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expected work day

I will be working full-time as a staff auditor in the Fall for a mid-size firm in New York. I've interned at another mid-size firm, and I've seen all the auditors staying pretty late. But exactly what is late? (As an intern, I got to leave by 5-6pm). How late do they expect you to stay? Do you leave when the managers/partners leave?

As an intern, you have a pretty swell life. They will pet you, treat you and coddle you well, until you sign the dotted line. It is nothing like how you're treated once you join. This is prevalent in different industries though, not just accounting. Hours are different across firms and teams, so I can't tell you what you should expect, but I can only tell you what I've seen and heard. In the fall you might work until 7-7:30 at times. December's usually the slowest month of the year, so you can pull of a normal work day (5-5:30). On average during busy season (Jan-April), people work till 8-8:30. Some teams work till midnight, some work till 7, so it really ranges. In the summer time, it goes back to normal hours, with the occasional 7 pm days sprinkled across the board. But there are no set hours, it really depends on the team and the amount of work.

Also, are there penalties if you fall behind? Let's say you're just honestly confused about something, and are messing up. But you tried to figure it out at least. How does this affect your reviews job keeping abilities?

Well, it's kind of like any other job. You aren't expected to know everything as a new hire, and everyone understands that you will be on a learning curve. Expectations increase every year. And if you're confused, don't waste too much time figuring it out yourself, ask your team. This will give them an idea as to where you stand, and how you're progressing. So don't stress it too much. I didn't know anything about the job and what it entailed when i started, took me a few months to get a true grasp.


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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.
In terms of career progression, it's the same as audit...start off as a staff associate...move to senior..manager..snr mgr..partner.
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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.
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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.
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