…you literally work from 10-3or4 and leave without having to do anything all day but sit on the computer and watch youtube videos. Now, an extended period of being unassigned is undesirable because you are not gaining any experience or driving in revenues for your employer. So i would suggest to take the time of being available when you get it because you dont know the next time you will be free like that. Additionally, if you are not assigned for a while, I suggest getting involved with the firm community. Do admin task to help your firm run more smoothly, and most importantly do work for managers and partners that view you in a friendly matter, as they will be the ones who pick you up for audits and engagements. All of this is taken into account come raise/promotion time.

    All in all, the work is rewarding as it helps you become prepared to work and manage the biggest companies in the world. Do you actually think you could manage a division of AT&T with 1,000 employees, when the only experience you have is 5 years working at a small accounting company doing personal taxes and bookkeeping for mom and pop shops?? NOO!! Jobs like these are highly compensated for candidates with the best expereince. End all be all: Don’t expect to become a CEO, CFO, or Controller of a Fortune 500/1000 company without having Big 4 experience. To become one of the strongest/wealthiest leaders in the world, you have to work like one.

    • Anon says:


      Immature? I am a big 4 manager who has done exceptionally well at the firm and think you have no idea about anything. These posts are dead on so in a year when you grow up and have your eyes opened I expect you to come back here and apologize to everyone for being such an arrogant little piss.

    • JRA says:

      “You are all immature,”

      Lol, I’ve been in this business longer than you have probably existed on this planet. Piss off you naive little shit.

  78. Shawna says:

    I don’t think very many people here want to be one of the strongest/wealthiest leaders in the world. They just want to like their jobs. So how about you back off.

  79. Big 4 rookie says:

    In reply to sad accounting student, you shouldn’t worry about having the competence to work at a big 4 or even smaller firm. Your experience as a clerk is very helpful, as your a more acclimated to the office environment even if it is a small one. The training you receive on the job, and initial training period is great!! Seriously, when I was an intern at a Big 4, I have never took an audit course and only completed up to Intermediate Accounting 1. After the two week training, I was one of the top performing interns. Please realize, though, that while the work itself is not complicated, these is so much information out there that we just are to young to possibly know a significant amount of it. And you become familiar with this through asking MANY questions. Basically, they will want you to know basic debit/credits of accounting. They will coach you through completing audit procedures. And they have a plethora of research tools. After a month or so, you become more independent by knowing where to look for answers other than your seniors. You can pretty much find out how to audit/account for any area (A/P,A/R, Equity, Cash, etc.) just by typing it in a search bar (given you are using the correct research tool)!! Plus, the bigger firms databases are set up to show you what steps are necessary, and how to complete them and gain assurance over areas. The tasks are really not that difficult, but time consuming. But you learn soo much, and its all valuable experience no matter what your goals are for your career. So basically, don’t sweat it, just want to learn and show initiative and you will succeed. And the abundance of intelligent, motivated people around will help drive you to do accomplish this. Best of luck!

  80. P says:

    Well lets see, people who become accountants either like money or want to know how to run a business. You don’t take up a career in accounting for excitement and normal business hours. So why would you want to work at a Big 4 to gain experience, if you did not want to advance your career to make more money? Why would you seek mediocrity?

  81. accounting student says:

    P, I think you have to ask yourself at what expense?

    I’m glad you’ve had a good experience at a big 4 as that gives me some encouragement, but its just a lot of people you talk to who finally do make it in just end up quitting cause they say its too hectic, but I guess every office is kinda different. Maybe its our lazy youtube watching parents bought me a new car generation, or maybe its just too insane, prob a bit of both I would guess.

    The ones in my city well, lets just say I haven’t heard any good things from people who are working there now and also I guess the high turnover rate does speak for itself. But whatever I guess your right, if you really want the money go for it.

    But I think there are other paths where you can make the same amount of money but perhaps keep your sanity and your health to and your relationships with friends/family, those things matter more to me.

    But yeah big4 will look freakin sweet on your resume for sure, no doubt about that.

  82. Sean says:

    I think “P” illustrates the difference between personalities at the big 4 firms.

    Very few people have the lust for wealth and power to put their minds, bodies, and personal relationships through the strain of the public accounting lifestyle.

    It is not that these posters are immature. The issue is they have a different set of values. I work with individuals who come in before business hours, and stay late every single day. During the times I have to work the weekends at the office I see them there as well.

    Now tell me, is it immature to want to have a life outside of work? There is only so many hours in the day, and when you’re spending 15 hours working and commuting plus trying to sleep at least 6 hours a night, that doesn’t leave ANY time for living your life.

    Public accounting isn’t for everyone, and not everyone wants to be the next Rupert Murdoch. If anything, for most who can stomach it long enough to put something on their resume, it is a pit stop on the road of life.

  83. anon says:


    People who define their personal success differently than you aren’t necessarily immature.

    If I were to work long and hard hours through my twenties at some shit big 4 job then follow it up with 50-70 hours a week as a manager and later CFO of a fortune 500 company, I would define that as a personal failure and selling out of all the values I held early in life. I am not saying this would be a bad thing, but it just isn’t me and I don’t want it to be.

    I would agree that you don’t take up accounting for excitement, but I do know people who have successfully taken up accounting for normal business hours and a reasonable wage. eg: people with kids. They probably don’t head for a big 4 though

    I have several friends who worked at a big 4, and their reasons for doing so were often very different, and they came out with different experience.

    You do have to work hard at in any field in junior positions, but if you absolutely hate it, that doesn’t mean you have to keep hating it and spend your life climbing the ladder.

  84. Krupo says:

    I like the sudden outbreak of adhominems/back-off/defensiveness. A little bit of chaos is always fun in a long-running conversation like this.

    Not surprised to see the thread still alive considering it scores #1 on “crap this really sucks”. Wonder how many people google’d that to arrive? 🙂

    “P” has totally drunk the Kool Aid, but also does make some fair points.

    It’s interesting, really, to see the clash between the “I’m here to punch in /punch out” and the “I’m here to rise to the top” personalities, and everyone in between.

    To address some of the more recent comments:
    – random government audits have their merits. But if you think your office politics are bad, can you imagine if the ONLY auditor was the government, and office politics were the ONLY way to get ahead? Government departments are notorious for that sort of thing. And your pay would no doubt be lower, so careful what you wish for. Though you’d have a freakin’ sweet pension, no doubt.

    – learning on the job is what it’s all about. Learning smart ways of asking “how does this work?” will get you far.

  85. Josh says:

    “End all be all: Don’t expect to become a CEO, CFO, or Controller of a Fortune 500/1000 company without having Big 4 experience. To become one of the strongest/wealthiest leaders in the world, you have to work like one.”

    While this is more true of CFOs and Controller’s of Fortune 500 companies, it’s certainly not true across the board, especially for CEOs. I venture to say that at least 80% (probably more) of CEOs of Fortune 500/1000 companies did not work for a Big 4 firm. Go read their bios…

  86. James says:

    So today I came to my last straw. The accumulation (not accumulated depreciation) of months of struggling, worrying, sleepness nights, long hours, and spinning my wheels finally came to an end. Yesterday, I contacted the HR person at my firm to give her my notice. I fooled myself for a year thinking that it would get better. Public Accounting is not for everyone. The hours and the office politics on top of trying to learn all this stuff can really get to you and make you explode. I did what I had to do and its a personal decisions that I am happy with because now at a young age, I can begin trying to find what I really have a passion for….

    Keep this thing going guys. This blog was of much comfort to me and will be to any staff accountant who feels overwhelmed and lost.

  87. ... says:

    guys….i posted here back in spring….was in audit….since then i have started my secondment in tax and i must say its a refreshing surprise! i used to fear tax b/c my technical knowledge is very lacking in it…however, i am not intimidated anymore, rather willing to learn…but let me tell you, the hours are good…i have my own desk, no more travelling from this client this week to the next client another week…i havent had much client contact but i have heard from others that you are less hated (yes, less is the key word)

    now i am confused if I should stay in tax and further my studies (i.e. CICA in-depth or MTax) or go back to audit for my first senior year…i get this feeling that there’s less politics in tax, but maybe thats cuz i am new and thus naive…i guess time will tell. all in all, its def worth a shot

  88. StealthPig says:

    Tax vs. audit. Person above me, I can’t believe you say hours in tax in better than audit, I dunno what firm your working for. I am about to finish up my MAcc(MAster accounting). I did two internships, 1 audit and 1 tax, audit with a big four, tax with a pretty big regional firm. I start full time in september. My own experience tells me tax hour is worth compare to audit. Yeah sure you don;t have to travel, but you will in front of a computer year after year after, looking at the same stuff. With audit, first two years will be bad, since they only let you touch cash,A/R…etc. but it gets better later when you get to see the whole picture of a company financially. After some experience with Big 4, you will have a lot of opportunities.

    Career advancement wise, I think audit offers more choices too, CFA, CFE, CIA…the list goes on. With tax, after master degree and CPA, there are very few things you can do besides law school. I dunno about y’all, but I don’t wanna go to law school.

    A big four employee in Memphis, TN

  89. Krupo says:

    Yes, but everyone always needs help with their taxes. Individuals, or corporations.

  90. Much happier now says:

    Interesting blog. I agree, “P” must have drunk the cool aid, but then ‘P” has only been with the firm for 6 months. Let’s give “P” some more time (how about one full year, maybe a few years, or even longer) to see when the disillusionment and reality of how bad public accounting really is sets in.

    My opinion, the best firms to work where you would get the best overall training and experiences would be starting off at a 2nd tier firm, or a large local firm. The hours really are better at one of these sized firms compared to a Big 4. I should know as I worked at all three types of firms, and in that order. After a few years at one of these firms you should then make your jump to the Big 4 if you still want to pursue your career with a Big 4. You will come to appreciate and find that you learn so much more at the 2nd tier or large local firm then you ever learn at the Big 4. I am not saying you will not learn a lot at a Big 4 you will just develop a stronger base and be exposed to more if you start your career at one of the other firms. Big 4’s like to pigeon hole you into doing one thing only (at least the one I worked at, and my department was that way), and once they do that, they do not want to let you do anything else. If you start your career at a Big 4, you might find your experiences being limited, your growth being limited, and your knowledge and development stunted.

    Regarding “P’ assessment of working 55 hours during busy season only, I guess that wouldn’t be bad if busy season had a defined time, say a few months and actually ended. It gets pretty rough when busy season is year round (all 52 weeks a year) and you have to do the 55-70 hour work-weeks week after week. It was that way for me at the Big 4. I was in the tax department and in what would have been our really slow months October 16 to January 15 we then had to go out and help the auditors. Just to let you know, the consulting department was never putting in the hours like the tax department or the audit department for that matter. The busiest time for me was during the summer. I worked in this department for over 4 years and did not once get to enjoy the summer. The months of August and September were the absolute worst!

    I love “P” comment of being unassigned. Maybe that happens at your firm, or in the audit side, but that certainly doesn’t happen in the tax department, considering tax is one of the biggest cash cows for the firm. Compound that with the fact that my firm could not hire people to come into the tax department. This was probably due to the fact that word got around and everyone knew the tax department was a sweat shop and if you came into that department your career would be limited. And don’t think you would be successful and be allowed to transfer to another more desirable department where you could get other experiences and the ability to promote. The tax department would do everything under the sun to prevent that transfer from happening as they did not want to loose you, because they could not find a new hire to replace you with. Think of sticking around to get a promotion from senior to manager, forget it, that wasn’t going to happen either as they were to top heavy in the manager department, plus the managers were not grooming you to move up to the next level because if they did, then who would they replace you with? Remember, they couldn’t find people who wanted to work in that department. So based off all this, 55-70 hour work-weeks were the norm year round, and it really sucked!

    Add to this the fact that the managers I worked for did not appreciate how hard I worked for them. I swear I was in a really dysfunctional department. Lots of politics, bullshit, a few whacked out managers, and a few whacked out staff members. Don’t remember ever having any of my Big 4 managers tell me I did a great job for them on any engagement. I do remember hearing this “You were over budget”, one of them very unprofessionally screaming at me and making false accusations (or this same manager would be screaming at someone else on a regular basis), and the lovely words, “Can’t you stay and pull an all nighter or stay later?” Yeah, who really needs sleep after working 4 weeks in a row without a day off and putting in 60-70 hour work-weeks each of those weeks? Sure lets now do an all nighter. It’s not like I get to have a life anyway or this firm allows me to have one, as I am to busy bust my ass trying to finish all of your projects timely, make you look good, and jumping through every hoop that this firm throws in front of me.

    Swear I wasted too much of my life and sacrificed too much working in public accounting firms not achieving my desired goal. I threw away my entire thirties and I can never get those years back. Best advice I can give you, if you have no desire to make partner or if your path for advancement is being hindered then only stay in a few years so it looks good on your resume and get the hell out. Life is way to short to spend it all in a cubical in a public accounting firm slaving away for no rewards.

    Had I ended up in the hospital really ill due to all of this, I feel they still would have expected me to do the work from my hospital bed. Hey, that is how I feel. You are treated lie a disposable resource. They will suck every drop of everything you have to give out of you and still want more. I witnessed how another coworker who had an illness and everyone knew she had this illness was technically being forced to do the hours when she should not have been. I will admit I broke a bone in my body every year I worked for that Big 4 firm besides developing other strange illnesses I never had before and have not had since I left the firm. FYI-I did not break my bones on purpose. I broke my bones because I was so physically tired and exhausted on a regular basis that I started doing stupid stuff like tripping over things and breaking them. I had never in my life tripped over something and broke a bone, but considering I was running on auto pilot and completely exhausted year round I broke a different bone every year for four years in a row.

    As I look back on my Big 4 experience it is pretty understandable why thoughts of suicide and thoughts of, “if I could only die tonight while I sleep then I won’t have to come in tomorrow and do this same shit again”, filled my head my last few months. The last six months at the firm were a real eye opener. I came to the realization that it did not matter how hard I worked at this firm, or how good of an employee I was, my career goals at this firm would always be limited due to the department I was in. I tried to transfer out and was blocked by company politics from both people within and outside of my department. My career aspirations were never going to be obtained working for this company at that particular office due to the office politics. I came to my senses and freed myself from being an indentured servitude. I left public accounting and have been happy ever since.
    Hopefully my blog is not to depressing, but this was my reality in public accounting. All I can say is best of luck to whom ever chooses to go into this profession. Know what you are getting yourselves into and if you are not seeing the desired rewards, get out and get the experience somewhere else. Save yourself from a ton of misery, life is to short for this crap.

  91. StealthPig says:

    how can you not transfer out? I know many people in Big 4 transfer in between tax and audit in their earlier years of course. More people tend to leave audit for tax though

  92. Sean says:

    I know what “Much happier now” is saying.

    I’m in a situation where I want to try a rotation in our high net wealth individuals taxation group. However office politics from all around have thwarted my effort to clinch a spot during the last tax season.

    The firms will say they have many opportunities, but in reality they really want you all doing corporate stuff 24/7 because that’s where the big bucks are.

    I had successfully met with a lot of the movers and shakers in the department when HR decided to slam the door on me as they were offering me a spot. To add insult to injury after confronting one of the managers about the situation, he said it would be “good for my career”, to basically forgo something I’m interested in for something the firm is interested in me doing. But, let’s not forget folks, the firms preach that we drive our own careers! If you want to make a career out of public accounting, get used to the double talk and spineless maneuvering folks.

    “Much happier now” is also right about advancement. You won’t get anywhere, no matter how good you are, unless someone else subjectively decides to promote you. The firm will perform a song and dance number every year stating they use objective measures to evaluate your performance, but the bottom line is, if they don’t “like you”, you’re not going anywhere. This is pretty much what everyone knows around the office and it amazes me how we all choose to ignore the polka dot elephant in the room at these meetings.

    If you happen to become good at pigeon hole position doing grunt work. Instead of promoting you, they’ll give you twice as much work to do. Then they’ll do it again. Squeeze every drop out of you. You have to grow a pair and say no…then take your lumps as HR and others will, without a doubt, retaliate in some way. Whatever the case don’t let them take over your life. However, many people grow to like thinking of their job as their life, so if that’s for you, then why not go for it.

    Just keep one thing in mind, working in an office isn’t good for the human body and working lots of overtime is even worse. You’re trading your health of the possibility that someone will like you enough to maybe let you into the good old boys club.

    Personally, I don’t see how people can do this for years on end. Which is why I’m planning on working enough to get something decent on my resume and then changing fields all together.

  93. anon says:

    above poster:
    changing fields to what? what is your experience/education transferable to that is more desirable?
    I am curious, because it seems to me that my accounting credits are pretty useless for most fields, aside from running my own business perhaps.

  94. Much happier now says:

    StealthPig you ask, “How can you not transfer out”? If you were in audit and wanted to come to compliance, transferring probably would not have been a problem although it never happened while I worked there. If you were in consulting and wanted to come to compliance, transferring probably would not have been a problem although this never happened either. If you were in compliance and wanted to go to consulting, forget it, this definitely wasn’t going to happen as a few had tried over the years, including me. It might not have been like this at other offices of this particular Big 4 firm, but this is what it was like at my office.

    Here is the reason why:

    The Big 4 that I worked at split the tax department into two areas, compliance and consulting. Back in the early 90’s someone at the firm came up with the great idea that this would be a wonderful business model. They were wrong! It was promoted as, for the people who really did not want client contact and having the pressure of selling, marketing and bringing in business for the firm they could work in compliance. Because the compliance folks would not be selling and marketing the firm this department was designed so their career path would be limited. They would never make partner. The department was designed and promoted as a no “up or out” department. You would not be forced out of the firm for not making it through the ranks to partner since you could only go as high as the manager level anyway. Guess this appealed to some people who had no desire to make partner. Manager/Senior manager was pretty much the highest title you would achieve within the department as this department had no partners or principals.

    The department was streamline. Instead of tax returns going through multiple tiers of having staff prepare the returns, seniors review them, managers review them, then finally the partner reviewing it, it was reduced to just two/three steps. If you were lucky enough to have a staff, they would prepare the return, the senior would do a complete review of the return, and then the manager a very simple overview. If you did not have a staff (usually the case), then the senior ended up preparing the return plus doing the major review of the return, and the manager the simple overview (major hours put in by the seniors). They wanted the people to be super efficient and quick at tax preparation work. A senior in this department was reduced to a glorified data entry operator. We usually had only one or two staff in the entire department and quite possibly if you were luck enough to have a staff on your engagement the staff sat in India. I won’t even go into all the difficulties that are created when your staff isn’t even in the office, but are sitting in another country. Just sum that one up as you are going to have to work many extra hours trying to finalize projects and meet the deadlines because you had no staff in the local office to help you out, especially during crunch time.

    One or two staff in house can not do all of the prep work. Having an MIT degree in this department was a waste. You would rarely get a chance to use your knowledge or learn more because you were reduced to nothing more then a data entry operator. This business model would supposedly make big $$$ for the firm, but it harmed and limit every employee working in both the compliance and consulting department.

    Because the company wanted the compliance folks to be so efficient at preparing tax returns, the compliance folks would not be allowed, or involved in any of the meaty, fun client work (we were pigeon holed). All of the fun tax work such as accounting method changes, Fas 109, Sox 404, M&A, transfer pricing, international work, planning issues, business structuring, meeting with the clients, etc. would go to the consulting department. Compliance would only see the final product that the consultants worked on when we were told to drop these numbers into the return or you need to attach this statement, but we would never be given any info as to why we were doing this in the first place.

    The staff and seniors in compliance had zero partner contact. The consultants had all the partner contact. Compliance sat on a completely different floor from the partners and the consultants. The partners didn’t even really know who the compliance staff and seniors were. They only dealt with the managers in my department and rarely did they ever come onto our floor. It was like we were the step children of the firm, the grunt workers working in the sweatshop, while the nobility (partners & consultants) sat on the floors above.

    Due to the “no up or out” policy after 10 yrs or so the department ended up with a slew of managers. Compliance was the inverted pyramid, all chiefs (managers) and very few Indians (seniors/staff). Seniors could not get promoted. There were no manager positions to promote into. Managers were not grooming the seniors for advancement. If they did, who would take their place? Pretty obvious the staff in India wouldn’t be taking their positions. The few in house staff that we had would never be trained to advance to take the senior spots since none of them were college educated with even bachelor degrees or accounting degrees. Seniors usually quit when they came to the realization that it would take forever to advance to manager in this department or they got feed up waiting and they could rarely find replacements for the ones who quit.

    If you wanted to make partner or to at least get to work on more stimulating assignments you had to try to transfer to consulting, or find a job somewhere else. It was a fact, at my office no one had ever successfully transferred out of compliance and into consulting. Anyone who tried was blocked (office politics both from within and outside the department). Compliance did not want to let you go. Heaven forbid they loose you, who would they replace you with? They couldn’t find people for that department. Last I heard compliance, actually the firm was recruiting people without accounting/finance degrees who didn’t know the difference between a debit and a credit, who really couldn’t speak English, just to get a warm body in the door. The compliance department was a career limiting move, 100% grunt work, long hours, and no rewards.

    To top it off, some of the consultants did not want you in their department either. The consultants needed people as they were just as understaffed, but they would pass you by in a heartbeat and recruit from outside the firm rather then do a lateral transfer with the compliance department. One reply I heard from a partner, out of many things that happened to me, during my unsuccessful attempt at transferring and having every door slammed in my face was, “If we let you come to this department, then it’s going to hurt the compliance department because they need people, and we don’t want to hurt the compliance department”. I guess they failed to see that if I was not allowed to transfer I would ultimately quit and that would hurt the compliance department and the company, as they lost another productive worker.

    Another issue would have been if a compliance person were allowed to transfer to consulting, then they would soon learn that the consultants really did not put in the hours like the compliance department put in. When it came to chargeable hours, hands down compliance smoked them every time. The consultants loved to brag about how busy they were, but they had plenty of unassigned/downtime and we had none. So due to my Big 4 firm splitting the department up, the compliance folks were denied many opportunities and the consultants had no clue on how to prepare a tax return, but they sure could calculate a Fas 109 tax entry.

    Just to let you know someone at the firm finally realized that this was a horrible business model and they recombined the two departments. Someone was smart enough to realize the great disservice the firm was doing to the employees in compliance and consulting. I really have no idea how the learning/experience environment is over there now. I get mixed reviews from former coworkers who still work there. Basically everyone on the compliance side states that nothing has changed. The still do not get the other opportunities to do anything other then compliance. On the other hand the ones who were in the consulting department are getting the best of both worlds now as they are getting to do compliance work, which will ultimately make them well rounded and more marketable while the compliance folks are still being limited.

  95. Sean says:

    I’ll give you a hint. I’m not an accounting major. It’s starts with an “E” and ends in “nomicas”.

    Personally I don’t think it is worth spending $80k with room and board included to go to a university for an accounting degree.

    Junior college is a more suitable schooling requirement for the work you’ll be doing. All that work and money to graduate only to tick and tie documents or make binders for 14 hours a day is ridiculous.

    But that’s just my opinion based on working in the field for over a year in tax… plus a summer internship in audit.

  96. StealthPig says:

    Much Happier Now:
    I never realized transfer can be so hard only within the tax department. When it comes to transfer, I always thought inbetween tax, audit, IT…so on. I am in the tax department now. I want to transfer to audit. Because I think with audit I can do more with my career. What’s your opinion to that?? Or anyone else???

  97. StealthPig says:

    I am only a first year staff by the way

  98. Much happier now says:

    SteathPig I agree, you can definitely do more career wise after you leave public accounting with an audit background vs. a tax background. I have no idea what your career goals are, but if you want to make controller and CEO someday it is easier to do it with an audit background vs. a tax background.

    The success you have at transferring depends on which firm you are working for, what the office politics are, and if any of your higher ups want to help you out. Hopefully you work with people who want to help you meet your career goals. Hopefully you do not end up working with people whose mentality is, “If we loose you then who will do our work?”

    Friends of mine who worked for the same firm as I, but in different office locations would tell me that their office did not have such a divided split between consulting and compliance. Their seniors and staff got to sample all the work and not be pigeon holed into one area of tax. These same individuals would tell me their entire office knew how horrible the working environment and how political it was in my office. I guess it was a well known fact, my office had issues.

    You are a first year staff and that should play in your favor for transferring. Once you get higher up in your career it definitely becomes more difficult. I see in an earlier post of yours you stated you are starting with a firm in September and you have already done an internship in both the tax and the audit department. Are you starting in the tax department or in audit at this firm? If you are starting in tax and want to go to audit, you might want to feel around and see how open they are to letting people switch departments. It is early in your career, use it to your advantage and letting them know you are unsure of the direction you want to pursue. Until you are given the opportunity to spend time in both the tax and audit department, how are you going to know. I would think they would be open to it.

  99. StealthPig says:

    yeah, I start in september in tax. It’s been a while since SOX, so auditor is not that much in demand anymore. I know some big 4 in Atlanta are cutting their auditing staff.

  100. Sean says:

    Well I made the plunge. I quit Big 4 public accounting. I stuck it out as long as I could, I didn’t want to think of myself as a “quitter” all this time. However, It was taking a toll on me physically. I can’t deal with the 12-14 hour days and the bullshit anymore. My health is more important.

    Had they (HR) even entertained the idea of listening to my requests to move into an area I was interested in I may have reconsidered. But they seemed to intentionally obstruct my attempts to ” drive my own career”.

    One of the only silver linings to this story is I did find out what I DON’T like in a job. Oh yeah, the money allowed me to save up 6 months of living expenses in anticipation of quitting fairly quickly. Regardless, I was still making less than minimum wage per hour.

    In the scheme of things I’m just another number, so I’m sure they don’t care. But to those who are iffy about accounting like I was after my internship, I say to you…go with your gut. Don’t feel pressured into the job because it appears it is one of the best opportunities you’ll have for employment after school. If you don’t like the work during your internship, it will be much worse when you’re full-time and they aren’t trying to impress you. Oh yeah, I forgot, you get no overtime.

    I wish you all luck as you figure out your lives and careers. This site has been a lifeline. It made may days a little better to know I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like public accounting. Thanks for the support.

  101. Matt says:

    I am about to enter into my junior year at school and need to start looking into internships. I am majoring in accounting with a gpa of 3.79. Ive read so many miserable things about accounting and investment banking. It seems like the corporate culture of business is absolutely horrible. Sometimes I wish that i didnt go to college. Does busting my butt in school while working during school and every second of my breaks make it worth it. When i graduate, I will end up having over 65k in loans. Am i stuck in the shitter forever???????????

    • Anon says:


      No, just kidding. Education will make you life better in other ways and doors always open…just not always when we would like them to.

  102. Krupo says:

    No, you’ll be able to pay off your loans rather quickly (unless you’re already, say, raising a family or something). Find a company in your area with a Good Reputation and tell them you Want to work for them.

    While there are a bunch of disaster-zone companies, the market is nevertheless getting more competitive and the best companies are actually putting some effort into being more humane/livable/enjoyable.

    But feel free to get some ‘real word’ experience outside accounting or i-banking. And I mean a truly crappy short-term summer job, just to give you a different perspective on life – who knows, you might find an opening into a completely different and unexpected direction.

    I did a bit of the short-term thing having skipped the normal recruiting seasons and wanting to travel the world a bit after graduation, then I got my fancy big 4 job in the following months. Good times.

    I’m home from work studying for an exam work is paying for and taking a quick study break to chill and see what’s new on this page. 🙂

    The story of the tax department is ‘epic sad’ – I’ve had nothing but good experiences during my stints doing tax work, but then, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s been paying attention that experiences will vary wildly between different firms/offices/cities.

  103. sardaukar says:

    Well done guys, really appreciate all the info on this page!

    I’m about to start at a Canadian big 4 firm in Audit, and I was wondering if it is possible to transfer to the firm’s Financial Advisory group (FAS) after finishing first year, directly from audit? To be more specific, Financial Advisory includes: M&A, Corporate Finance, and Valuation.

    I’m actually not that interested in audit (duh, who does) and want to spend as little time in audit as possible (again, like the majority of junior staff accountants). What kind of experience/qualities would FAS look for, and what are my chances of getting in as a first-year staff accountant? How about after getting my CA designation — would I have a greater chance of getting into FAS then?

    And if FAS were to hire fresh grads from university, would they select people from the Finance stream rather than the Accounting stream?

  104. For Sardaukar says:

    No way after the first year. Some firms are cutting services in that area due to the economy. If you had a chance, it would be after your second year, with top ratings, and your CA well in hand. Good luck!

  105. Matt says:


    thanks for the advice. I just get nervous thinking about working 55-70 hour weeks. Everyone on here seems so miserable at big 4 companies. Do you think it would be a better bet to just go with corporate finance or a medium/regional accouting firm. You mentioned how some companies are trying to make things better for their staff, anyway i could fiqure out who? And wha is with working so much overtime for no pay?

  106. Sardaukar says:

    To follow up my question at #104:

    Do consulting firms hire a lot of CAs? I’m talking about firms like Mckinsey, Bain, BCG…etc.

    And when would be a good time to apply to those consulting firms? (apply right away after getting CA? Wait a bit more?)

  107. Krupo says:

    There’s a clever trick (works at 3 of the big 4, for now – D&T hasn’t started paying O/T yet) – as long as you’re not a CA (or CGA/CMA) student, you’re now eligible for O/T. And the ICAO, if you’re in Ontario, lets you pull in 8 months of experience before you join them.

    So CA students can pull off spending 8 months as a non-CA student, in which case either they don’t give you O/T hours, or you earn money for it. Not sure if it’ll fly or is very practical (you probably want to write the UFE and related exams, for which you need to be a student member). Still, a happy idea, anyway.

    After one year it’s hard to make a transfer (in general, I’m thinking beyond just FAS) – after getting your CA (OR simply passing the UFE… that’s usually about 1.5 years, assuming you start September-ish), however, it’s MUCH easier, as sardaukar explains.

    If you’ve passed UFE if they don’t grant your request, you can easily quit and join another firm – I know many who HAVE done that, so it’s nothing unusual. When they deny you a transfer it’s rarely anything personal – the group you want to get in is probably ‘full’ at the time, so you just look elsewhere.

    @Matt – Look for specialty/niche services in the big 4, or mid-sized firms. It’s possible to be happier at a place that’s relatively smaller and more nimble. The alternative, though, is to keep gunning for the big 4, but to ask good questions in the interview. Ask what the busy season is like, what the turnover is like, and what the “overtime targets” are.

    If they don’t know their O/T targets, be afraid. Somewhere between 200 and 400 hours per year is typical – and that’s what you should expect at a decent place. Some lucky ducks manage to come in around 100 hours O/T for the whole year, but that’s probably more the exception than the rule (workload ALWAYS depends heavily on your clients – short deadlines mean more crazy O/T of course). Note that 400 hours O/T translates to 7 or 8 hours a week. It’s not especially bad. If they’re quoting higher numbers, though, that may be a cause for concern.

    Knowing the length of the busy season and the O/T targets should give you a good idea to expect how bad the hours should be, and for how long of course.

    As for where to go in your town, I recommend that you talk to people.

    Talk to people who graduated a year or two ahead of you and are already “living the life”. Check the facebook/online groups/vault.com for the various companies and make some new contacts if you don’t already know somebody, etc. etc.

    Lately I’ve only been working 40 hours chargeable – normal work weeks, plus minimal (4 to 6 hours weekly) O/T doing admin stuff. Which consists of charity work and organizing actual purely “fun” stuff (there’s upsides to joining the social committee at work).

    Even outside CA firms 45-ish weeks are typical – my friends in marketing fields have the same.

    Financial firms (i-banks) are consistently awful, on the other hand. Their salaries are very similar, but they make fantastic bonuses (assuming the deals go through). The downside is that they’re working their asses off – 70 to 80 hour weeks are distressingly common. I prefer the CA life.

  108. Krupo says:

    btw, shameless plug, I do write about these topics on a somewhat regular basis at http://www.krupo.ca/

    Mix of UFE tips and other observations there. Comments welcome. 🙂

  109. Matt says:


    So your saying that people dont work 55-70 hour weeks at big 4 firms? Seems like alot of people are saying otherwise. Im not afrid to work, i just dont want to work 55 ours a week off season and 70 hours every week in season. ?.?

    Thanks a ton!

  110. Krupo says:

    I don’t. :p

    I *am* an IT auditor, but I’m also a CA. I pulled a few 55 weeks and about one or two 70 weeks, but those were strictly in the peak of busy season. The 40-50 range is the norm.

    Most of my friends – those who aren’t IT auditors – aren’t working anywhere near 50 either at the moment either particularly because it’s summer time when “summer hours” are in effect. It’s good times.

    The fun thing is that you can also check the online statistics – big firms have pretty fancy systems you can look up – and find out exactly how hard everyone is working.

    Who has it bad right now?

    I’d say it’s a bad time to be in corporate tax (June deadlines!), but most other groups aren’t as bad.

    Now if you want bad hours, I’ll direct you to the profession of real estate: http://torontorealtyblog.com/2008/06/02/green-with-envy/

    Think of the hours they need to pull to sell houses. Being a CA isn’t as bad in comparison – you’re not perpetually on call for clients like they often are.

  111. Matt says:

    thanks for all the help, ive heard alot worse stories coming from big 4 auditors here in the states. i hope its not too bad but the turnover is tremendous. I dont mind working 50 hours a week and 70 for a few weeks in the busy season, just seems like alot of people are 55 minimum year round plus 70-75 in busy season. Then everyone gets so sick of it they transfer into industry. There is a chance that i may be getting married about a year after college and i would hate to be working 70 hours and 55 when were not busy.

  112. Kherrington says:

    Hi all,

    Wow was i suprised to find this blog.
    I too work for a big 4 firm and I am so confused and uncertain with whether I should stick around in the CA profession. I was one of those people who planned out their career so it was mapped out since I was in highschool. I became a co-op student in my 2nd year of university and thought that I was so lucky. Now I am graduated and have worked as a full time articling student and I hate the work style environment and keeping track of every 6 minutes is going to DRIVE ME INSANE! I don’t entirely hate doing engagements and I feel like I don’t mind audits, but I feel like crap most days after work. The hardest part is that my signficant other is also in the public accounting field and he is outstanding at what he does. A part of me does compare my progress with his as he has less experience than I do and I am not progressing as quickly as he is.
    I am only in my early 20’s and have time to change my career, but gosh do I ever regret not following my heart. I was just offered another job at a smaller firm and now I am in even more of a pickle…do I hate the firm I work at or do I hate the field – I am SO confused!!

  113. anon says:

    hey Kherrington,

    I feel very similar to you. I don’t mind doing some of the work, but I often have the same feeling when I finish up the day, and the same confusion. ie: wondering if picking accounting was really stupid and whether or not I’ll like it more in the future.

    With regard to the 6 minute billing:
    I don’t keep track of it like that. I just record whatever I think is fair and add a little here and a little there to even it out at the end of the day. I have worked there a little while now though, so it makes it easier in assessing what is reasonable amount of time to enter. Some people use timers all day and track every 3 minutes! no thanks.

    “small little task… i”ll give that .4 hours”
    “7k billing for last year’s file and i’m way ahead of schedule… I’ll throw another half hour on this one” lol

    Also, there are other jobs to try other than public accounting.

    I think you should take some time to think if you have a passion for anything else. If there is something that you can think of that you would much rather be doing then go for it. If not, then take some time to think it over.

    It seems like a waste taking all the accounting courses then giving up. But what are you really giving up if you don’t like it?
    When you truly know something is garbage, it doesn’t matter what it took to get there – pull the plug.

  114. anon says:

    This job sucks, therefore quitting appears plausible.

    No further work performed.

  115. Claire says:

    Hi everyone,

    I have a year and a half of experience in public practice (mostly internships), but still feel like I am slow at my job and don’t always know what I am doing. I am currently working towards my CA designation and am going to write the UFE in 2010.

    I dont know if I have what it takes to be a senior manager because I don’t feel like i am as smart or have the ‘knack’ for accounting like some of my better co-workers,

    My question is:
    Should someone stick in public practice and get their CA if they don’t think they have what it takes to be a Senior Manager or a Manager?

    Also, should I stick with doing a CA if I don’t stay in public practice, and just do a CGA or CMA?

    I haven’t quite given up on this career yet, but my expectations of myself and the expectations of the firm are making me very stressed out.

  116. anon says:

    There are lots of managers at my firm who don’t have a knack for accounting! Some of them seem to be lost without their spreadsheets and “past files to refer to”, even on seemingly common sense issues.

    If you like it then just stick with it and you’ll be fine.

  117. Krupo says:

    Claire, consider also the idea of going to Ontario or another region where you don’t have to wait 2 years before attempting the UFE. I was never a big fan of that approach – which is common especially in Alberta and a few of the surrounding provinces…

    Nothing better, I say, than just “getting it over with”! 🙂

  118. Certainly uncertain says:

    Hey guys,

    Wow lots of negative things to say about accounting… Is it really that bad?

    I’ve got a bunch of questions and hopefully you can help me.

    I’m from Ontario (That’s Canada for the Americans on the blog) and what I’d really like to do is Banking/Consulting (or at least what I THINK I’d really like to do… can’t be too sure at 22 can I?), but not having a great undergraduate Biz degree from a top school makes these two career paths off limits for the next few years…

    Anyways I’m in my 4th year of a poli sci degree, and I was considering doing the MMPA (masters of management and professional accounting) program at U of T. I’m told having a CA designation opens all kinds of doors for a young man. Is it really the all-access pass people make it out to be?

    It seems like a useful designation in that I will always have a job, but I don’t want to hate my life… I was also thinking law school, but I hear even more horror stories about 80+ hour weeks doing mental slave labour.

    Not gonna lie, I’ve lived life without money, and I’ve lived life with it… Being poor and living paycheque to paycheque isn’t for me…

    I’m looking for a “career-path” that will open doors to more interesting, more lucrative adventures..

    Can someone offer any insight? I know being happy AND rich is a tall order, but it’s certainly possible.

  119. Krupo says:

    Lots of Ontario people around here – probably outnumbers the American commentators. 🙂

    MMPA had a lot going for it early on, but since they’ve moved it to the Mississauga campus I’ve heard some negative griping about it – i.e., still treating it as an accounting-focused-MBA program, but shunting it off to the ‘meh’ suburban campus. I did the BComm undergrad route myself, so I can’t comment beyond repeating that fit of griping. (Though I was also annoyed by the BComms being moved from the Rotman building to another building – so much for mixing the young/old together!)

    The CA is indeed a nice way to open doors, and the commitment isn’t life-ending – the 30-month “apprenticeship program” as a CA student SOUNDS like a lot, but once you’re done you’re amazed by how quickly you breezed through it.

    Getting calls from recruiters every week or three is pretty sweet kick – especially when you’re already enjoying your current job. 🙂

    You said you’re interested in the banking/consulting side – if so, I recommend you get a part time job at any bank NOW to see what it’s like on the ground floor and takes thing from there. That side of things has its own designations – if you’re heavy into the finance you can skip a lot of the CA training path and take bank-sponsored route to glory. It’s still nice and early and with the poli sci background might be an easier place to wedge your way into rather than doing the 2-year program.

