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And down goes the market. Again, and again, and again. Stocks are getting pulverized in the US and abroad. 401ks are going down, the populace is cutting down on spending, and retailers are closing down. So how's everything in the big 4 world?
Not so good. Not bad, but not good. A lot of clients are cutting back on fees, when at the same time, the SEC wants more auditing done around the effect of the credit crisis on companies. (Translated: More hours, less $$. ) The big 4 then turned around and laid off/counseled out/fired quite a few employees, even in the audit practice.
A partner told me that the reason for this was not enough people left this year, and so the factory model was thrown out of whack (Not in those words, but that's the essence of it). This made a lot of sense to me, and further legitimizes my audit factory theory. I noticed during the summer/early fall that not too many people left this year, and it was really intriguing given that the last few years had a decent amount of turnover. Sure, the economy was the primary factor, but I get a decent number of recruiting calls every week. Just got some last week. Everyone is still getting them. So why the heck didn't people leave this year? Oh well, thanks for messing up the model!


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"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.
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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.
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I'm trying to decide whether to audit financial services companies or non-financial services companies. What would you say are the pros and cons of either industries? Do individuals who choose non-FS have less career mobility within the firm or if they decide not to stay with the B4 after a few years?
Really depends on what you'd like to do after (unless you really love auditing). If you want to a controller,etc. at a p/e firm or a hedge fund down the road, you'd want to go into financial services. The pay won't be too bad, especially if you get a share of the insane bonuses they dole out. If you want to audit industries with tangible products and want to get a better understanding of the operations of such businesses, then other industries are the way to go.In terms of mobility outside the firm, auditing other industries is the way to go since you have plenty of options when you exit the audit world. For example, in 2008, after Lehman collapsed, it was incredibly hard …