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Learning more about our clients

This is in response to the question on how much we learn about the companies we audit.
This was actually a line of defense I used when defending auditing against tax to a co-worker. You really do learn a lot about the companies you audit. The smaller they are, the more you can get your heads around them easily. For the larger billion dollar companies, it takes time, but you will understand how they work. For example, I was on a software company and the client took the time to explain their product to me. I had to read through the accounting scriptures to see how software revenue recognition works, this is the most important accounting and financial aspect of the company. I had to look at the assets the company owns as part of performing audit procedures, and so I gleaned an understanding on what assets the company needed to own in order to function properly. And so on and so forth.
Now from my experience, you really get an understanding of your clients in your second year on any audit. The first year is more of a "let's just get this audit done" year and in the next year, you can focus on accounting issues surrounding the company since you already know how the company works.
Now, are you given a choice as to what industry you can be in? Well, this depends on the firm you choose. Some firms like PWC put you in certain industries and you dont' have much of a choice initially, but can transfer to another one later. At firms like KPMG, it is pretty broad and you can jump around initially. At EY, it really depends on the region you work in. But if you want to transfer industries, you have to actively push for it since they just won't do it for you if it's just a small email request. It's a long process for an industry transfer but if it's worth it, it has to be done.


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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…