    The other upside to the bank route is that if you find documentation/audit stuff appeals to you, you can take your experience from the banking side (and the cash saved!) and apply it to the courses/tuition fees of an MMPA style program.

    Remember that Waterloo also has a program in case the U of T angle doesn’t appeal to you. Good luck and visit http://www.krupo.ca for more background on the CA angle. 🙂

  120. Certainly uncertain says:

    Yeh I saw it used to be called an MBA in accounting… Now its a “Masters of Management + pro accounting…” Whats the dif?

    Wish I had done the Ivey/Rotman/Queen’s/Schulich route… Could’ve saved myself a few years of my life…

    Eh I couldn’t care less about the 30 month committment… I don’t have any time to waste, as I feel i’m already behind my peers, (hehehe I’m actually 23 in my 3rd year of a poli sci program that i just got readmitted to) but I do have time to spend wisely, and if getting the CA designation will ensure I always have a well paying job, as well as open doors to big time positions, then 30 months will be a breeze.

    Good idea on working at a bank. Ha I like the sounds of bank-sponsored route to glory. I have some contacts who were former members of Blackmont Capital, CIBC World Markets and a couple other places, and all of them started out as CA’s… They also said I fit the mold for a financial position, so I’m trying to do it up properly.

  121. Certainly uncertain says:

    Oh and what of the CFA designation? I hear ltos of buzz around becoming a chartered financial analyst, is this something else I should consider pursuing?

    And one last question, is the CA designation accepted in the United States?

  122. Krupo says:

    Re: CFA. It’s nowhere near being the same league as a CA. CFA is all about its finance “field” (I’ll say from my admittedly biased and not-fully informed position), whereas CAs can do anything from audit governments, to do local taxes to run corporations, etc.

    One thing to keep in mind is how in general industry the “finance department” is actually code for the accounting department with the CAs, whereas in a CA firm we use “finance” to refer to i-banks, etc. Just want to keep that distinction clear because you can get into some delicious misunderstandings that way.

    Short answer yes with a but.
    Long answer no, with a … however as with most “licenses” (including law/medicine) you have to take a reciprocity exam to have full privileges. Some states, such as Alabama I’m told, actually REQUIRE you to have their CPA otherwise you’re not allowed to practice there. 50 states, 50 sets of rules.

    If it’s any comfort some American states require that you jump through hoops to go from one state to another. I haven’t studied that ‘market’ in detail to find out how bad it is, but I think you mainly just have to pay a fee to the local institute to get the right to access other states.

  123. anon says:

    i worked at the big 4
    put up the hours as mentioned above (actually above utilization averages for everyone at the office )
    travelled to remote crappy towns
    tried not to complain
    and i got a laid off right after busy season as a thank you bonus


  124. David says:

    Waste of time. Get a CGA and you are paid better while you work and afterwards.

  125. utsc says:

    As only a 3rd year student in the streaming into accounting… I’ve got aims to become a CA, but thats because it seems like everyone else in accounting is going for it. Personally I liked my managerial accounting courses more, and I was wondering if anyone can share their experiences with a CMA or CGA?

    P.S Krupo, reading the career experiences and tips through your eyes as a CA has been very insightful. I look forward to reading more of your entries.

  126. Krupo says:

    Thanks utsc.

    For what it’s worth, I personally know 2 people who have CMAs who decided to get their CA anyway, feeling that the CMA was “too easy”. Interpret that however you want!

  127. Tax-to-i-banking says:

    For the person who was pondering the difference between the CFA and CPA/CA designation – the difference is substantial.

    First off, the CFA is the harder one of the two and takes anywhere from 2 – 3 years to complete. You have three levels and the third one is dependant on your “sufficient” experience in the field.

    That being said, a CFA is a must for anyone who wants to work in Finance – be it corporate, i-banking, M&A, etc.

    It’s also a good deal for someone who wants to move from Accounting to Finance. Take it from me – I did it.

    I started at a big-4 firm, worked for three years, did my CPA and then quit. I studied for the CFA and passed Levels I & II in a year. In the meantime, I got an entry level position at an i-bank in NYC.

    My pay jumped phenomenally after my CFA I & II designation. Now I am making what most Managers will make at a big 4 firm after about 6 years in the industry. My bonuses average about 20 – 3- % of my base pay.

    The hours are still long but fixed – I do a 7 am – 6 pm day 5 days a week with five weeks of vacation.

    So far, so good. We’ll see how I feel in a couple of years.

  128. Internal IT Auditor says:

    I work in Internal Audit as an IT Auditor, and it isn’t too bad usually. I work 40 hour weeks, so even though I may not like the job sometimes I have that time at home to enjoy myself and see my family and friends. I often don’t like my job because it is mostly driven by meaningless rules set by regulators and external auditors (you big 4 guys). These rules often don’t make much sense from a risk standpoint, but I still have to test them and write my colleagues up for it when they do not pass the tests. I feel like I’m always preparing to get in an argument or arguing with someone. My whole work existence is begging auditees to send me documents/data, making sure that I have enough evidence for findings, and then making meetings to give people bad news. I don’t get thank yous or good jobs from anyone really, only attacks on my work which I have to defend. It really wears on you after a while, especially being in internal audit because you see these same people every day. It isn’t the worst job in the world but I imagine that there are better.

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  130. JoeB says:

    I’m an accounting major and am heading into my third year. After reading these posts I’m weighing in my options.

    Has anyone here earned their CPA and went to law school afterwards?
    Is anyone a tax attorne, or has anyone spoken to a tax attorney about what it’s like?

    If so, I’m curious what the work is like (boring, challenging, etc.) and the hours you have to put in.

    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    • Anon says:


      I am an attorney/CPA. I have been working at one of the big 4 firms as a tax manager and although I don’t get to practice law the JD has opened so many doors, including allowing me to be promoted to manager in 2.5 years instead of 6 years. If you go tax at the big 4 you get great training and you will defiantly be able to contribute to law firms.


  131. Certainly Uncertain says:


    Thanks a lot for the advice. Currently the plan is to try and apply to the Ivey business program at Western (Assuming im still eligible after being required to withdraw, BIG black mark on my undergraduate record) after the next 2 years there. If that works, great. If not, I’ll be working part-time at a bank this school year hopefully, and find out what that’s all about. Just kinda worried my poli sci degree is considered a consumable good nowadays, instead of an investment.

    Assuming I still want the accounting designation, are there other ways to go about it at this point besides the 2 aforementioned university programs? And will they lead me into one of the “big 4,” seeing as how that experience is apparently what everyone looks for?


    You have basically done the route that I would have/would still like to do. 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. are certainly long hours but they are certainly manageable.

    Could you tell me more about your position, How old you were when ti started/how old you are now, hat the process was like, the positives and negatives, where you see yourself in the long-term… anything that would be of benefit to me?

  132. Krupo says:

    Aside from the Masters programs, traditional undergrad courses will
    also help you, CU.

    Ryerson is a popular option if you’re in downtown Toronto, but there are many others.

    As for work, if you can, try to score an entry level internal audit position either at the bank or anywhere else. Not necessarily much easier to accomplish, but that kind of experience will automatically trump other types of work, that’s for sure.

  133. K says:

    Hi All,

    I have been reading this forum and can definately say that I can relate to a lot of what people have said here. I worked in a fairly big firm (not a big 4) for almost four years in tax and after all the office politics, keeping track of my time every 6 minutes, stressing about budgets, working hours and hours of overtime for no pay I felt like I was going to have a break down or something. I quit my job, went travelling for a few months and then returned and changed my career into the health industry. I have had to go back to university and study again while doing some casual work, however I can honeslty say now I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. Helping other people and health are definately my passions and now I have finally chosen to follow these I have this amazing feeling of deep happiness and being content. It has been a bit of a struggle financially but it was all totally worth it.
    My message I wanted to get out there is basically to follow your passions NOW, even though it may seem impossible as life is to short to be stuck in a job you hate and the rewards you get from following your passions are fantastic.

  134. 23 year old Starts in 2 Weeks says:

    Ok so I’ve been reading a lot of the posts, and from my intern experience with a Big 4 firm, I am quite aware of the pressure, stress, office politics, assholes (having a senior manager yell at the entire team + 2 interns because someone left a bag of dates out of the refrigerator- he was like 500 lbs) , long hours, and lack of instruction (which really stresses me out). My strategy while I interned was to kiss ass and make as many “friends” as possible because I had NO clue what I was doing work-wise.

    I got offered the full time job with the big 4 firm. I come from a working family, and believe it or not, this is a an opportunity of a lifetime for me. (Reformed bad girl here.) That being said, I know I’m taking a very difficult miserable job.

    Ok so it’s going to be hard, but I need the work and need to support myself and stop leeching off my working class parents.

    So i ask you all…

    What are your tips for SURVIVAL at a Big 4 firm?? Help.help.

    Also, what happens if you work for two years but don’t get certified (CPA)?

    • Anon says:

      1. Go into tax instead of audit
      2. Never bring your lunch and go out to lunch with the managers. It may seem more expensive but many times the managers will pay and you will get to know them. It is very important to know the managers when it comes to evaluations and job assignments. Also remember that during lunch you are not an employee and disregard the hierarchy. Look for for ways to build real friendships.
      3. Stay later rather than get in early. No one notices you in the morning but if you take off early the managers most definitely will.
      4. Do the thing that no one else wants to.
      5. Study outside work.
      6. Remember the first year is when you gain your reputation – people talk
      7. If you have an opinion express it. If you wrong at least you will learn something.

  135. Sean says:

    Q:”Ok so it’s going to be hard, but I need the work and need to support myself and stop leeching off my working class parents.”

    A:OK, SAVE YOUR MONEY while you’re working in Big 4. Don’t fritter it away on drinking at bars, buying new cars, or inane consumer goods. You may need it if and/or when you get burned out and want to get out.

    Q:”What are your tips for SURVIVAL at a Big 4 firm?? Help.help.”

    A: Make friends with people who actually know something. Find mentors. If you don’t have an informal mentor your career is dead in the water. It is important to have someone outside of work to talk/bitch to when the office politics and corporate culture BS starts to eat away at you. Learn to say “NO” to certain types of work and be ready to take your lumps for standing up for yourself. Otherwise you’re going to be pretty miserable.

    Q: “Also, what happens if you work for two years but don’t get certified (CPA)?”

    A: It gets harder to become certified. By that time you may have been given more responsibility or a promotion to senior. You’ll find that as an associate most days you won’t feel like studying after working 50-60 hours a week. As a person in a senior position you’ll have even less time and energy. If you are serious about it, get your CPA done ASAP. At the firm I worked at, they won’t promote you to senior unless you have your CPA. However, they’ll be more than happy to give you all the work of a senior associate.

    Just because you’re from a “working class” background doesn’t mean you have to sell yourself short into a job you might not like. Many “working class” people pull themselves up by the boot straps and get a job they enjoy and that can pay the bills. It takes effort, it takes being your own person, and it takes courage.

    I was in your boat. “Oh GEE! Opportunity of a lifetime! Big 4!!!” Then I realized how much I disliked how my life was unfolding and I did something about it. Big 4 is not the only thing going on in life. Honestly, if I had the passion about the field to do it all over again and I would have gone to a medium or small firm instead of straight to Big 4.

    I hope you have a positive experience working. Make some friends and hopefully life long connections. Don’t drink the koolaid and fall into the trap that the best you can do in life is Big 4, because they tend to imply as much on an ongoing basis. Don’t let them control your life because they will if you let them. If you end up not liking it, GET OUT.

    Don’t wait for things to get better, because whether you’re an associate or a partner, you’re going to work crazy hours and put up with BS. If you stay too long and are miserable you may get locked into the field because you won’t have any training in anything other than the narrow track the Big 4 trained you in.

  136. Krupo says:

    Sean’s comments are very good.

    I would only add, keep your eyes open for other offices in the area that need people. Not all offices have crazy/angry managers who make peoples’ lives miserable.

    If you get the chance, sidle over to a place that isn’t so crazy.

  137. Raymond says:

    Hey guys… I am in a similar boat to some of you. I just finished off a summer internship at a big 4 in Toronto (in the audit group) and really did not like it. I had the chance to go out on a couple of engagements for about 4 weeks in total and get a real sense of what an audit is like. The work I was doing was monotonous and dry. Basically doing the same procedure over and over without any regard for analysis or creative expression. I was careful to ask a bunch of different people about why the got into accounting and a lot of them say the money and stability. Thankfully I am in a position in life where I can afford to take one or two years off after school (if that’s how long it takes) to find out what else I have a passion for and try make a career out of that.

    My dilemma is whether or not to stick with accounting. Should I finish off my last year of university completing the CA credits I would need to pursue my CA designation? Other courses interest me more (finance, operations management) but I feel somewhat locked into at least finishing off the credits this year because a) I’ve stuck with it for 3 years now and b) if I ever decided I wanted to pursue the CA, I would need to go back to school and finish off the credits if I don’t finish them.

    I am fairly confident, especially after being pretty unhappy throughout the summer at the long-term prospects of working in accounting, that I would obtain much greater satisfaction in another field of work. It just sucks because I put in 3 (maybe 4) years into specializing in accounting in my business school and now I am giving up the pay/stability that comes with working for a big 4. So leaving this trail now feels kind of like I would be taking a major step back in my life.

    A lot of people my age who also seem disillusioned by the career seem to be willing to stick it out for the 3-4 years needed to gain the training/pass exams/experience to become certified/chartered. To me, I could use that time to progress in something I have more of a passion for.

    Anyways, I’m certain my passion does not lie anywhere in accounting and may not lie anywhere in the field of business. It’s all just one big turn off to me.

    Any insight would be great. This has been a very, very compelling blog to read. I really enjoyed it.

  138. Accounting made me turn to God says:

    Nice blog, prayer helps me get through it, all i say everyday is ‘God, give me the strength to get through this day, please be with me’

  139. marlyse w says:

    I have a love hate relationship with my doing what’s necessary to complete my CA designation. I just know that I don’t want to be a manager in a public firm!!

  140. Krupo says:

    Unless you work with an awesome audit team – like mine – your internship won’t necessarily expose you to shock and awesome engagements.

    I would overload on courses. I finished my undergrad with 3 or 4 more credits than I needed to graduate simply b/c I saw courses that did interest me (not all in business) and wanted to take them ‘because I can’. Nothing wrong with doing that.

    I recommend getting into a different sized firm or a big firm’s alternate department (I never really wanted to go into audit, and didn’t); that can be more fun.

    Or totally detour in a different direction. CA Magazine is full of stories of CAs who got their designation and did that, though. Unless you’re like in your 30’s, you have tons of time to experience things – the 30 months to get your CA (28 or 29 now, since you’ve done that internship) isn’t as much as it sounds like, and it’s a good learning experience.

    The profession needs more people who are willing to “think outside the box of Excel spreadsheets” and who demand more from life not to mention their jobs. I wouldn’t give up just yet.

    As I alluded to initially, interns frequently don’t get plum work assignments, but there is some grunt/bitch work that has to get done – as you clear those initial hurdles things get progressively more interesting.

  141. Raymond says:

    Krupo, what exactly are other viable career options once you obtain a CA? I always hear it all the time from people that getting a CA is very valuable. And I’m sure it is. I just am curious what other careers would require or like a CA before hiring you so I can see if I’d have any interest in those careers specifically.

    Obviously this is probably too specific of a question for most but any comment on the value of a CA for someone who doesn’t particularly find auditing or accounting interesting would be great.

  142. Krupo says:

    It’s a hard question to answer because the sky’s literally the limit. Do you want to be a medical doctor? Army finance officer? Circus accountant (they’ve featured the Cirque du Soleil’s financier lady).

    CA Magazine isn’t perfect, but there’s usually at least one or two articles that should pique your interest. Here’s one: http://www.camagazine.com/4/5/4/4/3/index1.shtml

    You can find the MD and Cirque articles in their archive.

    Here’s the good thing about working on a VARIETY of audit engagements – you learn about how *many* different companies operate, in a short period of time. Some of this learning give you little insight. Much of the time, on the other hand, the mere exposure to so many different types of corporate cultures just opens your eyes to what’s out there, from finance companies that are fun-loving, to manufacturing shops that seem doomed to fail, to IT companies with quirky people.

    It’s easy to be soured off the profession – or the 30-month training cycle, which many people go through and then escape from – with one bad experience, but give it some time and make sure you get yourself assigned to the general industry area/sector you feel interested in and you may find yourself doing something you actually enjoy.

  143. holla says:

    I’m a senior at Deloitte.

    I agree the work is terrible, the hours are bad, and sometimes you’re forced to work with some of the world’s biggest douche bags, but the experience you get and the name recognition is worth at least two or three years of suffering. It’s very good experience and if you’re looking to separate yourself from the pack, take the job, pass your CPA IMMEDIATELY, and then get out. Don’t get sucked in!

    Your goal is to use the firm as much as possible. There is no point in staying longer than 3 years (or even 2 years if you passed your exams). One year of being a senior is the most you should do, but I think leaving after 2 years is also worth it too, as long as you pass your exams and have a good opportunity.

    Try to be on multiple clients and stay away from consumer business, technology clients, or any HUGE clients. I’d recommend to work on venture capitalist firms, real estate companies, or smaller financial service companies. You’ll be exposed to a broader range of accounts and you won’t become as bored. In the end, it will still be a tedious and boring process but your goal is to limit that as much as possible.

    There are some good people in the firm and you’ll make a lot of friends through your common suffering and hatred of your job. Honestly I don’t know one person at my job that likes audit. I know managers that complain about the work too, but nothing in life is easy I suppose.

    If you’re still in college and unsure about Accounting do NOT do audit. Find something else that you find interesting. I made the mistake, i was a double economics and business major from a top tier university with double honors and thought audit would be a great career. Unfortunately you end up working with complete morons and if you’re good, you end up doing other people’s work. I was blessed enough to pass the CPA on the first attempt so now I don’t feel as trapped at the Big 4. I’ll finish my experience soon and I’m planning to leave in the next few months.

    If you’re in audit currently and 3 months have passed you should at least pass your exams and get your experience. Working in public accounting and not getting the CPA license is like going to college and not getting your degree. It’s pointless to waste your life doing something as tedious as public accounting, but if your in it just stick it out for 2 years and get that license, then move on!

    I passed the CPA immediately and now am just finishing my experience so I can move onto something else. When you see the light at the end of the tunnel and it makes the job a lot more tolerable.

  144. James says:

    Hey Guys,

    I haven’t been here in a while and its still a comfort I guess to see all of you who can’t stand public accounting because it means that we’re all not alone.

    I too graduated college with a degree in accounting and the hopes and dreams of becoming very successful and learning the job inside and out. As I started my career in public accounting, I began to question my ability and desire to continue doing this stuff for the rest of my life.

    I left my accounting job at a CPA firm in May because I couldn’t deal with the politics, the depression, and the stress any longer. One thing I can tell all of you who are in college is this…Go with your gut. It’s imperative you do not going into accounting if you feel that you don’t like it, even in a class room setting.

    You will also find that most (but not all) accountant do fit the cliche of anti-social, autonomous individuals who have very little going on in their life besides the audit work they bring home on the weekend after spending 75 hours in the office that very same week. Lets face it, if you spend 10-11 hours a day looking at excel spreadsheets inside a cubicle, it is going to take a toll of your personality and ability to communicate with people at work and even your friends. My 10 month experience in public accounting was that of always wondering what I was going to screw up next or being yelled at my a partner. I couldn’t deal with the stress anymore.

    I’m now looking to try out private. I’m not sure how much better it will be but maybe its a totally different atmosphere. I’ve also looked into a career with several major insurance companies. Premium field auditing is like financial statement auditing in that you audit the accounting records of the insured but to figure out the final premium that they should be paying for coverage. Many companies give you a company car and pay for your gas 100%. a typical premium audit lasts about two hours and the best part is, you schedule your own appointments and work from home. Occassionaly you are asked to go into the regional office to speak with a manager but other than that you are on your own. It’s a good alternative to CPA firm audit.

    Remember guys, try not to become discouraged if you graduated college and found that public accounting wasn’t for you. I found out early and got out early. You will be able to find something outside the accounting field, if not private accounting.

    I couldn’t become subjected to anti-social, paraoid number crunchers all day. I need to be where the action is and where people have people skills and are able to relax and not be so uptight all the time.

  145. For James says:

    James, I second what you say. I left after the same amount of time as you in public. Now the difficult part of finding something else to do begins. Most public accounting people live in another dimension. It is no wonder so many others think of them as bean counters.

    I was shocked at how different my experience was in school versus the real world. It was like day and night, and it had little to do with the work and hours. It is no wonder so many prefer to teach than to do audit.

  146. James says:

    This is so true. The hardest part of all of this is dealing with the aftermath of leaving. We left so early in our careers but I dont know about you, but I know it was the right decision.

    Lately I’ve actually been a bit depressed because I’m not sure where my life is going to take me now.

  147. Josh says:

    Accounting honestly is just a rough profession in my opinion. I’m trying my best to figure out how to get out of it. Some jobs in private industry are better than publica accounting, but there are many that are just as soul-draining and stressful. You have to be careful when you accept a job that they are not desperate for someone.

    In short, try to get out. If enough people get out in the “short- to middle-run,” then perhaps the industry will move towards increased salaries, training, and employees to help each other out.

  148. For Josh says:

    Getting into corporate America is like getting into Fort Knox. This is why so many vie to get into the Big4. It is a ticket into industry. I would love to try something different, yet it is so hard to break into another profession or line of work. Marketing? How could an HR manager ever believe that an accountant is that creative? You know the mental capacity of HR people.

  149. Fool's Gold says:

    Can anyone in here say anything positive about working at one of the Big 4 firms? Can anyone say anything positive about the accounting professional IN GENERAL?


  150. lost accounting student says:

    I just started graduate school for accounting in a top 10 school, and every few days accounting firms are inviting me to free dinners and lunches. But like many on this board, I am realizing that I don’t like accounting at all and I don’t know why I am doing it. I feel like it’s too late to change majors and I should just finish up school and get my Master of Accounting and CPA in a year and a half.

    I feel very strongly I do not want to do public accounting at all, but everyone else I know seems excited to do it and I don’t feel like I have an option. I don’t want to start working for a big 4 firm and then feel guilty about leaving early.

    I have no debt from school since I have 100% scholarship, and I have some money saved so I am not too concerned about working just for money. What would you do after college in my situation? I feel like all I am qualified for is accounting. (and I have not decided yet on tax or audit.)

  151. Krupo says:

    If it’s any consolation, the big four firms do WAY more than just accounting.

    Knowing you don’t want to do public accounting is a good first step, but what do you WANT to do?

    I myself finished the Canadian CA program, which is equivalent to what you’re up to, but decided it’s not for me – and fortunately I learned about IT audit, which is a much better “fit” for me personally.

    In addition to my field, there are lots of consulting/advisory groups both integrated in the big firms, and run as small niche shops. Look around and learn about your options.

    Currently I’m still writing about recruiting but I have an archive going back almost three years now – hope that helps!

    Considering your current dilemma, it might be clever to consider the “asking tough questions” approach at those lunches and dinners – here’s my oh-so-conveniently just written post on that topic. 🙂


  152. For lost accounting student says:

    For Lost accounting Student:

    I felt the same way you did. I sat in class during college asking myself while my professor went over bonds Dollar value life, if i wanted any peice of this. The work is very detailed, dull, and conveluted. You’re working with huge spreadsheets that require your brain to literally be all over the place. Try to get into a position with a major insurance company. I just got a job as a premium auditor with a company. It’s work from home and the pay is pretty good. No one over your shoulder, all expense paid travel…its a good gig. The finding yourself period is difficult, but I promise you will get through it.

  153. Student says:

    Its my first time going to all those info sessions where the people from the CA firms come to your school, its a weird and awkward ritual esp breaking into that circle.

    I can just see the desperation and fake smiles in all the students, people who I know would sell their own grandmother for a job at one of these firms, its just sickening. Overly competitive ego filled people(anyone whose been will know what I mean.)

    I like the food though, another funny part is how the firms make it seem that you will really have a choice as to where you work, and will get a bunch of offers, lol that may be true for few people who knew since the beg of university that they wanted to do accounting and thus were involved in all the right things took all the right GPA boosting courses, did a summer co-op etc…but for the vast majority of people there I don’t they have a shot at any of these firms small med or large.

    I mean in talking to the firm HR people they all seem to get anywhere from 300-400 applications and they hire between 4-30 people out of those 300-400, thats it.

    I just regret going into Accounting, I should have listened to my father who warned me against it, my younger brother who is in engineering already has a few job offers from a few places and he didn’t have to do any desperate shit like I have to do, or do some bullshit volunteering to seem more ‘well rounded’.

    Now I have all these pre req Casb courses done, and will be done school in April, but don’t know where I can work.

    I mean the whole point of taking accounting at university was to meet the casb requirements and get into a CA firm, if I had wanted CGA or CMA I didn’t have to go get a 4 yr degree for that.

    Take my advice, any young bright HS student out there, DO NOT DO ACCOUNTING esp in Alberta, just take Engineering if you are math inclined, trust me on that, you’ll get a good job when you are done.

  154. Krupo says:

    Trying to get hired is definitely tough, but one thing that will make life a little easier on you is the fact that CA firms are no longer the only place where you can get hired and still get your CA. Keep that in mind!

  155. Grammar Nazi says:

    I really hate to be a dick, but the word “irregardless” just doesn’t exist.

    I know! It sucks. But Hitler never took a day off; thus, nor will the Grammar Nazi.

  156. Jeanne O'Brien says:

    Hi Grammar Nazi,
    Actually if you look up irregardless on page 714 in Webster’s New World Dictionary, third college edition, you will notice it is a “starred” entry meaning: REGARDLESS: a nonstandard or humorous usage. Grammar changes all the time.
    But I didn’t log onto this site to argue about the nuances of grammar usage. I was curious if anyone has a take on how to get back into public accounting after many years away.
    I graduated with a BS in accounting, took the CPA exam and passed it on the first try. I had an excellent GPA and worked for nearly 1 year in public before I quit to raise my family. I now have 3 nearly grown children and am ready to work again. I’ve recently done some online courses through UCLA extension to “brush up” on my skills. The course work was very easy for me. I’m contemplating taking a Forensic Accounting course because I feel that fraud examination might be a bit more interesting and fun than just audit. Does anyone have any words of wisdom?

  157. For Jeannie says:

    Join the club. Let me know how it goes. I will be looking into jobs in a year or so. Please keep us posted as to the outcome of your search. At what firm were you working? They may take you back, if you know someone who is still there.

  158. casey j. w. says:

    Wow..I’m glad I found this thread. I’m a junior Accounting major and absolutely hate it. I think it has actually played a factor in my slight depression lately. I don’t know exactly why I chose accounting as a major. I was going do computer science at first, but I knew someone who has a BS in CS and it took him a couple of years to find a job. I guess I chose it for the great job outlook and big salary. I have tried my hardest to convince myself that I enjoy it…but really…who can enjoy sitting in a cubicle all day and trying to match numbers on documents. If I could do it all over again I would probably have done education. Accounting doesn’t seem worthwhile at all. It seems like everybody on this post is miserable with their jobs and want out. I believe I would actually quit school and work in construction than finish accounting. I should have done a lot more research into the field before i jumped in uneducated. I’m glad I realized very early that there are more important things in life than a fat salary. You have to be happy with what you do. I have yet to figure out what I want to do now since I’m so far in. It really sucks!

  159. lost accounting student says:

    Casey, we could also do something like be a firefighter or police officer. I think that would be fun and you don’t need a degree. They get great benefits and the job is easy. The hardest part about being an accountant is that if you want a career that will make you happy and don’t necessarily care about the money, accounting is the worst. All you do is count other people’s money. If I don’t place a huge emphasis on money for myself, why would I ever care about other people’s money.

    We will all find our way eventually. I remember when I was a freshman in college some kid was bragging about being an accountant, and I laughed and said no way would I ever do that, who would sacrifice happiness for a paycheck and an empty life. Well look where I am today!

  160. student says:

    Well I think the deadline to apply at most firms small-large was around yesterday and today depending on your area , so good luck to everyone.

    Also if you are one of those few people that actually does get a job , you should consider yourself extremely lucky, I know it’ll be demanding but don’t let this blog get you down, try and put a positive spin on it.

    Just get your CA and get out of public practice but maybe you’ll like it and become a partner.

  161. Pingback: Best Places to Launch a Career 2008 | Living the Startup Life

  162. James says:

    Public Accounting is literally hell. Is there anyone in here that works in Private and can tolerate it a little more?

  163. KickedfromEY says:

    You all disgust me. You expect a diploma to get you a nice corner office on day 1? Ridiculous, try a little more working and a little less crying. Interns and first year staff get crap work. Learn to like it. If you have the brains to move up the ladder, it becomes a very interesting and rewarding career.

    • Anon says:

      I am a second year manager and I disagree with you. I bet plenty of the people who work with you think you are a dick!

  164. Accounting is boring says:

    Senior Accounting student here, man this stuff is sooooo boring, i’m just studying right now and this stuff leaves you yawning and numb in the head, Accounting for leases, operating or capitol blah blah its so pointless and boring, life was not meant for this.

    Don`t take Accounting and if you can still change your major do it.

  165. casey j.w says:

    Welp, I made the switch last week from accounting to information systems. It basically only puts me about three hours behind..or one class. I believe that I will enjoy it better than accounting. What i really want to get into is networking and IT. MIS will put me on the right path. For all accounting students, Don’t try to make yourself like it. Basic accounting classes are somewhat interesting..but when you get into the upper-level classes it just goes down hill. Memorizing GAAP, constraints, materiality..to me its just a bunch of rambling. I’m glad I found this board and saw some of the insight of real accountants before I continued with accounting. For those of you who actually do like accounting..go for it.

  166. gk says:

    Hello out there,

    At my work, I have to deal with really crap boss. She only sees mistakes in my work. Everything else I do right is ignored!!

    And time sheets, my God – I feel like my job is a perpetual exam – can’t even learn the job properly due to time sheets.

  167. KickedfromEY says:


    Have you ever considered that you are a crap employee? You obviously lack the cerebral capacity to work in this field. I am frightened that you may be subjected to concepts such as fair value or materiality. My advice is to get out now. You obviously have nothing to contribute to the profession. However, I hear McDonald’s is hiring. Perhaps you should apply. I understand those pesky timesheets aren’t an issue there.

  168. accountant? says:


    GK doesn’t like a critical boss and is annoyed by the time sheets. Must that mean that they’re in the wrong field, lack cerebral capacity and should drop the profession?

    Only an arrogant prick would draw these conclusions. Perhaps they’re just new to accounting and lack professionalism and business experience?

    I’ve been in the field 3 years and am a controller in a small company and enjoy my job. I can tell you that when I started in public I thought the managers were pricks, the 6 min billing was garbage, etc. I’m glad I didn’t go work in fast food at that point.

    McDonald’s is hiring! Very clever. I used that several times between the ages of 10-14. Glad it’s still funny.

    Overall, your post has a lot of material misstatement and I would put the fair value of it at 0.

  169. Billy says:

    Hi, Im transferring next year and was heavily considering majoring in Business administration with a concentration in Accounting, Now reading all these posts have made me reconsider, I didn’t realize accountants got paid so little for the amount of work they do. I was considering going ahead and getting the accounting degree and then pursuing law school. What do you guys think? do you think a accounting degree will help in becoming a lawyer? Thanks in advance

  170. Student says:

    No don’t waste your time with accounting if you want to become a lawyer, whats the point?

    To get into law school I would just get a degree in English cause you need really good communication skills, some other people go for economics or poli sci , whatever you do all you need to do is get a high GPA, accounting could potentially screw that up for you and why take something boring/tedious you don’t even need.

  171. Billy says:

    Thanks for the quick reply Student, The reason I wanted to major in accounting was because of job security, just in case I didn’t follow through with law school. I was interested in an economics degree as well, but I don’t know what you do with an economics degree. Anyone know what kind of jobs are available with an economics degree?

  172. poster says:


    For econ jobs just google it to get the best idea. There are a lot of different options with an econ degree but many of them require further schooling after getting your degree.

    It is much easier to find a job with an accounting degree IMO, but I think that is a very bad reason to choose a career. Take something that interests you and motivates you to learn and it will work out far better long-term.

  173. student says:


    yes it is easier to get a job with an accounting degree than it would be with econ, most people with econ or at least a lot that I know plan to do something else when they are done with it, ie go on to law school or something like that, and I guess that’s the case for a lot of people with degrees in social sciences.

    Anyway, if Law is your passion than you can’t have this ‘what if’ attitude, if you want to be a lawyer just go for it all out, think to yourself that i’m getting into law school one way or the other.

    The most important thing is to take something you enjoy and to perform well academically in it, (ie keep a min GPA of 3.4-3.5) , and try and get involved with your campus undergrad law society, volunteer at something law related if you can, some places can set you up with a mentor, try and network with lawyers, whatever you can do.

    Do practice Lsat tests and take courses which can help you with reading comprehension, analytical skills, and logical thinking.

    Hope this helps and good luck with your decision, if you feel you can do well in Accounting and keep a high GPA, than that’s great too.

  174. CA Student says:

    Dude have you even started CASB yet? (CA School of business)

    Because once you do you’ll hate it even more.
    CASB doesnt know you have a full job that already doesn’t care about your life.
    And Work doesnt know or care that you have CASB which ‘should’ take no more than 15 hours, but usually ends up to being 30hours when you do all your revisions.

    Ahh the auditors life.. we’re not real humans.

  175. Student says:

    That’s just sad, I was wondering what if a person doesn’t want to live in Canada and doesn’t plan on working in public accounting, is it even worth it to get your CA?

    Would the other designations serve you well in industry abroad.

  176. Billy says:

    I can’t believe Accountants only make a median wage of $43,000 for all the hard work they do!

  177. student says:

    Actually they make pretty good money.

    $41-45000 is the starting salary for any new CA student at the big four here in Alberta, it goes up after that, esp once they get their CA. Deloitte starts at 41

    My friends who started in Industry instead of public accounting have a lot higher starting salary than that in some cases almost double, esp those working for oil companies like TransAlta, Petro Canada, or Shell, Nexen etc…

  178. act says:

    yes, 43k median salary is for fairly junior people. not for people with designations

    maybe for clerks, students, people with no experience, etc

  179. guyfromoregon says:

    I couldn’t get a public accounting job after graduating with my BS in accounting, a couple years ago.

    In my state, Oregon, every accounting graduate at every university wanted more than anything to work in the Big 4, so the competition was extremely intense. To make matters worse, there were only a few entry-level positions opening up every year, and at least half a dozen universities pumping out accounting graduates to fill them.

    All the accounting professors would constantly tell students how great accounting was as a career, and how there were all these high paying jobs out there. They showed websites about how accounting has great salaries, and economic forecasts that show a strong demand for accountants in the next decade. Despite all of that, almost none of my classmates were able to find a job in accounting. My university had 1 person get hired at the Big 4, and to land that job, he needed personal intervention from the head of the accounting department at the university.

    We had a couple students get jobs at regional firms, I think 2 to be exact, and a lot of people took whatever job they could get, just to make ends meet.

    I was told by an a friend in engineering, that I should change my major, but I didn’t as I was from a working-class family without much money, and couldn’t get financing for the additional 3 years of school it would take. I probably should have taken his advice.

    Anyway, I wish I could have gotten into accounting because by now I would surely have my CPA designation, but things didn’t turn out that way. Instead, I ended up working at an insurance company with just as long hours and just as bad a work/life balance as a Big 4, but without the prestige of at least having a CPA.

    We had the long days, the alcoholic bosses that yell, and endless unpaid overtime. There was coolaid there, just like at the Big 4: They hired recent graduates only, probably because they were easy to manipulate and would drink the coolaid willingly.

    The cubicles were filled with as many shallow people as possible that would: take their work home with them, work all night, then come in the next day and pretend they didn’t do any work at home–that they were just super-efficient at work.

    Now it’s been a few years and looking back, I can say that although I never got my CPA, I was lucky enough to find a career that I enjoy, and where I can prosper. It isn’t glamorous; woman aren’t swooning over me when I tell them what I do, but I can save money every month, and am not stressed out at the end of the day.

    I’m glad that I didn’t end up in accounting after reading this blog. Since leaving my high-pressure job, I’ve gone from obese to the best shape in my life, and feel relaxed everyday. I’m surrounded by like-minded people, who are interesting to talk to, and enjoy hanging out with me. I can’t say that about accounting.

    Although it would be cool to have the CPA, I would recommend anyone out there that really hates their job as much as a lot of posters here, to give it up and find something better. Find something where you go home energized instead of drained, and where your hard-work is appreciated, and where you can prosper.

  180. Hi Everyone,

    This is a very interesting thread. I have a question for you guys. I work at a Big 4 in the US for two years now doing audit. I’ve hated every moment. I want to leave, but I also want to get my CPA experience requirement fulfilled. The state I work in requires 500 hours of attest experience and one year of general experice, something I feel as if I’ve achieved.

    However, the firm I work for requires you to fill out a form requiring 1200 hours of auditing experience, and of those 1200 hours, there is a minimum number of hours you need to have in each section (i.e. cash, revenue, accrued liabilities, etc.) Also, it has requirements for experience in “Preparing full disclosure financial statements,” something that nobody seems to really know what it means, and from what some people seem to tell me, it something you would do after 3 years.

    Has anyone else had an experience where their firm had a more stringent requirement for experience than their accounting board? It doesn’t seem fair to me, and IMO they do it to force people to stay longer than one year. I’m just really miserable with my job right now and want to quit, but it would seem be more of a waste of two years of my life if I would quit without getting my CPA. I finished the actual exam the summer before I starting working in public accounting, I just want to finish what I started.

    If anyone has any experience with this, please let me know.

    • Anon says:

      Assuming it was reasonable to expect them to sign off on your CPA hours when you were hired, I would consider hiring an attorney. Sounds like you’re getting screwed.

  181. Krupo says:

    You’re a budding CPA, buck it up and do the math. You hopefully have some way of generating a report with all the hours you put in your timesheets, I hope!

    I’ve never heard of a firm making it HARD on you to get your hours. Satisfy your state board, get the signoffs on your forms, and brandish your new designation!

    Besides, it’s in the firm’s interest to have you fully qualified – you’re more valuable in “selling” work this way.

  182. Josh says:

    I just hate sitting at a stupid desk all day, but I think I’d hate being a traveling salesman even more. I’d love to work construction but that industry is in the shitter right now and probably will be for years to come.

  183. yoooooo says:

    i feel you josh. i dont want to work in an office all my life. i want to move around, experience the outdoors, stay in shape

  184. marlyse says:

    i haven’t read this blog in a couple of months….i have been trying to convince myself the last few months that I can accept this job for what it is worth. I am suprised that students are having trouble being hired out of university. I guess you could say I was a fortunate one because I was a intern for several months before starting full time at a big 4 in my city, so I never really had to go through the gruelling interview process or the “CACEE” form crap. Hah…so that makes me feel kinda bad for not loving my job since it seemed to fall into my lap right after university. BUT the sucky part is after graduating from university, I started to not like working in public practice…I dont know what changed my point of view….I do know that I hate the amount of office politics that occurs, and I hate how those who think that they are on audit more than enterprise are more valuable to the office than others…geez whatever! I really can’t convince myself to LOVE public practice! One thing I know for sure is that I DO NOT want to do public practice for the rest of my life…that is unless something drastically changes my mind!!

