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Hey all,

I'm looking to do Big 4 audit in a larger city (Chicago probably). I'm from Florida, so this is a bit of a jump for me. I'm looking to try something new and be in a big city with people my age rather than only families and old people, as well as some character.

My concern is whether or not the hours in a larger market will be significantly greater than that of a smaller market. I've heard some say that in big markets you have one set big client, so you have a more typical busy season of 80 hours for a few months and regular season of 50, while in a smaller market you have multiple small clients, which leads to more randomly placed YE's, and therefore more busy season hours throughout the year, but then I've also heard the complete opposite.

I'm going to be in a completely new part of the country, with a new career and no immediate family or old friends anywhere near me. I have no problem with the typical busy season schedule, as long as its not all year, because I think I'll find it pretty hard to meet new people and explore and be comfortable with the city if I'm working continual YEs and busy season hours year round. One of the reasons I'm (sort of) glad I'm not doing IB (not that it was much of a choice with my undergrad selection) is the fact that the hours are better in Big 4 audit. I just want to make sure I'm not getting myself into too much of a mess by doing public accounting in a big market compared to a small market.

And please go easy on the Big 4 bashing, for some of us, this is the absolute best option coming out of college. I know its not IBD or MBB consulting, but I'd like to believe its not too terrible.

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Comments (11)

  • CountryUnderdog's picture

    I know someone in Big 4 in a smaller market. They work a 40 hour work week, very little travel, and year ends are the only time were maybe they work 60.

    On the NYC front, I know a few guys in audit that work decent, 60+, but in addition to a lot of work on YEs they also have a lot of quarterly rushes.

    Not sure what the pay difference is, if you need the associated "prestige?", or what your long term goals are, so keep those factors in mind.

    Good luck.

    "They are all former investment bankers that were laid off in the economic collapse that Nancy Pelosi caused. They have no marketable skills, but by God they work hard."

  • Accrual Dictator's picture

    From the people I've spoken with, it really just depends (and I know that's not the answer you want to hear lol). It depends on how many clients your firm has, how well-staffed they are to meet their demands, and also which ones you get staffed on. However, I will say that based on law of averages, in a bigger city, or at least a city with "larger" F500 companies, you're more likely to have the schedule you laid out in the OP. My friends in my small city tend to have that shitty schedule where they're getting killed by YEs all year (we only have 1 or 2 F500 companies in my state) while one of my friends lucked out and got a major F500 company and has more tame hours except for the YE close period. I don't know too much about all this stuff yet, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt. That's just what I've generally seen though.

  • Angus Macgyver's picture

    Just FYI - even in a big city, depending on your luck you might end up working late year-round anyway. Financial services audit, anyone?

  • Rudi Carell's picture

    Accrual Dictator's answer is very accurate, just one addition.

    A very important factor affecting your hours in audit projects is the project leader himself. Not the partner of the project, but the senior manager/manager who is staffed on the project directly and is working besides you at the client/on the project. You are usually in a hotel and start + end your day with your colleagues - this means leaving together. If your project leader is a nice guy, you might be in the hotel much earlier compared with a "baller" project leader who wants you to work massive hours.

    Note regarding company size: Often, large companies have tougher deadlines for publishing their annual report - especially listed ones. This might lead to longer hours. On the other hand, small companies often deliver data in bad quality or it needs more time for them to get the correct data. This affects your hours adversely as well.

    "The banker's greatest enemies are those people whose souls are not for sale, and those who realize that time is a nonrenewable commodity." (Monkey Business)

  • In reply to CountryUnderdog
    Art.Vandelay's picture

    CountryUnderdog:
    I know someone in Big 4 in a smaller market. They work a 40 hour work week, very little travel, and year ends are the only time were maybe they work 60.

    On the NYC front, I know a few guys in audit that work decent, 60+, but in addition to a lot of work on YEs they also have a lot of quarterly rushes.

    Not sure what the pay difference is, if you need the associated "prestige?", or what your long term goals are, so keep those factors in mind.

    Good luck.

    Thanks for your input. My goal, short-term, is to be a young professional in a big city and enjoy my immediate post-college years. I want to have that kind of experience, but NYC is out simply because us public accountants can't have as much fun there on our starting pay as you IB'ers can. That's why I'm thinking Chicago. Long-term, I want to eventually do Corporate Finance in some sort of managerial role. I'd love to do Corp dev/strat, but I know that's a long shot. The Big 4 thing is just going to be a few years, and its only because it was my best choice out of my college. I certainly don't see myself on the partner track, and while I would be ok with corporate accounting, I'd rather get out quicker and go over to SFA or something like that at an F500 and try to work up.

    Accrual Dictator:
    From the people I've spoken with, it really just depends (and I know that's not the answer you want to hear lol). It depends on how many clients your firm has, how well-staffed they are to meet their demands, and also which ones you get staffed on. However, I will say that based on law of averages, in a bigger city, or at least a city with "larger" F500 companies, you're more likely to have the schedule you laid out in the OP. My friends in my small city tend to have that shitty schedule where they're getting killed by YEs all year (we only have 1 or 2 F500 companies in my state) while one of my friends lucked out and got a major F500 company and has more tame hours except for the YE close period. I don't know too much about all this stuff yet, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt. That's just what I've generally seen though.

    It definitely seems like a common theme that "it depends", which makes sense. I as hoping to see if there was a trend one way or another, but it really does just seem like a crap shoot the more I hear.

    Equities-In-Dallas:
    PM me

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    Angus Macgyver:
    Just FYI - even in a big city, depending on your luck you might end up working late year-round anyway. Financial services audit, anyone?

    So I've heard. I've heard it both ways, that you can get long hours in a big city or small, I was just hoping to see if there was a strong sway one way or another, but it seems to really depend on your client/team.

  • kjl's picture

    Was in Big 4 audit in a big city a lifetime ago. In my experience (and echoing others), it really depends. Depends on which client you get and how much staffing the office has.

    If you do get the public company with quarterly filings, it will be busy 4 times a year but at least it's predictable. The Qs get to be pretty streamlined once you know the client anyway.

    The one thing to consider is exit opps, IMO. I would imagine you'd have better ones in the big city.

    Good luck.

  • In reply to Angus Macgyver
    Higheck123's picture

    Angus Macgyver:
    Just FYI - even in a big city, depending on your luck you might end up working late year-round anyway. Financial services audit, anyone?

    Do you think you could elaborate on financial services audit? I will be going into this area for my big 4 internship and I am trying to get a better idea of how it differs from other service lines and what the overall routine is like.

  • In reply to Higheck123
    Angus Macgyver's picture

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  • SuitUp7's picture