Big 4 Consulting Certifications

I'll be starting my advisory position in finance at PwC upon graduation. I have to decide whether it's worth my time to try for the CPA exam in the few months between graduation and when I start at PwC. I'm not sure whether I plan on staying in the accounting field forever, but I do intend to go for my MBA in the future. Is there a point in putting in the time to obtain my CPA? From what I've heard, it's definitely not one of those certifications that will help me in my day to day position. I know that obtaining it will show my dedication and some sort of expertise in the subject.

I realize that I can choose to take the CPA in the future if I think it's something I want, but I would personally like to get it out of the way now and not while I'm working 80 hours/week.

Should I do it now? Not at all?

Comments (35)

 
Mar 31,2013

why do you want a CPA if you're not in audit or tax? Why not a financial certification (CFA etc.)?

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Mar 31,2013

The answer completely depends on your position. There are a number of certifications that may be useful to you, but which one would be the best for you depends on your specific position.

 
Mar 31,2013

Getting the CPA out of the way now will ensure that if you somehow change your mind and love Big 4 life, thus losing your appetite for an MBA, you will have one less thing to worry about if you desire the partner track (your feelings may change - you never know). Also, being a CPA will provide you a basic level job security the rest of your life, whether in advisory or industry. It seems like you have a moderate appetite for higher risk-reward positions, so being able to land an internal auditor or accounts payable job any time you please may not be that important to you.

In my humble opinion: why not? If you have the time before you start pounding the hours away at PwC, do the smart thing with these open months. The cert will only help, and you don't want to miss an opportunistic window. You will likely thank yourself when you're able to enjoy happy hours and network with your new coworkers right off the bat while the kids who decided to go for the Eat, Pray, Love trip are ripping every last hair out of their heads trying not to fail FAR for the fourth time.

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter."

 
Mar 31,2013
Hank Rearden's Boss:

Getting the CPA out of the way now will ensure that if you somehow change your mind and love Big 4 life, thus losing your appetite for an MBA, you will have one less thing to worry about if you desire the partner track (your feelings may change - you never know). Also, being a CPA will provide you a basic level job security the rest of your life, whether in advisory or industry. It seems like you have a moderate appetite for higher risk-reward positions, so being able to land an internal auditor or accounts payable job any time you please may not be that important to you.

In my humble opinion: why not? If you have the time before you start pounding the hours away at PwC, do the smart thing with these open months. The cert will only help, and you don't want to miss an opportunistic window. You will likely thank yourself when you're able to enjoy happy hours and network with your new coworkers right off the bat while the kids who decided to go for the Eat, Pray, Love trip are ripping every last hair out of their heads trying not to fail FAR for the fourth time.

Not true. Most of the partners at PwC Advisory do NOT have their CPA. It is definitely not necessary, and if you're staying in advisory, I would advise going for an MBA if anything.

@OP: getting a CPA definitely does give off the image that you're an accounting person and could potentially hinder you if you try and transfer to banking. If I was in your situation, I would not get the CPA and would instead focus in blowing your competition at work out of the water when it comes to performance reviews.

 
Mar 31,2013
Zzari:
Hank Rearden's Boss:

Getting the CPA out of the way now will ensure that if you somehow change your mind and love Big 4 life, thus losing your appetite for an MBA, you will have one less thing to worry about if you desire the partner track (your feelings may change - you never know). Also, being a CPA will provide you a basic level job security the rest of your life, whether in advisory or industry. It seems like you have a moderate appetite for higher risk-reward positions, so being able to land an internal auditor or accounts payable job any time you please may not be that important to you.

In my humble opinion: why not? If you have the time before you start pounding the hours away at PwC, do the smart thing with these open months. The cert will only help, and you don't want to miss an opportunistic window. You will likely thank yourself when you're able to enjoy happy hours and network with your new coworkers right off the bat while the kids who decided to go for the Eat, Pray, Love trip are ripping every last hair out of their heads trying not to fail FAR for the fourth time.

Not true. Most of the partners at PwC Advisory do NOT have their CPA. It is definitely not necessary, and if you're staying in advisory, I would advise going for an MBA if anything.