  185. monkey face says:

    I have a know a couple of people who work fro PWC & EY and they hate it. They work a ton, so I never had a desire to work for the big 4. Got a job with a medium sized firm, work 34-40hrs a week and good money to. I work to live and don’t live to work. Ignore all the people in you business school that tell you “it’s big 4 or nothing”, that is my advice. There is plenty of career out there beyond the big 4.

  186. Big Daddy says:

    I have news for you my young friends. The fun jobs don’t pay much. That is why they call them “starving artists.” If you want to be successful in the business world someday you have to know how to read, understand and manipulate numbers. Work hard and apply yourself, opportunity will present itself and success will follow. This has always been true.

  187. Josh says:

    Big Daddy,

    Very true… although I will say that some people in this world have to work harder than others it seems or “go through” more… to get a certain salary… but I guess that’s obvious. Overall, I feel pretty lucky in life, even though I have not been that much of a successful accountant.

    What I find funny really is how many non-accountants think of accountants as being bean counters and number crunchers… and that if you can number crunch, you can be a good accountant. The accounting major itself I would think attracts the kind of students who are more “nerdy” than, say, people who plan to go into sales. I myself am more comfortable sticking to myself than with trying to pry information out of strangers. One of the reasons I chose accounting is because I thought I could “master” it… well, you never really master accounting. One might master one’s industry/organization over a period of years, but it can take many years. My point is that being naturally outgoing and being able to “fit in” in accounting can be very helpful … that’s why the public accounting firms are so into golf, etc… but why is it good to fit in and to be able to get information from people ??

    Because one of the hardest parts of accounting (especially when you’re new to an organization) in the real world is figuring out what exactly has happened in your organization…you might see bits and pieces of what has happened with spreadsheets, etc…but is what you see all that has happened? Is what you’re looking at the whole story? Only after you’ve figured all that out, is when then and only then can the fun part begin of actually transforming that economic activity into financial statements, tax returns, etc.

    It’s really not a fun environment because getting things wrong almost isn’t expected…you just have to learn when to wing it and when not to try to perfect and waste time… and that only comes with time…like most things that are difficult.

  188. john says:

    This is from someone who has worked in Big 4 (well Big 6 at the time) and worked for large regional firm. This is in the US, so might be different than in Canada.

    But, I feel your pain…..not sure of your particular situation but I would say stick it out if you can…get as much experience/training that you can. Having the Big 4 on your resume will open doors, especially if you get promoted. You don’t necessarily have to make senior manager or partner….this might be the goal for most.

    Like other posts, if you are truly unhappy, then I would consider switching to a regional firm.

    No one wants to live to work but in the long run, making senior then leaving might be a better answer than switching now…Stick it out for two or three more years, then move on. If you have kids, etc and need to have a better work/life balance, then maybe leave now.

    It’s a hard decision but, in the long run, don’t stress over too much, I am sure you will land on your feet.

  189. Sardaukar says:

    I just joined a Big 4 firm in Toronto three months ago, and already I find myself not auditor material. As you said, the work is very mundane and boring, but I figured the most efficient way to fulfill Chartered Accountancy requirements is to join Audit group, get the audit hours asap (we need 1250 audit hours here in Ontario), and then get out.

    I plan to switch out of audit into Financial Advisory (eg. M&A, transaction services), either via internal transfer within the same firm or externally to another Big 4 firm. Yes I know it’s getting tougher with the current economy, but I have to try at least. Can anyone offer any suggestions to maximize the chance of switching out of Audit as a second-year junior, into the Advisory group?

    For example, what would the Advisory group recruiters look for? How should I present myself to them?

  190. Anon says:

    Can some people who have left accounting firms say what they did immediately after? What they do now? Also, what would your recommendation be to a “Big 4 Hater” about quitting in the current economic climate we are in.

  191. For Anon says:

    My friends and I quit Big4 after one year. What we do now is the following: corporate senior accountant, associate at mid-tier firm, and member of a foreign country’s general consul (I don’t know what the person does).

    I have met people who quit recently without a job at hand. They hated public that much. I would say look before leaping. If you can stick it out, do so. But then again, you may not have a choice pretty soon…

  192. Anon says:

    Thanks for your advice. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do yet after leaving a big 4. I DO NOT want to be an accountant. What I really want is to start some kind of company and work for myself. I think when I figure that out I will finally leave. I’m just not sure how much longer I can bare it there. I really hate it.

    My biggest fear is leaving and not being able to make an income on my own. The barrier for entry into accounting has not been this high in a long time. Even if I decided to go back to a small firm it would be hard to get that job.

  193. fvffv says:


  194. To anon says:

    Whats up Anon. I know what you mean man. I would like to own my own business to. But definitely not in accounting or anything like that. I just feel like theres more to life than sitting in an office all day. It’s too depressing for me. The last year and a half of my life has been the worst. I’ve been doing something I hate, and I dont know what else to do. It’s effected my personal relationships. It’s definitely not for me, sitting at a desk all day.

    And its stressful too….but i dont know what to do. And i dont even want to think of ever having to come back to accounting when I leave. Im single now, so i have no worries. I cant imagine doing this and having a family. Theres no life….

  195. Unhappy Auditor says:

    197. January 16, 2009 I’ve been in public accounting for 3 years with large mid-size firms in NYC. For the first two years I felt like I can tolerate the torture and believed things would get better. But as time goes by, it gets worse and worse. I’ve never worked for the Big 4 and don’t ever want to. I was coming back from my usual 20 min lunch break and ran into a woman carrying bagged lunch. She had the most pitiful blank stare, looking drained, over-worked, wrinkled-up and balding! She got off the elevator at the same floor as me. I felt like I was looking at my future! I can spot an auditor from miles away. We’re always dragging a large suitcase or carrying a huge back-pack, always pacing ourselves to walk past everyone in a hurry, either extremely skinny or overweight and look extremely unhappy. Recently, I’ve noticed myself becoming paranoid with time. My mind is constantly thinking billable hours therefore I feel frustrated and have anxiety attacks. I am showing signs of depression and feel indifferent to everything and everyone around me. Then I asked myself why am I putting up with this C**P. I just quit work w/o a new job. Life is more than just torture!

  196. Unhappy Auditor, you sir (or ma’am) have much more courage than me. Congratulations!

  197. to unhappy auditor says:

    unhappy auditor, what are you doing now man? Way to go bro! Forget all the people who say stick it out or you need a backup plan….forget all that! Im tired of hearing that! Backup plan?! Like what? another accounting job thats gonna suck? Stick it out for what? To live a life of stress and work and depression? Theres more to life than making money and becoming something important. We deserve to enjoy ourselves, enjoy what we do. But no, the people in this profession shut down that idea and try to convince me that work is work and play is play. Im not sayin we gotta enjoy every minute of our work but man, we should be able to go into work with a positive attitude. I am at my breaking point. Year and a half into big four and I dont know what to do. No backup plan, nothing. But i want out. I just need to get that courage to quit and face reality. Face a period of uncertainty.

  198. Josh says:

    I think accounting is just one of those things where you if you are going to play… you better bring it. You better give your life to it, or at least be ready to. Even when you’re in industry, at times things can get hectic to the point where your life is your basically your job, although it’s rarely ever to the point of the constant grind of a Big 4 job.

    So, you better be an aggressive asshole and you better know how to blame others or make it seem like others aren’t being clear when you don’t understand something. You must always seem confident. You’re finished when you show any weakness. I know I’m being overdramatic, but it just seems like you really do have to be a certain kind of robot to do well in this profession. You can’t be at all timid or scared of messing up, which was one of my problems basically.

  199. I have no life says:

    I’m so happy to find this blog, and am actually surprised there’s not more blogs like it, and even more postings. I can’t help but note how so many associates start all bright-eyed with a can-do positive attitude, only to become jaded, pessimistic and negative drones. Regardless, I totally relate to what unhappy auditor and so many others here feel.

    I’ve been working at a Big 4 in NY for 2 and a half years, and became a senior associate last summer. I actually started the same time as the Anonymous Accountant. Anyone posting here who is an associate has no idea how much worse it actually gets. Becoming a senior just means you are thrown into a fire pit of responsibility and with a slight bump of pay, you do twice the amount of work. You also have to to do all this shit that you never did before, but are expected to know how to do it. And nobody will teach you anything because they don’t have time. You also have to train your staff, which I understand now is pretty hard. I now know why some of my seniors didn’t teach me anything. You have to run the audit from beginning to end, and god forbid you screw up, it’s your ass on the line.

    I’m now running 3 engagements, each with multiple financial statements to issue. I have been working anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a day…10 when i’m just too exhausted. When at work, its always non-stop, and take lunch at my desk. Throughout the week I’m constantly shifting gears, going from one client to another, and having to know what’s going on all of them. I’ve never had to multi-task so much in my life.

    Even with my experience, I feel like i don’t know what i’m doing every single day. I’m worried all the time in meeting the never-ending deadlines (I am always way behind, which makes me look slow and incompetent to the managers and partners) and trying to stay in budget (which means eating half your hours because the budgets are grossly unrealistic). And the managers just casually throw more work at me everyday, and say “it’s easy. It shouldn’t take you that long”. I spend half my day just dealing with all the clients, managers, partners, and staff. I spend the other half with emails, meetings, clearing stupid comments (I love it when managers tell you not to sweat the details and think big picture, and then they point out every minor flaw in your work), and the neverending planning and administrative stuff I have to do. Sometimes I don’t do actual work until 5pm, if at all.

    Honestly, I didn’t really hate my job until I became a senior. I at least had some life (even with studying for the CPA). Now I don’t even have the energy to go anywhere or do anything other than work. I just spend my weekends (if I’m not working) catching up on errands. Sometimes I just do nothing out of sheer exhaustion.

    My personality has seriously deteriorated b/c of this job. I too am always anxious and paranoid. I think about work on the way to work, on the way back, and sometimes can’t sleep because of it. Just like ‘unhappy auditor’, I’ve become indifferent to so many things I used to care about. I just don’t have time or energy for hobbies. How can you when you come home everyday at 11pm with bloodshot baggy eyes? I’ve become so boring, and I don’t have anything interesting to say to anyone anymore.

    My social life is on life support. Over the last few years I’ve completely lost touch with all my college friends. And all my audit friends are too overworked themselves to hangout. And forget about dating. I’m also out of shape (I used to love keeping fit and eating well). So much for that.

    I agree, there’s way more to life than just sitting in a cubicle slaving away. I feel like I lost myself in this job. I’m totally over the prestige of working the Big 4, over my illusionistic dreams of achieving corporate prestige and success, and just completely over the soul-draining, workaholic, “do what it takes” mentality of corporate culture. Is our soul the price we pay for money and prestige? The European laid back lifestyle sure sounds enticing right now.

    And to everyone who says we should’ve known what we were in for, before going into this profession, well sometimes you can’t really know something until you experience it. I never had the benefit of an internship, and even if I did, it probably would not have made a difference (you know the ol’ bait n’ switch tactic). Anyway, I knew what I was doing and I don’t regret my decision to get into audit. It was simply a practical decision I made to get a job with stability, decent pay, and great career growth potential. I do feel honored and lucky to have gotten my job, and appreciate the doors it opened for me. I actually did learn a lot, and met a lot of good people. But that appreciation wears thin.

    I only stayed this long to get my CPA (which thank the gods, I just did) and to have senior experience on my resume. Now I’m just looking for a way out. The only reason I haven’t left already is because of the economy, and it would look really bad to leave in the middle of busy season. But I have to start looking for work, since I could be laid off any day now. I’m actually waiting to get canned so I can at least get severance and unemployment.

    My biggest challenge now is deciding whether to even stay in this profession. It feels like such a waste to leave, after all the money, time and energy I put into this career. I wouldn’t dream of starting some business or going back to school and starting a new career at this point in my life (though I would love to if money wasn’t a problem). I just want a low stress 9-6 job, but I can’t take a paycut with my mortgage and school loans. It seems like i’m stuck in some sort of finance/accounting job for a while b/c that’s where I have experience. I can’t go into a smaller audit firm because they are all laying off people. I heard internal audit isn’t so bad with the pay and hours, but it seems just as boring as I what I do now. Another option would be to go into the private sector. I don’t know, it all seems like the same shit no matter how you dress it. I want to do something different altogether. Any thoughts from the hive mind?

  200. if you hate it then quit - I did! says:

    Hang tough I have no life. Yeah Big 4 sucks pretty bad. I only made it 2 years. But staying long enough to get the CA/CPA is worth it. Jumping to internal audit at a company isn’t a bad way to go. That’s what I did. It was like coming to a screeching halt after going 150mph because the pace is so much slower… but it was the perfect opportunity to get into a good company, not to mention a nice, mindless job to have while I recuperated from public accounting. Bottom line is that if you hate it that bad like I did then go to a private company. If you’re smart you’ll work your way up and end up doing work way more interesting than auditing. By the way since I left about 6 years ago my salary is 2.5 times what it was when I left public – which is more than I’d be making if I’d stayed! Not to mention I have a life now.

  201. Accounting major says:

    Holy crap, just read the last few posts there, intense stuff. Then who the hell are those guys that make it to Partner at the Big 4s? Must be some real superhuman freaks. I’ve seen them on campus though and they seem normal enough.

    Also is it like this everywhere? Cause I noticed some of you guys are from NY so I would imagine it being a lot more hectic there.

    I’m in my last yr at college and reading all this stuff sounds pretty depressing. I have some experience working at a small local firm (just 3 partners) part time while attending school, just wanted to get some experience on the resume, wasn’t too bad just pretty confusing at times.

    Have some of you guys ever thought about going off on your own, with your own small firm?

    Also with the economy the way it is now, how hard do you think it will be for accounting grads to get jobs?

    Good luck to everyone, and seriously try to relax go swimming or something.

  202. Josh says:

    Accounting major,

    You ask what kind of people make it in the Big 4 arena to partners. Two major factors are 1) Ability/Willingness to work all the time, 2) the ability to bring in new clients.

    I worked with a guy who had spent 3 years doing tax work at a Southeastern PricewaterhouseCoopers office, and mentioned a partner that almost literally lived at the office. He tried to keep my co-worker from leaving, and when the co-worker said his wife was expecting a baby and that he would be wanting to spend more time with his family, he said the partner basically told him he wishes he could do it all over again and spend more time with his children.

  203. AccountingFailure says:

    I’m in a graduate program in accounting, still have a year left and I already feel like qutting. No way am I going to make it in public accounting as long as some of you have, because I hate it before I have even graduated. Too late to switch majors though.
    I hate it enough that I am considering joining the army when I graduate as a grunt just to get as far as possible from the public accounting and corporate world. I am afraid that any job I get in the private sector now when I graduate, I will be pigeon-holed into doing boring accounting work.
    I have been in my room or the library studying nonstop for the past year, and that is just to pass. I did well in other subjects and had above a 3.5 GPA all through college, but now that it’s all accounting classes I am on academic probation and struggling to survive. It does make me feel a little better to see the pain others are experiencing (sorry.)
    I turned down a highly coveted internship position with a Big 4 firm for a mid-market internship and no one could believe it. They said I am trashing my career but I think I mainly just did it to rebel. Maybe subconsciously I am doing bad in this subject to force myself to do something else? only time will tell.

  204. Dave says:

    I’m a Masters of accounting student and will be graduating in Dec 2009. Hows the outlook for the big 4? I’m really excited to try and get a job with them but the economic outlook is bad, so it makes me worried that they may freeze hiring? I gave up a low stress corporate accounting job to go back to school and get my Masters and hopefully go through recruitment and land a job.
    I’ve passed all 4 cpa exams already, so that’s something I won’t have to worry about when I’m working.

  205. Josh says:


    How old are you? Big 4 typically like their recruits out of college less than 25 or so, the younger actually the better usually. They want someone who fits their little mold essentially. Of course, that’s not exactly set in stone… if you did extremely well at your accounting job, got promoted quickly, etc., then you might still have a shot based on your other characteristics etc. But if you’re ,say, past 30, your age is going to hurt you… which to me seems kind of silly…but whatever!

  206. Dave says:

    I’m 25 now, so yes i’m a little older, it makes sense they want fresh meat. I guess i’m just going to go for it and see what happens, if I don’t get in hopefully i can be picked up at a smaller firm..

  207. Krupo says:

    At 25 *and* with some real world experience I think you’re in pretty good shape as a candidate, Dave. People older than you or even in their 30s try – and it’s illegal to discriminate on age anyway, so it should be a low a barrier as possible.

    @comment writer 201 – you have to learn to say “no”. Say no to mistreatment, say no to being overworked, say no to eating hours.

    It’s wrong, it perpetuates a cycle of suffering (if the budget looks bad compared to last year it’s probably because last year’s senior ALSO ate hours – don’t), and it doesn’t help you in any way.

    If you’re serious about wishing for severance saying “no” may you help you in that direction.

    But more than anything – in any mature responsible shop – it’ll get you the respect you deserve. There’s only so many hours you can work in a given week – and they better accept it!

  208. Josh says:

    Just to summarize… the hours alone are not the problem…the often boring/inane work alone is not the problem… the often extremely complicated (arbitrary, inane, nonsensical rules, etc.) work is not the problem…It’s of course all of this combined. And needing to keep an outwardly happy face the whole time.

    If we get the message out enough on this board and in other places, firms will eventually be forced (especially with experienced baby boomers dying off…although admittedly most of them are probably retired from any Big 4 jobs by now) to hire more people to help out. People respond to incentives, but it seems to me people in this next generation are going to value or at least consider the stress-levels associated with their jobs as stress in life is becoming more and more linked to health and quality of life as we age. People used to trade working like a mad man and having no life for a huge house and lots of nice cars… and would be fine with the trade off without really thinking about it. I don’t think this next generation will be so willing to make that trade. They will want a more balanced approach. This will probably even be a bigger shift for law practices and perhaps even medicine, where the stress of med school is coming under constant scrutiny by more and more medical professionals today. You may say most people stay only 2 years or so in the Big 4 anyway, but I don’t think the students of the future are going to be willing to “give away” even two years of their lives toiling under stressful and boring conditions. There is going to need to be more balance presented by employers.

    Anyway, Krupo I think has the right idea when he tells 201 writer to basically say no and prepare basically to quit. From reading your post, it’s time to move on for your own sake… hopefully you will find something in industry and be ok.

  209. Baggio says:

    “At 25 *and* with some real world experience I think you’re in pretty good shape as a candidate, Dave. People older than you or even in their 30s try – and it’s illegal to discriminate on age anyway, so it should be a low a barrier as possible.”

    It was also illegal to force non-professional staff to work unpaid overtime, but this didn’t stop the Big 4 from doing it.

  210. Dave says:

    Big 4 staff is considered non-professional?

  211. Krupo says:

    Baggio refers to the KPMG overtime lawsuit for not paying the non-CA,non-CMA,non-CGA staff (i.e. secretaries and other non-accountant specialists) overtime as entitled, at least by Ontario law. That was, in the firms’ eyes, a general a grey area until the lawsuits started, then they responded quickly (the other 3 of the Big 4, to their credit, got off their butts and paid people back what they were owed when the law was stated to them at KPMG’s expense without having to be prodded further… not perfect, but at least they got it done.).

    Good points from Josh – definitely a HUGE variance in how firms are responding. Some are accepting the way of the future and respecting their staffs’ lives. Others, stuck in the Dickensian hell-hole mode. If you’re in the latter, you’re either burned out or on your way there. The scary thing is you can encounter both scenarios in the same company – every department has its own quirks!

    Also smart you pointed out med school and lawyers. Lawyers, I would argue, are halfway between CAs and MDs. It’s crap, but it’s just for money, so it’s easy to walk away.

    MDs, on the other hand, have a RIDICULOUS workload, from school onwards. 70-100 hour weeks the NORM, not the “busy season”. And the fact is, peoples’ lives ARE depending on what they do, so it’s harder for them to justify taking time off when all the other MDs are killing themselves too, basically living at the hospital.

    This is true for much of Canada and the USA, anyway. Most European countries I’ve heard from have more decent hours for MDs.

    Ironically many ‘foreign’ countries have conversely harsher conditions for CAs and the like.

    Good idea to identify what a “standard” work week is for a given field and geographical location before jumping in!

  212. AccountingFailure says:

    I understand what 210 is saying. I finish school in 1 more year and I just don’t think I would be able to “give away” even 2 years at a Big 4, even though it “does wonders” for the resume and future career. I will already be 23 when I graduate with my masters, before I realize it I will be getting older and all I will remember of my best years in life is working and staring at numbers. I think a lot of you on here would be extremely happy if you could start your own business and be your own boss. Especially a business that is not related to accoutning. Imagine doing something you love, ex cooking, and end up owning your own restaurant, and with your advanced business knowledge you would already have a better chance than 95% of other start up businesses. If you hate accounting there are always other options… life is not over

  213. Krupo says:

    At the same time, to play ‘devil’s advocate’ of a sort, keep in mind that with one of these jobs you’re set with an income that’s, straight out school, pretty decent compared to people working LIFE in other career paths… without the intense physical labour others suffer through.

    Sure there are other well paying career options, but this is also one of them. :p

  214. john says:

    Don’t like it…quit

  215. unhappy auditor says:

    – I am currently a bum but a happy bum! I’m looking for a job in private accounting. I plan to have a life from now on. I only have one life to live. I didn’t go to school to spend my life in misery. I am a human being not a robot.

  216. Spanky says:

    Hi guys,

    I was just did a yahoo search for “public accounting sucks” and this was the top search site, and I am glad I found it! I started in audit for a Big 4 firm in October, and sympathize with many of you. I find the work boring and difficult. I am often required to talk to clients, for example during walkthroughs and gathering test support, and many times the client information is over my head. I don’t want to seem like a moron in front of the client, so I act like I completely understand what is going on. I am hoping that work will be better once I have a better understanding of what I am doing. I think a lot of my stress is that I don’t understand some material, which slows billable time. In addition, busy season has started, which has diminished my social life.

    I am wondering when the best time to leave the firm is. I have heard that either right after making senior or right after making manager is ideal, but I don’t think I can make it for 5 years. I am going to do my best to stick with it for two years, become senior, and finish the CPA. And hey, if I get laid off, so be it, I might travel a little with the severance!

  217. Turn back Time says:

    Looking back I wished i joined a small cpa firm. I gave 4+ years to PWC and my personal life took a hit. I missed out on a lot of stuff. Going out of college, age of 22, usually that’s a point in time to have fun and experience life with your friends and family. Not working 80 hours a week during busy season and 80 hours a week during off season (work + studying for cpa).

    I’m 27 now, and most of my friends have moved on and are settling down. My relationship with friends and family definitely took a hit due to PWC. To be honest, i still feel like I’m still 22 since I put everything on hold personally (for my so called career), which is what you have to do to move up in the big four.

    So for people who telling themselves, “i’ll only work for 2-3 years”, think it over. Is it really worth it? This path is never ending cycle. My manager was in the same position. He kept saying to himself, “one more year, one more year and i’m out”. He’s been there for 8 years now.

    I wished I could do it over. Oh well, live and learn.

  218. anon says:

    What jobs do people get after they leave the Big 4?

  219. Dave says:

    It depends on what you do at the big 4. You usually can always go into corporate accounting or a smaller cpa firm.

  220. Accounting major says:

    So with the current economic collapse, how bad is it going to get for those graduating with Accounting degrees this yr? (In Canada) Seems like everyone is getting screwed over, unless you are a doctor or something.

    Those of you already in firms, what’s the general buzz, are people getting laid off, i’m sure they’ll probably hire less people this yr.

    Any thoughts, advise?

    Seems to me it was tough to get jobs in the Accounting field before the crisis, God knows what its gonna be like now.

  221. jeanne says:

    I’d like to know what’s the buzz as well. What are the chances of being hired after being out of the industry for awhile? Anyone interested in hiring a very interested individual who actually wants to audit? One that has: a 4 year degree, CPE credits, 1 year of past experience in audit for a big 4 firm and passed the CPA exam. Someone who is excited to come to work everyday and apply their accounting expertise in a highly professional manner. I know someone that would jump at the chance in a heartbeat.

  222. Dave says:

    I don’t see why you wouldn’t be hired Jeanne.. You likely are going to need to be able to explain why you only worked for a year at Big 4.

  223. Tyler says:

    Hi everyone,

    I found this website about 4 months ago and could really relate to a lot of the hard feelings toward public accounting (although not on a big 4 scale). Lemme tell how you my experience in the hopes that it will help someone…

    Last January (2008) I started an internship at a large local firm in the city where I live. The firm had about 80 employees at the time and from the start I really liked everyone. They were super laid back and nice. They had fresh bagels and coffee every morning for all the employees and anytime that it was anyone’s birthday at the firm, the partners would send out an email to everyone in celebration and they would have extra “goodies” in the kitchen. Everyone was real approachable and friendly and everything… and then the work started.

    Training was really bad. We (I started with 8 other interns) had a little over a week of training and had to learn like 8 different software packages and a ludicrous number of usernames and passwords. I hadn’t even taken a tax class or even intermediate accounting so I was pretty nervous about everything. By the end of training I was very overwhelmed and had not retained much. I was really questioning if accounting was for me.

    When training was over, I was at my desk just completely clueless as to what to do, I didn’t even know how to get an assignment in the software to start work on. I was also VERY paranoid about the whole time issue (THE biggest issue in accounting), I had never been in a job where I had to track every second of every day and account for it. After bugging people to help me, I finally figured out how to at least get started doing work.

    That was when I really started feeling hopeless about the whole internship. I had no clue what I was doing, and the managers wanted me to complete partnership and corporation returns with technical terminations and 754 step ups and AJEs, RJEs, FTJEs and PJEs and I really had not even heard of a lot of the terminology yet in school. Every assignment has a time budget (usually 2 hours for Tax returns) and I always blew it really bad. There is a place in the software where you are supposed to report the time that you spend on the job, but I would never fill it out from shame ( but they can find out anyway…). One time I spent 9 hours on a 2 hour tax return and only booked 7 hours to the clock. I still got yelled at by the manager. I came very close to quitting the internship about 4 times, but thanks to a couple of lifesaving seniors in the tax department (who I bugged relentlessly for help), I survived. The last day of the tax season (and my internship), I drank heavily. I was so glad that it was over. The only thing that had kept me going was the investment I had in it and the hourly pay. I had survived…

    Following the internship, I was invited back! Really? I had no clue what I was doing the whole time and you want me back? Yes, they did as it turns out. Well…after weighing my options and reviewing the paychecks that I had earned (very good for an internship if I must say so), I decided that I would be an utter fool not to come back and at least try.

    When I came back (September of 2008), I had many of the same feelings. I was getting very tired of feeling like a complete imbecil and idiot (I’m not an idiot). I came very close to quitting my 2nd internship at one point, but again the same couple of seniors really helped me out. I somehow managed to make it to the end of the year and guess what?
    Yep, I was invited back again for my second tortuous tax season (January to April ’09)! (oh joy…)

    I’d like to mention that my internship thusfar had consisted of only tax, not audit. However, my mentor (We are assigned mentors with whom we have lunch and talk about how fantasticly everything is going, we can’t tell them anything negative since they are managers) had asked me prior to my 2nd tax season if there was anything that I would like to work on. I expressed interest in audit. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so ridiculously poor-performing in that sector of public accounting. WRONG! I sucked equally at audit. One thing that I found different than others that posted on here was that I do not find the work boring. It is too difficult and there are too many things to know for me to get bored. I get bored when I know everything about something and I just keep having to do it over and over and over… Anyway, I sucked at auditing as well, and I almost never met my timebudget. Man did I get tired of the senior or manager on the job turning to me every 30 minutes and saying “So, where are you at now?” Talk about pressure! Or how about this one: “How long is that gonna take you?” What do I look like, Confucius? How do I know how long something’s gonna take when I’ve never done it before? Arggh…

    Flash forward ONE month. I am actually really starting to enjoy public accounting. Yes, its still me. Noone hijacked my computer and started typing. I’m on my second audit job, and although I still struggle to meet budget (still don’t meet it really), I feel that it is somewhat reasonable. Why my change in attitude? Lemme explain:

    1. The biggest hurdle I encountered was all of the software and all of the options that all of the software had etc. I feel that I am starting to get a feel for most of the software, which is a HUGE help.

    2. I’ve taken more accounting classes, namely intermediate accounting 1 and 2 and tax 1 and 2 (including corporate tax which is a HUGE help).

    3. I’ve developed solid relationships with higher ups. This is huge. Without socializing and feeling comfortable asking for help from a couple people, it is NOT possible to survive in public accounting.

    4. I’m working on group jobs now. This means that I’m working in a room with others working on the same thing. If I have a question, I don’t have to get up and find someone to bother. I can bother them, without having to get up! Plus, they expect to get bothered, so its cool.

    5 I changed the way I book my time. I used to scrutinize over every minute that I spend on things. Now, I just write down when I start the day and list everything that I do as I do it. At the end of the day, I write down my end time and split my total time as fairly as I can amongst the various tasks. A MUCH better way of doing things.

    6. I understand the significance of my lower bill rate. As an intern, I am billed to clients for each hour that I work at a meager rate. The difference between my rate and those above me is significant. This means that I really should not sweat the budget as much as a senior or even a staff member. Put it like this: If I spend 5 and a half hours on a 2 hour tax return, I will still cost the client less than a staff member who spends only 3 hours on it!

    7. I feel that audit gives me a big picture perspective on accounting. It really has filled in some of the gaps that I had while only doing tax returns. I recommend everyone start out in audit. I like tax, maybe even more, but I think audit is much better for a new employee.

    In closing, I think that public accounting is definitely not for everyone, but if you give it time it does get better. I do admit my bias, since I work for a large local firm and not a Big 4. I am off to grad school after my internship and plan to work in Big 4 afterwards, so I will really know the difference. If you have any questions to ask me, email me. I want to help.




  224. Tyler says:

    As for those of you who have worked in big 4 but are sick of the hours etc. I’m sure that regional and local firms would be happy to pick you up. And I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find a decent private sector job either. Plus, there are good gov’t jobs out there with ridiculous benefits that love people who have worked in public accounting. Not to mention personal financial planning or other entrepreneurial ventures. I think that a lot of people on here have shown a lack of vision…

  225. Sardaukar says:

    Hey Tyler,

    Thanks for such a detailed post. One more thing about going over budget (this coming from a senior manager at Big 4) — it’s alright for a junior to go overbudget, because the junior is paid a fixed salary at the firm, and it’s ultimately up to the engagement partner to decide how much to bill the client. In the other words, even if the junior goes overbudget by a ridiculous amount, the client would not necessarily be overcharged by the same amount. The partner can adjust the client fees in the way he sees fit and bill the client appropriately.

    So there is really no need to worry about the budget as an entry-level junior.

  226. Auditor #123 says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I somehow stumbled onto this board while looking for other jobs. I just wrapped up about 1.5 years as an auditor at a mid-sized firm.

    My advice to all you college kids and potential accountants is this:

    When I was in school, I was a B student in accounting and an A/A- student in all my other classes. I really forced myself to study accounting thinking I would have a lucrative career waiting for me at the end. I got offered a salary that was one of the highest for accounting firms. I thought the money would make me happy….

    but it doesn’t.

    Don’t force yourself into a career path that you don’t have much of an interest in during college. I am trying to get out of it as soon as possible. I wake up every morning just questioning WHY I am subjecting myself to this lifestyle. I think you should take a long hard look at what you’ll be getting into. Free time becomes an incredible asset when you work the hours you do in public accounting.

    Good luck.

  227. Finance Major says:

    Im 21 years old and im about to transfer to another university. During the application process, I was torn between becoming an accounting major or a finance major. I was leaning towards Accounting until I came upon this website. After I read through these posts, I instantly declared as a Finance major. Im not even quite sure what finance people do but oh well. Just wanted to thank everyone for contributing to all these posts.

  228. Krupo says:

    Dude, the only people other than MDs who have it worse than accountants are the i-banking kids. My friends is bemoaning his 17-hour workdays… hope you book a branch of finance that isn’t completely insane!

  229. Confused accounting & finance student says:

    Ahhhh I seriously don’t know what to do. Currently I’ve done 2yrs of Commerce degree majoring in accounting and finance. I find it difficult and boring and have currently repeated any failed units. I chose this degree because I liked maths and economics during school and thought it would lead to good career prospects and a high salary. I have since realised that accounting has hardly any maths in it and with my bad grades and the economy I will most likely end up unemployable. Since school I either wanted to do law or medicine but didn’t have the grades. I was then tossing up between commerce and a health course but chose commerce.

    NOW I have received a transfer into a health course (I do like medical stuff and have done work experience in a hospital when I was in Yr 10). BUT I’m too scared to make the change because
    a) I also might end up hating it
    b)time and money wasted especially when I have repeated failed units
    c)this would mean an extra 4 yrs of study compared to only one and a half yrs left in my current degree.
    d) my grandmother tells me to stay in commerce because my uncle did it and he’s now a millionaire. But I’m female and don’t have much interest in rising up the corporate ladder. I don’t want a very stressful and unflexible job.

  230. Krupo says:

    1. Ignore your grandmother, many people have a Bachelor of Arts and become CEOs. What you want to do, what you end up doing, and what you study are not necessarily directly connected.
    2. The jobs aren’t all stressful and inflexible
    3. It’s better to spend 8 years in university than 50 years in a job you hate.

  231. Sardaukar says:

    Finance Major,

    If by declaring finance major you are trying to get into investment banking (most desired path for most if not all finance majors), be warned: if you think the hours as an auditor suck, you will be crushed by the amount of time you spent as an IB analyst on a consistent basis. The economic downturn doesn’t make it any better — most certainly the fat bonuses once bestowed on I-bankers are but mere fractions of they were before the financial crisis, but they are not spending any less time working.

  232. Dave says:

    What can a licensed CPA do that a non-CPA can’t? I get confused on this, especially when it comes to taxes.

    I know a CPA is required for a Audit but what about other assurance services, like reviews? Is a CPA even required for anything related to tax and consulting?

    Does anyone have a specific list or something?

  233. Accounting major says:

    Well I just think all you people who already have jobs at firms (small, medium, or large) should thank GOD(or whatever you believe in), you guys are the lucky few.

    I’m sure its tough but you don’t have to stick around in Public Accounting forever, think of the opportunity available to you guys with a CA/CPA and some Public Accounting on your resume.

    With the current economy its pretty scary for a lot of students, esp those of us like myself who are graduating this year but weren’t successful during recruiting season. Have really no idea what’s gonna happen in terms of employment. It’s pretty scary/depressing, like walking into black abyss.

    I’m just thankful I can rely on my family for financial support, but I know some people who don’t even have that, so its really tough, these are some bad times.

  234. Sardaukar says:

    Accounting Major,

    Why don’t you stay in school for a bit longer and try to get some internship/part time job for now? Once you leave school, as time passes it gets increasingly harder to network with recruiters. It’s best to get an offer (I know it’s easier said than done) BEFORE you graduate.

  235. Dave says:

    Accounting Major, you can always go in private or corporate accounting. I did this for a year and half and there is nothing wrong with it. I however, felt it wasn’t right for me and am now back in school getting my masters. Hopefully, I will be able to land a position at a CPA firm next fall. Just because you didn’t get into a CPA firm doesn’t mean the world is over and it doesn’t mean you will be any less successful in life.

  236. Eric says:

    Wow, this might be my new favorite message board. I’m currently an accountant at a defense contractor, and I am taking accounting classes at night to be eligible for the CPA exam (I have a BS in finance). I will be eligible soon, and my goal is to pass it by fall 2009. Once passed, or possibly before then, I aspire to work for a Big 4. Recently, however, I have been having serious doubts about my career choice – I was once an engineering major but didn’t like the classes. I often wonder if I should have stuck with engineering.

    When I first saw this message board, I was immediately depressed since it is mostly full of negative comments about public accounting. However, a few of the comments posted here have really gotten my attention. In particular is the one by senior associate (#46). I completely agree that learning accounting/auditing (the so-called “dirty work” of the profession), is really the archstone of our capitalist society. To fully comprehend how our economy works, you need to put in your time and work in the trenches and get mud kicked in your face sometimes. Now, I don’t think that anyone aspires to be a staff auditor for the remainder of their lives. But when I see job postings, the possibilities are endless for CPAs with Big 4/audit experience. I get the impression that if you can suck it up for 2-3 years and build your resume, it will be well worth it in the end.

    Of course, this will be different for different people. For me, money is important. I aspire to have a management position or even my own business in 10 years or so (I am 24 years old now). I want to put in my time now while I am unmarried and have no children, so I will have no problems supporting them when that time comes. I am engaged now, and my fiance understands that long hours are something that comes along with public accounting, but she also agrees that it will be worth it one day – and I know she will always support me in anything I do.

    Sorry about the life story, but individual circumstances matter. I would appreciate any thoughts on this.

  237. Accounting Major says:

    Eric, just keep in mind that this board is a place where people come to vent, so obviously you will see mostly negative posts. That’s not to say that it can’t be tough, I’m sure it is. I just think that most people do realize that if they can tough it out for a while, it’ll provide huge returns in the future.

    I mean unless your goal is to stick around and be a partner, you shouldn’t be too worried. Most people aren’t sticking around in Public accounting for the remainder of their professional lives.

  238. Seb says:

    Wow, that is some depressing stuff! If you guys think it is any different over here in the UK … it isn’t!

    Undergrads aren’t especially keen on going into accounting over here either, although that may change now that fewer can get hired into the other finance jobs.

    At 6%, accountancy ranked THE LOWEST of the careers sectors that Oxford and Cambridge graduates wanted to get hired into.

    Here’s a link to the data. The report has got a few other interesting bits in it too.


    The plus side to doing audit in the UK is that, and I can tell you this right off the bat, 60-70 hr weeks are nearly unheard of.

  239. Tex says:

    Work in general in an office enviroment can often be stressful due to politics and red tape. I have worked in private/public accounting for eight plus years. I am in the fourth week of new accounting job with a boss that can be a bulldog. I am trying, but seem to always make some kind of mistake that she finds. This is a stressful situation especially in this job economy with the threat of being laidoff. You can get down, and even come to the point of tears and anxiety attacks, but you just have to develop character and somehow give what they exactly what they want. It could be worse. I only have to work 40 hour weeks. Just stick in there. I am. It is Monday and the boss has already found 2 things to question. I got down, but realize you have to keep your head up abnd fight!

  240. Ben says:

    I also feel like I have chosen the wrong career. I went back to school and received my BSBA in accounting at the age of 33. I am now 37 and have not accomplished very much. I started as a State Auditor and left there after 2 years. I thought that I would be happy in a corporate accounting position, but have not even been able to find an actual accounting job in that area. After a couple of other dead-end low paying jobs, I find myself working in the payroll department of a large defense contractor. I feel like I am waisting my time and do not know what to do at this point. Lately, I have even considered changing careers. I have my house up for sale and am wanting to start over. I was thinking of either Computer Science or Engineering.

