About 75 percent of my students begin their careers in public accounting. Students are quick to perceive (or imagine) bias, so I try to talk about public accounting in general without mentioning specific firms. Dale Marxen’s Accounting Horizons article is 15 years old, but I think it contains some good insights that are still appropriate for people entering public accounting today.
I encourage all students planning to begin their careers in public accounting to explore the web sites and blogs listed in the Links section of this website and pick a couple to read at least weekly.
“The Factors that Affect Accountants’ Decisions to Seek Careers in Big 4 versus Non-Big 4 Accounting Firms,” Penelope Bagley, Derek Dalton & Marc Ortegren, Accounting Horizons (June 2012): 239-264. Accounting students who plan to seek jobs with Big 4 firms place higher value on firm prestige. Those who plan to seek jobs with non-Big 4 firms place more emphasis on firm atmosphere and work-life balance.
“Flex Time Flourishes in Accounting Industry,” Steven Greenhouse, New York Times (January 7, 2011). Public accounting firms provide work-life balance and flexible schedules for their employees.
“PwC Pays for Priority,” Joe Walker, Wall Street Journal (October 4, 2010). All the Big Four firms use social networking sites to recruit employees. PwC pays LinkedIn millions of dollars to get top billing in job listings.
“Campus Recruiting: What Local and Regional Accounting Firms Look for in New Hires,” George Violette & Douglas Chene, CPA Journal (December 2008): 66-68. This article describes the campus recruiting process and claims that local and regional accounting firms look for candidates who demonstrate leadership potential, strong communication skills, and high levels of enthusiasm and motivation.
“Accounting for Good People,” The Economist (July 21, 2007): 68-70. Big Four firms are trying to reduce turnover so they can grow despite shortage of new accountants. More programs to retain women and maintain good relations with alumni.
“S-Ox Creates Special Demand,” Sarah Needleman, Wall Street Journal (May 16, 2006): B8. Demand is growing for information-technology auditors. Salaries are increasing and more candidates are taking the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) exam.
“Take This Job and … File It,” Diya Gullapalli, Wall Street Journal (May 4, 2005): C1+C6. Audit firms have much more work because of Sarbanes-Oxley. Employees are leaving because of overwork.
“The Big 6 Experience: A Retrospective Account by Alumni,” Dale Marxen, Accounting Horizons (June 1996): 73-87. This article, which presents data gathered from structured telephone interviews with 121 Big 6 alumni, is dated but still provides a few valuable insights for people entering public accounting. Respondents report what they liked and disliked and what they would do differently if they were beginning their careers over again.
“What Does It Take to Be an Auditor?” William D. Hall, Journal of Accountancy (January 1988): 72-80. A timeless essay that is still worth reading even though it was written before today’s students were born. Emphasizes that auditors need more than technical knowledge of accounting and auditing standards.