@OP: getting a CPA definitely does give off the image that you're an accounting person and could potentially hinder you if you try and transfer to banking. If I was in your situation, I would not get the CPA and would instead focus in blowing your competition at work out of the water when it comes to performance reviews.

I haven't met a PwC ADVISORY partner that HAS a CPA.

 
Mar 31,2013
Hoosier82:
Zzari:
Hank Rearden's Boss:

Getting the CPA out of the way now will ensure that if you somehow change your mind and love Big 4 life, thus losing your appetite for an MBA, you will have one less thing to worry about if you desire the partner track (your feelings may change - you never know). Also, being a CPA will provide you a basic level job security the rest of your life, whether in advisory or industry. It seems like you have a moderate appetite for higher risk-reward positions, so being able to land an internal auditor or accounts payable job any time you please may not be that important to you.

In my humble opinion: why not? If you have the time before you start pounding the hours away at PwC, do the smart thing with these open months. The cert will only help, and you don't want to miss an opportunistic window. You will likely thank yourself when you're able to enjoy happy hours and network with your new coworkers right off the bat while the kids who decided to go for the Eat, Pray, Love trip are ripping every last hair out of their heads trying not to fail FAR for the fourth time.

Not true. Most of the partners at PwC Advisory do NOT have their CPA. It is definitely not necessary, and if you're staying in advisory, I would advise going for an MBA if anything.

@OP: getting a CPA definitely does give off the image that you're an accounting person and could potentially hinder you if you try and transfer to banking. If I was in your situation, I would not get the CPA and would instead focus in blowing your competition at work out of the water when it comes to performance reviews.

I haven't met a PwC ADVISORY partner that HAS a CPA.

Wtf? Do you work in like Montana or some shit? Most advisory groups are somewhat accounting related no matter how hard they try to sell it as a "consulting" group.

 
Mar 31,2013
BackOfficeLove:
Hoosier82:
Zzari:
Hank Rearden's Boss:

Getting the CPA out of the way now will ensure that if you somehow change your mind and love Big 4 life, thus losing your appetite for an MBA, you will have one less thing to worry about if you desire the partner track (your feelings may change - you never know). Also, being a CPA will provide you a basic level job security the rest of your life, whether in advisory or industry. It seems like you have a moderate appetite for higher risk-reward positions, so being able to land an internal auditor or accounts payable job any time you please may not be that important to you.

In my humble opinion: why not? If you have the time before you start pounding the hours away at PwC, do the smart thing with these open months. The cert will only help, and you don't want to miss an opportunistic window. You will likely thank yourself when you're able to enjoy happy hours and network with your new coworkers right off the bat while the kids who decided to go for the Eat, Pray, Love trip are ripping every last hair out of their heads trying not to fail FAR for the fourth time.

Not true. Most of the partners at PwC Advisory do NOT have their CPA. It is definitely not necessary, and if you're staying in advisory, I would advise going for an MBA if anything.

@OP: getting a CPA definitely does give off the image that you're an accounting person and could potentially hinder you if you try and transfer to banking. If I was in your situation, I would not get the CPA and would instead focus in blowing your competition at work out of the water when it comes to performance reviews.

I haven't met a PwC ADVISORY partner that HAS a CPA.

Wtf? Do you work in like Montana or some shit? Most advisory groups are somewhat accounting related no matter how hard they try to sell it as a "consulting" group.

No, major US city. Work with many ex-Diamond Partners and they do not do work related to accounting at all. They scoff at accountants, their way of thinking, and their impact on how the advisory arm operates.

 
Mar 31,2013

Do it.

Get busy living

 
Mar 31,2013

It can't hurt you to do it.

 
Mar 31,2013

If I do go for it, wouldn't I be somewhat pigeon holing myself into a strictly accounting bubble?
I'm not entirely sure yet what I want to do "when I grow up." I can pretty safely say I won't want to do audit or tax at all.

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Mar 31,2013

Also, I'm concerned about the level of commitment for something that I'm getting advised to do for a "why not" reasoning.

 
Mar 31,2013

You can always leave it off your resume...

You could also study for GMAT.

Get busy living

 
Mar 31,2013

lol what's the point of working that hard to get it if I'm going to have to leave it off my resume. Anyone who has their CPA regret putting in the time to get it?