    Any suggestions on my post would be appreciated.

  241. Dave says:

    Ben maybe look into working for the Feds? The FBI/Boarder control/CIA maybe exciting?? This would be in the accounting field.

    I have heard Computer Science and Engineering job markets are doing well, but so is accounting, so it’s hard to say. I’m 25 and just entered in a MAcc program. I was in Corporate accounting and determined it wasn’t for me and hope to venture into public accounting. Getting your MAcc or MBA could be an idea? Go to job fairs?

    IMO, it’s important to do what you like and not worry about the money.

  242. Depressed says:

    I have to say… after reading a lot of comments on there.. I finally don’t feel alone.

    I’ve been working for 1.5 years at a Big 4 firm and I really hate it. Going into a job without much knowledge of anything, trying to figure out how the entire accounting system and all the business cycles work in 1-3 weeks’ time… it’s a nightmare.

    Especially when the client is messy and keep a horribly messed up audit trail. Which happens to be most of my clients.
    I hate it when they think they have provided sufficient information when they haven’t, and blow up in our faces when we ask for more.

    There are 1 million and one things about my job that I hate, and I really do find myself waking up every morning thinking “why am I doing this?” But guess what, look at the economy out there. What else am I going to do? I probably wouldnt be able to find a teller job even, in this economy. I need to be thankful that I at least have a job.

    Another 1.5 years to go before I am fully designated (provided that I get through Mod 5 and 6 of the CASB program, pass the UFE, and don’t get laid off).

    If I make it, I’m am going to quit right away and actually start living my life. I’ll be almost 25 by then. Oh god, I know I will regret wasting my best years doing this horrible mess of a job.

  243. to "depressed" says:

    I know how you feel man. I am also a year and a half in. I was thinking of sticking around, getting my CPA. But i dont even know if i want to stick with accounting at all.

    Get my cpa, quit the big four and just go do another job that makes me miserable? i dont know.

    perhaps i’ll go be a ups driver. who knows

  244. sardaukar says:

    I read a lot of comments posted by fed-up CPA-to-be’s that, they will stick around just long enough to get licensed and then “leave.” My question is, where would they go? They would simply move from one miserable job to the next. It really makes little sense to work your ass off for 3 years to enrich some jerk of a partner, while getting training/exploited in a career field that you are not interested in.

    If you are miserable your job now, then even after you transfer out you’ll still be miserable because you will have been trained for 3 years how to do a miserable job.

    I guess my question is: what is the point of even getting licensed if one dislikes accounting? Why not just leave NOW?

  245. to sardaukar says:

    sardaukar, i agree with you. ive done 1.5 years, and it will look good on paper to get to 2 years. But then what, go to another job that i wont be happy at doing? But i dont know what else to do? I dont think im made for the corporate world and i definitely dont enjoy working in an office. Im more hands on. I just dont know what to do. Ive thought of construction, truck driving, personal trainer, but i have no idea.

  246. paladin says:

    you know what, i’m kind of in the same situation, except that i started about 6 months ago in sep 2008. but it really doesn’t take much time for one to see how pointless audit is. enough has been said here re: this idiotic work known as auditing so i won’t elaborate.

    i just don’t get why people hate this stuff but still think there’s some sort of bright light after being licensed… it’s true that CPA/CA are prestigious in the ACCOUNTING world, but if you hate accounting then isn’t it meaningless to be the “king” of something that you just don’t give a darn about.

    anyways, i’ve been thinking about switching to the public sector. entering big 4 taught me how valuable free time could be… and if you want to climb the corporate ladder you must be prepared to sacrifice your work-life balance, which is something that i value a lot at this point in my life (i’m 26).

  247. paladin says:

    just wondering, has anyone gone government after spending 1 – 1.5 yrs at big 4 (before getting qualified)? if you could share your experiences that would be greatly appreciated.

  248. sardaukar says:

    #247: that’s my point. Yes your two-year Big 4 experience will look good on paper, but what kind of jobs will it look good for? Very likely jobs that are similar to what you are doing now.

  249. Sad Accounting Student says:

    @sardaukar: That is a really good point. If you hate something, why keep pursuing it? I find myself in that kind of dilemma as I’m an accounting major who is about to graduate. But I hate accounting… even in classes, I feel the material is so dense and so dry and my grades are just terrible in accounting classes. It frustrates me to no end.

    I’m not sure if accounting work in the real world is any better. Maybe I should just go searching for an accounting job, quit if it’s bad, and then go for something else entirely? Or just not do accounting from the start?

  250. Ben to Sad Accounting Student says:

    You have one thing right. If you hate accounting in school, you are going to hate it even more in the real world. I actually liked my accounting classes and made good grades. But since I have been in real accounting type jobs, I freaking hate accounting. It just sucks and I personally I am getting the hell out of accounting. Life is just too short

  251. Krupo says:

    School is the best time to figure out whether you’re enjoying it. I found the lower-year courses a bit dull, but got progressively more interested as we hit the higher year courses that dealt with the more interesting topics that’ll take up more of your time. “Routine” bookkeeping is definitely not what this work is about, but jumping into a messy situation and making sense.

    Some more thoughts on people’s “I’m stuck in this and don’t like it” feelings.

  252. Accounting Major says:

    I agree with what Krupo says in his blog, you guys who are feeling a little down should definitely check it out. It’ll bring your spirits up.

    Remember you guys who are doing audits at Big 4’s are an elite chosen group, most Accounting students will never have that opportunity. The doors that will be open to you guys once you get through ‘it’ will be well worth it in the long run, and are not available to others.

    Hang in there. 25 is very young, heck so is 30, you are extremely and unbelievably lucky if you’re in that age group, have a world recognized designation, and Big 4 audit experience. You will have plenty of time to enjoy yourselves.

  253. michaelk says:

    The problem with the job is the firm’s attitude towards its students. The summer program is basically an ass-kissing exercise where they try to hide the shit that’s coming until the next year, when you’re too busy dealing with work/school/whatever’s-left-that-constitutes-a-life to deal with changing jobs. If these guys didn’t work so hard at turning juniors off, they might actually create auditors who enjoyed the job.

    Part of the blame also goes to the CICA. Their insane efforts to have auditors cover their asses has resulted in more documentation being filled out before an audit begins than during the actual audit! The profession needs to move back to its roots: principle-based, with general guidance provided.

    Overall, I went through an awful time at 2 large firms, but gained invaluable experience that has led me to work in smaller firms. Had those large firms focused on good field training rather than forcing us to focus on budgeted hours, I can only imagine that I would have enjoyed the experience much more.

  254. sardaukar says:

    Accounting Major,

    If you get your hours in through audit (most CA students do), its a good stepping stone to being an internal auditor in industry. If you go through tax, it a good stepping stone to working for the CRA or in the tax dept. of a large company. To be honest, I would be hard pressed to call these “rewarding careers.”

    So Accounting Major, exactly what are these wonderful “doors that will be open to you”? For WHAT would enduring 3 years of hell be worth? That is, besides being an internal auditor or a tax analyst.

  255. reply to sardaukar says:

    sardaukar, i agree with you man. i am 1.5 years in and it is totally depresing. i cant imagine working behind a computer for the rest of my life. i rather work in construction or someting, who knows. has anyone ever just quit and changed careers? everyone thinks im crazy but i just want to be happy.

  256. Re Sardaukar says:

    I agree. People keep saying that “many doors” will open but what exactly are these doors? To all the CAs who have left the Big 4, what kind of work are you doing now, and it is really that much better than auditing?

  257. paladin says:

    #257: i’m 6 months in and i already want out. i have yet to meet one single senior / manager who truly enjoys their work. most, if not all, are there for the sake of job stability, NOT because they love what they do.

    had to go in to work on family day (statuatory holiday here in ontario), had to work today (saturday), and will be working for whole day again on sunday. all the time doing tedious and mundane crap, like tying in numbers from leadsheets to financials, which nobody outside of this audit team gives a darn about.

    holy crap this really sucks.

  258. Krupo says:

    paladin – be bold, suggest better ways of doing things. I digitized the print-outs clients gave me and tied them electronically. 90% less tedious. I mean, tying is never fun, but it was way faster that way. Use your smarts and leverage new tech as much as you can.

    Sardaukar – as I blogged (thanks for the kind words Accounting Paper), yes there’s lots of “traditional” options people take – but what you must realize that people “in industry” for the most part work 9 to 5 jobs with a much lower stress level than auditors. The downside is you’re not learning as much by not pushing yourself as hard, but the upside of course is – you’re not pushing yourself as hard! 🙂

    Just one example for tonight: one of my friends quit the big 4 track and became a professional photographer. For any new business you start bookkeeping/accounting is taken care of for free – by yourself until you get bigger and start hiring staff – and you have a ready-made network of people to get yourself going.

  259. disgruntled says:

    All of these messages sum up exactly how I feel. I know I am a smart person but I have never felt so useless, retarded and illiterate as I have since I started in Big 4 audit. I spend my days looking at grad school websites and spacing out to forget all the useless, non-value added work that I spend my days doing. And with 2 partners in my family, I am told it doesn’t get better…I will be asking for a transfer or leaving the minute I pass the UFE, I dont give a shit about the 30 months and the hours, I refuse to be an audit senior.

    • CrazyHoustonian says:

      I know it’s been a while since this post but anyway…Disgruntled, at least you are working for the Big 4 and can put that on your resume no matter what you do later. I graduated in 2007 in accounting and finance, kept working retail jobs and had some other “issues” (health , family, etc of which I won’t get into here), and I wasn’t exactly 22 when i graduated, now I’m 30. Why I didn’t get into my related major right after graduation is part my fault and part circumstances, also including a gpa issue. However, now I have this part time bookkeeping job at a small CPA firm-where I sit in front of Quickbooks(YAYY!) doing data entry for now, until I get my CPA which will move me into a full time role there, is what one of the two partners tells me. Now nobody really trains me there or provides me with learning materials etc. Most of it is, here this is the work etc, however there are a number of people there that will help me if i need it. My point is, it’s not like it’s a structured role for someone new that will get proper training.The rest of the time I’m at another client’s site helping them. The bookkeeping is extremely boring to me, I don’t think doing taxes would be as bad as I think there would be some room for creativity. I had a different perspective of audit, but from what I’m reading here, I don’t think I want to even try to get into it. And maybe it’s too late being 30 and starting from scratch as a junior accountant somewhere. To be honest I always wanted to do something big or just something where I can make a difference somewhere, somehow, maybe run my own business(but you need capital for that right? 🙂 ). Not sure where to go from here but trying to study and pass my first part of the CPA (FARS) by January. what exactly is the UFE exam you are talking about? Anyway, all the best, at least you know clearly that you want to get out of this-and hope everybody here has something to look forward to…

  260. paladin says:


    That is exactly my plan… wow it’s both reassuring and surprising to find I am not alone. Before I entered Big 4 audit, I thought 30 months would pass just like that and I would have my CA designation in hand before I know it… heck, now I dread waking up every morning because it means another day of tedious and meaningless work at the client.

    when/if i pass the UFE, i’m a goner. to hell with the 30 hours and 2500 chargeable hours.

    my senior has been telling me his problems with his wife, how he only gets to eat dinner with her once a week and how he thinks she’s going to leave him eventually. this shit definitely gets worse as you go up.

  261. Depressed says:

    I am so glad I found people with the same train of thought as me. Although all my colleague positively hate their jobs, they’re still holding up pretty well.

    I, on the other hand, feel like a complete wreck from all this.

    I’m dreading tomorrow because I have to try to figure out a way to wrap up one of my client’s file by Wednesday while being @ another client’s office for the next 2 weeks.

    Last time I called another client at a client’s office, the senior b*tched @ me for it.
    On the other hand, my senior manager said that i have to wrap up the file by Wednesday.

    I’m getting a very big headache as I’m typing this up.

  262. Depressed says:

    Re: Krupo

    I just read your blog and I realized I was quoted on it. 😛

    I knew, of course, that I would be in a hell hole before I started my job. Just that, well, knowing about it beforehand doesn’t really help reduce the suffering in any ways – hence all the ranting.
    No one knew what sort of work auditing involves until you’re actually doing it – as a student I didn’t have a clue.

    About the “wasting my life” – I have to agree that I may probably would have done something less productive with my time if I did not have this job. But at least I would have had the time to go travelling and actually see the world before I get too old and have to think about other life plans such as getting married.

    I cannot say that I am at all interested in what I’m doing, and I will indeed be very miserable if I stay in this position for the rest of my life. It seems that most people out there are getting positions such as “Controller” after they get designated. All I’m saying is, if you wanted to get involved in a venture, you don’t necessarily have to have 3 years worth of audit experience to do it. It may help up to some point, but is it really worth the 3 years to actually get that experience if you are not planning to stay in accounting in the future?

    More than anything, IMO, auditing sucks because of all the stress and pressure that gets piled on to you to finish as quickly as possible. If we had adequate time, auditing would definitely be less painful.

    For those who feel interested in rising up to “interesting” audits and “testing all sorts of things that don’t become issues during economic boom times”, then I would only say that you are fighters and seem to be actually interested in auditing work.

    I, on the other, hand, really do not enjoy audits, especially audits with with interesting new things for me to test.
    I guess that is what differs between our trains of thought regarding audit. =/

  263. Krupo says:

    Hey D, my post was, to be fair to you, more of a warning to “the kids” still in school, but thanks for being cool about it. 🙂

    To give the flipside a bit of treatment and a bit of reassurance for those of you thinking about it, yes, not everyone goes through the 30 months, or even bothers to go through the UFE.

    They decide, a few months in, that this isn’t for them – and so rather than jump through the designation hoops or play the UFE exam “crap shoot” as some call it, they pick a new path. Some stick with a professional/consulting firm route, but skip the UFE altogether.

    Others join their friends or strangers in business ventures – your assertion that you don’t need the 3 years of audit experience is spot on. I’ve been in touch with a few who have gone that way and last I checked they seem to be enjoying it. Whether or not you dive out depends on how adventurous you’re feeling.

    Those who are a little more risk averse do the “I’m quitting the moment I pass” or, more commonly, the “I’m quitting as soon as I get my 30 months” gambit.

    The funny thing, of course, is that the entire system is designed for this rapid turnover – if nobody left, there’d be a huge bulge of seniors who want to become managers – and no room to hire new cheaper staff to teach all these basic concepts to. Though you’re probably aware of this last point by now. 🙂

  264. John Doe says:

    Can’t all you guys with Accounting degree’s get into different parts of business with your Accounting degree’s?

  265. Depressed says:

    Re: Krupo

    Let’s just say I’m actually feeling quite flattered that my post got chosen to be quoted in your blog 😉

    I guess I’m one of the risk averse bunch – planning to get my designation first then get outta there.

    No point in all the suffering if you don’t get a designation out of it.

  266. paladin says:

    but, what is the point of getting the designation of a field that you don’t like?

    if you don’t like something to begin with, getting a 3-year training in it probably won’t make you like it much more.

    and you are “planning to get my designation first then get outta there” -> to where, exactly? most likely to another job similar to what you will have spent 3 years doing — a job that you hate.

  267. Depressed says:

    I was just reading up a bit and I saw that someone mentioned that “$41-45000 is the starting salary for any new CA student at the big four here in Alberta, it goes up after that, esp once they get their CA. Deloitte starts at 41”

    Grr, I’m in BC and I got 37k starting… as second year I’m only getting paid 43k… 😦 😦 😦

  268. paladin says:

    it’s $45k here in Toronto for big 4 starting salary.

  269. Krupo says:

    @paladin – you’re assuming that a CA designation limits you *ONLY* to the field of accounting. While that’s the natural connection, there’s so many CAs who wouldn’t think of themselves as “accountants…”. Food for thought.

    @Depressed – don’t forget the cost of living factor. Alberta’s in many places way more expensive than BC… except maybe Vancouver. Vancvouer’s a weird place, economically. Expensive, yet lower pay. I don’t get it.

  270. Dave says:

    @Depressed – your salary went up about 18% in a year..

  271. Krupo says:

    Oh, “earth to CA students” message that should be re-broadcast once in a while (thanks Dave) – the pay increases you enjoy are epic compared to those people in most other industries get.

    A cynic would argue that it makes up for the fact that the starting pay is relatively crappy (compared to other finance/commerce fields) and there’s no bonus either. Which is true. But it’s still way better than what most of your BA in English friends are looking at.

  272. DSE says:

    Has anyone here made the switch from accounting to law? Corporate law I guess isn’t always a picnic but I imagine someone with deep accounting knowledge (especially a CPA) would be highly valued in this field given that so much adjudication involves financial matters (e.g. bankruptcy court, tax court, and fraud cases of course, but also in many other cases not centering around financial issues). Working on the government side seems ideal to me. Also, anyone consider government jobs for agencies like the IRS or SEC?

  273. Depressed says:

    @Krupo – yep I live in Vancouver… it’s retarded, I pay 1 dollar per liter of gas while toronto pays 80 cents. AND im paid way less. 43K as second year while first years in TO get 45K…!??!

    @Dave – this is normal in public auditing since they know theyre underpaying you @ the start. even with the increase they are still underpaying us for the time, effort and stress we put in. they know, we know it, everyone knows it. on top of that, vancouver auditors are screw over again by the comparably lower salary levels than other provinces.

  274. Depressed says:

    @Krupo – yes, but BA students in English get the same amount of stress every single frickin day, and on top of that gruelling courses and assignments? casb in BC is known to be much more tedious than courses in other provinces. i was lucky enough to have worked through one of the harder modules during busy season this year. so you work till 7pm (if you’re lucky like me), go home, eat, then you’re working on assignments till whenever you get the stuff done, and sleep. cycle repeats daily. then the exam approaches, and the firm provides you with only one study day (while the casb facilitator insists that you should be doing at least 4 practice exams, 4 hours each, and spend a couple of hours debriefing each). and on that study day the senior is still calling you to ask about the job.

    then on saturday 8am, we sit down for a 1 hr MC exam (with 50 questions, so a little more than 1 min per question), then a 4 hour case exam. im just glad i made it through because i did not want to do that again – esp during busy season.

    woops i’m ranting again. 😛

  275. Accounting major says:

    Depressed that indeed sounds very well..depressing. 50 mc in 1 hr? Do you guys get lots of practice mc to work on ? Are they crazy questions where you have to set up tons of T accounts and stuff, 50 sounds like too many in 1 hr.

    That just sounds overly brutal, like why do they have to stress students out that badly? Its almost as if their doing it on purpose.

    How can any normal person go home after an 8-10 hr day, then study all night? What about working out, have any CASB students found the time to fit that in their schedule?

    As for Vancouver, I think its due to the overly liberal attitude in BC, stupid governments that jump on every environmentalist bandwagon, (which is why you guys pay more for gas..) and just too much taxes/redtape overall discouraging any productivity, too many unions (just look across at Washington State, huge difference).

  276. Sean says:

    I don’t understand why people who hate public accounting, or accounting in general, bother to “stick it out” for their CPA.

    As my current employer, who is also the CFO of the company I work for says, most people let their license lapse when they go into industry.

    I was gung-ho and proactive about getting my certification until I realized I hated both audit, tax and the career path I would be stuck in.

    And to those who think they can run away to law school because they hate accounting, DON’T DO IT. You’ll be 100,000 in debt begging for the same long hours and stressful work you ran away from, except you ‘ll have a lot more competition.

    There are too many lawyers and not enough jobs for them. Last I checked there are IV league school graduate lawyers competing with everyone else over $35,000/yr jobs in this economy. I don’t know how anyone can expect to pay off their student loans making that kind of cash.

    Unless you’ve absolutely found your passion/ career, going for a post BA degree in this economy is only going to make life more difficult for you later on. Being “over qualified” is just as bad, if not worse than being “under qualified”. Especially when you’re forced to settle for searching for jobs that pay the bills.

  277. Depressed says:

    @ Accounting major,

    We have available to us 6 practice cases, 4 hours each.
    Facilitator recommends us to do at least 4 before the real thing.
    This is to prepare us for the “big one” – the UFE, which is a 3-day exam held once a year.

    MC questions can be either theory or calculations. I just find the questions too long sometimes and so there is hardly enough time to read the question clearly in order to answer the question since you have major time pressure.

    The case is even worse, you have to prioritize EVERYTHING so that you address the most important things first in a certain chronological manner and also find hidden points that the case hints at.

    As for the actual course, each course is 2 months long, and a CASB student find themselves handing in on average 5-6 assignments a week, on top of their day jobs. Assignments can be very time-consuming quantitative questions requiring also qualitative considerations, or qualitative/theory questions that has page limits anywhere from 1 to 4 pages.

    I’m just glad that I have no more modules until after busy season – busy season has been messy enough without CASB.

  278. Sardaukar says:

    Is the US CPA designation recognized pretty much worldwide? If a AICPA works abroad, let’s say in Asia, in a non-audit / non-public accounting capacity, would he/she still need to take some conversion exam to get the local designation? Or would having the AICPA suffice?

  279. Krupo says:

    Short answer: designation reciprocity depends on each individual country.

    Canadian CAs get pretty good recognition abroad, I figure US CPAs probably do too, but investigate the country you’re particularly interested before assuming anything!

  280. 1stYearBComm says:

    Wow this is really crazy. I’m in my first year of BComm and I just switched from Finance to Accounting because I thought the jobs would be less stressful and provide better work/life balance. Not sure who sang me a song about how good the benefits at the big4 firms are, how much international opportunities there are, but I think it was some dude who just accepted a position at Deloitte. You know what, after slaving away last semester to get an A+ average, I know what it’s like to have zero social life, and it’s especially painful if you used to have one. I’m not one to party all the time, but everything should be balanced. A good work/life balance will mean the difference between a worthwhile fulfilling and fun like and the suicide and misery on this page which I spent a better part of my day reading. This shit is scary guys. I wonder how the hours/stress are in equity research. I know consulting is hard, but maybe a more relaxed corporate finance job might be better for me.

    The problem isn’t as much working long hours as it is what those long hours will do to you in the end. The more time you spend without a social life, the harder it will be to get back into it and that’s what I’m seeing all around me in Finance/Accounting. It’s like they just give up in the end and become alcoholics and strip-club regulars to make up for their lack of fun.

  281. DSE says:

    Unless you’re coming out of the Ivy League or have some connections, good luck getting into equity research or consulting. From what I know, these are, however, popular careers for ex-Big 4 employees. As most Big 4 firms and even most regional and local audit firms did all their hiring last Fall, I have little hope of getting into the club now, so I have decided to look into some 40 hour work-week government jobs. I would work for the Big 4 if I had the opportunity, but there is no denying that something is wrong with the picture… all that wining and dining and sending the new hires to Disney World sound like tactics used to purposely recruit absolutely clueless people. However, the experience is good (gold on your resume) and so is the pay (unless you’re stupid enough to work in New York or something where $50k means living in a closet and eating out of garbage cans), so despite the comments here, I fail to believe that people are making an irrational decision by going Big 4.

  282. anon says:

    Just a heads up for people about to go into public accounting — Deloitte Toronto is planning a massive layoff very soon. Seniors will not be promoted to managers, and a lot of second-year juniors will be let go.

  283. Hello,

    I will be entering grad school for an M.S. in Accounting this August and am worried about the economy. Do you think I will be able to land a job with the Big 4 with a graduate degree from a good school like UVA or William and Mary? I will be 28 when I graduate, with 2 tax seasons of experience under my belt with a large local firm, both tax and audit experience. Do you think I will have no trouble getting a job with the Big 4? If so, are any better than the others?

    Thanks for your advice!

  284. JAYDUB says:



  285. word says:

    jaydub, word to that man. ive been at the big four for a a year and a half and i am about to quit. this sht is wack. i’m tryin to be happy in life, even if i take a paycut.

    im gonna go teach or work at a bank or somethin, haha

  286. Josh says:

    The main problem — or should I say challenge — working for the large accounting firms, and really for accounting firms in general, is that, especially in the beginning of your career, you spend so much time doing procedures and tasks that you can’t really understand or see how what you’re looking at or doing fits into the larger picture. This means that if you’re not particularly good at memorizing tasks or procedures or ways of doing things without understanding why, then you might have some trouble or be slower than others. I personally perform much better if I understand the broader pictures, but some people can just remember random tasks (to them at least) better than others. This feeling of operating somewhat blindly gets better the further you go along and hang in there, but everybody learns differently and at different rates. At my firm, some people (myself included) would try to sit and think about why they were doing what they were doing and just basically try to learn everything. There isn’t really time for that though when you’re having to fill out a timesheet and your manager is telling you you’re way too slow. You just have to absorb it through time basically. My advice to anyone going into public accounting basically is to relax as much as you can and try not to be perfect. Being perfect takes too much time basically. You want to get things mostly right, and if some of the details are off but the end picture ends up being good (on a tax return or something), then you go with it. That was my problem basically. Also, people in public accounting by their nature are often not very laid back people…

  287. JAYDUB says:



  288. word says:


    what are you looking into? how come the personal trainer thing didnt work out? i also thought about personal training, i love fitness and stuff like that.

    did you used to work in accounting or anything?

  289. Ash says:

    Right now I am about to finish my BA in accounting and I work as a teller at a bank as well. I actually like my job, but there is no way I will be doing it when I graduate. Thing is I’m sick of my accounting classes the way it is and don’t think I will enjoy accounting. My friend just did a internship at a big 4 and absolutely hated it. She made it sound like all she did was look at numbers all day long and not get to talk to anyone. I think accounting is a good thing to get a degree in, but don’t think I’ll do it when I graduate. I’m considering continuing working at a bank, but not as a personal banker. If I got my MBA and tried for maybe a Financial Analyst or any other corporate bank job be any better? I’m more of a people person so getting a job not sitting in a cubicle at all day would be nice…

  290. JAYDUB says:




  291. Krupo says:

    Try TURNING OFF CAPS LOCK for starters….

  292. Dave says:


  293. Accounting major says:

    Well I think in this economy, people with degrees should just consider themselves lucky to be working in their specific area of expertise. A lot of graduates coming out in the next year or so are going to have a real tough time finding work. I suspect a lot of young workers in public accounting will just tough it out, because who would want to quit their jobs in a climate like this?

    Things are likely to get MUCH worse (before they get better), this thing has only just begun, and even the accounting firms are by no means immune to this. So if you have a decent job be thankful and hang in there.

  294. JAYDUB says:


  295. Depressed says:

    @ anon: by second year juniors, do you mean the level of staff who are supposed to be made into seniors at the next fiscal year?

  296. anon says:


    Yes that’s right. The firm simply hired way too many people during the boom year of 2007, and now wants to get rid of as many of those “A2’s” as possible.

  297. Depressed says:

    @ anon: oh wow. hopefully vancouver won’t follow TO. we don’t seem to be really overstaffed in vancouver… i think most of us feel that we’re understaffed.

  298. anon says:


    Just to clarify, by no means do we feel overstaffed here in TO… A2’s are still working long hours. But as part of the cost-cutting effort, the firm plans to “upgrade” A1’s to “acting A2’s”, A2’s to “acting seniors”… etc, in hope to get more done but, very likely, producing lower quality work.

  299. Depressed says:

    @ anon – so, has it happened yet? the big hammer for the A2s?

  300. DanB says:

    Hey folks, here I am a 35 yr. old feeling an all time low. My initial degree was geography, followed by an 8 mth. post degree in GIS, resulting in a GIS applications specialist certification. I worked in the GIS area for a couple yrs. only to discover I really disliked staring at maps / writing scripts all day long.

    I made a career change and took a 3 yr. Business Admin-Accounting college program giving me 13/19 directly transferable CGA credits. Admittedly the first 2 yrs. of schooling were easy, but by the 3rd yr. cost accounting/auditing/corp.finance/taxation were very challenging for me. I’ve never felt so shutdown and demoralized in my life. Very depressed. I worked in between terms at summer placements and upon graduating got a job doing a/p,a/r etc.

    I haven’t worked in quite some time after having walked out on my job, because…well, I think yet again I made another poor career choice. My confidence has sunk to an all time low, to the point where I feel ashamed of myself. I haven’t even contacted friends in such a long time/ignoring them, due to feeling like a bag of useless turd. I was never comfortable around numbers, yet told myself that I could do it at the time. Having a grandfather and father that were CA’s, likely led me to believe I was capable of understanding the material. I’ve reassessed what else I could possibly be good at…and am coming up with nothing. People always say, well take a look at your hobbies, or your strengths etc….aside from fishing, not many. Once again, I’m drawing blanks. I suppose I’m just venting here, but seems like an appropriate place to do this. Any suggestions or people with similar circumstances?

  301. anon says:

    Depressed — nope not yet. It seems that the firm has opted for an alternative: it is freezing salary increases and promotions from A2s to seniors, but nevertheless making them do senior work. I suspect this is a ploy to force people to quit so the firm doesn’t have to pay severances.

    DanB — I am a CA student, and am currently preparing for the SOA. I’ve looked at CGA material, and I must admit that what CGA knows is highly technical. I am not a technical person myself, so I actually think I have a higher chance of passing the CA exams compared to the CGA. A lot of my fellow CA students feel the same way towards the CGA. The only CA exam that’s considered as technical is the CKE; both the SOA and UFE focus more on macro-analysis / essay writing skills than knowing intricate calculations dictated by accounting rules from the CICA handbook inside out. On the other hand, all the CGA exams are very technical. Personally I think getting the CGA is harder than CA.

  302. Krupo says:

    @DanB – oh man, get some counseling. Like career counseling – you need more than amateur blog comment advice the way you’re presenting your feelings.

    Or just soldier through the exams and then move onto a different line of work doing anything that’ll put food on the table.

    @303 – Your personal leanings suggest you have strong communications skills. Pure technicians with weak comm would likely argue the opposite. 😉

  303. ian78 says:

    DanB: I was in a similar situation – i got a degree in a non-accounting field, worked for a bit, got bored as hell with that, then went into accounting, thinking i liked math and numbers and it would be a good fit. It wasn’t and I had a job doing rudimentry AR work while working on on the CMA program in all my spare time. I became very beaten down, as i hated what my life was doing, but had jumped around so much that i was too afraid to quit. This misery went on for a year, then i quit, and now beginning to find my feet – i’m learning to program computers and really enjoy it. Im starting at the community college in a 1 year program that will teach me to make websites and design applications. I’ve been practicing on my own, and its really fun. Not saying that this is a career i’d recomend to you – only you know that – but just wanted to share that i know EXACTLY how you feel, and that that things seem to be (slowly) turning around for me. So don’t let it get you down, call up some of your friends, maybe just forget about all this stress for a couple of weeks, laugh about it, etc. I really spent too much time just reflecting on my misery when i could have been positive and thinking about changing things. Good luck man.

  304. johndoe says:

    After reading a couple of posts I notice that I’m not alone. My story starts with my ex encouraging me to do an accounting degree after not really knowing what to do with my life. I was below average in school but somehow was doing well in university (working VERY hard at it). I did well in undergrad got admited to the CA program at my school, passed all my CA classes, passed the UFE… On a practical it wasn’t as rosy. Got an internship at KPMG; struggled for 4 years to get to senior with major overtime; left because I felt my work was not appreciated and I felt they were not promoting me after evaluations started coming in…left to another firm for 2 years where I struggled again and started feeling ill and depressed with the work and overtime and seeing people get fired left right and centre. I’m not sure of what I want anymore; but what I do know is that I want to work 9-5 most of the time and enjoy my work…and be seen as a “key” player…is there anyone with suggestions?

  305. skunk says:

    hmmm…well im currently in the marines right now…and i was pretty excited to start college the fall of 09 at indiana university for accounting…im 26 now and would get degree by age 30 maybe or 31…you guys are really bumming me out! are you just whining cuz thats human nature or because it really sucks? i know here in the marines we all bitch all day long about how we cant wait to be civilians and work behind some desk making 40k a yr…as of now i am in the infantry digging fighting holes and pooping and pissng 3 feet from my sleeping positon covered in sand and dirt..i always dreamed of a job that i could get paid less than $2/hour and just chill..but if you are all miserable i dunno anymore…i’ll probably be too old to get into the big four in my 30 after i get my degree according to some of these post (i read every single one =o} ) i mean living large and driving a nice car and living in my own home would be nice..but im not gonna lie..i enjoy being in the states when im not deployed and chugging jim beam with my buddies who i know love me and would do anything for me…

    you all really depressed me and make me wanna drink extra tonight..how could you do this to me? what should i major in then..my degree is going to be free since i get the GI Bill…i wouldnt say that im very social, i was worried about that in a career in acct because i have an in your face im gonna stomp your guts out attitude..whereas i think most college type people have a more liberal peace love harmony attitude..should i even consider this career? please help!

  306. Krupo says:

    Hey skunk – I’ve worked with a USMC guy before, so I got to hear some interesting stories, and picked up a bit of his perspective too.

    The job is definitely not as harsh as anything you experience out in the field, and the discipline you pick up will do wonders – the accounting firms are surprisingly hierarchical, so you’ll be used to that.

    But you do work in an office environment which means dealing with the peace-love-harmony types – and that’s simply because that’s what offices are like, not just because they’re full of college types (though there is that connection). You simply can’t holler at the people you’re working with – and especially not at your clients, who are often nice HR ladies

    Having said that, you sound like a good guy and being a little more social (no one’s going to hold hands with you and dance around a campfire) – just being polite helps.

  307. Depressed says:

    So exhausted. Last week worked 64 hours.
    Working 12 hours a day on average (from 8.30am to 11pm, minus lunch and dinner breaks).

    Yesterday stayed till 11.30pm at client’s. This entire week be like last week but worse.
    I’m booked on another client next week and this file needs to be wrapped up by Wed for partner review.
    NOT going to happen.

    I’m exhausted, when I get home all I do is shower and hop into bed.
    My god I hate this so much.
    If the work was progressing, I’d feel better, but everything is pretty much at a standstill right now because I have no drive to go out and push the client around to get me my stuff anymore.

  308. John says:

    I actually just started a new job as a cost accountant in industry, and here are some general thoughts based on my experiences. My thoughts apply to public accounting work as well, as I’ve worked in both public accounting and industry before.

    I can’t stress this first point enough: if you’re going to be a new accounting in a large organization or in public accounting, you need to find a mentor or a mentor needs to find you and to genuinely care that you learn enough to be able to function on your own at least somewhat. 99% of the time, you will not be able to take what you learned in school and just walk in and start doing the work on your own. You will need a LOT of help and a lot of understanding. This is often not what you get in the real world.

    What are the forces that keep people from getting the training and mentoring that they need? What keeps people from teaching new employees what they know? There are primarily two reasons:

    1) Not enough time. Think of this as a range, with one being a situation where nobody has any time at all to give advice/direction (i.e., you’re on your own) on one end and on the other end being in a situation where mentor(s) spend(s) hours with you everyday getting you up to speed as quickly as possible. Normally, situations fall somewhere in between, but in professional positions like accounting, often people in the know only have a limited amount of time each day to get new employees up to speed. It’s just the way it is. Problems can occur, however, when people who have been at the company for years think the new accountant hasn’t learned enough quickly enough. Often training is not dumbed-down enough for someone who’s never been in the company.

    2) Many people just don’t like giving away information that they toiled and spilled their blood to get. Also, they might feel that they remain more valuable the fewer people there are who know how to do their work. There’s also another side to this, though: obviously, as I just said, people don’t like to just tell some newcomer all the secrets that make them so valuable. However, being forced to work overtime all the time is a force that can quickly change one’s mind about teaching others. Also, me personally, I like teaching people to do things. I guess I just like to hear myself talk, but it makes me feel good when I can try to make a new employee feel comfortable.

    In the end, though, all of these forces from both number 1 and 2 get optimized based on the individuals and situation, and you the new employee basically get the opitmized output.

    So the type of pressures you face as a new employee are trying to learn as much stuff as possible, often with little guidance.

    You might say… well just ask questions if you don’t understand something. But often you don’t even know enough to ask a legitimate question. If you could interview people for 5 hours everyday for the first few weeks, and watch them as they work, and do their work as they guide you, then things would be easy. But again, nobody has that much time.

    So, to sum things up… the only way to learn accounting is to do it for many years. And also… you learn specifically what you do. If you do cost accounting in a manufacturing environment for a particular size company, then that’s what you will be good at. Your learning curve might be just as steep as a relatively new accountant’s learning curve if you try to switch industries, but perhaps not.

  309. Anonymous says:

    oh man…some of these posts are right on. but time to throw some common sense in to the fray.

    look here’s the deal. it’s all a game. the colleges are in bed with the big 4 firms, that’s why you hear how great it is for your undergrad years, or how you should stick it out. most of your teachers have big 4 experience…shoot if it was so great, don’t you think they’d still be there instead of teaching your accounting courses?

    A lot of people are talking about how they don’t like the work. of course not, it’s pretty mindless. but i find i don’t actually mind the work (just the stuff that is heavily dependent on other people as i can’t complete it – like audit confirmations, the biggest pain in anyone’s ass ever). it’s boring but you get through it. the sooner you finish the sooner you can start something else, and if that process repeats itself enough, hopefully you can get out an hour earlier somewhere.

    the real problem is the environment. you are surrounded by shallow, pretentious, uninteresting people who would sit around all day and talk about how cool their company blackberries are, useless shit they bought or plan to buy, how late they worked, or going out to bars. Nothing wrong with going to bars, but when conversations about that center around “OMG I got soooo drunk last night” it’s pretty god damn pathetic. These people are superficial, so if you are not, you will have a tough time making friends, and most lack senses of humor that can make the day go a little quicker. If you can find a “mentor” go right ahead but don’t be surprised if you don’t find people you can trust. A lot of it goes back to why people take this job. They take it for money. No one sits around as a kid and goes “I want to be an accountant.” You all take it not because it’s interesting but because you think you will get paid. For 4 years the colleges convince you that making 35K a year in the US is a standard starting salary and anything above that is a great fortune for you. And that’s bullshit. But when you get your 50-60K offer, you jump thinking “BIG MONEY!” and take it. Then you start work and realize what a joke it is…you see teachers making 40-45K to work 9 months a year. You justify it to your friends with cliches like “it’s the first step” or “it will open doors” and you justify the long hours with stupid mantras like “i’m learning a lot” or “it’s really interesting to see how these businesses work” but the reality is none of that is true. You are performing simple tasks at a low level, and you are seeing a clusterfuck of accounting records that don’t actually say anything about how the business works. There is a reason there is such high turnover – you are talking about at least 6-7 years to get to manager which is the big jump in pay, and it’s just not worth it to wait that long. They pull all the perks to get you to stay (CPA requirement, vesting employer contributions to 401k, etc.), and the fact the turnover is STILL so high should tell you something. Congratulations, you all took this job for money and you are now years wiser. You have learned the valuable lesson that money does not buy happiness, and it didn’t take that much money at all for you to learn it.

