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charlie and the audit factory

I was conversing with a co-worker the other day and we realized that the public accounting was a well-oiled machine, a factory of sorts. Our reasoning was this - the firms go out and pick up as many clients as they can, without thinking too much about their resources to handle an abundance of clients. Why? Since they know they can just beat their current resources to death. The seniors and above on these jobs somehow end up feeling morally obligated to stay on at least until the completion of the audit in question. If they leave after that, that's okay, they'll just give the person one level below them additional responsibilities, albeit at the same pay rate. Now, to replenish the bottom of the resource pool, they go out to colleges and woo them with their reputations and with carrots that look good to college students. PWC and Ernst & Young have been hiring around a hundred plus entry-level staffers a year in recent years. Now, 80% of them become disgruntled in their first two years, and maybe around 20 leave after two years. so there are still 80 seniors. Say a whopping 75% of them leave before they hit the manager position, i.e. 3 years...that still leaves 20 managers...more than enough to replace the current crop of managers that would leave for controller positions and such.
This system has been honed over the years, and thus makes these firms a really good factory. I honestly have to give props. Money first, Employees second.


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career progression

"What can you tell me about the different possible tracks a person would take at the Big 4 in regards to tax vs. audit? Is there a difference in career progression among the two specialties? How about career potential? Workload?"

Loaded question. In terms of career potential, they're both pretty potent. Audit leads you to controller/accounting manager/ VP - accounting positions at companies if you choose to quit. Tax can lead to tax manager positions at various companies/ help them minimize taxes and exploit tax loopholes. It's a pretty important position in many companies...I'm not an expert on tax careers though, so you might want to ask somebody in a tax related position.
In terms of career progression, it's the same as audit...start off as a staff associate...move to senior..manager..snr mgr..partner.
In terms of workload, my friends in the tax department seem to work two busy the fall and in the spring. So I think they work more than i…


As a big four employee, lately, I've been hearing a lot about "boomerang" employees. Those who, for some reason or another, decide that leaving work when the sun is still out is not for them and alas, return back to the firm. Yes, the grass is not always greener on the other side, however, is this trending upward or about the same as it always has been? I think, also, that the firms really do a good job in highlighting those that do choose to return to make it appear more common than reality. Can you please speak about how you've seen the trend of "boomerangs" amongst the big 4? 

Good question. A boomerang, as the commenter pointed, is one who quits a big 4 Firm and then decides to return (or boomerang) back to the Firm after getting a taste of work life in the non-public accounting world.
I have seen a few return this past summer, but didn't really notice a trend until you mentioned it. It's definitely been higher than past years, but not enough to s…

auditing vs consulting

I was wondering if you could break down the career opportunities in auditing and consulting (in a big 4). I know that consulting pays more in a big 4 and has more interesting work, but it seems that auditing has extremely good exit opportunities (Financial controller, CFO etc). Any thoughts on which is better in the long run?

Well there's different consulting services offered by public accounting companies - the most popular being IT consulting and risk consulting. There are also other consulting services offered, but these two hire the most. Do they pay more? Yes, but not by much. Not enough for you to say: Shoot, the $$ is a huge reason for me to move over. Is the work more interesting than audit? Yes. You're actually looking over a company's processes and telling them what to do instead of what not to do (audit). Everyone I know who's made the switch likes it waay better than audit.
In the long run though, choosing audit vs consulting really depends on what you want t…