Recruiting Decisions

Big Four vs. Mid-sized Firms

Careers Blog
| 6/17/2019
Senior Staff Accountant

Mid-Size firms boast a lengthy resume of reasons why they continue to be among the industry leaders in employee satisfaction. In fact, in a survey performed in 2013 by, PwC was the only “Big Four” firm to rank in the Top 20 in terms of employee satisfaction, finishing at 17th. Are you trying to decide between a mid-sized firm and one of the Big Four? Here are three important considerations to factor into your decision making process.

1. Firm Culture

Mid-size firms offer unparalleled firm culture, which begins and ends with the team mentality. From starting as a junior accountant, all the way up to partner level, there is professional support throughout. This type of culture allows for a mentorship-type relationship between employees of all different levels. Everyone within the firm is available as support, on an as-needed basis. This often includes tax specialists who bring their expertise to help solve any complex tax problems. Mid-size firms often have open streams of communication between all levels, which greatly assists the development of staff and allows an open forum to ask questions, and learn on the job. 

Many companies preach that their work/life balance is “the best”, and is superior to others. In reality, each company likely has their own definition of what makes a great work/life balance. The general consensus among mid-size firms is that if you work hard, you will be rewarded with the desired level of work/life balance. Mid-sized firms typically focus on private companies who don’t have as many strict reporting deadlines, allowing for more flexibility and improved work/life balance.

2. Client Interaction

Due to generally smaller client sizes and the close proximity of working conditions, staff accountants often find themselves working directly with clients much sooner than they might at a larger firm. This allows staff to see real-world businesses from a very hands-on perspective, as opposed to seeing only the financials. Working directly with clients adds a significant amount of trust and likely instills a sense of confidence in the relationship between staff and client, ultimately aiding the staff in their file preparation. Confidence will often lead to the client being more open with their answers and more receptive of questions that may need a longer explanation.

In addition, mid-size firm employees are able to see a file from start to finish, including tax work. This greatly aids in the development of the staff, as they do not get boxed into one or few sections of a file. Staff are able to act as financial advisors to clients, because they see the whole big picture of the company, and the direction in which the company is going. This is not possible at larger clients, where there is little room to add value to the business as a whole.

3. CPA Development

Due to the nature of their clients, mid-size firms are often tasked with performing significant tax work, in addition to audit, review or Notice to Reader engagements. This tax work greatly helps the development of the staff, as it is one of the core topics covered on the Common Financial Exam (CFE), which every accountant must pass in order to obtain a CPA designation.

Another key factor in CPA development includes the personalized approach to studying and mentoring. Mid-size firms often provide CFE writers with a mentor in order to track progress, and ensure that all areas of weakness are addressed early enough to be able to tackle them by the time the exam comes. This leads to an overall high success rate amongst many mid-size firm CPA candidates.

Do your research—a mid-size firm may very well be the perfect place for you. 

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Lauren Becker CFE Secret Weapon
Lauren Becker
Director, Professional Development