    The reality is it is an unsustainable business model and that is why we are in a recession and everybody needs a bailout. Years ago, America was a hardworking country….industrious and we made things. Nowadays we are lazy fat cats. College is made super accessible and now anyone with decent high school grades and at least one working parent feels entitled to go. Then once there, every student feels entitled to party as much as they want and slack off. Then they feel entitled to a “nice easy good paying white collar job” where they don’t necessarily do anything tangible…think about it, accounting firms bill clients hundreds of dollars per hour for the work of their staff, and you see pennies on the dollar of that. The rest goes to cover costs and overhead and ALL the human resources, tech support, formal mentors, office assistants for the higher ups, etc. ALL these people providing no service to the client sucking on the tit while you bust your ass for a tiny piece of the pie. They say the economy wouldn’t have crashed if there was more regulation, but more regulation = more work for the auditors. More work for the auditors = less people who want to BE auditors (or are willing to stay) which just increases the problem. Hiring more auditors or paying them more increases the cost to the client, which makes them unhappy and hurts them financially. It’s a totally unsustainable system.

    The reality is it’s time to cut through all the BS out there. If you know you don’t want to work in accounting, why bother getting a CPA? What’s the point. If you want to fly helicopters, getting a driver’s license is going to do you no good. Boo hoo, we’re in a recession…there are still jobs out there! LOTS of people are hiring, only the thing is these careers may not be anything you’re thinking of because you went to college to get your nice white collar job and go live in the suburbs with your wife you met at your first job, two kids and a dog. Yep right now you’re thinking about OK auditing didn’t work, how about banking/investment/finance. Get your head out of the sand. If you’re saying that to yourself you are still picking a career based on money and you will be just as disappointed with those as accounting if you even get in the door given the economy.

    The reality is there are lots of good blue collar jobs available where you provide actual service or make actual products (financial products are not REALLY products…) and, wait for it, actually get paid too! Your 50-60K salary as an accountant is actually in line with, and in many cases less than what you can make in other completely unrelated fields if you take the time to find your way in. It’s no cake walk there either, and you may have to go to school, but you will be COMPENSATED for your overtime, in some cases enjoy union protection (that’s not a bad thing, college folks, even though your history classes made it sound like one). I know the “professions” of dr. lawyer bizman are drummed in your heads ever since you were little – they were drummed in everyone’s head but now think: everyone wants those jobs. You learn a real skill, like a trade, and you like the work? You’re going to get PAID because there are lots of accountants and investors and doctor’s and lawyer’s, who stuck out the miserable jobs and sold their souls to make the big bucks, and they all have big expensive houses to justify their hard work only they’ve got just one problem…they don’t know how to wire electrical, lay pipe/plumbing, do roofing, paint, assemble a deck, or get their car fixed.

    and that’s where you or some other “poor blue collar schlep” can come in. or you can go do something else, doesn’t matter. But the joke’s not on you, it’s on them. When you’re one of a handful of people with those skills, you can raise your billing rates and make a killing off them. And that’s why it’s so expensive to get your car fixed nowadays…no one knows how to do it anymore.

    There are a hell of a lot more fields out there than accounting and business. I’m just naming a few, but don’t limit yourself. If you’ve partially sold your soul you won’t be able to answer what you like for real. So go back, find out what you liked as a kid and why. Then pick something based on that, because when you were young it was simple. I guarantee you there’s a decent job related to whatever you answered that question out there somewhere. Now quit dicking around in accounting and go find it.

    That’s the best advice I can give ANY of you.

    -someone who’s still grinding it out, maintains a life outside of work, but plans to leave as soon as the right time presents itself, which isn’t just quite yet.

  310. respone to "anonymous" says:

    spot on bro. you left me speechless, because everything you wrote, i have been thinking. Ive told people that I may go and work for UPS as a delivery driver, or go work as a personal trainer, or coach soccer. And got the craziest reactions. But you know what, you only live once. I rather live in a small house, provide for my family but still enjoy life. Give me a job I like and free time, and i dont mind driving a peice of crap car. I dont need a BMW and a huge house and the latest blackberry to be happy. I need true happiness..

    I worked with deloitte from september of 2007 to march 31 of 2009. Was laid off, and you know what, its a blessing in disguise. ive been wanting to quit for so long, and ive been hating my life, but too scared to quit. im glad someone like you thinks the way I do.

    its not about trying a finance job, or getting an accounting job in private industry. they ALL SUCK. stop convincing yourselves they are better just cause you work 40 hours. think about it, 40 hours is 40 hours!!!! it may not seem alot to you because you accounting nerds enjoy working 80 hours a week, but 40 hours is a big part of your week, so go do something you love.

    nothing is secure in life, and money is everything.


  311. respone to "anonymous" says:

    i meant to say, money ISNT everything

  312. john says:

    There is a fairly good article about public accounting that begins with comparing starting out in public accounting with salmon going to spawn…thousands working to make partner and very few ever make it. Article is more involved….trying to find a link…it was written in later 90’s but still pertinent.

  313. anon says:

    #314 John: any luck finding that article?

  314. Paul Matthews says:

    I quit E&Y 2 years ago. I felt myself rotting away. People aren’t meant to do that kind of work. I know somebody has to do it, and some of them get paid well for it. But for me it’s not worth it. I’m 30 now and my life is probably half over. What do I have to show for it? Nothing! I only have memories of stressing out about trying to feel important and smart and achieving a respected, high paying career.
    Now I’m a driver for a courier company and get paid $11.00 and work 38 hrs a day. I have never been happier. I get to drive around all day and see the world, don’t get bossed around, see lots of different people, listen to the radio. I am much healthier. I exercise, spend time with my dog, and I can read and watch TV. I’m tight on money, but I feel like I’m actually living again. I don’t want to do this forever obviously. Though I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m interested in international affairs, and I”m a decent writer. I was thinking of trying a career along those lines. Hopefully I won’t have to go back to school for anything. School was sucking the life out of me too. I did all I could to get perfect grades in college: stay up all night perfecting a paper or a presentation; constantly prepping for exams, etc.
    I don’t get a lot of respect from people because of my job. But that’s taught me a lot about people — they’re generally snobby assholes who judge people by how much money they think they make or how smart they think somebody might be. I mostly do work with uneducated people. But they’re so real and simple; I like it.
    Well, I’m not reccomending anybody do what I’ve done. My wife is starting to get stressed out about the money situation. I guess I’m a lost soul or maybe one of the few who hasn’t lost my soul to the rat race. Anyways, I just wanted to tell my story. I hope you all find peace with your life. Good luck.

  315. response to Paul Matthews says:

    What you did, is something i’ve been dreaming about for so long. I was recently laid off, and I dont even know if I want to do this career anymore. Or any other business career for that matter. I rather be a ups driver, or a job that I can enjoy. How did you go from accounting to driver? Was it scary at first? Why did you say that you dont wan’t to do this forever? Is it something your just doing now while you figure out exactly what you want to do? Could you, or do you already support kids on the income your making? Get back to me. Thank you for your story. A great inspiration.

    • Matt says:

      Was it scary to go from CPA to driver? No. Just really awkward. It was sort of like graduating college and then going back to kindergarten. I used to make it a point to tell people I was educated and used to work at E&Y but got laid off instead of quit. Maybe in a way it was scary…..I felt like I was being a quitter and turning into a bum. I wondered if I would regret it at first, but hey, I could easily go back to it. I just realized I was taking a break and still had the opportunity to return to accounting.
      I don’t give a shit about status anymore, which is, I think, a primary concern for young people when it comes to choosing a career. And I think a lot of people at E&Y were concerned about status at first. It’s funny to see people now who don’t know my history; it’s fairly obvious to me that they think I’m inferior to them.

      Well, I make enough money to pay my bills and live conservatively which is easy since I’m a fairly frugal person. I don’t make enough money to save for a good retirement; and that’s why I can’t do this forever. Considering all the hours I worked at E&Y, my hourly wage was only about $13.5. Now I make $11.5 so it’s not that much less. I could work more hours, but I took the job so I wouldn’t have to work away my soul.

      Driver jobs are easy to get. But like I said, I realize now how narrow-minded people are. I handle inter-office work for banks and investment companies and they all look at me like I’m a retard who didn’t graduate elementary school. One woman on an elevator crinkled her nose at me. I was waiting in a lobby one time, reading the Wall Street Journal, and this guy came out with the documents I was picking up and he said, “Do you know what you’re reading?”. When I worked at E&Y people treated me like I was worthy just because I wore a suit. These rude people are the types of people that work at E&Y. I just didn’t realize how stuck-up they were.

      It’s kind of funny because a lot of my customers are banks; and one time I was talking to this new branch manager at a branch in a grocery store and somehow I brought up the Federal Reserve Bank, and he didn’t understand what it does. He thought it printed money and that it was part of the government. When I was in college I tried several times to get a job as a bank teller and they told me I didn’t have enough experience. So they hire this financially ignorant prick to be a branch manager?

      I’m thinking of becoming an electrician now. I always wanted to do that, but I felt pressured to be a “professional”. Now I don’t give a fuck what society thinks. Most people are ignorant assholes. I’m pretty damn smart when it comes to investments and finances so I think whatever I do I’ll be fine. Hell just in the last 8 months I’ve made over $400,000 by buying stock in Apple, Ford, and Dell when they were at their lows in February. I don’t know what I’ll do with it quite yet. I sold it all last month and it’s sitting in a 1 year CD earning $1400/month. That’s more than all my bills including food & gas.
      Anyways, I’m just rambling I guess.
      My point is that you should do what makes you happy. Most jobs suck! I find piece with my driver job for now.
      But I don’t know about UPS. I was talking to one of their drivers and he said it sucks. They expect you to do too much in too little time.
      And being a driver is a dead-end job for sure! Maybe when I snap out of this “I”m just chillin for now” phase I’ll move onto to some type of career. I’m really thinking of being an electrician.

  316. Anonymous Memphis CPA says:

    So I have a question. I have a Masters of Accountancy, and a Masters of Taxation. I am a CPA (Audit Senior) with 6 busy seasons under my belt at a large local firm in a large city. We do not audit SEC clients but we audit everything from governmental entities, manufacturing, construction, not-for-profits, benefit plans…basically, if it has a balance sheet, we’ll audit it. So this is the largest firm in this city (we also have tax and business services departments), our audit department is larger than the regionals and the Big 4 in this city. Our clients are top notch – large, successful and well respected. My firm has the highest quality in cutting edge technology. So, I love working here. I don’t mind working 60+ hours a week to get a project out. So, what’s my beef? Why am I unhappy? It’s the off season. It’s the sitting around in my office playing on the internet for a week because my clients and my supervisors are a bottleneck. I put out for the firm and do my duty…why do I have to come into the office when I don’t have any work to do? More importantly, why can’t I work from home on my laptop (we have a citrix network) when I am not scheduled out at the client or needed to be physically in the office? Is it because all accounting fiorms are run by dinosaurs? Is there anyone out there who’s looking for a hard worker, qualified certified and educated, who just doesn’t want to sit in an office when it’s unecessary? Does anyone telecommute to work as a CPA? Help me, I’m drowning in the internet…I am so bored waiting on projects to come out of review or waiting on a client to give me information…I have a Blackberry and a laptop…but, what good is all of this technology if I have to just sit here for the sake of wearing a suit in an office? Oh, and I get 4 weeks PTO a year…not that I can use it today…because, “I need you to stick around in case something comes up.” Uh, yeah, like I said i got a blackberry…

  317. anonymous says:

    You’re complaining because you’re getting paid to sit around and do nothing? Umm, most people would kill to be in that position. But I get where you’re coming from… It’s the nature of the industry to work like a maniac for 6 months and then do nothing the rest of the year, but I hear that is changing. Most CPA firms will try to find a way to keep you occupied in the off-season, and it won’t be trips to Disneyland. Maybe you’ll be happier when you get to partner level, because then it will be nothing but entertaining clients… actually, personally I think I would hate that, and having nothing to look forward takes away almost all of my motivation for entering your industry. I was talking to one partner about entertaining clients and he actually had to tell me “but it’s fun,” as if it was himself he was trying to convince.

  318. Krupo says:

    If they won’t let you work from home it’s either because they don’t understand technology or dumb, or they want to deny you the joy in which case they’re evil.

  319. Boredatwork says:

    I dunno, what sort of gets me is the fact that what we do (Accountants, finance etc..)its all sort of bullshit IMHO.

    It doesn’t add any value to the world, doesn’t really create any tangible economic assets or wealth, we just do pointless crap. I mean its the Engineers, the welders, the construction guys, the tradespeople, whoshould actually be getting money.

    What do we do? Waste a whole bunch of time at a clients office figuring out future income taxes, loss carry forward or Future tax asset or liability etc.. all crap..then bill out a whole bunch of money for it, when they could use that money to hire more people. What the hell is the point of all that future tax crap anyway? You end up paying the same amount to the CRA, your tax payable should be your tax expense.

    It just seems to me what we do is just get in the way of people trying to create real economic assets and real wealth.

    There is no inner satisfaction in this line of work, our whole paper based economy is phony anyway and is collapsing before our eyes.

    We need people who do real work, real economic tangible assets, not this bullshit of sitting around and figuring out how much “good will” is worth, its all crap.

  320. Boredatwork says:

    Oh and Accountants in Canada are going to make a whole bunch of money with the whole switching over to IFRS thing, but is that really going to add any value for the share holders? I don’t think so, its all crap. What’s next, we’ll make up some other phony law or set of rules and then go in and do a bunch of more useless paperwork.

    I would just advise people not to get suckered into this whole CA thing, its pure bullshit, and complete hell. CA’s aren’t special, my neighbor from a small town in Lebanon who has his own drywall and construction business makes far more money than any CA (He is 28) and especially a lot more than those poor pathetic seniors at big 4’s.

  321. wah wah! says:

    Somebody needs to call the wahbulance. I have never seen so many whiners in one place in my whole life. You all need to quit, go to your nearest diner, and order a big plate of French cries. Wah! This blog is full of lazy people.

  322. anon says:

    LOL so wah wah where do you work

  323. Mr. K - Texas says:

    Actually, it was next to impossible to start my accounting career after graduation from college. Been denied many times for an entry-level accounting job just because I had no “professional” experience – WTF? That’s why I wasn’t applying for Accountant II, duh! Finally, I got a temporary job in the corporate tax division. I started out in business tax accounting and rose through the ranks three times in five years and make 3 times more since the beginning of my long, excellent accounting career. Had a great boss in the beginning, too. Then I got my CPA.

    But now, I’m burned out. Coming to my 12th year, I’m so sick of another tax season with the same stupid questions. Even at a decent salary, which seems like a lot until I learned all the executive greed and stomach-blows, it’s a terrible pay for the long, complex hours. The office politics are a handful, especially around with women who complain too much.

    Then once you know too much, life becomes miserable. I started to sneer and loathe at my boss who seem to work less and makes 45% more than I do and her boss makes 273% more than I do which makes me broiling mad!

    Then after a denied promotion to manager, it’s over. It becomes a dead-end job. So, you learn to suck it up or ditch them. Unfortunately, I had to support the family and I stayed a bit too long. I become mentally divergent and end up insane. I almost ruin my accounting career, my marriage, and split the family all because my work has affected the entire family.

    Finally, I went to get help through counseling and group meetings. Things will never be the same again like in its early glory days. Now, I just get by until one day, I’m going to leave this long, ultra-high stress tax career.

    If anyone comes to me thinking about a career in accounting, I’d tell them, “It’s not worth it. It’s very hard to pass the accounting courses and even harder to pass the CPA exam. For this amount of effort, you may be better off learning something else.”

  324. Wah Wah says:

    Wah! Cry me a river you fat fucking baby.

  325. FaceReality says:

    “Wah Wah”

    Isn’t it remarkable how idiotic and cowardly people like yourself tend to behave under the guise of anonymity? I suggest that you reveal to us your real name.

    Try working at an accounting firm. Judging by your reactions, you’ll be the one that will be crying a river. It’s people like you that make the world a little less livable for us all.

  326. Big4blows says:

    Y’know what I found out about Big 4 for a short time? You don’t actually learn anything. 95% of the job is scanning/photocopying bank statements, investments, and other backups, and if it matches, tick it off as it matched what the client says. If it doesn’t match, sometimes you find out, other times the manager will say screw it, put it through somewhere else. A trained monkey could do what we do. At the Big 4, you’ll almost never really get to see the client, sure, you may be at the clients location…but you don’t discuss anything/plan with them, it’s all the managers who do it. It’s repetitive, boring work…that’s not to say it’s not challenging, it can be hard when you get a box of expenses from some dumbass client and you have to sort it through and record it all…y’know what that’s called, bookkeeping.

    Oh yeah, managers you thought you could trust will stab you in the back…trust me on that. They’ll throw you under the bus in a heart beat if if means they won’t get any blame.

    It’s basically a bunch of pretentious dipshits who pretend to be successful, but are making what…50-60K a year working ridiculous hours. They make you dress up like your some sort of business person, but the truth is, your doing garbage that takes almost no skill at all. The training at a Big 4 seems to consist solely of “OK, take last years file and follow it”. You ask a manager for help and 7 out of 10 times, you get “I have no idea, but just do what they did last year” To do what we do takes so little actual skill or thought behind it, it’s ridiculous. They like talking about value added services, what exactly are we doing that adds any value to the client? What are we offering where we charge out $300/hr (meanwhile paying the employees maybe 7% of that) that they can’t get at a smaller firm for half that price…the name behind a Big4, big deal.

    As I’ve told anyone who asks, and some of the students they brought in. “GET OUT BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE”

  327. Big4blows says:

    As an add on, if you poll Big 4 employees and they were honest…95% of them would say they hate their jobs. No one wants to do this shit, and the only reason they stay is because they’ve gotten too comfortable to leave.

  328. not an accountant says:

    Keep the anecdotes coming guys. It is useful.

  329. sounds awful says:

    I graduated with an economics degree and was thinking about doing a master’s in accounting but I’ve decided against it because the degree and the job seem like bullshit. The further into my twenties I get, the less I want to deal with bullshit and bad hours. Accounting would have been a good degree as a bachelor’s though. I’m not getting anywhere with my economics degree. I think I would want be something badass like a firefighter or maybe a teacher.

  330. Sardaukar says:

    I would say that public accounting is bullshit in the first few years on the job. If anyone manages to survive that long and makes it into upper management, then I suppose there is a certain degree of value involved in the work public accountants do…

  331. Big4employee says:

    Hahaha, this is ironic. We thought it wouldn’t be as bad in the US as compared to SEA countries. With the slow moving staff turnover we have now, promotions and pay increments are more of a dream as compared to what it used to be.

    Sucks to be a public accountant.

  332. FORMER accountant! says:

    Hey guys,

    I worked in accounting for about 2.5 years.

    1.5 years in public accounting, which was complete garbage.And 1 year as a controller in a small company. Although I had decent pay, my own office, etc, it was boring as hell!

    I decided to revolt against spending my life in a cubicle crunching stupid numbers.

    Heading back to school to take geography, which I’m more interested in. Found a few “plausible” career paths.

    I’ll keep trying until I find something that doesn’t seem like a waste of life!

  333. to fmr accountant says:

    What career paths in geography have you found? What are you doing? Did you get a second bachelor’s or master’s with a concentration in GIS? I was my middle school’s geography bee champion. It’s a shame I didn’t think of taking that in college.

  334. to fmr accountant says:

    Are you working for government or private industry?

  335. FORMER accountant! says:

    Previous poster,

    Well, based on the programs here, the main career paths are GIS, urban planning, environment & development, teaching, and a whole lot of OTHER options that don’t have a ton of jobs individually.

    I am looking at urban planning, with teaching as a possibility if there’s actually a demand in the areas I want to live. I have 2 friends who work for the government doing urban planning and various related jobs. 1 of them has a 4 year degree urban planning spec, the other has a general master’s in geography.

  336. Unhappy Camper says:

    Misrable might be the only word to describe my experience in private accounting. 3 years in and yet to learn anything of substaintal . The long hours or exstentive 80%-90% traveling did n’t bother me. Just the people who you report and work alongside did it for me. Image working your ass off coming in early leaving late, and never getting recognize for anything. I am so fed up with management, so hypocritical. Everyone lies and backstabs the next person. Staff who works hard are not rewarded. However if you do drugs, are an alcohalic, gamble, and are the typical ass kisser. Your promoted to Senior Level with 2 -4 months. It’s unbelivable the bullshit that management allows to go on here. Part of the problem is that management is the problem. One infamous story envolve how the administrator became staff mind you this person doesn’t have an Accounting degree and make more money than me. Ultimate Fail!

    Not to mention the extra pressure of passing the CPA exam with travel and 12 hour work-day of which you get zero overtime.

    Thanks to Management this years audit schedule was condense, because it makes perfect sense increase audits dercease time and staff = Hell of a lot of ppl quitting. I am no longer staying late or coming in early. Everyday is like torture.

    If I have to here any more gossip about who is sleeping with who , or drug parties ppl are attended I am going to report all of it to HR.

    Mind-numbing work doesn’t help at all! Looking to make a transition to career w/ less bullshit. Help is needed!

  337. Goof says:

    How many people think you get a better learning experience at a small firm vs. a large firm?

  338. former big4 employee says:

    I am an accounting grad, who worked a busy season at a Big 4 firm. All through university, the Big 4 firms were glorified as the best possible place to work upon graduation. At recruiting events, HR boasted about their “work-life balance”. So when I finally got the offer to work at a Big 4, I thought I had it made.

    Then I found out about the harsh realities of this job. I worked 14 hour days doing menial tasks, while being crammed in a board room meant for 8 people (we had 15). I didn’t really learn much. I just learnt to copy other people’s work. I was excited about the fitness reimbursement my firm offered as part of the “work-life balance”. But I never even had time to go to the gym. All in all, this job was nothing like what they advertised.

    I’m not really one to listen to other people’s advice. Some people warned me about the Big 4. But I still had to see it on my own. At least I only worked there for several months. Then I realized life is too short to be doing something that makes you miserable and working free OT at that!

  339. Krupo says:

    15 people in an 8-person room? Ha, that’s not even double the recommended capacity.

    It’s a known rule that there’s an inverse relationship between the size of the team and the size of the audit room. It’s like the laws of physics – come on man!

    All the other stuff you could’ve learned by reading the last 339 comments though – you have to force it if you want to enjoy it, otherwise, yeah, you can end up suffering needlessly.

  340. BC Acc Student says:

    Does anyone have the information on the salary of first year articling at the KPMG and Deloitte in Canada or more specifically British Columbia? How much does this salary jump once I get my CA designation?


  341. Salaries says:

    Salaries for articling students and CAs are extremely low in BC compared to the rest of Canada. In my honest opinion it’s slavery. Articling students will get $35,000 give or take a few thousand for working 70+ hours a week. It comes out to less than minimum wage with all the UNPAID overtime you work. It’s ridiculous. Go into engineering, teaching, law enforcement. Something more stable that pays more per hour. Trust me!!

  342. Goof says:

    In Alberta you will make between 39k-46k to start. Usually the only time you work overtime is during tax season.

  343. Lifeafterbig4 says:

    Any more stories or work experiences in life AFTER working for the Big 4?

    I’m in a big 4 firm now, and hate it for all the reasons mentioned above. I’m looking to switch to either:

    1) a related career that has decent pay, good hours, and good career growth (i.e. internal audit or working for the govt ) or

    2) a totally different field all together doing something I’m much more passionate about (l’ve always dreamed of doing something creative).

    Due to financial struggles, I’m leaning strongly towards choice #1 by doing internal audit for a few years. But eventually I do want to go back to school and actually do something useful to society, something that will make me happy. A big issue I have with my work, other than the shitty hours and pay, is that I feel like I do nothing of value. I produce nothing but workpapers whose ultimate destiny is to sit in some storage basement. There’s no job satifaction and it’s boring as hell.

    Personally, I want to do something tangible, where you see the fruits of your labor. Like running your own business, getting into design, cooking, teaching, real estate, etc. etc. But starting a new career is always scary and you never you know what’s on the other side until you step in.

    If anyone has any stories or anecdotes of their lives and careers AFTER the big 4, please share. Thanks in advance!

  344. DSE says:

    I think it is every accountant’s fantasy to do something creative, work with their hands to create something tangible, instead of just acting as the “grease for the gears of capitalism” (which is what accountants and lawyers are). Gotta pay the bills though.
    Anyway, I have never set foot in a public accounting firm, but I have been working for the past month as a revenue agent for the IRS. It’s pretty nice: good salary (certainly on par with Big 4 on an hourly basis), and NEVER any overtime or weekends. It’s a job for someone who values work/life balance above all else. Bringing good money in for the government and providing taxpayers with the assurance that the system is fair to everyone can certainly contribute to job satisfaction, though I admit a lot of people in the IRS are just working towards retirement. Gotta have thick skin though and some people can’t handle it. Oh yeah, probably more job security than ANYWHERE else, including other federal government positions. As long as you don’t do something stupid, you will be able to sleep very well at night. Good luck.

  345. Lifeafterbig4 says:

    What in a coincidence! I’ve been recently thinking of applying for a revenue agent position with the IRS myself. But, when I went to the usajobs website, the deadline for September hires already passed.

    I’ve also been looking into the government payscale, and I must say this whole thing is confusing. I would like to think that I could be hired at least at GS-11 step 1 with my experience. Also what’s unclear is how long it takes to advance through the grades and steps. Can you explain this promotion process DSE?

  346. DSE says:

    They have hired a record number of people this year so it has definitely been a good year to get in… although with the recession there has been a lot of competition (lots of CPA’s from public accounting I might add). Some people told me they spent years applying for the position, so I feel very fortunate. Anyway, check out USAJOBS to see qualifications for each grade level. I believe a Bachelor’s with a GPA of 3.5+ gets you in at GS-7. If you are a CPA or have a Master’s degree they will hire you at GS-9. Anything above that requires experience. Most are hired at step 1 for each grade, but some negotiate salary successfully. Promotion (typically) goes like this (assume you started at GS-7, step 1): after one year you advance to GS-9. After one year at GS-9 you advance to GS-11. Then it gets more complicated, but I believe you advance something like 1 step a year within GS-11, and then finally on to GS-12. From there, GS-13, which is competitive I believe (must apply for it). Takes decades for most to hit GS-13 .Check out federalsoup.com for a detailed discussion of this (look for revenue agent position thread). If you have some Big 4 experience (especially if you’re a CPA), I see no reason why you couldn’t get on at GS-11, but if I were you I’d apply for GS-9 too. You’d get to 11 anyway in just a year. You’ll be hired at the highest grade for which you’re qualified (i.e., they won’t stick you at GS-9 if it is determined that you’re eligible for GS-11. Good luck!

    • J says:

      This might be a stupid question, but does working as a revenue agent for the IRS count towards your audit hours? I have Big 4 experience but it is ALL in tax and now I have passed the CPA exam and am looking at the IRS as a possibility but I don’t want to go there unless I will have the opportunity to get my audit hours at some point.


  347. unemployed dude says:

    I don’t think I could handle being a revenue agent for the IRS. I worked in a state office that collected unemployment insurance taxes and I didn’t really like that. I really don’t like dealing with bitchy people and also having to be polite to them. It’s good somebody can do these things though.

  348. Pingback: Risks of Attorney Placement « Wicked Blogging

  349. Pissed Off says:

    I can only confirm what’s been written so far.

    I was previously employed in a mid size firm for 3.5 years, then I decided I needed the “Big Four” experience. So I moved to a big four firm a year after getting my CPA.

    Hate, disgust, exhaustion are words that don’t quite describe my utter contempt with my job. On average we work 60-70 hours a week. One month I worked almost 90 hours a week.

    But the long work hours alone are not so bad. It’s the nature of the work itsself. The work FUCKING SUCKS. Our clients are either arrogant assholes that don’t make our job easy, or are stupid and incompetent, or worse both. Not to mention that I’m sick of asking these fucks how to calculate this or that shit, or why the fuck they are doing this or that, so that in the end, we can dumb down our final report so that the partner can approve the financial statements of shit clients who don’t deserve to be fucking spat on, let alone getting signed financial statements.

    My manager is a complete fucktard with no social life and is susceptible to drastic mood swings who gets pissed off if you’re one day late in a job.

    I lost a long weekend working my ass off to finish off the fucking recent quarterly review we had on time, and I stayed working until 8-9 pm everyday for 2 weeks beofe that in an effort to do a perfect job on time, but that piece of shit was still upset! Even though the file was squeky clean and the review finished quote smoothly! This time I was sick of taking that dick’s shit, so I gave him a piece of my mind. Fuck him. I’ve had it. I know the economy’s bad and he might try to fire me, but that’s it, at this point I wouldn’t care if I took a drastic pay cut in another job.

    That prick also threatened not to promote me during the peak of the busy season when I would be coming home every day at fucking 11-12 at night!

    To top it off, we are underpaid compared to many stupid people who do much easier jobs in the clients we audit.

    I want to live a complete life. I like learning martial arts and new languages and reading. I like hanging out with my friends and playing video games and watching movies. But there’s not enough time to scratch me balls sometimes!

    I hate this fucking line of work, but I console myself with the thought that even though accounting sucks, if I go off to industry eventually at least I can have regular work hours.

    If the economy doesn’t improve I’m thinking of going back to my old mid-sized firm. Sure, they weren’t as ‘professional’ in some aspects, but at least I was happy – and in the end, it’s all fucking monkey work, and I always knew this shit – I just wanted to put that big fucking four name on my CV – that’s all.

    My original intention was to work for 3-5 years with them. I have almost finished a year but don’t know if I should stay for another year, look for another job, or go back to my old firm.

    Fuck the big four. Arrogant pricks full of asshole partners and managers. I could go on and on about how these dicks tell us that their people are their most important asset and without thinking twice these dicks have been firing experienced staff for the lamest of reasons. And to make it worse, they need to fire a lot of staff cause the stupid fucktard partners, a few months before the crisis’ impact really took off in the economy, decided to move into a new fancy office building thus tripling their rent expense at least – expecting tons of new business – which did not materilise. And who took it in the ass? Staff – lay offs were massive so that the partners can maintain their +40,000 US$ per month of earnings!

    What do you think of that shit?

  350. Big4Blows says:

    Well, I started at KPMG two years ago, and I got $39,000 CDN, then I got bumped to $43,000 and the next year, I got a raise up to $45,000. So over three years or so, my salary increased by $6,000. I wonder what I would have made in private after three years?

    Personally, the training at KPMG is a total joke, it’s an embarassment the way they recruit with all these flashy promises then deliver a pile of crap.

  351. Ex-Big 4 intern says:

    I got a 4-month co-op work term at KPMG a couple of years ago, which at the time seemed like the highest achievement of my life. The interview questions and the hiring process was pretty random, and with all the intense competition, GPAs, sports, extracurriculars etc. I couldn’t really tell why they picked certain people over others. The first red flag was the salary – 24,000/yr. Came out to about 12.5/hr for the 40-hr week. Full-time offers for graduates were 26-28k range. Seniors pulled a whopping 40k after three years. Earning your designation would bump you up to the 45-50k range. Managers with 5+ post-designation experience would make 70-75k salary, and with the amount of overtime some actually made less than the hourly-paid seniors. Overtime was actually paid, if you had the balls to log it.

    I was assigned to the tax group during the busy season, and my only bright memory was the audit engagement when I could actually leave the office. Just to show you there ARE things worse than audit. One of the assignments was manually renaming over 2000 files on the server to conform to the new file naming policy.

    The performance expectations were totally unreasonable, there was no training whatsoever aside from the one-day workshop on both personal and corp. tax prep. I busted my ass every day, staying late so I could finish the work within budget, and I think actually did a pretty decent job with speed and accuracy, but it was never good enough. Either the file was done on time but there were ‘queries’ – the dumb ass reviewer was too lazy to turn the page to see how the number was derived, and just threw the whole file back on your desk. If there were no queries, then you’d get shit for taking longer than last year to do the return, even if the client had major changes throughout the year. And no, they don’t care that you’ve never done this before. ‘Look in last year’s file’ was the response to 90% of questions. Literally everybody was miserable, except for the partners who seemed to live in a different world apart from everybody else. Even the senior managers and the associate partners were bitching about being underpaid and overworked.. The social events were a joke too. First off, you had to pay $20 for the jeans day, which was an insult considering the low wages. Second, for some reason the managers were obsessed with softball. Those softball nights were the firm’s pathetic attempt at ‘work/life balance’. Third, drinking was heavily encouraged, and if you were not getting shitfaced with everybody else every Friday night, you very quickly became an outcast. The fact that you had to come to work hungover the next morning didn’t seem to matter. To give them credit, the firm actually paid for all the booze and the food on those nights out. Of course, it came at the expense of your friends and family outside of work.

    Even with all the crap, I was prepared to suck it up and do the mandatory hours, get the designation and move on. So I waited for the full-time offer as the work term was coming to an end.. But there was no communication, whether we (the co-op students) get to stay, or get the boot, or wtf is going on. On the last day I asked my manager whether I have the job or not. She mumbled something, and winked at her colleague who immediately interrupted us and lead her away. It was pathetic.

    After the contract ended, there was no exit interview or performance evaluation, no feedback. Two weeks later I got a call at 5 am from one of the partners who stated that co-op students would not be extended the job offers this year, wished me all the best and hung up. He didn’t start work at five, he just went to the conference in Toronto and forgot about the time difference. No apologies, no thank you for the effort and dedication. I have never seen this kind of arrogance before or after. Not being rehired after a co-op is a kiss of death for a graduate. And they wouldn’t even tell us why. After a few months of looking for a job at another firm, I gave up and took a year off after getting my degree traveling and pursuing other interests. It was the best year of my life so far.

    I am now working for a local accounting firm, the exposure and the learning opportunities are way better. We’re not doing audits, and concentrate mostly on tax and consulting engagements. Because the office is small, you get to do everything, and you see first hand how the practice is run. You own the process from start to finish on every engagement, the partner is only there to review your work and provide feedback (you still get shit sometimes but you actually learn from it). It’s a completely different market the small firms are serving, and to be quite honest I think you can actually make more money here just because you can be a partner/start your own practice sooner. The smaller firms also pay more as they have a harder time recruiting. OT is not paid but is not expected either. I might eventually move to a larger firm, but the jobs are pretty scarce right now, even in public practice.

    If I were to do it all over again I’d get into a smaller firm right away, maybe even during 2nd or 3rd year in school, learn the trade and either start your own practice after designation or move into industry/government. Plenty of opportunities there to get on the fast track if you have the aptitude and can learn quickly.

  352. Big4Blows says:

    Jesus, what you’ve just posted Ex-Big 4 Intern sounds EXACTLY like my office. Which office did you intern in?

    Fridays were a company sponsored get hammered day, and if by chance you don’t want to get drunk and throw up in a bucket, you were basically never going to make it into the “popular” clique. The thing is, the people who make the decisions on your career are just as caught up in trying to be popular with the clique. If you weren’t part of that group, then you don’t have the managers supporting you, no matter what your performance was like. Without their support, they could make your career stall, or just make you feel like a complete outsider.

    I’ve mentioned training before, and how it consisted of looking at last years file…and then the very same manager who can’t answer your questions with anything other than look at last years file has the balls to say “You rely on previous years files too much”…fucken bitch, I wouldn’t need to rely on previous files if when I asked you a question, you actually had an answer that didn’t consist of “look at last years file”. What you actually learn from a big 4 is nothing, the only way to really learn about accounting is to go to a smaller firm where you get the file from start to finish.

    You want lazy reviewers, how about being too lazy to even scroll to the bottom of an excel worksheet…if the fucken page didn’t fit nicely on the monitor without having to scroll, she would send a query as to where the number comes from…bitch, use the scroll wheel.

    My advice to anyone interested in a Big 4 is to not go there unless you REALLY want the name on your resume, because other than that, you get no real benefit from working at a Big 4. No training, no experience, sure as hell no financial benefits.

  353. From Big 4 to the NYPD... AM I CRAZY?! says:

    Check, one, two…

  354. From Big 4 to the NYPD... AM I CRAZY?! says:

    Hello all,
    First of all, I’m really glad that I discovered this page! Reading all of your stories (however miserable they might be) has really made the days go by easier at work while having lunch and dinner (yes, at my desk!). I have been working at a Big 4 in NYC since last year in the external audit department and can easily say that IT IS AWFUL! My firm recently adopted a 100% utilization policy and we are worked like dogs. Forget busy season, it’s busy year! For those who are lucky enough to have some free time at work… they are keeping tabs on everyone, until the next lay-off period. Everyone here is fake, backstabbing, self-centered,and ready to step on you… at any given chance. I have seen some harsh treatment of people, though not to me personally, it still gets me upset. The partners here are all full of themselves and think they are Gods… when they are mere puppets of the National Office! I feel like my soul has been sucked away… for the time being at least.
    So, here is my deal. I graduated college with a useless degree and decided to get my MBA in accounting at the age of 23 and graduated at 26 after going to school, full-time. When I was offered a job with my current Big 4, I thought the world was mine. Little did I know that “paying my dues” meant that I was going to be working 12+ hours (even in the summer months!) with the kind of pay that is comparable to those of sweatshop workers in Bangladesh! Basically, you can never work fast enough in terms of speed and volume of work needing to get done, basically it’s always about “what’s next on your plate?” And with the recent layoffs, everyone is doing the work of what is actually a 2-3 person job. Absolutely INSANE!
    In light of all of my recent suffering and misery, I came to the conclusion of wanting to pursue my dream… of joining the NYPD. People, I’m dying, really dying to be called up to the Police Academy. I had taken the written exam in the Spring of 2005 and scored really high but did not persue it since the starting pay was a sad, sad… 25K annualy! I had then decided to get my MBA for accounting and enter the corporate world, a place that I feel like I don’t have the characteristics for. I need my job to be fulfilling and something that I can be proud of. I def. have the physique and drive to be a police officer and rise in the ranks of the NYPD… but people, AM I CRAZY to want to follow my heart. I feel like the amount of critism and negative feedback from family and friends will only make me feel worse even though my parents have been pretty supportive. Only my mom worries about the whole safety part but then again, I don’t think all of the people working at the World Trade Center thought that one day their lives would just end like that while working in cozy office jobs. Safety can be an issue at any given moment in life no matter where you are or what your doing. I feel like this is my true calling and am willing to wait a couple of years until the Academy calls, after taking the written exam again and passing the other requirements. I WANT IN! I feel like we are all meant to do things in life that we are supposed to do and this might be my true calling. I’m only 27 and getting into the Academy by 29 would be my dream. I want to actually enjoy my career and advance with great promise. Just trying to take things day by day now and hopefully by next year I can find employment in accounting somewhere else until the fate of my NYPD trail unravels… Any feedbacks will be greatly appreciated.
    Thx guys!

  355. Big4Blows says:

    Big4 to NYPD…DO IT. I’m serious dude. I wanted to be a police officer since I was in grade 5, all the way to the end of High School. When I told my folks, hey, I want to be a police officer. Physically, I could do it, I think mentally I can too (never tried the test, so who knows). My parents were like NO WAY, NO HOW. Being 18, I listened to them. Now, at 30, I still wish I didn’t listen to them and became a cop. Do it while you’re still youngish, by 30, it gets harder to physically compete with someone who’s 27.

    Yeah, there are those who think your just a pig, but what police officers do, I have infinitely more respect for than what all the partners combined do in some Big4 firm. Really, what the hell difference does an accountant make in life…ohhh, I helped someone with their corporate taxes, I helped save a client $150K and guess what, it didn’t matter. An officer has the ability (assuming you’re not a prick) to really make a positive difference in someones life.

