What Are the Big 4 Accounting Firms? Definition and Critique

With all of this averaged out, you should be able to make it to a Senior Partner position as soon as 15 years and have a healthy salary of $400,000 – $450,000. Obviously, these are just estimates and your location and position can vary, but needless to say you will be well taken care of if you choose to go into big four public accounting. It’s no wonder why firms hire more than 80 percent of their interns.

The firm continues to strengthen its lead in accounting to bolster its foothold and competitive edge. Auditing jobs are more readily available that consulting jobs but usually current vs capital expenses offer a lower average starting salary of $53,000 (PayScale). Auditors enjoy a broader exposure to financial operations than tax accountants and frequent travel.

You also enjoy better exit opportunities and a broad exposure to business strategy. Consulting opportunities are also the hardest to come by and have the lowest acceptance rate amongst Big 4 jobs. PwC History – The earliest founding date for a member firm of PwC was in 1914. The last major merger date for PwC was in 1998 when Pricewaterhouse merged with Coopers & Lybrand. The big 4 accountancy firms together earned over $160 billion in 2021. They are well known for their large audit practices, auditing 99% of companies in the FTSE 1000.

It employs approximately 236,000 professionals working together to provide quality service in 145 countries around the world. Known as the ‘Big 4’, these firms completely dominate the industry, auditing more than 80 percent of all US public companies. They are Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG), read more about each below. The accounting firms are all private companies, but regularly provide services to publicly traded companies. The Big 4 accounting firms refer to the four largest in world today both in terms of revenues and employees. They provide professional services through a vast network of independent member firms around the world.

How to Land a Job with the Big 4

The big five accounting firms only lasted another four years until 2002 when Arthur Andersen became caught in the Enron accounting scandal. AA’s image for integrity was severely damaged due to the negligence and securities fraud committed by Enron. They were sued by banks, investors, and other companies to recoup their losses and eventually had to disband.

  • It employs more than 295,000 professionals in 157 countries around the world.
  • As a young professional in a vibrant city on the precipice of great change, William Deloitte had the connections necessary to expand his business and firm.
  • Obviously, PwC has expanded quite a bit with a few mergers over its 150+ year existence.

The company was formed in 1987 through the merger of Peat Marwick International and Klynveld Main Goerdeler. Like other professional service organizations, KMPG places great value on its people and quality of service. Regulators are turning up the heat on the Big 4, the largest accounting firms in the U.S. — Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG. KPMG is a global network of accounting firms providing audit, tax, advisory, special interest and industry-specific services.

What Are the Big Four Accounting Firms?

They want people who can think, solve problems, and communicate effectively. It’s not unheard of for these firms to turn away perfect 4.0 students for people with 3.2 GPAs. They don’t want to you to be a hermit who just studies all day long. They want you to be able to gain knowledge and experiences to help their clients and grow their practices.

Other statistics that may interest you “Big Four” accounting firms

These four accounting firms are well-known enough to be household names — even among those not actively involved in the accounting industry. Launching a career at the Big 4 accounting firms can provide CPAs with a structured career path and the opportunity for significant salary progression. The Big 4 accounting firms, namely Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG, are renowned for offering unparalleled career opportunities for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).

Though one of the largest and most reputable firms at the time, it ultimately collapsed due to the scandal. The PwC tax scandal is one example where PwC sold advice to clients on tax avoidance, and did so using information derived from the company’s government consulting arm. Competition among these firms intensified, and the Big Eight became the Big Six in 1989. In that year, Ernst & Whinney merged with Arthur Young to form Ernst & Young in June, and Deloitte, Haskins & Sells merged with Touche Ross to form Deloitte & Touche in August. Although their growth rate is the lowest in the top four, they are still growing, merging, acquiring other firms, and taking on new partners.

The firm has been consistently voted as one of the best places to work by DiversityInc Magazine and currently holds the number 23 spot on the list. Which means it hosts a very culturally diverse work environment and works with companies that are not yet as successful. Deloitte has several recruiting teams that visit college campuses across the country, hoping to recruit those who have taken classes involved in their partnership program. Some of the universities that have these programs are Columbia Business School and Duke University. In 2018 the firm reported an astonishing $35.2 billion in revenue, the company has continued to grow over the past four years on average 7%, even with the recession. Additionally, many positions at the Big 4 require that candidates have passed the CPA.

The Future The Big Four Accounting Firms

Since the 1980s, numerous mergers and one major scandal involving Arthur Andersen, have reduced the number of major professional-services firms from eight to four. The big four accounting firms have been at the top for quite some time and will most likely remain there. Although growth has been slow for some, the fact remains that they are continuously growing. The mergers and acquisitions that happened in 2015 will hopefully allow them more growth and higher revenue opportunities in the 2018 fiscal year.

Free Professional Accountant Development

Entry into these prestigious firms often signifies the beginning of a promising and lucrative career. We want to provide a comprehensive overview of the career progression and salary growth that CPAs can expect when they sign on with these esteemed organizations. Although all of them made the list, none of them cracked to top 50 places. There are some firms that did actually rank higher on the list than the big four.

They earned revenues of $5.1 billion for their fiscal year ended December 31, 2017. By implementing strategies like training and outsourcing, staff members can shift their focus toward value-added work. Ensuring the integrity and quality of generated data, addressing biases and complying with data protection regulations are critical aspects that demand careful attention. The S.E.C. is reportedly reviewing conflicts of interest at top accounting firms. It’s important to note that none of the big four are actually a single accounting firm. Technically speaking, they are each a network of many different independently operated firms.



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