  356. From Big 4 to the NYPD... AM I CRAZY?! says:

    Big4Blows… thx for the encouraging words. I was waiting for something to reply with such comments as “Why the hell did you go to school all that time for then?!!!” or “Cops are assholes!”. I tell ya though, I’m a pretty laid-back guy and feel like the NYPD needs more candidates like me (wihtout sounding snobby of course). I know a few officers personally and they all seem to love their jobs. I feel like eversince working in a Big 4, I have lost my social skills and touch with the outside world. It’s taken a toll of my physique as far as all of the “free” dinners at work go and I’ve notices that I’m becoming more and more irretable with each passing day when all I do at work is deal with the most cumbersome, tedious, and pointless tasks. Even my senior believes that there is no real purpose in what we do… Basically, everyone wants out. If I don’t do something about it early on in life, I will live with this regret forever and that’s the last thing I want to do. I gave the whole accounting thing a shot and figured that it might not be the best career choice for me. The worst thing though is, sometimes I try to force myself to like it and i still can’t get around to even slightly enjoying it. It’s like a loveless marriage… but instead staying in it for the kids, I’m in it for the income that’s coming in until the market actually picks up. Sometimes I think to myself that maybe it’s better that I want to join the NYPD now instead of 3-4 years ago… I feel like I wasn’t mature enough back then and really didn’t know how badly i wanted to join the force. After seeing how the corporate world is panning out and my experiences, I can have a great appreciation for the police department and my new career (if everything goes as planned that is). Wow, my life is actually turning into “Office Space”!

  357. Krupo says:

    Additional point to keep in mind – take this either as encouragement or a warning, but I mean for it to be positive – cops definitely need people with the skills you’ve picked up as a young auditor. How else do financial crime cases get solved?

    You’ll probably pay your dues as a beat cop rookie, but don’t forget you’ve already set yourself up to have excellent future options with your existing experience. Good luck!

    Incidentally, CA Magazine wrote about a few Canadian CAs last year who either became full-time or auxilliary RCMP officers (Canada’s Feds) – so you wouldn’t be the only one trying something along these lines.

  358. From Big 4 to the NYPD... AM I CRAZY?! says:

    Thx Krupo… it’s great to see people replying with positive feedback. I feel like the MBA i have received can definately come in handy in the future. I read that a lot of officers go and work at corporate security headquarters as consultants and corporate security planners. It can work out in the sense that if the major companies see that you have extentive law enforcement experience and have also been exposed to the corporate world early in my life, somehow the two of them can go hand in hand. I mean, as I was telling my parents recently, there is nothing wrong with being an over-educated cop. Besides, if I want to rise up the ranks, it can be very adventageous also. Just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

  359. sounds awful says:

    Your degrees should help you if you ever want to move really high in the ranks. I’ve read about police commissioners who have JD and MBA degrees that they got in the evenings from reputable schools and there are even PhD police chiefs. Where I’m at, Seattle, they pay alright. There is even a 70+ year old cop that I read about in the newspaper a little while ago who quit his office job at 30 to join the police.

    I don’t think New York pays 25k. From their website, the pay seems pretty good:
    The benefits at the bottom of the page seem pretty good too.

    I was post 331. I had thought about doing an accounting degree but now I think I might do firefighting and teaching.

    • From Big 4 to the NYPD... AM I CRAZY?! says:

      Hi there Sounds Awful. Yeah, I’m hoping that if i do get in, my education background can come in handy. As far as the 25K salary goes, that was from 2005 till 2008. After a new union agreement, first year pay was bumped to 46K and after 5.5 years service to around 90K! Also, funny that ur from Seattle. The SPD has been giving exams here for current NYPD officers to take and has had great, and i mean huge interest! I personally have always wanted to visit Seattle… looks amazing, and i don’t mind the rain. But the NYPD has been my dream for a while. The pay at the SPD seems very good and might be a more laid back departmet (meant that in a positive way!) As far as you you wanting to be one of the bravest or go into teaching, both great options! You’ll have a worthwhile career and actually make a difference (however cheezy that may sound…)

  360. john says:

    accounting is boring

  361. Big4Blows says:

    Got that right, accounting is boring as hell, and if you stay in it too long, you’ll start becoming a boring person.

    They actually had a forensic accounting group where I used to work, but it was damn near impossible to get in unless you kissed the right ass. I think with your educational background, if you were to get into the NYPD, that’d be quite interesting to be able to use both skill sets.

    • Sweetneeds says:

      I know these posts are all about the big 4/ public accounting but I have a particular dilemma with my current role in an industry IT audit role. I interned as an internal IT auditor for a large industry company that’s has more than 12 subsidiaries and over 2,200+ applications to support all business processes. During my internship I assisted on 4 engagements two starting from fieldwork to reporting and two from planning to reporting and I did assisted with some SOX work. I assisted with audit documentation data analysis, the last two engagements I was told to start running client meetings (which I didn’t like cause I just don’t like public speaking) so I was co-running meetings with other team members. I didn’t too much mind the work I did as a intern but I didn’t have a lot of interest in all of the formal/artistic way to writing documentation and the speaking to clients. I mostly enjoyed the data analysis and the actual testing which was what people may refer to as the ticking and tying (I guess cause I am an introvert). I was given a “favor” to stay with this same company as a permanent full-time staff internal IT auditor after a year of interning and I was told I would need to live up to high expectations if I accept the favor/offer. I didnt take the time to understand what “high expectations” really meant before accepting cause I was so excited and now I wish I did because now after accepting I have to take on senior responsibilities since this company traditionally only hires senior auditors not staff auditors but am not ready and if I say no then it will appear as though am weak and I think I am I just don’t want to be setup to fail. They only worked hard with upper level management to keep me cause of my passion for the field & I worked hard during the internship but that has recently changed.

      I feel that the experiences I gained from my internship is the starting point to be a first year staff auditor but definitely not a senior IT auditor. What brothers me the most is having to do the client-facing tasks because so far I have been making the dept. seem as though we’re incomponent due to not speaking concisely since I am trying to make sense of all the information I read about the client, the process they oversee, and relevant areas about the company and public speaking has always been a challenge for since elementary school and all through my graduate degree program.

      It’s only been 2 months of me accepting the full-time offer so I’ve only been in internal audit for a total of 1 year 2 months. However, am now starting to lose interest in this role cause although I appreciate the fast-track career progression I can’t keep up no matter how hard because the company is so large there is so much to know and even though my managers say to tell them whether it’s to much I get the feel as though they expect me still accept this situation or else I will be viewed as not being able to take on challenges. The past week I have anxiety about going to work the next day and I just stop eating cause i lost my appetite. I like the team I work with very nice people who worked hard to keep me and the hours are not to bad probably 45 hours a week tops and and maybe sometimes 3-4 hours on Saturday, I get an hour lunch and I don’t travel at all (which i wish I did cause I love traveling) but I feel as though I would be better of going into a IT role now since I am seeing my interest gearing towards computer networking. I am thinking after a few years after being in a IT role I would come back to auditing. It’s just that am afraid to leave since according to my managers it will be an insult to them if I left now because I wouldn’t be adding an value to a business from a controls perspective and I feel bad for thinking of leaving now since they did me a favor… If an IT opportunity comes along soon I want to take it but am scared. Any thoughts? And sorry if I sound like confusing I have a lot going on in my head right now cause of this.

  362. Life says:

    Salary at Big 4

    What has everyone else experienced in Salary Increases this year (or lack there of)? When joining Big 4, I knew the hours would suck, the work would be boring, but thought of upward growth and the salary potential. In Jan, I will hit 4 years of servitude and my pay is a whapping 64,000 (DC metro area). I am coming to realize that raises are not there. My firm gave everyone a 0% raise if you were not in a promotion year and you got a 5% raise if you were being promoted. If I got a 15% raise for the next 3 years, I would not even reach a salary of 100K after putting in 7 years of slave labor. Frankly, I think a 15% raise will not materialize and a realistic expectation would be 7% on average per year, which means I would be making $78K.

    Is 78K worth the mandated 300 hours OT per year (well that is what shows up an is actually like 600 hours if you actually count all the hours you put in). Are there other managers that can tell me it is worth it in the long run or should I take the Sr. associate title and just start looking for the private job now?

    • Phil says:

      To be fair you’d also be making this much at the ‘national firms’. Guys like BDO and GT except you wouldn’t have the brand behind your name when you decide to quit.

      One thing to also consider is that the further you go in a public firm the less work you do and the more sales they’ll expect. If you like that sort of thing then go for it but most companies prefer to hire senior (IIIs) because they have the practical knowledge, skills and leadership but aren’t full of sales jargon and sales education.

      • Life says:

        Thanks for the response Phil and insight, especially with what future companies are looking for (ie – practical knowledge and not the sales pitch).

  363. Jose says:

    hey guys,

    I’m one of those who might be entering the Big4 world if all things go well in the next two weeks. I’ve read the horror stories (and its scary as fuck) but wouldn’t the summer season not be so bad? I mean PricewaterhouseCoopers are offering the “stop program” where you can take the summer days off (without pay of course).

    I thought that would mean there’s a lot of off-time during the summer but judging from what I’m reading here, it seems like you’re still working 50-60 hours during the summer?? Is that right?

    How difficult would it be to go in education with a CA? Do enlighten this naive young accountant. I mean… I don’t know. I’m a bit freaked out.

    • Big4Blows says:

      Summers are usually a little slower, so who knows, with this economy, it might be so slow, you’ll get laid off to keep the partners bonus at an acceptable level of $300-500K.

      Why get a CA if you want to get into education? Just an an education degree or whatever it is teachers get. Personally, as someone who used to work at a Big 4, the ONLY benefit you might get from a being at a Big 4 is the name behind it for when you’ve finally had enough and want to leave. Although, the only Big 4 benefit may end up fucking you over. Potential employers/co-workers will know you come from a Big4 and expect you to know your shit…when the truth is, Big 4 training consists of looking at prior year files, so you don’t learn shit, you just learn to follow what they did last year.

      If it’s not too late, don’t get into accounting, if it’s already too late and you’re stuck, I suppose at least having a Big 4 name on your resume probably looks nice, even if it’s really meaningless. Just don’t expect to be happy for the next two years before you get your CA and are able to leave.

    • Life says:

      Jose – It all depends on the engagements to which you are assigned. There are people in my office who had a nice summer and there are others who were working 55+ hours for most of the season. As a first year, I would expect to be doing a lot of administration type tasks (i.e. photocopying, faxing, preparting external files, and ticking and tying reports). You will get to do some testing, but it will most likely be obtaining bank reconcilations and tying the numbers back in forth between the GL and bankstatements and looking at the reconcilations for days depending on how many there are. I would guess you will be ordering a lot of lunch and dinners for the team and going to pick up the food. Good luck!

  364. Jose says:

    Thanks for the replies.

    to Big4Blows: I was wondering what other choices there is? Science don’t suit me at all and I had enough with it and I’m quite happy to have “left it”. And say, I don’t enter into accounting, where would I go? Finance seems just as bad if not worse and the other business degrees seem fairly worthless.

    Is it any better with smaller firms (for those who had been in it?). I guess I’m a bit scared. What about going into the private industry?

    • Big4Blows says:

      Well, I’ve never worked in a small firm before. However, from talking to friends who have, you learn a LOT more at a smaller firm. The reason is that it’s smaller, less management, so you are expected to take on greater responsibility. You’re more likely to meet the client and have the file from start to finish, whereas a Big 4, you almost never meet the client. You get the file from the manager and then pass it off to the manager without ever seeing the finished product or the client. I know people who work in a small firm and through that, have enough experience dealing with clients to go out and find their own clients, whereas many Big 4 accountants aren’t able to do that because they’ve never actually dealt with clients (except maybe calling them up and asking them to send some bank statements, etc). Like I said, the only benefit of a Big 4 over a smaller firm is the name on your resume, but if you find a small firm you like, you’ll stay there and the name won’t really matter because you won’t be leaving the first chance you get anyways.

      I think it’s changing now, but there aren’t very many private industry places where you can get your CA designation. The CA firms need to have that monopoly on CA designations or else no one would want to work in a public accounting firm, making shit pay for long hours. Realistically, most CA students would probably rather work normal hours in industry, making industry wages instead of being a slave in a firm, but they need the firms to get their CA letters and the firms need the students cause who else will work for like $10/hr(which is what it can come out to after unpaid OT?)

  365. Jose says:

    Thanks again!

    Just one last last thing.
    Just how stressful is it to work in the Big4? Its all “repetitive and menial” tasks, but does that mean it is hard intellectually wise? Is it challenging in the same way a mathematical problem is (let’s say) or is it just a basic copy & paste tasks?

    (Talking about auditing, but is it any better in tax or financial advisory?)

    Thanks again guys.

    • Big4Blows says:

      I think it can depend, it’s stressful due to the volume of work, but not due to the difficulty. It’s a little different once you hit management, but while staff and up to senior, 95% of what you will do is like monkey work. It’s a lot of doing the same thing over and over again. You run essentially the same tests. For many of your files, you’ll be just printing/scanning and imbedding it into the file and the you click a button to check mark it that you’ve done it.

      A friend of mine had a saying. We see many different client files, but it’s the same shit, different asshole.

  366. Jose says:

    well… looks like I’m not going get a summer intern afterall.
    I didn’t get any calls.

    I’m extremely disappointed in an odd way. I want to get in and this whole blog tells me “So I’m putting all this effort to go into that?”
    I don’t know. Anyway. cheers guys.

  367. AA says:

    I got a couple of interviews coming up next week for full time positions, 1 at a Big 4, and 2 at the mid sized firms, any tips would be appreciated.

  368. Depressed says:

    Work has been extremely slow since I started work 2 weeks ago after my UFE break. All I’ve done is surf the internet all day. Days seem so much longer when you have no work. But then I’m a bit apprehensive about the coming year since it will be my first year as senior. At first was pretty satisfied with my salary increase, now not so sure after seeing my first paycheque (which includes my bonus this year).

    At least I still have my job eh? Some of my coworkers didn’t get promoted but no one got laid off. We’re probably the only firm in my city to not lay any CA students off. But they cut all our benefits, pretty ridiculous stuff.

    EY just laid off another 7 CA students last week too. Apparently they failed some CASB mods. EY is tough, lol.

    Anyone super busy out there already before busy season? My busy season starts in Nov this year. 😦

  369. AA says:

    So I have to go for one of those lunch interviews with a big 4, i’m pretty nervous, any tips guys, please.

    • Big4Blows says:

      Tips for a lunch interview? Be careful what you order (no spaghetti, no alcohol unless someone orders first, and even then I’d be careful). Don’t talk with your mouth full, don’t be first to finish or the last to finish either, try and pace yourself to finish your food nicely in the middle.

      They basically want to see if you’d be able to handle yourself if you went to a lunch with a client, so common sense stuff, don’t eat like it’s your first time at the trough.

    • Sully2 says:

      To elaborate on the excellent “don’t order spaghetti” tip, make sure you don’t order anything that is complicated and/or messy to eat. You want to be able to concentrate on the conversation, not on trying to keep from spilling on yourself (stay away from soup too if possible).

  370. Tyler Durden says:

    Hey everyone, I have a couple of questions:

    I’m having a hard time getting an interview with a big4 at my school despite having:

    an internship in public accounting, a 3.5 GPA, Pretty Solid GMAT score, and a Masters in Accounting from a really good school (I don’t want to say, but lets just say its either Notre Dame, UVA, or Michigan) I also networked multiple times with the recruiters and they were all friendly to me and knew my name.

    What am I doing wrong? Is it the economy? I got reject by all 4 of the big 4 for interviews, despite what I feel are good credentials and enthusiasm. Can anyone help?

    Does anyone have any thoughts or experience on Consulting Firms that do accounting work (ie. Acctg outsourcing and Forensic work for litigation)? I have somehow mustered an interview in this field.

    I’d really appreciate any help or thoughts on this.


  371. Big4Blows says:

    Y’know what, the Big4 I used to work at offered a bunch of students job offers, then pulled the offers because of the economy. In effect, they screwed those students over because most accounting firms hire during a specific time, so those students thought they had a job and probably turned down other job offers to work at a Big4 and are now stuck without a job when most firms have already hired.

    I think forensic accounting would be really interesting and a lot more useful than what you’d learn at a Big4 anyways.

  372. Sully2 says:

    I majored in accounting and instead of following the Big 4 Route I got a job working taxes with a state Department of Revenue. Although the pay isn’t as high as I could get in the big 4 I belong to a union, which means things like a 40 hour work week actually only being 40 hours (they won’t allow us to work longer or they’d be forced to pay us overtime :), flex time that isn’t just talk i.e. we can actually adjust our schedules how we want even going so far as to work 10 hour days so we can have 3 day weekends every week, even an actual pension plan! I don’t even have to deal with angry taxpayers because I’m in the Corporate tax unit so I only deal with professionals. Plus there is the added satisfaction that comes from being a civil servant.

  373. DF says:

    So can anyone tell me what this. Basically I had an interview with a big 4, then office tour, lunch etc..then they told us we would be contacted in a day or so,- they said this at the end of lunch.

    Then I get home got an email inviting me next week to a recruitment/cocktail reception party from the firm.

    Does that mean I have made it to the 2nd round of the selection process, I gather if they were not interested they wouldn’t even email me?

    I dunno, what do those with expereince think.

  374. Krupo says:

    Congrats, assuming the firm you’re interviewing with isn’t full of menacing idiots, I would take that as a VERY good sign – any firm I know of would only invite people to an event like that if they’d like to have you!

    Good luck in the remaining rounds!

  375. DF says:

    I hope you are right Krupo, you think it will be a problem if I don’t drink at the cocktail party due to religious reasons? I’m just worried they’ll think I won’t “fit in”

  376. Religious guy? says:

    DF – I am a senior at a Big 4 in Toronto. The night before my interview, my firm took us out for dinner. Since I also refrain from drinking due to religious reasons – I ordered juice whereas a lot of other students ordered alcoholic drinks. Next thing you know, I am writing this message to you.

    The people at these firms for the most part are respectful. However, no one will even ask WHY you aren’t drinking. In case they do, you can always let them know that its for religious reasons. Otherwise, they will most likely assume that you are just being a bit professional and responsible (which is NOT a bad quality!)

    P.S. Everyone at the office nows that I don’t drink DUE to religious reasons.

  377. Religious guy? says:

    DF – and if you are still worried, just drink apple juice in a wine glass 🙂

  378. Mike says:

    I’ve been in accounting for 6 years working for a private out-patient healthcare firm in Texas. I started out @ ~$31k, am now @ $47k, and while I don’t have any qualms with the pay, or the hours (I strictly work 9-5, no earlier, and RARELY later…using the logic ‘no matter how important the work is, it’ll be there tomorrow; my family is more important’), I have a problem with other aspects of this profession.

    First of all, can we say repetitive? This whole time I’ve been reconciling accounts, sending out financials, etc. I get no joy from doing these things. While these things are important, I just get the impression that no one cares about these things unless there’s something wrong. The investors don’t care about the financials so long as they’re getting their nice distribution checks.

    Then there’s communication problems, be it someone trying to say something but can’t put together a coherent thought, or neglecting to pass information along. Boy, that makes my life fun… Or bosses who can’t remember what they said some time ago, and look at you confused like you’re making it up. And these are problems at EVERY company.

    When I started here I thought I wanted to be a CEO at some point in my life, then I saw what he had to deal with and thought “Not no, but hell no.” Well, how about CFO? Again, “not no, but hell no.” I don’t want to be making presentations to possible clients, etc. Well, what about accounting manager? What, and get stuck doing pretty much what I’m doing now, but at a SLIGHTLY higher level, and have the joy of being the go-between of accounting personnel and management?

    Somebody mentioned Excel earlier…yes. I spend more of my time working in Excel than I do in actual accounting work. Of all the accounting courses I took in college, I probably only needed about 3 or 4 courses MAYBE to get this job done.

    So, after 6 years I still get asked, “when are you going to sit for your CPA exam?” I don’t know that I want to. I mean, why? So, I can send out more financials to more jack***es who don’t care about them? So I can continue to work in a flourescent cave somewhere, sitting at a desk leading a sedentary lifestyle for most of my adult life, wearing slacks and dress shirts (at least no tie) so I can impress…someone I guess.

    Office life sucks. Accounting sucks. But, with a family to support, what the hell can I do? I’d love to move on and be able to use my God given talents and feel of some significance…somewhere. Possibly accounting wouldn’t be so bad if I were self-employed or didn’t have a good handful of dum****es for superiors…

  379. Sean says:


    I sympathize with you. It seems like your complaints are more centered around the corporate structure and office work in general. Maybe getting your CPA and starting a private practice might be the change you need?

    I agree with you though, this job isn’t very complicated at all. I’m currently a former Big 4 accountant and it is funny that they need someone with 5 years experience to do entry level work. Or the fact that they want people with specific accounting software experience when you look at job postings. I keep thinking “Excuse me? All these software packages do is electronically record journal entries!!!” The whole debit and credit structure of double entry accounting doesn’t change.

    So it boils down to how well people end up lying on their resume about accounting software experience, work experience, or how attractive their cleavage is. There are very few individuals who meet the unrealistic standards that a lot of employers want in accountants. And most of those individuals are so highly sought after that they have jobs they don’t want to leave and or will not be let go from.

    I think a big part of the problem is that loyalty has broken down between employer and employee. The employers started breaking the social contract back in the early 70’s in the U.S. and treat people like machinery. Laying off people at the hint of reduced profits. The concept of taking care of their employees with the expectation that employees will take care of the company became an outdated notion.

    Then employees started taking the skills and knowledge they acquired at one company used it to get jobs at other companies that are actually promoting their employees. Lateral moves are the only ways to get promoted in most situations now. Companies would rather pull someone in with a bunch of credentials on paper rather than someone who understands the business and its corporate culture and operations. So now there is this break down in trust. No one wants to hire and train people because they are afraid they are going to leave, yet these same employers want to hire people already trained from other companies.

    There is no base level of trust. Doing a good job doesn’t guarantee you a promotion or even job security. It’s all about social engineering and being on the radar of people with influence in the organization. Wonder how so many morons got a hold of the helm that steered the U.S. economy into the tank? It wasn’t because they were the best and brightest, or even the most morally grounded individuals. It was because they had connections and social circles. In the case of the derivatives market, these individuals didn’t know what the hell they were doing but like the fact that they were making money hand over fist and getting credit for the work.

    Accounting is tedious and dubiously rewarding when done for a faceless corporation that treats you as a human resource. But I find it is a lot more rewarding when you’re helping people face to face understand their financial situations. Maybe you should try it?

  380. David says:

    HOLY CRAP, I completly agree with you. I did big 4 and thought the same thing. People think were exagerating when we say 60-70 hour work week, but its no exageration! I was workin:

    mon-thurs 8 am – 10:30 pm,
    friday 8 – 6
    saturday 9- 4 half day lol

    I was fired, partly b/c i cant do intensive number work when im half asleep, but that was a blessing in disguise. Im now a entreprenur/ problogger/SEO consultant/internet marketer.

    Im WAY happier and I get paid based on the VALUE i provide, not simply the hours. Im in my 20’s and im making more money than i ever dreamed i would.

    To anyone reading this, my advice is if you like Public accounting, then stick it out, you will be very successful. If you HATE public accounting but dont mind accounting in general, then do 2 years and go private industry. If your like me and you HATE accounting, are not good at it and HATE public accounting, then you need to change careers immediatly.

    Getting fired was my way out, have the courage to change careers or figure something else out. Ask yourself, if you had a magic wand and could do anything and be anyting what would it be? The answer to that will help point you in the right direction.

    • big 4 alumni says:

      What I’m hearing on this thread is, “I am a little whiner and should be paid 6 figures to show up so you can bask in my glory because i finished undergrad.” There reason employers want big 4 background is because it shows you are able to perform at the highest levels, under extreme pressure, in a variety of organizations. They have for generations wanted big 4 and will continue to want big 4 until the people leaving the big 4 are not as good as the ones who have not been in a big 4.

      I did 5 years big 4, and 5 years industry.

      When these firms brag that 1 year there is like 2 years in industry I emphatically agree. I would argue in the vast majority of cases 1 year big 4 = 3-5 years small medium businesses, and 2-4 years in a full size multi-national simply because you only experience one organization. That experience multiplier is a direct reflection on heavy work load. There is a reason it seems your clients are stupid, clueless etc… that is the status quo in industry, they are not all stupid they have limited exposure and experience, you are the specialist being billed to them at a rate where one day = their week’s pay they are allowed to expect something extra ordinary for their money.

      That’s why the client staff often hate you, you a relative child mid 20s, telling a career professional what or how to do something…

      As big 4 you are the “elite” you’ve competed against literally thousands, studied many years, and you’ve shown you have what it takes to get in door. You were hired with the EXPECTATION you will be way, way better than good. You will take in stride what others think is way too hard. Take note, yes partners will bid aggressive timelines that basically will require lots of overtime. Here’s the rub, if it’s so menial and boring and you’re such hot shit why can’t you get it done between 9-5? “There’s too much volume, of menial boring repetitive” Sounds like an opportunity to automate a task, write macros, some programming, keep that in your back pocket and deliver 5 hours of value in 2 (if you know that just means getting loaded with 10 times more work don’t tell them you have it. ) Eventually leave the firm and start a company selling it.

      A lot of projects you’re not able to bill the client for the overtime time so now what you bill=what you worked.

      What is this, “I am doing my job so I should be promoted and the leadership should kiss my ass…. I did something exceptional once make me the freaking CEO.”

      To the students, understand very very clearly, in the real world doing a good job is the starting line, a good job is the bare minimum, all you deserve is to keep your job for doing it “good”, and in an economic down turn, just “good” should be fired, because there’s a line-up of “Great” knocking on the door.

      Drink the Kool-aid, constantly demonstrate those “values” and “behaviors” their sort of creepy formality and structured communications, and political correctness they go on about. What you kids are calling fake, is known in the real world as “professional”, it is the wall between who you are as a person and what your function is within a company. The client is buying a McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, Accenture resource NOT mr/mrs I’m an individual I do things my way. Do you go to different McDonalds to see how Bob makes his big mac he puts mayo on because the special sauce doesn’t match his shirt today?

      Essentially when you buy into the system you can operate within it and take from it.

      What do you want to take from your big 4 career, define that clearly, go after it, get it and then leave to other pastures.

      I would suggest what you want is to discover a specialty in your field you enjoy, and build those relationships with the clients they will be your future employers/clients if you go into private practice. Your network of clients and colleagues (even the ones that hate the work/firm) will be the greatest asset.

      Remember all those top roles at top companies that go only to big 4 alumni? That high staff turnover means in very few years you know people every where. Work the system it’s ripe for the picking understand the game because you are on the field, the score is being kept, you are subject to rules.

      As for the favoritism etc… ask yourself will you give a role on a project you are responsible for delivering to someone who cannot deliver just because you are drinking buddies? (If you say yes you’re an idiot and you’ll both be fired and rightly so.)

      Then ask yourself, If you know you are going to put in crazy hours with a team of people, and there are prospects who on paper are equally qualified, but one prospect you’ve worked with, successfully delivered with, and get along socially with, who would you choose? The finally two prospect equal in all regards, but one you can get along with socially who do you choose.

      Reality check kids and welcome to real life.

      (BTW: if you think the politics is bad in business, it’s 10x worse when you can’t keep score with $$$, all that exists is the political aspects. )

  381. Krishal Kumar says:

    I’ve worked for 1 of the big four for nearly 2 year now

    Words really can not describe how bad it is, the boredom, repetitiveness, difficult clients, difficult managers, lack of respect/appreciation, late hours etc

    Audit FML

    For those of you reading because your thinking of joining audit and wondering what its like, imagine kicking a pile of shit as far as you can.
    Auditors are professional shit kickers.

    Worse still, is when you work for an asian senior whose feeling the pressures of the glass ceiling and tells the manager/partner that the entire audit is going to shit because you didn’t do your ticking and bashing, rather than confess his/her incompetence.

  382. Cindygal says:

    This is my first year of articles at some medium-size company and I have to say…I totally hate it. I should be working guess what I’m still waiting to be given work. I think if someone wants to be a CA should do their training outside public practice (the TOPP) route. One can do this training either at some investment banks such as Investec; big companies such as UNILEVER. I’m planning to quit at next month so that I can continue with my articles else where. I f*&^*&* hate being an auditor! aaaaagggggghhhhhhhh

  383. Cindygal says:

    I still love Accounting…

  384. meshkin says:

    You can get totally screwed in any industry, any job, any company. In Big Four you are much more likely to just burn out – the wheels are turning and you have to be lucky enough not to get crushed. There are no guarantees, you can be exceptional for several years and then can have a horrible experience. Believing the ideals they brainwashed you with when you started is very important, without them you can’t do this job. I know people working 130 hour weeks, people who worked 30 hours straight, people balding, people forever single because they don’t have friends or time to have friends or dates – eventually you realize that on hourly basis you make as much as you would in a fast food establishment; you will realize that you are becoming an obese alcoholic who hasn’t seen their family on special occasions in years and then, if you are not lazy enough, you will quit. Like me.

  385. JoeS says:

    I wonder how much accountants work in France. Is it the same? I know many people (in private industry, not only government workers, but I don’t know about accountants) get long vacations there. Like 5-8 weeks. And they don’t have to work 30 years to get that much. How much vacation time are you all getting?

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  388. John says:

    Big 4 can go either way… you only stay there for 1 or 2 years, you could end up only doing very narrow work… stay there for five years, and you will likely get broader work experience but you still won’t necessarily be good at, say, being a controller because that’s not what you’ve done.

    So, top accounting employers for the top jobs in industry want accountants with both big 4 (or large national) AND top-level industry experience. Of course, 99% of the (good) accountants out there don’t have both, so usually one or the other is good enough… especially if you have some sort of specialty to go along with your general experience… for example, my boss is great at both ACCESS AND EXCEL…i mean he’s awesome … runs queries from a DB2 database which flow into access and into excel… macros galore…great SQL skills…if you have those kinds of skills, you can go far in certain roles.

  389. Young Accountant says:

    I’m 22 and have 2 audit offers. One is a Big 4 offering approx $47,000. Other is a Regional offering approx $56,000. Benefits are similar, and hours are probably similar. Both are in the same city (slightly higher than national average.) Should I take the money and be happy with it or go for the “experience” at the Big 4 that everyone says is important for my future career? I know this is limited info, sorry. Thanks for any feedback!

  390. Big4Blows says:

    Well Young Accountant, it depends on what you want out of your career. If you plan on getting into industry once you get your designation, I would say take the Big4 because you have the name behind you once you start looking at industry.

    If you think for some reason you’ll actually enjoy being an auditor, then I’d go with the smaller one. You’re more likely to learn more there.

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  392. Young Accountant says:

    Hmm good point. After reading some of this forum it sounds like everything in the corporate world sucks. I wish I read these honest opinions from people in the real world before I switched majors from criminology. Are those of you in industry really happy now, or is it the same boring work with just less hours? I wish I had the guts to start my own business.

  393. Kate says:

    So maybe I’m asking the wrong people here since many of you are very unhappy and come here to vent.
    But, can somebody give me advice on how to get my first accounting job?
    I’ve been trying for 4 years to get at least an internship.
    I just graduated 3.5 gpa, bachelor of accounting.
    I seem to get passed over for no related experience.
    I try to volunteer, and get passed over for same reason.
    I try temp work, and get passed over for same reason.
    I don’t know anybody related to the industry.
    I try to meet people but nobody really takes me serious since I don’t really have anything interesting to offer.
    I worked as a customer service representative for Verizon for four years.
    I quit recently to move with my husband who transfered fire departments.

    Is there a secret handshake or code word or something?
    I’m really starting to feel like I just wasted the last 4 years of my life.
    I don’t know if I should pursue the CPA exam or not.
    I was thinking CFA exam, but then I don’t have experience with anything in finance either.
    Maybe I’m better off this way since you guys make it sound so bad.

    • KPMG Staff Accountant says:

      Dear Kate of Post 395:

      Your experience reflects those of many people who recently graduated from accounting educations. It sounds like that you are discriminated by employers because of your age and marital status. Allow me to speak from what I see as a KPMG Staff Accountant in his 4th year of Service.

      Typically, accounting firms and accounting departments of industry companies prefer to hire interns that are in their 2nd or 3rd year of College/University Accounting Educations. Firms and companies like to hire younger students in their early 20’s because these younger employees are able to offer their employers more flexible services at lower labor costs. Also, employees in their early 20’s usually do not have much experience in workplace; they more easily managed and often do as they are told.

      If you are unable to obtain an accounting position within your college or university years, you will find it extremely hard to obtain one after you’ve graduate. I’ve done some career counselling on Campus and I realize these trends. I often advise younger students to get an accounting position as soon as they finish their 1st year of study. Once you are in 4th year, you are going to have a REAL hard time finding a job that is accounting related. To those that have graduated and are unable to find a job in the subsequent year, I would advise this individual to seek elsewhere. As a graduate of your accounting education, you’re not the only person looking for an accounting-related job. There are other accounting students who are currently in school competing with you for the same jobs. And when these students graduate, they would have a couple years of accounting experience under their belt.

      The unfortunate thing is that once you’ve graduated, and still have no accounting-related experience, you are pretty much guranteed not going to find an accountant job at this point, be it within public practice or within the industry. Do you think any company would want to hire someone in his or her late 20’s or early 30’s for junior or trainee position? Obviously not. If you were a profit-maximizing company, you would want to hire someone young, preferably single and without much family obligations. You will find this same mentality in almost any financial-related occupations, except in Medical or education.

      Feel free to reply to this post if you have any questions.

  394. Big4Blows says:

    I wouldn’t waste my time taking any exam until you have a job lined up Kate. It’s pretty expensive to pay it yourself, and without the experience behind you, having the letters is meaningless.

    Wish I could give you real advice on how to land a job with a Big4, but the truth is, I was just at the right place at the right time. I was recruited while eating at a fast food restaurant if you can believe that. I was working in industry, hated it and by chance the lady beside me was working at a Big4, overheard me and that’s how I got my break.

    I think it depends on where you apply also, Big4 have their pick of the litter, everyone wants to have that name on their resume. Try the smaller firms, they can give you the same experience and they usually have less candidates to choose from…or take it as a good sign and do something you’ll actually enjoy.

  395. BIG4inNYC says:

    How long has the job search been going on for you in the accounting industry? I know that it’s tough out there but I don’t really agree with the idea that this might be a “sign” to pursue something else. I mean, you obviously graduated (with a very solid gpa) and all that time and effort certainly should not go to waste. To be honest, nobody really “enjoys” accounting but it’s really not the worst career out there. I work in the hedge fund industry side in a Big 4 and have recently been seeing very high turnover… people moving onto muuuch better paying jobs and better work/life balance. 80% of the 1st-3rd year associates here do not view themselves as long term Big 4 employees. It’s basically a steeping stone because it really is golden to have that name on your resume. I was able to land my current job through my school’s co-op program. I completed my MBA in accounting after undergrad and was able to land my first internship with a Big 6 and then with 2 Big 4’s, so 3 consecutive summers i interned, finally accepting an offer with my Big 4 of choice. I would only tell you to pursue something else after entering the accounting field and completely HATING it.
    Best of luck!

  396. Smallbizconsultant says:

    I am and I know many ex big 8 then 6 now 4 players. None of us work in industry anymore. Most are consultants. We are all are burned out and want no more of the CFO world. Acounting burns you out. No one is passionate about it. It does open doors, pays the bills and allows for flexible life style if you want to become an consultant, but then that requires the experience. I would recommed getting your MBA in an area/industry that you are interested in using your accounting education as an ‘in’ to a job. Most MBA’s do not have that advantage..

  397. WornOut says:

    It seems people only are focused on the long hours….

    What about the travel out of town?

    This year I have travelled over 65 nights…

    Anyone care to compare?

  398. soon to be big 4 no more says:

    You’ve got me beat “WornOut – I’m only at about 60. However, I’ve got another 40 consecutive in January through March. That doesn’t bother me as much as the never ending busy season hours and the fact that nobody respects how much you sacrifice for the firm unless your lips are blistered from kissing the partners’ bottoms so much, which I flat out refuse to do at the expense of my own career. Don’t get me wrong – although I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal or family time for my firm anymore, I don’t regret my time in Big 4. However, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to regret leaving either.

  399. Kevin H says:

    It’s unfathomable that this post would generate so many comments. I too have just started at a Big 4. I’m about three months in and I too feel similar thoughts to the author about the industry, but I feel like it would be worthwhile to stick it out. Yes, we learn a lot of useless stuff, but just being able to work in that kind of environment makes you stronger.

  400. I feel the same way. Glad to know I’m not the only one. Right now Im just waiting for the one year mark, and then Im off to apply for other jobs. I dont even want to get the rest of my CPA hours here. Theres nothing they can do to motivate me to stay and take all this emotional abuse, not unless they doubled my paycheck.

    I dont know how people stay for so long. Maybe Im just weak….

  401. Big4Blows says:

    I think the reason a lot of people stay at a Big4 for years is that at the end of the tunnel, they see themselves leaving with a padded resume.

    I have a friend who has been in a Big4 for the past 3-4 years. His only goal is to stay long enough to make manager there, then bail out. The way he sees it, a manager at a Big4 makes probably $75,000 or somewhere around there. As a senior accountant (which he currently is), he can go into industry and probably make $75,000 now, but if he waits another year and makes manager (like they have promised him), he can then leave for industry and with Manager at a Big4 on his resume start off at $100K in industry.

    There are definitely benefits in having a Big4 name on your resume. We know how bad the training is, but those who haven’t gone through a Big4 don’t know that, so they pay a premium for knowledge we supposedly have. When I left Big4 and went into industry, I got a $20K increase. I wasn’t a manager or even a senior yet (a few months away from getting promoted to senior). Having that name on the resume does make a difference, it’s just torture to stay long enough to have that name on your resume.

    • EfPdubs says:

      I have 2 years under my belt at a Big 4 firm, and have hated for the last year. Stuck it out anyway, but now I am at the point headed into busy season, that I don’t think I can make it through. I wake up late almost everyday because I seriously get sick thinking about my job in the morning. It pisses me off because the people I work with are generally good people, but the work, hours, and deadlines are ludicrous. The better job I do the more work I get. And when I do want to slack off, the higher-ups make me feel guilty about it. Anyway, done ranting for now but I do have a question for you:

      Did you have your CPA before leaving for industry, and also where did you get a new job with a $20k increase?. By this I mean, what type of position did you apply for? I am desperately searching for a new opportunity so that I can restore some social order to my life. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

      • Big4Blows says:


        I just got my designation as I started looking for work outside of the Big4 firm, so I technically had no post designation experience…but industry doesn’t really care too much. Honestly, the ONLY thing you get out of a Big4 is the name on the resume. They saw that I had Big4 experience AND I was designated, I even told them during interviews, I was newly designated within a few weeks.

        As far as what positions I applied for, it was basically senior level and up and I lucked out and got management level…and let me say, management in industry is different than management in a Big4. I get paid the same or better, BUT I leave at 5 every night (no OT required) and while I’m steady busy, I’m not swamped/stressed/overwhelmed/pressured to meet budgets.

        You want my advice, you have your experience of 2 years, why stay any longer? Unless you want to eventually make management at a Big4, what’s the point of staying 5 years?

  402. Disillusioned says:

    I’m an audit senior at EY and it is seriously a deathtrap of a job sometimes. I’ve got the designation finally, but it is hard to look back over these three years and see the loss of my social life, physical well being and spirit. Everyday it feels like you are one step away from f*cking up. I used to think that it was me, that I just wasn’t up to par. But it seems like the ideology of the place, as if nothing one does is ever good enough. I believe many people who do well at these firms are are delusional or sociopathic, or both.

    What is wrong with the Big 4 is what is wrong with the entire corporate infrastructure here. People are being coralled into the corporate world and forced to work excessive hours for some undefined future payoff. The result is poor quality work due to exhaustion, a lack of creativity from too much indoctrination and too little thought, and no sense of community support due to no time being available to develop social ties. It is a recipe for disaster for our economies – there is no revitalization.

    I have no idea where to go from here. I wonder if the “great opportunities” after the Big 4 are simply more mirages in the desert or whether there are actually sane places left in business where the point of life isn’t work. The morality pushed on Big 4 staff is the morality of slaves.

  403. JSan says:

    Based on reading virtually every single thread posted here, I have a question to pose to you. Everyone on here is looking for a better work-life balance. Which accounting jobs and which companies offer this? Is internal auditing the way to go, or is financial reporting an option offering a more balance? Should I go with a Fortune 500 company, or is a privately-held middle market company a better fit? I’m sure some people here have “graduated” to better jobs, so I’m curious as to what has worked and what hasn’t.

  404. Welll.. nice article to read. The new year is coming and make resolution hapen.

  405. Nick says:

    Does anyone here know what the anonymous accountant is up to these days? Is the anonymous accountant still grinding it out at a big four? Or did they leave? I can see that two months in they hated it, what about 2 years in? Can’t seem to find any recent posts

  406. Dave says:

    I have a question for everyone: I know having a big 4 name on your resume carries clout, but does it matter where the office you work at is located? For example, if I could work at Ernst & Young in Charleston, WV, would that carry less weight than working in a E&Y located in Richmond, Va, or, for that matter, New York? Thanks!

  407. Ben says:

    After 3 yrs in the biz, I’ve begun writing a novel about a dejected CPA at a big four firm. Please help me develop a “list of ground rules that everyone would be expected to follow if I ran the firm”. Basically I’m looking for phrases you are sick of hearing and things you wished would be different. Here is the list so far; please add to it:

    1. Never “Touch base” with anyone.
    2. Never “Reach out” to so and so.
    3. Never look at things from a “control environment prospective”.
    4. Never take a “best practices approach”.
    5. Never pretend that the company gives a fuck about the “work-life-balance” of its employees.
    6. Never declare that we are “spinning our wheels”.
    7. Never “Incentivize”; it’s not a fucking word, and call it what it really is, “Coercion”.
    8. Never speak of “Actionable items”.
    9. Do not tell me at a meeting that you will answer my question “offline”.
    10. Swearing is allowed at my firm (including taking the Lord’s name in vain).

  408. BIG4inNYC says:

    My two all-time favorites are:
    1. “It is what it is”
    2. “At the end of the day…”

  409. Giving accounting another shot says:

    Thankyou to everyone for these postings. I now have a clearer picture of the public accounting profession, even after 2 years of tax accounting myself.

    I entered the profession thinking of job satisfaction, secure employment prospects and great monetary reward – only to become disallusioned by a work culture I never understood until now.

    I experienced much the same as what has been posted here. The things that bothered me the most are:

    – The ridiculously low starting salary $35K – $38K AUD.

    – If you don’t fit in with the drinking & social culture you have a tough time getting help from collegues. I made the mistake of getting offside with one of my team members only to have the other members side against me as well. I kept my working relationship with them professional and courteous no matter how offensive they were. It was very difficult.

    – My charge out rate being 5.5 times more than my salary paid hourly rate.

    – Making me accept a bonus component in lieu of a salary increase based on performance (budget) and other key performance indicators. I was denied my bonus even though I was ahead of budget. I was thanked for the extra hours I put in but my profficiency had not improved – I needed to work faster ..WT#? No offer of extra training & support! It was expected that after 2 years I should be at certain level..there was no questioning the quality of training I had received.

    I resigned. Luckily I had seen the warning signs and had taken steps to secure another job offer. It did make me self doubt myself whether I had the talent to make it as an accountant. I actually enjoy tax accounting and thought that before I throw in the towel I should try another accounting firm. And armed with the tips obtained from this site I think I will have a better chance next time round.

    My advise for those seeking to pursue the accounting profession:

    Choose the firm right for you. At your interview really probe the type of work culture – ask what is expected from you. The training process – will there be a mentor you can rely on. How to effectively charge out your time. How will your performance be measured.

    Again thankyou very much.

  410. Lost in CPA says:

    I work at the middle size CPA firm and I think someone should make a TV series out of auditor’s work and CPA firm office politics. Who said accounting is boring? Not when you are an auditor. There is plenty of action and suspense. Clients (rude, crazy, lazy, stupid, in denial, criminal minded, or all of the above) who want you to drop dead in the first minute they see you. Partners who can make you disappear (from your cubicle) forever just because they were in bad mood at the moment. Audit teams, all dressed in black, loaded with computer gear and black boxes on rollers, constantly departing to the client’s location, and returning back. With the same never changing strenuous and puzzled face expression. As if they have seen the ghost. On a regular basis.
    I applied for auditor’s job to learn accounting. And I guess I was right. Maybe because I was not hired by Big4, which is a different story. To me, becoming an auditor is like asking to be taught how to shoot the gun but instead being sent to Vietnam War. If you survive, you return with emotional and physical scars for the rest of your life, but you will be able to do so much more than just shoot well. You will never be the same, and the majority of the people (read -accountants) to you will be helpless and pathetic civilians.

  411. kidrobot says:

    Like many here, I am comforted by the fact so many others out there realize this job for what it is. A soul sucking, physically and mentally degenerative disease on the quality of life itself. I pursued this profession because account, itself, is fascinating. The bureaucratic, annal retentive, program and form filling bullsh*t that accompanies it was NOT what was I signed up for.

    I submit this letter that was sent around my office from a supposed former PWC employee. Enjoy!

    “As many of you now know this friday will be my last day with PwC so I

    wanted to say good bye and thank you for everything. My decision to

    leave was not a snap decision as it may have seemed but a well thought

    out process. It started one night in the audit room as I was helplessly

    attempting to focus on some inane, completely irrelevant task so I could

    leave when the green card carrying cleaning lady came into my cage to

    empty my garbage when my decision was made. I realized that I was

    actually jealous of her job. I would have gladly emptied the garbage

    cans in the whole building over any of the nonsense I was doing on my

    computer. See, at the end of her shift she has made a difference, she

    has added value,

    be it minimal, of removing the refuse from the employees cubes. At the

    end of the day she sees the empty garbage cans and knows that she

    accomplished something. When trying to apply this mindset to my own work

    I found it to be impossible. At the end of my shift, I will have

    documented a control, that was only created for the sake of having a

    control, and my work will

    get picked apart by anal retentive managers, but ultimately find a home

    in a cabinet somewhere, only to see the light of day again when it is

    thrown out in 7 years when it is deemed to be irrelevant. I have added

    zero value to the client, zero value to my own company, and it has made

    me routinely daydream about ways to off myself. I find it very hard to

    be motivated when I know the end result of my work has no impact on

    anything but simply must be completed because PwC audit guide says it

    must be completed.


    makes this entire process worse is the fact that those around you insist

    that this work is crucial to the world’s existence and it is essential

    that you never use abbreviations, that your sheets must be as colorful

    as possible, and all lines must be drawn with a ruler or else it is

    clear that PwC will come apart from its hinges. I must have missed out

    on the brainwashing session that PwC provided all senior associate and


    that taught them how to turn obsessive compulsive up a notch.

    Anyway…that was how I came to decide that public accounting was not

    really for me. A couple other pieces of adivce for my coworkers and the

    company as I part:

    I would greatly encourage some kind of weight loss challenge to be

    implemented firm wide. The herd of water buffalo you call your work

    force is embarassing and a bit gross. When I call a co worker over from

    2 cubes down and they are legitmately out of breath when they get to my

    cube it may be time to knock off 10 or 80 pounds. The company seems to


    this obesity; each busy season we get a giant package full of pixie

    sticks, chocolate and assorted sweets. As much as I would enjoy type 2

    diabetes, I think I’ll pass.

    Do not ever, ever, ever put one male on a team with all females unless

    you want him to quit and or commit a hate crime. This is inhumane. One

    can only endure so many conversations about greys anatomy, weddings, and

    handbags before they wish for a cancerous tumor in their armpit.

    I think the joke is old already, enough with the sarbanes oxley. It was

    fun while it lasted but there is no way anbody can honestly think that

    this bullshit is necessary. Oh you want me to pull a sample of the HR

    file to make sure everyones birthday and hire date is accurate? Yea ill

    jump right on that, and trust me I’ll definitely let you know if there

    is an exception and not just make up answers that result in me doing

    less work.

    You can easily cut some costs and get rid of the HR department. I’m

    pretty sure you can train a monkey to send out the available list and a

    timesheet reminder every two weeks.”

    • Rick Downing says:

      KidRobot, I got many laughs out of your post. I hope you found a job that you find more rewarding. I too felt the same way about the janitor that came into my office. Money isn’t everything in life.

      People weren’t meant to sit 14 hours a day on their can. Sure you can do it, but most will find the pounds stack on over time. God gave us a body to physically use. Use it or lose it.

  412. CPA/MS/4.0 says:

    I recently got offers from all big 4 accounting firms in the audit side.

    They were all less than what my girlfriend, who is still in college, makes as a manager at Victoria’s Secret.

  413. To #414 says:

    How much does your gf make at Victoria’s Secret??

  414. screwoff says:

    At 409 Ben:

    1. Never “leverage your time.”

    2. Never “find the best person for the job” (ie, some poor bastard in India getting paid even less than us).

    3. Never “build a network.”

    4. Never “take responsibility for your own career.” Bullshit.

    I work in Big 4 as a tax staff. I hate it and hate my life.


  415. Entering accounting says:

    Wow some intense stuff here.. I have an useless undergraduate degree and am preparing to get 51 credits and enter CA route. Looking at all those comments, I wonder how about just going for CGA and then convert it for CA after you got a CGA?? If they need 1000 hour audit experience, just go to big 4 for a year to do that. Or just work for a smaller firm for CA. What’s the thoughts on that?? My view is accounting is just another profession so you should just look at as work and do it, but earning an equivalent of $10/hour seems horrendous. The only job I earned that little is telemarketing which I did during university (i’m sorry but just being honest here).

  416. Sardaukar says:

    #417: Pardon my bluntness, but you’re a bit naive and overoptimistic. I’ll be honest with you too.

    “If they need 1000 hour audit experience, just go to big 4 for a year to do that” -> that is precisely the exact problem facing many CA-wannabe’s fresh from college. It seems that you have no idea how hard ann competitive to get into a CA firm, let alone a Big 4. It is even worse for you, especially, since you have a totally irrelevant undergraduate degree. So what if you have completed 51 credits? In the eyes of a Big 4 recruiter, what makes you think you can compete with par with B.Comm students who have just spent their last 2 or 3 years studying accounting and business? Why would they hire you, one with no exposure to business, over a B.Comm major?

    And about CGA -> it’s not that easy to get, especially since you have no business background. It will take you years to get your CGA license, and the course material is very difficult and TECHNICAL. It’s not as easy as you think.

    btw, I’m financial auditor for a Big 4 in Toronto. And yeah my life sucks cos it’s busy season.

  417. Entering accounting says:

    Hi, sardaukar, thanks for your input. Yeah you are right. Having a non-business degree is what I regret a lot, if what you say true, I might just get another business degree all together. I know some CAs who are extremely successful in the industry after getting CA designations – one guy is making 150k /year in porfolio management in a major company after CA – so I know it definitely opens many doors. I guess I was a bit naive to think something like a diploma will get me into a CA firm, so hopefully a second business degree could land at least an internship. But the fact that you’ll never run out of jobs after you graduate makes me think that all the extreme hard work during articling may be well worth it in the end. (but that’s just my opinion who is for now an outsider)

    • Freddy says:

      just curious…how many years after his designation was he making 150k? at a major bank? job title is portfolio mgr?

      • Entering Accounting says:

        I don’t know much about it.. It was my former boss’s friend. He went to work for government audit and a big 4, but apparantly failed UFE for 3 times. Then, after he got CA, he got an offer from a famous chocolate maker, and somehow he got a position managing investment portfolio for the company. That’s all I know. He’s 33 now by the way.

  418. Krupo says:

    @whoever thinks you end up making $10/hour, that’s just silly. That would assume someone’s working 3000 hours a year and earning $30,000. The absolute worst overtime will head towards 3k – keep in mind that’s roughly 60 hours a week all year long. But most people start in the 40-50k range, depending on your local market. Worst case scenario hourly rate would therefore be $15/h, and for most people it works out to a base of $20 if not significantly more once the pay raises kick in after year one.

    @Entering – I invite you to check out these forums for additional insights. Sardaukar is wise to keep you savvy to the challenges you’ll face, but at the same time, it’s not entirely impossible to “make it” either. http://www.mycasite.com/for_web/index.php

    Salary survey results and more good stuff recently posted under the “Recruiting” forum.

  419. Sardaukar says:

    Entering: I started off in electrical engineering, got the degree, and then spent another 1.5 years to get a business degree (1.5 years due to transfer credits from my eng degree). I managed to pack all 51-hour CA credits into that business degree. Since I made sure I completed my business degree at a Big 4 “target” school, I landed a summer internship offer after my 1st year, and then a full-time offer followed after graduation.

    I don’t know which field you studied, or how much you know about accounting/public practice, but I advise you to find out just what CA is about before jumping in and investing in another accounting degree. Just because “you’ll never run out of jobs after you graduate” doesn’t mean CA is the right path for you, if you hate auditing/accounting in the first place! Talk to CAs in the industry, find out exactly what they do. Do NOT skip this step, since it doesn’t seem like you know very much about the field of accounting.

    But, if you are certain you want to get CA, then doing another business degree wouldn’t be a bad idea. You’ll have to get the CA courses done anyways, might as well do it at a “target school” where the Big 4 recruit heavily, to increase your chances of employment.

    Remember, The CA courses are doable with hard work. The first and most difficult step is to get a CA firm to hire you. Without this, it would be impossible to get the CA.

  420. D&T Fan says:

    lol. that’s what u get for being unable to use the word “write” correctly and for whipping out other monsters like “irregardless.” i suspect you are grossly overpaid.

    you auditors crack me up!!!

  421. Entering accounting says:

    Thanks Krupo and Sardaukar for input. I got a degree in science field, and now trying to get a business degree in one and a half year as well. Which school do you refer to when you say “target school” that allows you to get a degree in 1.5 years, Sardaukar? I am choosing York (not schulich) b/c they have such a wide range of courses available every term. I don’t know any other school that have every business course in the summer, fall, and winter, or let you graduate in less than 3 years.

  422. Sardaukar says:

    I went to U of T.

    As mentioned, the reason I graduated in such a short time span was because I had a lot of transfer credits from my electrical engineering degree (also done as U of T) to my commerce degree. This allowed me to focus entirely on finishing up my CA courses without worrying about the electives required by the business degree.

    By the time I started full-time at Big 4 audit, I was still 2 courses short… I completed them right before the CKE (had to ask for approval from ICAO for that).

    York is a target school as well, but Schulich is by far more reputable than Atkinson, in the eyes of Big 4 recruiters. I would recommend you to get into Schulich if you can for the business degree. Among my colleagues who went to York, a great majority of them were in Schulich. Only one of them went to Atkinson.

  423. Sardaukar says:

    @ Entering,

    Oh yeah, in case this still hasn’t been drilled into you by now after all these posts: if/when you get into Big 4 as a financial auditor, you WILL be working your ass off. By that I mean, it’s no longer about how many hours you work — it’s about the amount of work you get done. If the work is not done, you don’t leave — get ready for a long night with late pizza dinners. And depending on your clients, such austere working environment may not be limited to busy season. Some unfortunate souls are stuck in “perpetual busy season” where they bust their asses all year-round; this typically happens to senior accountants and above.

    You may leave home at 7AM and come back at 9/10PM. You may well be working 12 hour days (or more), including Saturdays. That will be your life for 3 years. Be sure you understand this.

    Your friends, family, spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, will all play second fiddle to the “needs of the team.” This is a very basic expectation that most supervisors have for incoming staff; as a result, don’t expect a big hug from your manager at the end of the engagement where he or she thanks you for your sacrifices. Most managers and partners have been in the same place as the staff and were shown no mercy, and as such, don’t really feel any regret or remorse in making you work until 2:00 AM, even on your birthday. A lot of them will not care if your relationships are falling apart because you can’t spend any time with your loved ones. Prior commitments to all non-engagement related events also go out the window.

    To summarize, these are the high-end obstacles that you face in your current situation, from someone (me) who were in your shoes a few years ago. It will be a long path.

    1) Get into a target school for business undergrad (do NOT go to MMPA).

    2) Do well in your courses — well enough for you to stand out in the eyes of Big 4 recruiters. I landed the internship after my first year, and my CGPA at that point was 3.74. I’m fairly certain they called me in for interview because of my GPA, and possibly because of my Electrical Engineering degree.

    3) Land a Big 4 internship after your first/second year. After you get the internship, you will have a full-time offer secured, provided that you don’t screw up.

    4) Pass all your exams — CKE/SOA/UFE — in your first time of full-time employment.

    5) Survive 3 years of Audit Hell, shoveling shit for Big 4. For me this is the toughest part. The number of hours a financial auditor works is *insane*.

    Only after you succeed in ALL of the above, will you become a CA with Big 4 experience.

  424. Entering accounting says:

    Hi, Sardaukar, thanks for the tips! Now I know how tough working at Big 4 is. And I’m surprised to hear you shouldn’t go to MMPA, as I was thinking of applying there (looked like a good program). Is there a particular reason?

    I, too, did science at U of T St George w/ pretty good GPA, but I did it b/c I’m asian background and all they say is to go become a doctor. I regret not going to business school from the beginning, but it seems doing a specialist in U of T (any campus) would require at least 3 more years even with basic 1st year econ and math transfer credits, b/c of higher level course prereqs. I’d kill for a UT Bcom but I might have to settle for York BAS

  425. Entering accounting says:

    Hi Sardaukar, I can’t for the life of me figure out how you managed to get a BComm w/ doing mostly only the CA credits without doing ECONs and marketing, and all other business courses.. and managed to fininish in 1.5 years. Did you major on ECON or something on the side??? Rotman only allows 5 credits for transfer and UTSC seems to ask for 17 full credits for the degree. I just don’t have any ideas how you pulled it off…

  426. Sardaukar says:

    @ Entering: MMPA is very expensive, but only a very small percentage get into Big 4. I know because I have a friend who went there. He was also my classmate in Engineering — and right now he is unemployed, even though he passed the UFE this year. He did work at a small CA firm, but he got laid off during the financial crisis. Trust me, MMPA is not something worth doing.

    Besides, Deloitte has stopped recruiting at the MMPA program entirely. Shows you how “highly” regarded MMPA is among the Big 4. Don’t go there.

    I am Asian (Chinese) too. Also, I didn’t do a B.Comm…. I did a Honours Bachelor of Arts MAJORING in Commerce and Economics (they don’t allow majoring in Commerce anymore now though, so you’re out of luck if you want to go my route). I did not a Specialist in Commerce (ie. B.Comm).

    But by now I’m sure you know, as well as I do, that U of T’s “specialist” programs are utter bullshit: it’s the only Ontario university that has these “specialist” programs so that nobody outside of U of T, including most employers, know the difference between “specialist” and “major” anyways. If anything, “double-majoring in Commerce and Economics” sounds a lot more impressive than a “specialist in Commerce,” to most people and companies, because nobody knows what a Specialist program really is.

    I took economics courses as my electives for engineering degree, so all ECONs were taken care of. I did have to take marketing, but that’s only one half-course. The rest were all CA courses.

    Besides, I took 6 credits during the normal year, and took summer courses as well. That was how I got all the CA courses done.

  427. Krupo says:

    U of T has setup its “accredited program” for a “Specialist in Accounting” which I think is lame – I prefer being a “Specialist in Commerce” who happens to have hit the 51-hour requirement. It’s mostly semantics, but hey, isn’t much of accounting a load of delicious semantics? 🙂

    I checked out the U of T and ICAO pages to quickly do the math on a “1.5 year blitz” to see if this is in fact doable – this’ll be an epic long post with commentary on the changes to Commerce since I was there a half decade ago – so I’m going to direct you my newest post at http://www.krupo.ca for the analysis if you’re curious to figure it out.

  428. Entering accounting says:

    “Specialist” is lame. I second that. A lot of ppl in arts & science graduating with specialist in useless stuff are unemployed or under employed, so there’s nothing special about it.

    Yeah, I felt MMPA was kind of fishy. That’s why I never applied. Lucky you doing ECONs as electives, I did sociology as electives, which counts shit toward anything. I don’t like the fact that those BComm degrees have so many ECON requirements that are, in my opinion, useless.

    I think with Atkinson, it’s totally possible to do your degree in 1.5 years (you just have to take 6 courses a term for 5 terms consecutively including summers). I think it’s also possible to do it in 2 years in UTM, taking 6 courses and a summer. Incidentally that’ll be probably what I’m going to do. Hopefully UTM is more of a “target school” than Atkinson..

  429. Krupo says:

    Love the flow of information – I had to run an edit to my post after seeing comment #428 pop up on screen. 🙂

    #430 – dude, economics is where it’s at. It’s the difference between being a shoddy bookkeeper, and someone who understands something about the way the world works. Or at least how it’s SUPPOSED to work, anyway. c.f. my epic rant on not including Economic History in the “Accounting Specialist” stream – http://www.krupo.ca/archive/2010/02/07/can-you-get-your-51-ca-credits-in-a-year-and-a-half.aspx . 😉

    Depending on which firms you’re interested in working for, UTM and Atkinson would both be considered target schools. When you’re leaving the GTA that’s where you have to be more careful about where you’re applying for a CA prep program.

  430. Entering accounting says:

    Krupo:: I read your post. I laughed when you said you can petition and take 7 courses 🙂 Somebody has to be insane to be taking 7 courses

  431. Sardaukar says:

    Krupo: Have read your post. Wow… kudos to your actually taking the time to work out the details of how to complete CA credits in 1.5 years.

    Yes it was a bit of work, but believe me, Commerce was nothing compared to what I had to go through in electrical engineering. The whole business undergrad was sort of a walk in the park compared to engineering. And I had SO much fun doing it… meeting non-nerdy girls in my classes for once, and partying every weekend.

    Oh yeah, @ entering, another reason not to do MMPA: your time spent in business undergrad will be much more enjoyable than doing MMPA with a bunch of “old” people. Undergrad always beats masters programs in terms of having fun and getting work done at the same time.

  432. Sardaukar says:

    #431: And I second Krupo’s opinion that Econ is “where it’s at.” @ Entering, Economics is so useful in understanding how businesses operate, and gives you a big picture of how the whole world really works. Not to mention that when it comes time for you to invest your hard-earned money to turbo-charge your rate of return on your capital (after you’ve been working for a number of years and saved up some $$), knowledge in economics will be pivotal. Rotman has indeed made an idiotic move by imposing on Commies such restrictions regarding economics credits.

    It’s ironic that they have removed MACROeconomics from the curriculum, because I find Macro to be the *most* useful economics course I have ever studied.

    Economics is far from being useless, Entering. If you do enrol in business undergrad, use that opportunity to get familiar with economics.

    And Krupo, one more little detail that I forgot to mention: I also took Intro Accounting (MGT120) in my final semester of engineering. While for one to take MGT courses one must first be accepted into Commerce, MGT120 was the only course that *any* student from *any* discipline could enrol in.

    So when I was officially admitted as a Commerce student, I was already eligible to take the more advanced accounting courses (MGT220, MGT223, MGT224, MGT393 — Financial Accounting, Intermediate Financial Accounting I, Management [“Cost”] Accounting and the Legal Environment of Business). The current course codes, of course, are different since UT Commerce is now under “Rotman.”

    As already mentioned, I had to do Income Tax II and Computer Auditing after I started full-time at Big 4 — and completed them right before the CKE.

  433. Andrew says:

    After graduating with an Economics degree and feeling pretty directionless, I was strongly considering going back and getting a Master’s in Accounting. I figured I could take out loans, go to grad school full time and intern at a big firm during breaks.

    I happened to stumble upon this thread and it really opened my eyes as to how awful working in public accounting can be. I was decidedly less enthused with the accounting profession that I was considering, and put a hold on any major accounting grad school plans.

    I’m glad I did. I stuck it out a little longer and recently got lucky – I was selected for a job in the government that pays better and is a solid 40 hour work week. I give the posters here credit for telling us like it really is, therefore helping me not make a huge, expensive mistake.

    • undergrad student says:

      Andrew I’m about to start my Economics & Accounting major in the fall; do you know if I can find some other job other than accounting with that major?

  434. Andrew says:

    Just to clarify, I don’t mean that entering the accounting profession is a mistake. I mean that it would have been a mistake for me personally – I was attracted to the field because I didn’t have any real direction and it seemed safe and lucrative. Not good reasons, in hindsight.

  435. Freddy says:

    Hey guys,

    wondering if someone could break down the salary structure in accounting…assuming its in toronto, CA after 3 years at big 4, then transfer to industry…just general ranges if possible


    • KPMG Staff Accountant says:

      Dear Freddy of Post 437:

      I have no idea who Stefano is, nor do I know about his agenda. What I do know is that Stefano is a (Staff) member of myCAsite.com and his site may have been subsidized by the Chartered Accountant Association. Claims on his site simply don’t appear to be of any truth to me. Simply put, I think myCAsite.com is either a hoax or just a marketing tool for the CA Association.

      I am working for KPMG Canada, but because I am anonymous I will not say which city I am working in. Let’s just say that I work in a region that is not Toronto, but the region I work in has literally the same compensation structure as Toronto. My region is essentially a twin to Toronto in the perspective of the Big 4, ie. same working hours, same clients, same amount of staff, almost identical living expenses, etc.

      I am currently in my 4th year with KPMG. My salary before tax is roughly around $53,000. Sounds like a lot, huh? Well, let me break this down for you. I work for an average of over 12 hours a day for 6 days a week. Sometimes I work 9 hours a day while sometimes I work 20 hours a day. Almost every week I work six days a week. There has never been a week where I worked less than five days. I average around 85 hours a week annually with no vacation. That works out to around $12 an hour.

      Also, that does not include the work I take home!!! I have to read thousands of applications each year during recruiting season, which I don’t get paid for. I have to organize and setup promotional materials during campus recruiting seasons. I have to travel to different places with my own cars for work, which I do NOT get compensated for. Nobody has the balls to ask their managers for compensation. There’s no expense account for that. Oh by the way, I pay over $400 a month to park in downtown areas where I work.

      $53,000 may sound like a lot, but when looked at on an hourly basis, that is just $12 an hour. That doesn’t include work I have to take home, or expenses I have to incur for parking and driving for work-related trips. These are just some of the monetary benefits and costs of becoming a CA. Then, we have to talk about psychic costs as well because they are quite significant. Because we work extremely long hours on our computers, most of us here have hemorrhoids from sitting for an extended period of time. We have back and shoulder pains from staring at the monitor for too long. Not only that, our eyes get really tired from staring at papers and the spreadsheets, and prolong concentration on the monitor could cause retina detachment.

      Then there are the people you are working with. Nobody you work with can be considered your true friend. They are not people you could trust on. You simply don’t make friends with your coworkers at the Big 4. We talk, we hang out after work to drink at the company’s expense, we add each other on facebook, and we say Hi to each other, but we are not friends. Speaking of drinking, none of us enjoys drinking or hanging out with each other after work, but we just do it as ritual. We actually hate each other. And there are the managers. They are the most scary people ever. They are worst than your enemies. They are your managers!!! Nuff said.

      There are only the tip of the ice berg of all the costs associated with working for a Big 4 firm. For $50,000 before tax, the pay is very shitty. The costs of working for a Big 4 is substantial. I would rather make $35,000 a year and have less expenses and stress.

      I am not sure how profitable a designated Chartered Accountant is. However, my friend’s dad owns a local CA firm. Last time I heard, his business is doing quite badly and could barely pay rent for his office. Small CA firms are generally not profitable. The mid-sized firms are actually performing not bad. Mid-sized firms could at least pay for the salary of its employees and partners. However, many mid-sized firms don’t sponsor their employees to do their CASB courses.

      I will be answering your questions one by one. Feel free to post your message at the end if you have any questions.

  436. Stefano says:

    If you’re looking for more information about the CA industry, you should check out myCAsite.com, which is an online community dedicated to helping university students interested in becoming CAs.

    To give a very high-level overview, working at a public accounting firm and becoming a CA are very demanding. However, once you qualify, you don’t have to stay in public accounting. Roughly, only 2% of people who start at firms become partner, so 98% exit at some point. In terms of jobs directly out university, a CA student is pretty good.

    Freddy – the average compensation for a newly designated CA is $72,000. You can find out more from the 2009 CA Salary Survey (http://www.mycasite.com/for_web/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=136)

  437. Freddy says:

    Also, I have been interested in the retirement lifestyle of different careers. Does anyone know what retirement is like for CA’s down the road?? For example, typical retirement age, amount saved (beyond worth of primary residence), etc.??? Statistical or anecdotal???


  438. Sardaukar says:

    #439: CA is not some sort of magical wand that bestows massive wealth upon you once you qualify. How a CA does is largely dependent on his/her own personal attributes and ambitions. Your question regarding what a “typical” retirement is like for a CA is difficult to answer because some CAs are content to work in Revenue Canada until retirement and collect handsome pensions, while others open up their own businesses or make it to partnership in an accounting firm.

    CA is simply an accreditation that you have passed the examinations, acquired the fundmental knowledge, and completed basic training — the rest is up to you, not the designation.

  439. Stefano says:

    Very well put Sardaukar

    If you have a question, I would urge you to use the myCAsite.com forum. One of the problems with this site is that it is fairly difficult to find, so this discussion (which is of value to many students) gets buried in cyberspace. You can access the forum here -> http://mycasite.com/for_web/index.php

  440. Freddy says:

    lol i guess university and the designation are just the beginning…

  441. Bob says:

    I have to say working for the big four does suck. I have worked for two, thought the second HAD to be better than the first. They call themselves a “Great place to work” – ha. Everyone slaves long hours and there is an overarching suspicion after the ‘big reorg’ in June 2008 that just makes it a terrible place to be.

  442. Sardaukar says:

    #443: What’s the “big reorg” about? And where are you located?

  443. dap says:

    this fucking sucks. I hate busy season. I’ve been working till 10PM if I’m lucky, and 12AM some days.

    They work us like donkeys. It is hard to believe so many ppl stick to it. I think I might switch accounting routes and go for my CMA or CGA instead.

    This is horrible, horrible work environment, no morale, boring work, long hours, shitty pay.

    What more is there to say..

    • Stefano says:

      That is definitely the case. But, remember, only 2% of people who start in public accounting go on to become Partners. The remaining 98% leave at some point. Once you qualify, you are completely free to leave.

      Once of the reasons I founded myCAsite.com was to (i) prepare students for the intense working conditions in audit, but (ii) remind them that there is nothing requiring them to stay. If you are looking for more support, I strongly suggest you visit the site!

  444. Fred Black says:

    Let me start off by saying I am not an accountant, never wanted to be one and would not recommend it to anyone who wants a life. My girlfriend however works for one of the big 4. This is her first year with them. I got to tell you. I hate this job. I never see her, she is miserable all the time, and when I do see her, she is too tired to do anything. She doesn’t leave work until almost midnight every single night, and she not only works Saturdays, but she has worked the last three Sundays and there is no end in sight. I find it hard to believe that she has any clean clothes, because I really don’t know when she would find the time to wash them. The big 4 woo you and make it sound like they strife to balance work and personal life. This is not the case. Don’t do it…don’s do this to yourself or you will be a walking zombi with no life. The big 4 own you, and if you figure it out, you are really only making about $10 an hour. I made that in high school.

  445. anonymous says:

    Agree with you dude…been at a big 4 for 2.5 years…but if you stay at one of these firms for 5 years, when you will leave and absolutely be making somewhere between $110-150k ny metro area. There are not that many jobs that have you making that much when youre 26-27 y/o…that being said…its so badd i dont think i will make it another 6 months

  446. Fred Black says:

    Isn’t there a law against working seven days a week without a day off?

  447. Krupo says:

    In some jurisdictions, yes. But there are also many exemptions to that rule.

  448. Diploma in Accounting Sucks!!! says:

    I am currently a Staff Accountant working for a local financial institutionn in Canada. I would like to point out some facts and lies about the Accounting Diploa Programs being offered in Canada (Such as DAP from UBC, etc).

    Many Colleges and Universities in Canada are offering Accounting Diploma programs that allow students to fulfill their CA or CGA requirements, and these programs only require a year to complete for students who already have a bachelor degree. These programs are designed for someone with an Art or Science Degree, with no B.Comm backgrounds or experiences.

    At first these Accounting Diploma programs were a success. Admission rates into the Big 4 were good high initially around 4 or 5 years ago when the economy was not too bad. However, in the past four years, many students from these diploma in accounting programs have not been able to obtain jobs in accounting firms. In fact, of the fifty people I know and talk to on facebook, only one person got into one of the Big 4 firms. Around six or seven of the people I met found an accounting related jobs in companies and accounting firms. The rest are working jobs that are completely unrelated to accounting.

    The thing with these Accounting programs designed for NON-B.Comm students is that they keep supplying the labor market with accounting graduates, but the supply of accounting jobs available have not increased at all. As discussed above, accounting firms, especially the Big 4, demand their workers to work 60-70 hours a week just so they could compensate for their lack of staff.

    Also, Big 4 firms still prefer to hire B.Comm students that are specialized in accounting than graduates of Accounting Diploma programs. Graduates of these short-term Accounting programs are for people who couldn’t make it into B.Comm during their undergraduate studies, or people who chose the wrong path in their undergrad studies. The Big 4 firms know this, and they naturally tend to avoid hiring students or graduates from these Accounting Diploma programs.

    Marketing and promotional materials of these Accounting Diploma programs often emphasize how well these programs are and how easy it is to get into a Big 4. These programs often stress that as long as you finish the courses with decent grades and have some volunteering experiences, you will make it into a Big 4. Unfortunately that is nowhere remotely true. Even finding a CGA job in a non-accounting firm is extremely hard. How dare these secondary education institutions make such bold claims.

    At this point, to maximize profit, many colleges and universities are accepting many students into these accounting programs. Even students who receive a 60% average in their undergrad degree could still enter these accounting programs. With a huge supply of accounting education graduate in the Canadian labor market, the accounting sector sucks in Canada. Trust me, there are many people who have completed the Diploma in Accounting Program (DAP from UBC) and are unable to find accounting-related jobs for over a year. It’s that sad. My friend’s girlfriend who finished her Accounting Degree at Simon Fraser University last year is STILL working at Best Buy.

    Accounting jobs are no longer what it once was. In my father’s days, accountants could make around $60,000 a year in salary. Now, even chartered accountants owning their firms are barely making that mark. Many small CA or CGA firm owners are barely able to pay for their rents. I know because my friend’s dad owns a small local CA firm.

    Of course, I am not saying that EVERYONE who completes these Diploma programs are doomed. There are a few exceptions; some people just met the right people at the right time and eventually got a job without much effort. But from what I personally see and hear, finding a CA articling position (or any accounting-related job for that matter) is not easy. Those that have a CA job want to quit. Just remember that there are other things in life than being an accountant.

  449. Max says:

    I have been in accounting for 35 years. If I had it to do all over again I would have gone to work for the us government, Right now I would be retired with a pension and benefits for life in the amount in excess of $ 80,000.00 per year.

    Do you know how much money you would have to have in a retirement account to equal that situation. And the Federal govenment will never go out of business.

    They will just print more money!

  450. Steven Johnson says:

    Max, I am not sure how easy it was 35 years ago to get a job at the US or Canadian Federal Government. Maybe finding a job at the US government 35 years ago was as easy as becoming an accountant at that time.

    These days, it’s extremely hard to obtain a job in the government organization. You have to know a lot of people and have impressive qualifications in order to get even an entry level position at the government. To grasp how hard it is to get a job at the US government, you have to realize that many of the janitors hired to clean toilets at the Federal Government buildings probably make more than many of the accountants that are ranting on this page. These people also have very good pensions too. To many, finding a job as a janitor for the US government is pretty much like winning the lottery. How hard do you think it is now to find a job at the higher level in the government sector?

    These days, things are tough for everybody. Things are so different these days for everybody. Many people who completed their accounting education have no prospect of becoming an accountant because of the lack of opportunities in today’s market. Telling people that you have worked in the industry for 35 years is like rubbing it in the face to those that suffering in today’s economic turmoil.

  451. V says:


    FIRST of all, I believe, accounting is not really a profession that is in great demand. For those of you who think it is, I believe, it’s just a dream.

    I graduated from Indiana University in 2009, apllied diligently with 60% of placement firms recruiting accounting and finance graduates, and never heard back from any of them.

    I had a 3.4 GPA, and a master’s, not a bachelor’s, in accounting. Let’s be honest, it looks as if a dying profession. I am studying for my CPA right now, hoping that that may open 1 door, not many, just one door (with that one door being ANY accounting job) for me.

    SECOND, on the point that CPA firms pay little, why do people work for CPA firms then? I am not talking about the first 2 years when new folks are trying to get their license. I am talking about the beyond time. Why would anyone ever work for a slave wage? There must be some reason…. Which brings me back to my earlier point– it seems as if the profession is not in demand.

    Email me if you wish: vince_tyco@yahoo.com.

    • Big4Blows says:

      One reason why people stay longer than they have to is just human nature, we get “comfortable” or as comfortable as you can as a working slave. We get into a routine and there’s the security of a steady pay cheque and a reason to wake up the next day.

      I still talk to people I left from the Big4, and every time I talk to them, they say how miserable they are, how lucky I was to get a management job in industry, how the next time their manager pisses them off, they’ll leave…then the next time I see them, it’s the same thing. They can’t leave, they hate the place, but don’t want to risk losing it too. Strange huh?

    • KPMG Staff Accountant says:

      Dear Vince Tyco of post 453:

      You are not the only person experiencing unemployment subsequent to graduation. The fact of the matter is that ALOT of accounting graduates are experiencing unemployment. You are absolutely correct that the accounting profession is in low demand right now. Many entry level jobs are sent over to India for number crunching. To most mid-sized industry companies this totally eliminates the needs for entry level interns. Furthermore, due to the recent economic crisis accounting firms and companies lay off people and hire less employees to perform their accounting tasks. Now we have even more people applying for extremely limited number of jobs. And remember, the new graduates are also competing in the market with experienced interns and certified accountants.

      This will eventually come to an end. And for most people, unemployment ends with a change in career path. Some of my colleagues, who were unable to find an accounting job after two years of search, eventually found jobs in other sectors. Some are working for banks, some are working in real estates. Some even started their own online businesses!!! The fact is, people who ended up not being able to find an accounting job are actually more happy than I am. As a KPMG Staff Accountant in his 4th year of service, I am perceived as the luckiest man alive. Many accounting grads could only dream of working for KPMG. However, let me tell you this… I am not happy. I work 15 hours a day for an average calculated wage of $12/hr. I have no respect from my coworkers at KPMG, my managers, and my clients. On the other hand, accounting grads who chose a different career paths are actually happy with their jobs! They work 40 hours a week, and they get paid a solid $13/hr or more!!! Plus they don’t spend $400 a month on parking in downtown areas where cars always get parking lot dents.

      People who think that I have the best job in the world at KPMG are incredibly naive. I was naive thinking that I had everything made when I received a job offer from KPMG four years ago. I thought that my future would open up with endless opportunities once I accept the offer from KPMG. But fuck me, I was wrong. It makes me sad seeing so many people are misled by the misconceptions about working for Big 4 firms.

      I have no idea why so many people are choosing the accounting path. With the high unemployment rate in this industry, the poor working enviornment, and the poor salary, only people who are badly deceived would choose this path! The marketing departments of accounting educations have led people to believe that accounting is the best profession in the world.

    • KPMG Staff Accountant says:

      By the way, Vince Tyco of post 453:

      I hope you find an accounting job soon. ANY accounting job offer you could get a hold of, do not hesitate to accept it. The longer you stay unemployed after graduation without an accounting job, the less likely you will find an accounting job.

      There’s a half-life to everything, and the half-life of accounting education is less than a year. Once you’ve been out of school for more than six months without a job in the field, you will probably not find a job in the field. There will only be more and more new graduates competing with you for the same job. And without the experience, you will not make it.

      Unfortunately, having completed or partially completed your CPA courses does NOT give you an edge over the competition. When employers are looking through hundreds of applications for one vacant position, they are more concerned about the experience of the applicant more than the certification. If you have completed the CPA courses without any hands-on experience, this doesn’t convey any positive message to the person reviewing job applications. Employers could only assume as to why you have completed your CPA courses without any work experience. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I am speaking from experience since I also served as a campus recruiter at KPMG during the recruiting season.

      It’s sad seeing so many people spent literally tens of thousands on their accounting educations and receive no practical rewards from their investments. But the reality is that there is really no demand for accounting interns out there, and only more people graduate from accounting programs.

  452. John says:

    A fag like you can get a job with the big four? You can’t even spell…wtf

    • KPMG Staff Accountant says:

      Dear John:

      Please excuse some of my spelling mistakes. I am writing all my replies here on my Blackberry (courtesy of KPMG) without the spell check function.

      So, John, which Big 4 firm are you from?

      Why don’t you offer some useful information on here instead of criticizing other people’s spellings?

      I am not a “fag” either. I have a girlfriend.

      Feel free to ask any questions you have.

  453. The Anonymous Auditor says:

    LOL! John do you know how hard it is just to even get a job as a janitor for the Big 4? The average wage of a typical janitor at the Big 4 is $10.50 per hour. Unfortunately, judging from your childish response, I don’t think you would even qualify for a position as a janitor at a Big Four company!!!

    On a less comical note, I would like to clear up any preconceived notions people may have about accountants working for the Big 4. Big 4 Staff accountants are not perfect human beings. Just like anybody, Big 4 employees are not necessarily nice people. They MAY appear nice in public events, but they are just human beings, and extremely arrogant ones at that.

    With that said, what the user KPMG Staff Accountant has been saying is 100% spot on. He clearly speaks from the bottom of his heart with no reservations. What he says truly reflects the working environment and the policies of Big Four firms.

    Instead of painting a rosy picture of the CA occupation with the Big 4 companies, user KPMG Staff Accountant is speaking the truth, as to deter anybody from choosing a wrong career path. If someone finds that offensive, or thinks that what he says is too harsh, then a CA position is clearly not suitable for this person.

    There are very little people in the CA industry that would speak from the bottom of their heart. The competition between each employee is profound, and everybody is against everybody. I find user KPMG Staff Accountant to be extremely sincere. He is here to genuinely offer help and advice for people who are interested in pursuing a CA career.

    To the internet troll that is calling KPMG Staff Accountant a fag, I hope you fare well in life. If you cannot take some of the posts this user has written, then there’s no way you could handle the office-politics and the average staff accountants inside the walls of the Big Four firms. Sorry to burst you bubble.

    Good luck!!!

  454. Bobby Lee says:

    Completed agreed. Even the janitors make around $9.50-12 an hour at Big 4 firms in British Columbia. Hell, that’s nearly as much as staff accountants and junior auditors who make an average of $12 an hour (according to many people above). Janitors have literally no stress in Big 4. They clean out garbeges, clean out the kitchens, and do some general cleaning around the offices. They also receive overtime pay at 150% their original wage (in BC). Ironic, that the janitors have better working conditions and technically better wage rate than the staff accountants.

    Oh, because janitorial tasks are considered “hazardous” by the government, janitors also have better health and insurance benefits than the staff accountants working at Big 4. Other accountants or employees have very basic health coverages compared to the janitors.

    What has this world come to?!?!?!?!

  455. Stefano says:

    Krupo sent me a post stating the following. I have tried to find this post but it looks like it might have been deleted.

    “I have no idea who Stefano is, nor do I know about his agenda. What I
    do know is that Stefano is a (Staff) member of myCAsite.com and his
    site may have been subsidized by the Chartered Accountant Association. Claims on his site simply don’t appear to be of any truth to me. Simply put, I think myCAsite.com is either a hoax or just a marketing tool for the CA Association.”

    Let me address these concerns:

    (i) I am a CA, and I have worked at both a Big 4 firm and a mid-sized firm in Toronto. I no longer work in public accounting. I work full-time on the site

    (ii) I am NOT sponsored by the CICA or any of its Provincial Institutes. This is explicitly stated on the About page and in the Terms of Use.

    (iii) My agenda is not to convince students to become CAs or join specific firms. Rather, it is to educate them and give them the information needed to make a decision that best suits them. In fact, I recently posted an article on the blog section of the forum about a student who decided not to pursue public accounting.

    (iv) All of the information on my site can be substantiated. If there is something that cannot be substantiated, please bring it to my attention and it will be corrected.

    It surprises me that you would accuse the site of some hidden agenda of helping advance the cause of the CICA or the profession without performing some reasonable due diligence. myCAsite.com is completely transparent and open. Also, we have received glowing compliments from students, CAs, professors, FCAs, etc. I hope you take another look at the site, as you will see that it is as advertised.

    I strongly recommend the people visiting this site to post on the myCAsite.com forum. This site is generally inactive and not moderated, which means that unsubstantiated comments and misrepresentations will not unnoticed.

    • KPMG Staff Accountant says:

      Hi Stefano:

      The message you quoted is not deleted; it is posted as a reply under Post 437.

      Thank you for the clarification. Not sure if you got the memo, but most of the posts above address the horrible working conditions and other negative aspects of the CA occupation.

      However, keep in mind that this wordpress blog is established so that anonymous accountants (like you and me) could address questions in an unbiased and unmoderated manner. The drawback of organized forums like myCAsite.com is that messages are heavily moderated. When policing occurs, freedom of speech is diminished.

      I find it funny that you mention about comments on here being “unsubstantiated”. Based on what standards does myCAsite.com “substantiate” posts? And where do you draw the lines for misrepresentations? Opinions and facts that do not conform to the agendas of myCAsite.com are considered misrepresentations?

      I am here to post my own experience as a Staff Accountant working for KPMG Canada. I devote my own personal time to address concerns people may have on this blog site. Unlike you, I don’t run a website that moderates and “substantiates” comments.

      I urge everyone to read the information on myCAsite.com for what it is worth.

  456. Stefano says:

    I think you are confusing ‘moderation’ with ‘censorship.’ The purpose of moderation is to ensure that comments/questions posted by people receive accurate and reliable responses, either by myself or someone else. It has nothing to do with filtering the information as related to some alterior agenda.

    The reason I built the site was to help students overcome many of the misconceptions I experienced and observed when going through the process. Like you, I was very frustrated by the long hours and terribly intense work environment of public accounting. However, in hindsight, I realize that my frustration was myopic. myCAsite.com does not hide the fact that public accountants work 50-60-70-80+ hours per week. However, as I have stated many times, roughly 2% of those who start in accounting firms eventually become Partner, meaning 98% leave at some point. Therefore, the reality is, public accounting only suits a small minority of people. Fortunately, once you get your designation, you are free to leave at any time. Of course, there is a high price to pay just to reach that time, but, seeing as careers last 30-40 years, spending 3-4 years at a firm is relatively minor. Understanding this helps to relieve much of the frustration felt when going through busy season. It is important to remember you have options, which was something revealed to me in hindsight.

    In this way, I consider the frustrations you express on this site to be “unsubstantiated.” Although they are a realistic portrayal of what staff accountants go through, they fail to acknowledge the broader picture. If a student still feels that the price of getting their designation is too high and they decide not to pursue it, I am perfectly comfortable with this. The goal of myCAsite.com is not to encourage students to go into the profession, but rather, to ensure that they have accurate & reliable information needed to decide whether to do so. The only way myCAsite.com can succeed over the long-term is if students trust the site, and if I misrepresent the profession (even for whatever possible short-term gain), it will quickly be realized that the site is of no value.

    If you still believe that myCAsite.com is somehow disingenuous, I encourage you to send me an email at stefano@myCAsite.com, and I will send you correspondence b/w the legal counsel for the ICAO (Elizabeth Cowie) and my representation (Bennett Jones LLP) that absolutely proves that the Institutes do not have any vested interest in the site, and that I am operating independently and out of my own sincere interest to help students.

    • Bill Turner says:

      Someone should kick you in the nuts! As someone who has been around awhile, been a big 4 manager, CPA, attorney, I can say you should go piss yourself.

  457. SOME Staff Accountant says:

    Hey Stefano:

    Thanks for the reply. I really appreciate it!!! I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday. I am currently in my office taking a “lunch break” right now, while writing my post on my mobile device.

    I believe moderation and and censorship have very similar meanings. Moderation is used in the context of internet forums in accordance with the policies set forth by the forums, whereas censorship is used in the media as required by authorities for political reasons.

    Either way, I apologize for speaking so quickly about myCAsite.com. Having further read some of the posts on myCAsite.com, I realize that some of the blog posts posted by other members somewhat reflect the situation I am in. I am glad to see that other students and CA members are actually experiencing what I am talking about.

    Having worked for Big 4 firms for almost four years, I feel that Big 4 firms often lack ethics. We learn about ethics in different courses in University. I feel that none of the ethics I learned is being applied in the workplace. Generally speaking, managers do not perform all the Audit procedures in gathering evidence. For example, we take data given to us without validating them. The managers don’t offer its workers any directions or help. When I was in my third month at the firm, I went to audit the inventory of a computer hardware warehouse with another auditor. We had no idea what we were doing. We simply made up numbers that we thought made sense and we left. We compiled those numbers to blend them somewhat with previous year data, which were probably incorrect in the first place, and submitted the data to our supervisor. The Supervisor didn’t even give the numbers a second look and used them. How is that for due diligence?! I can go into deeper details, but I am already too explicit.

    I just think that the CA industry is extremely corrupted. In my entire first and second year with the Big 4, I feel that I learned nothing. None of the knowledges I learned in my 2nd and 3rd year accounting courses applied to my position as a junior auditor. Sure we needed some accounting common sense and basic knowledge to perform the job, but none of the complex accounting theories applied. Heck, I am sure any warehouse workers could be better auditors than most of the “auditors” that work at Big 4. Realizing this, it now makes more sense as to why our average hourly rate is about $11-12 an hour. Our job required no special accounting knowledge and basically anybody could do the job after given some very basic training, which I did not receive.

    All the slogans at Big 4 about mentorship, life-work-balance, and hands-on training are just that: Slogans. Mentorship is literally non-existent at the firm where I work. Junior auditors are sent to the field to audit warehouses and stores without any knowledge in the field whatsoever. The seniors that know what they are doing learned on the job while they were junior auditors. Some of the seniors even advised us to do some google and wikipedia reading when we are stuck. How’s that for mentorship?

    When we complain to our managers and supervisors that our clients are lying to us about their inventory or assets, we are told to listen to what they say and they would make necessary adjustments themselves. No adjustments were ever made. A 20 year old Caterpillar crane that is rusted through is still being amortized on a straight line basis for another 30 years. What the fuck?

    When we tell our managers that I couldn’t attend work on a Saturday, I was told I could take a Saturday off as long as I could complete by tomorrow the four days work I was assigned to. That’s not good work-life balance, especially if I am being asked to work 70+ hours a week for the entire year. The only time I skipped work was when I was very sick.

    Stefano, if you claim that myCAsite.com is completely independent, I would like to see the site address some of the corruptions in Big 4 Firms. Unless you are addressing some of the serious problems of the Big 4 Firms, you are not truly helping other students to make the right decision to entering the occupation.

    • Krupo says:

      I don’t think I’ve seen any moderation imposed on forum posts so feel free to go wild there – the area where Stefano imposes control is where he himself is publishing content. Hardly censorship in any book, but rather the act of being an editor/publisher!

      Good of you to do some research and actually visit now – to avoid being that staff who runs in and yells “J’accuse” at a corporate controller, only to find out that you’re in fact not right correct with your accusation – I recommend you do check things about before you lash out with baseless accusations next time!

      Having said that, Stefano has nothing to prove to you: issuing challenges to him is petulant and childish. You will however see that myCAsite syndicates some of my posts to their forums which means topics such as the one above will be addressed by me and others from time to time.

      Look forward to the next one there, or check out http://www.krupo.ca for the tonight’s post.

      Speaking of the mentorship issues you’ve faced, there’s a wealth of knowledge online, so the idea of learning some basics from a search then following up with specific questions to your senior isn’t completely off-base – although I’d have to say it’d be rare for me to pick that option and send staff off on a wild e-goose chase instead of just sitting them down and explaining things. But that, as you can imagine, is my style and the way I was taught. Some people are better mentors than others.

      You do have to “be brave” and call people out on their shortcomings when you feel shortchanged in the learning. It’s not easy, but I’ve found if you can master the art of respectfully correcting your elders/seniors, then in any professional firm you yourself’ll gain respect by doing that. If this backfires, it’ll bring the professionalism of your colleagues into question, though – keep that in mind before you dive into a bit of hurt.

      • Bobby Lee says:

        INtense read dude…

        But yeah, I think retaliation is the only reason why many junior auditors or lower level staff choose not to report “phantom auditing” or “glaring errors” to partners or other third parties organization.

        Although it is the Big 4’s policies to not retaliate against staff who are brave enough to report their managers or partners’ lack of conduct, it would be hard for any individual to work with their superior whom they have reported against.

        I don’t know about the 4 Letter acronym Staff Accountant, Personally, currently financing two cars and living by the pay cheque, I wouldn’t risk reporting my superiors to any third party agencies. Eventually it would be traced back to me if I were to report my superior, not that I have anything to report against my bosses.

        I mean, as mentioned above somewhere, people dont even have the balls to claim auditors trip and meal expenses from the company. I doubt they have what it takes to report their managers to anybody. LOL!!!

  458. Stefano says:

    To date, I have never had someone post a comment on myCAsite.com addressing, what can be generalized as, “phantom auditing.” The reason this is the case is because approx 80% of the visitors to the site are university students/recent graduates and therefore, do not have extensive audit experience. However, if someone were to post a comment, I would certainly not delete or edit it. Rather, I would respond to it in a reasoned and unbiased manner, as I try to do with all other comments I receive on the site. I see this as “moderation”.

    Therefore, in light of your concerns, I will write a special post dedicated to “phantom auditing.” I will let you know when that is finished.

  459. Stefano says:

    I am hoping this is the starting point of a collaborative and constructive discussion to help address the concerns addressed above – http://bit.ly/cpxLhn

    I would encourage you to respond on myCAsite.com, as your comments will be much more accessible and widely read there than on this site.

    • Bobby Lee says:

      cool read stefano!!! good tips for newbies!!

      I would also like to add that the economic turmoil also has an impact on what is known as “phantom auditing”. It is apparent that firms are hiring noticeably less new junior auditors and staff accountants in the past few years. However, the workload for lower level staff has not decreased. As a result we have fewer workers doing as much work as before, if not more. When this happens works become sloppy. Two auditors are now doing the job of three or four auditors.

      It’s funny that my firm is hiring less people on the basis that the economy is not doing well, when in reality it hasn’t impacted our region or market at all. It’s almost as if the economic condition is used as an excuse to hire less people in return for larger profits for the partners. Is it coincidence that the partner of the firm I work for just purchased a brand new Ferrari F430 during periods of hiring freeze?

      • Stefano says:

        Good point… I encourage you to post this on myCAsite.com… posts on this site are essentially buried in cyber space making it difficult for people to find… myCAsite.com is actively marketed, meaning that what you just pointed out about the hiring freeze, will be read by many more people.

  460. Ronaldo says:

    I’ve been working at one of the BIG 4 for 18 months.

    I’ve found it hard to get out of bed every morning because I know I’ll be at work for ATLEAST 12 hours. I grew to hate my lifestyle more and more. My girlfriend and I broke up because I worked and still working so many hours. The reason why I can’t quit is because I have loans, mortgage, bills to pay.

    For those of you who want to quit and find something better, I suggest you do. It sucks when you have this kind of financial responsibility on you and you can’t break free. But if you don’t, quit whenever you want.

    And the thing you’ll soon realize, for those of you who are working at the shitty BIG 4, YOU become the job. What I mean by that is… at the workplace, the language you speak is accounting, the things you social about is accounting (even during lunch time), you eat it, breathe it, sleep it.

    In the meantime, I’m trying to look for something better. For those of you who have suggestions BESIDES AUDIT & TAX, please feel free to input.

    • Sardaukar says:

      The issue at hand, is that the system forces you to stay there until you complete your 30 months (or 36) to get your CA designation. Your suggestion to quit immediately makes sense, given how much pain you’re going through, but it’s not exactly easy to find another CA Training Office to take you in under the current economic climate.

      One can quit whenever one wants, as long as he no longer wants to get the CA. Otherwise, there’s no choice but to take the pain until the 30 months are up…

    • Sardaukar says:

      Even if you quit now, some day you still have to return to AUDIT / TAX in order to complete your 30 months to qualify. There’s no escape.

      Might as well get it over with, as opposed to dragging it out.

    • Bobby Lee says:

      I know, eh!

      As soon as I received an offer from a firm, I went out to finance a car. Two years into the training I bought another one when I had a raise. Trust me, 12 hours is NOT so bad. Many store clerks, bank tellers, and employees from other professions also work 12 hour shifts. It’s normal. But for me, I sometimes have to work as much as 16-20hrs. Unfortunately, because I work so much, I have no time to drive or to work on my cars, which is a shame, since I dedicated my education and my career solely make enough money to launch my racing career. From the looks of it, this isn’t going to happen. Accounting doesn’t make as much as I thought it would, and there’s no time for me to get my hands dirty, let alone go racing.

      Fuck the partners. They are noticeably getting richer from hiring freezes, while workers like us have to do more work just to afford the partners’ extremely lavish lifestyle.

      And I completely agree that there’s ALOT of corruption going on in the profession. People don’t mention it, or don’t care about it. Hell, when I was a freshman, I worked at a chain grocery store where managers steal food.

      By the way, I consider myself extremely lucky to have landed a job at a big CA training office. While many smart people with their accounting work experience, 4.00GPA, and INSANE volunteering experience can’t find a CA articling position, I got a job at a big CA firm, with practically no work experience in accounting, no volunteering experience, and a 2.71GPA. I feel sorry for those who are more qualified than I am, but couldn’t find a CA articling job.

      • Sardaukar says:

        How did you land a Big 4 position then? Did you have connections inside the firm?

  461. Bobby Lee says:

    Having a cheerful and enthusiastic application (CACEE Form) helped. Many CACEE Forms from other highly qualified Big 4 Applicants sound so mundane that good grades, good experience, and great skills don’t impress the readers. I got an interview with all four Big 4 firms because I marketed my skills effectively on the CACEE, despite having no work experience, a 2.7GPA, and no volunteering experience. The tone of the application makes a huge difference.

    Having worked as a salesperson at Bestbuy and House of Knives helped me tremendously in the interviews. I simply marketed myself as if I were a set of knives or a LCD television during the interview.

    Here’s a tip for guys applying to the Big 4. It seems that impressive grades and work experience no longer do it for the Big 4. They are looking for innovative people that can impress them on the CACEE forms and in the interviews. The key is to effectively market yourself and try to make your drawbacks appear like an asset. Literally ALL the applicants brag about about their accounting skillz and education. Little people actually creatively market themselves on these applications.

    Just FYI.

  462. big4alum says:

    Bobby Lee – Good comments and attitude, so I can see why it worked well for you.

    To add to that, I know a lot of the interviewers for the Big 4 are told to look for “airport people”, meaning people that you could sit down next to at an airport and hold a conversation for hours during a delayed flight. I know my intern interview went so well because I was able to connect with the interviewer about a trip to Atlantic City. The interview ended up running nearly 30 minutes longer just because we were talking and having good conversation. If the interviewer leaves the interview being able to remember your name and not your application than you’re in a good position. So many times I hear managers come back from interviewing campus candidates, saying how boring and long the day was because everyone gave such generic, politically correct answers. Tell them something that no one else would say, take risks, and you will be rewarded…well kinda..Big 4 internships are great, but life as a Big 4 auditor is much to hang your hat on as the hours a grueling and the work is mind numbing, but put in your time (2-3 years), get your designation, and happy job hunting!!

    Generally, these firms will teach you the technical skills that you need, but look to hire those people who have the intangibles such as good charisma and energy.

    Hope this helps.

    • Bobby Lee says:


      That is SO SO TRUE! My best friend is extremely smart. He has mid-sized firms experience, a 4.20GPA in his accounting education, and he had a TON of volunteering accounting experience, such as filing taxes for lower income families.

      Everyone bet on him getting offers from all 4 big firms. Unfortunately he only received two interviews, both he failed the first round in. The problem was that he was not an “interesting” person to talk to. The way he responds to the interviewers is as if he was being interrogated by police. He’s a cool guy to hang out with and we like to talk a lot as well, but when it comes to interview he totally lacks the charisma. We all know that he could EASILY handle any tasks thrown at him, but he was just not given the opportunity to show his true potential. Unfortunately this doesn’t only happen to my best friend; I am sure it happens to ALOT of people.

      These interviews are so hard even if you are prepared. I mean, being talkative is extremely important.

      • KPMG Staff Accountant says:

        Dear Bobby Lee:

        Having worked as a recruiter at KPMG during the recruiting season, I have seen a lot of students with great work experience and an amazing GPA. You are correct that firms no longer look for GPA in their hiring decision. GPA help us shortlist applicants, but when it comes to the hiring process, we still prefer people who are able to market themselve.

        Those who have an impressive CACEE form and an excellent interview score will be exempted from the minimum grade requirement during the hiring process. Individuals like you are quite rare though. Most of our hires have a GPA of at least 3.50 GPA. Most of them have customer service experience in different sectors, from banking to the fast food industry. To be honest, many of our hires have actually worked in McDonald’s at some point in their lives. These people demonstrate great communication skills and attitudes.

        We generally DO NOT like to hire junior staff who have previous employment background in accounting. We want our new staff to learn from the ground up. People with previous experience in accounting are tougher to train in terms of following firm-specific policies and procedures.

  463. Stefano says:

    This is a really good thread… but it’s buried in cyber space. This site is really hard to find, and only a select few know about it. I would strongly suggest you move the conversation to myCAsite.com, just so more students can read about it. You guys are sharing really valuable information, so you might as well have an audience.

    It’s sort of like the bloggers who syndicate their posts on myCAsite.com. They understand that they have something to say, but don’t have the resources individually to be able to do so on a (relatively) large scale. However, collectively, their voice is much stronger.

    • Bobby Lee says:

      Will do. Like some posters here I have a lot I want to say about the Big 4.

      Does your site require multiple authorizations for registrations?
      I haven’t go on to your site yet because I am too lazy for time-consuming registration =P

  464. Stefano says:

    You only need to register to post on the myCAsite.com forum… and that only requires an email… so it is really quick and easy… all other info (i.e. articles, interviews, etc) can be accessed without registering

  465. Joey says:

    Do you guys know anything about the private enterprise that KPMG has in vancouver? I am a university student looking for an internship hopefully for next year. However, after reading all the posts I am really nervous about my decision to go into accounting. Is the private enterprise a better choice than audit and tax? What kind of career options are available after you obtain your CA through the pricate enterprise?

    • Bobby Lee says:


      You have every right to be nervous. Considering the economic condition Vancouver is in, finding ANY job related to one’s field of study is extremely hard, let alone finding a job in an accounting firm. Remember, approximately 5000 students graduate from post-secondary education in accounting each year in Vancouver. Only 250 or so are hired by the Big 4. Mid-sized and small firms combine to hire only approximately 150-200 students. The remaining people go into the CGA programs with the prospect of finding a CGA job, but most of them quit their studies midway because they couldn’t find a job in the accounting field.

      KPMG has multiple offices throughout the Greater Vancouver Area. These offices were previously privately-owned small CA firms, but later became joint ventures with KPMG. These small offices bear the name of KPMG, but they are actually managed by partners who originally established them.

      Once you’ve obtain your CA, you’re pretty much opened to countless opportunities. However, you shouldn’t be too concerned about the career options after you’ve obtained the CA. I’d be more worried about finding an accounting job in the mean time if I were you.

      For what it is worth, a lot of accounting students who graduated in the past year are STILL unemployed.

  466. CFA almost done. CA next? says:

    Hey Bobby, I’m considering signing up for the UBC DAP program and I’m curious where the sources for the numbers of approximate graduates and number of hires at the big 4 and small-mid accounting firms came from. Obviously, getting hired after taking the DAP program is a concern.

    • Bobby Lee says:


      In my honest opinion, your CFA certification should open up enough job opportunities upon graduation. It is not worth it to take the UBC DAP Program. As KPMG Staff Accountant has so eloquently stated, Big 4 and Mid-sized accounting companies simply do not hire much DAP students. As a Big 4 Employee, I can tell you that VERY LITTLE of our staff are from the DAP Program. The fact of the matter is that many DAP students who graduated last May are still unemployed, or are not employed in the accounting sector. CGA or CMA jobs are already extremely hard to obtain by DAP students, imagine how hard it would be to acquire a CA position!!!

      I can imagine that the DAP Program is a very good program for people who would like to pursue a GPA or CMA career, but for people interested in pursuing a Chartered Accountant Designation, the DAP Program is simply not the ideal option. People who are interested in becoming a CA should have started their Bachelor University Education in accounting instead. As stated previously, Big 4 and Mid-sized CA firms 99% of the time hire accounting students that are pursuing or have a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

      The DAP Program is simply not worth it. The program is simply a tool utilized by UBC to make more money from students. The unemployment rate for DAP graduates is high.

    • Bobby Lee says:

      By the way, in my previous post I meant to say CGA, not GPA 🙂

      The sources for the statistics of hires are information obtained from within the company. There’s no official or published sources for such information. These information becomes acessible to employees within the company, they’re not secret.

  467. Rick Downing says:

    I live in the states, but accounting is the same wherever you go. I received my master’s in accounting about a year ago. I spent close to a year looking for an accounting job. I finally found a staff position at a small firm. I lasted a whole whopping 4 months before I realized public accounting isn’t for me. The people were fine to work with. I can get along with anybody and don’t take things personally. It’s only a job. Maybe that is problem as I am looking for a job, not a career that requires me to work 65 hours a week. Everybody worked 6 days a week. What left the biggest impression on me is the difference in values and beliefs between myself and my 50 something boss. He worked 7 days a week, which to me is just plain ludicrous. I guess my generation X’er upbringing just doesn’t suit the work until you drop belief. If you don’t have time to take on another client, just tell them you are not taking on anymore clients at the present time. Isn’t that how doctors do it when they have all the patients they can handle?

    I believe you need a life outside of work and time for fitness activities. So, I am off on a different career path. I found this site and just wanted to wish my fellow accountants good luck in whatever you choose to do. I realize many feel that they have no choice and must remain in public accounting. I would have to commit myself to a mental institution if that was my fate for life. But to each his own as the old adage goes.

    • Bobby Lee says:

      Rick Downing, many (which is about 32 individuals whom graduated with me) of my peers who graduated with University Accounting Degrees went to the States to find jobs. All of them found jobs within two months of looking at the States. One particular friend of mine said that finding an accounting job in public practice in the States is easier than finding a suburb that doesn’t have a Walmart in the neighbourhood. That’s how easy it was. I am surprised it took you a year to find a job in Public Practice.

      On a side note, the sad thing is that many who graduated from accounting degree programs in Canada, and decided to stay in Canada have been unable to find a job in the area of accounting. It’s just so hard. If you plan to say in Canada to pursue your career, accounting is not for you. As previously stated, finding an accounting job in Canada requires a lot of luck and connections. In places like America or other parts of Asia where multi-national businesses are booming, these places require a lot of english-speaking accountants. In Canada, the accounting industry is growing at a slower pace than it is able to absorb new graduates. I hear so many accounting students being unemployed, or are forced to work in other sectors that are completely irrelevant to accounting. Many of them found dead-end jobs in small companies working as the Accounts-Receivable or Accounts Payable clerks. And many AP/AR jobs require 5 years of experience for consideration.

      • Rick Downing says:

        Bobby Lee, thanks for posting your comments. It took me much longer than anticipated to find a job out of college, but I have little to no experience other than bookkeeping while in college. And like you said, most industry positions require several years of experience, even for some clerk positions. However, public accounting is not worth the headache to stick it out for a few years of experience. A job you can’t stand to face everyday is worse than no job at all.

        There is a surplus of accounting graduates in the U.S. also. It isn’t just other parts of the world. There are many accounting graduates that I know who are working in warehouse positions now because they need a paycheck. I am confident that I will find a decent job, but it won’t be in public accounting. I really have no desire to be a CPA. I would be happy to just making a decent living. I work in order to live my life, I don’t live to work. I understand that everyone has different goals in life. That is what makes the world an interesting place. Best of luck to you.

  468. Jack M says:

    Being a CA or a CPA can be very overrated, depending on the accounting job. Believe when I say there’s a reason CPA stands for Certified “PUBLIC” Accountant. The whole point of the CPA license of course is to get it because you plan to specialize in public accounting so that you can sign off on audits (and, yes, I know to have it in your resume). But just because you’re good at public accounting doesn’t mean you won’t suck (or not be as good) in other types of accounting jobs. In industry, particularly in my current experience as a cost accountant working for a large multi-billion dollar company, your amount of creativity in dealing with large amounts of data in different ways is much more valuable than whether you know a certain technical aspect of GAAP or even some cost accounting standard that you can always look up. This type of experience I’m speaking of cannot be learned from a book, because there really is no book. You learn it by experiencing it (with patient supervisors), just as public accountants learn public accounting by experiencing it. In my group, the best, brightest, most technologically savvy (in terms of dealing with data…ACCESS, SQL, EXCEL, VBA, Crystal reports, system skills, etc.) employee BY FAR is not a CPA (though he does have an accounting degree). In fact, this person blows all other CPAs I have ever worked with out of the water (and I have worked with many in many different environments), except for one PWC alum I worked with straight out of college who also had very good data skills, especially for a public accountant. Of course, I’m sure most CPAs would blow him out of the water in terms of their audit or tax knowledge, but my point is that depending on your experience and skills you can become much better at industry/cost accounting than the average CPA/public accountant. The lone CPA in our group currently is probably the least capable in terms of her data-handling skills and related creativity, yet she has been there just as long as everyone else, if not longer. She does her job and does it fine/satisfactorily, but there is no way she could be our supervisor. She doesn’t have the skills, but to be fair I haven’t known many people (CPAs or not) who do have them, though some of my other co-workers do. Learning to handle data the way a cost accountant in a large organization needs to handle it is not something learned in public accounting and it’s not something you learn overnight, just like public accounting isn’t something you’ll learn overnight. Like public accounting, you learn more each year in the right environment, but it’s not nearly as stressful, at least in my experience. In my experience, I was given more time to experiment and learn in private industry than in public accounting. Today, for example, I spent half my day setting up a database…I worked on producing time-saving queries and reports in access, that is. That would not have been acceptable in public accounting, as it would have destroyed my timesheet, though admittedly I would not likely have had a need to construct a database as an auditor or tax accountant. The point of my post is that you don’t have to be a CPA to be good at industry accounting, particularly cost accounting. You can be good with ACCESS, dealing with tables, queries, SQL, accounting software, etc., and blow many CPAs with only public accounting experience out of the water. Again, he or she will likely know more about the particular rules of putting together financial statements or particular GAAP rules, but that’s what specialization is for. Anyway, there’s a reason you see a lot of recruiters out there who want a mix of public and private experience, and that’s because experience and skills are really key — not whether you’re CPA/CA or not.

  469. Rick Downing says:

    Jack, you made some very good points in your post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I originally thought the accounting world revolved around getting your CPA/CA. I love working with technology and solving problems. I enjoy working with Access and database software. I don’t enjoy doing tax returns for 12 hours a day, including the weekend. Just isn’t my cup of tea. I worked with people who actually loved doing corporate returns. Reading and researching the tax code puts me to sleep instantly. Sorry.

    I like reading comments from other accountants because it gives me an idea if I am going crazy. One side of me says, you spent how many years in college to get your master’s in accounting. Does that mean I just wasted years of my life preparing for a career I can’t stand? Maybe so. I enjoyed college and learning so I guess education is never a waste of time. In this economy, I realize only a fool would quit his job without another one, but I never did do the logical thing. I like to be happy wherever I am for 40+ hours a week.

  470. Jack M says:


    If you’re good with Access and Excel and with dealing with large amounts of data in general, then there is something for you out there. I feel very lucky to have a job that I don’t hate, because I have worked in public accounting and hated it and in fact was let go after my first grueling tax season. I still don’t like the fact that I sit all day, but now that I am doing more interesting stuff and am less stressed, it doesn’t bother me as much and I consider myself happy with my job. Nobody cares if I get up to take a break and walk around the building for 5 minutes to stretch my legs. I also rarely ever work over 40 hours a week, so that leaves plenty of time for exercise after work, without having to think or be nervous about work (which is key). I would strongly suggest looking into becoming a cost accountant.

    Also, just because someone is a cost accountant doesn’t mean they don’t have to follow any standards. In my particular case, the company I work for has cost-reimbursement contracts with the federal government and we have to follow CAS in our overhead allocations or else we risk losing our contracts and/or fines/penalties. I personally don’t deal as much with interpreting CAS, as a lot of that has been done already by others, but if you’re looking for an accounting job that will allow you to use your creativity with data analysis/processing in order to more efficiently perform your duties, yet also something where it matters greatly that you are honest and get the numbers materially correct, then a large company with contracts with the federal government can be a good direction to go. Of course, cost accounting matters greatly in many organizations, but I just thought I’d emphasize the fact that getting cost allocations materially wrong in some environments can mean loss of business or worse.

  471. Big4Bitch says:

    Work in a big 4 firm…sometimes I feel guilty for taking a bathroom break…’nuff said

  472. Help an incoming accounting student says:

    So guys, can you elaborate on why someone should pick tax over auditing? I am an incoming student looking to break into accounting in the states. Is this a huge mistake? I read through the first hundred posts and it seems that those doing accounting have no life and have tons of hours. This is already starting to freak me out… so would taxation be better than auditing as a starter? Should I just reconsider my entire plan of even entering accounting in New York City?

  473. Lotus says:

    I can totally relate to the people on here who are just starting out. I graduated this last December with just my bachelors in accounting. I work as a staff accountant for a medium company. Let me just say this is definitely not what I intended. The hours are ridiculous and their expectations of a what a person straight out of college should know is ridiculous. I know Im not a dumb person, but they treat me like an idiot most of the time. Its a very scary feeling knowing you just spent four years of your life committed to something that very well could make you miserable for the rest of it. The people I work with work the same hours and none of them have kids or any remnant of a social life. Their whole world is work. I have no idea what to do. I feel very trapped.

    • Rick Downing says:

      Lotus, you are not alone by any stretch. College prepared me well for accounting, and I wasn’t someone who barely squeaked by. I actually received an academic scholarship that paid for my entire master’s in accounting. The thing that college doesn’t prepare you for with accounting is the extremely long hours that most public accountants work. You either adjust to this over time or you don’t. For me, I don’t think I could ever adjust mainly because I really don’t have a passion for accounting. I don’t want my only free time for the day to be my drive to and from work. I just wanted to land a decent paying job out of college.

      I was a staff accountant for a small firm before I quit. The firm had two partners and 5 staff accountants. The main partner/owner worked 7 days a week, but it was tax season. Still, this is going to catch up to anyone in time. The guy was typically blowing up at someone daily. The people I worked with would come in around 8am and stay until around 9pm six days a week. Sorry, but that doesn’t leave time for a life if you get home in time to go to bed. LOL.

      Don’t worry about the expectations that people have for you right out of college. You will be learning multiple new programs and trying to understand data from many different sources. The best thing you can do is to try it for 6 months or a year to see if you feel like it is a good fit for you. If not, there are other jobs out there. You don’t have to stay at a job you hate. An accounting degree can open the door to many jobs.

  474. Lotus says:

    Thanks Rick. That makes me feel alot better. 6 months I think would be sufficient enough to see if its really for me. I think life is to short to be chained to a desk for most of it. I can be chained for 8-9 hours, but 10-12 hours a day, thats just to much. It would be impossible to have small children with this job also and be able to enjoy them. I would really like to have kids someday. So where do you work now? (if you dont mind me asking) Do you like it?

    • Rick Downing says:

      Lotus, I am working as a staff accountant for a small medical transcription company. I do like the work much better than my past public accounting job. The hours are never over 45, and I have the weekends off. However, I did take a large pay cut that some people couldn’t justify. It really comes down to what you value more in life, free time or money. For me, you can’t put a price on having free time outside of work. I am not married to my job and don’t want to be. Best of luck to you.

  475. Jsan says:

    Based on reading virtually every single thread posted here, I have a question to pose to you. Everyone on here is looking for a better work-life balance. Which accounting jobs and which companies offer this? Is internal auditing the way to go, or is financial reporting an option offering a more balance? Should I go with a Fortune 500 company, or is a privately-held middle market company a better fit? I’m sure some people here have “graduated” to better jobs, so I’m curious as to what has worked and what hasn’t.

  476. Sardaukar says:

    @ 477 Jsan: Government.

  477. Stefano says:

    Some of you might be really interested to read the following post, about dealing with the frustrations of public accounting. It’s all about keeping a long-term focus in spite of the short-term difficulties:


  478. frank0 says:

    right= I am correct
    write= to “write” a article