 
Mar 31,2013
WSO_newby:

lol what's the point of working that hard to get it if I'm going to have to leave it off my resume. Anyone who has their CPA regret putting in the time to get it?

What I'm saying is that if you're applying for a job where the CPA will work against you, then leave it off your resume. If you're applying to a job where it will help, then put it on your resume. Having the CPA is good because it's a valuable safety net, but you're not required to tell anyone about it

Get busy living

 
Mar 31,2013
 
Mar 31,2013

I would recommend that you do get it. But obviously weigh the pros and cons if you havent already.

As many people mentioned, many PwC advisory people do NOT have their CPAs, in fact many aren't even accounting majors or business majors. The Advisory group is pretty segregated from the assurance practice, so I think there's a small chance of the CPA actually pigeon-holing you, if that's what you're afraid of. Ive actually had many people tell me theres no point in getting it at all form PwC adivisory. The work you do has 0 to do with financial statements or anything accounting related.

However, if you ever decide the consulting isnt your thing, or you get laid of, that CPA will signification improve your employment opportunities (although it'll be more concentrated in accounting obviously). But, if you ever want to jump ship to IB, a CPA might actually be somewhat of a benefit if you have 0 modeling experience, or no experience in Financial Services during your time at consulting, which might occur at PwC. (Being in FS Advisory, does not mean you'll be doing FS work, you'll be doing consulting work for an FS client). Your CPA will prove that you know financial statements, and all that jazz.

The cons though, is if you're willing to sacrifice the last free summer you will ever have to study nonstop for that exam. keep in mind you only get like 15 vacay days once you start work, that 3 weeks. no more month-long winter breaks or 3 month summer breaks. Also, PwC will not give you a bonus fo rit like they do audit or tax, they will pay for the materials and the test but nothing more.

Hugo

 
Mar 31,2013

Hi OP,

I'm in a very similar situation that you are... recent grad that is starting in a Big 4 advisory position soon. My group too does not require a CPA, and like yourself, I too weighed the pros and cons of getting the license. Eventually I decided on getting the CPA (and CFA as well).

I'm going to assume you are in some sort of Risk Advisory group or TAS, and in that case I would recommend you to get the CPA. Like many people have pointed out, the CPA can only help you, not hurt you. If in the future you find that it is "branding" you as an accountant, then you can simply leave it out of your resume. However, from my own discussions with friends and family members that are former CPAs that have gone on to pursue different career paths, rarely is having a CPA license viewed in a negative light.

Plus PwC pays for Becker, license fees and gives you a $5000 bonus on top. If you're sitting on your ass at home anyways, why not be productive? The firm sponsorship is roughly valued at $10K, so seize the opportunity and get some extra letters behind your name.

 
Mar 31,2013

It's tough to answer based on the information you've given. The biggest thing to consider is what you might want to do in 5 or 10 years. I was in a similar boat to you and chose to get the CPA - it has helped me land a role in Business Valuations and F500 finance. Neither of these are remotely accounting/tax. Actually, right now I'm more in manufacturing/operations than accounting and my next role will probably be Business Development.

What I've found is that the CPA makes it easy to get accounting roles and provides awesome security against unemployment. However, I've found it very helpful in non-accounting roles as well. I will never take an "accounting" or tax role and the CPA has paid off immensely for me.

I know quite a few people in Big 4 Advisory groups (I was in one myself) - my perception was that a vast majority do have their CPA.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

 
Mar 31,2013

I was in a similar position as you are in when I started my career. PwC Advisory/Valuations, got my CPA, then b-school. I'm post-MBA in PERE, so I can tell you that a CPA won't hurt your career and no one will pigeon hole you as an accountant (your actual job responsibilities and groups you work for will take care of that). However, if you are serious about transitioning to banking, then you should consider studying for your GMAT now, so that you can make the jump post-MBA.

 
Mar 31,2013

As a big 4 auditor about to get his CPA License, I would think that the CPA would help, but I would question how you would be able to get the necessary hours to become certified. Passing the tests is great, but if you want to really make it worth it, I would make sure you can get the proper accounting hours.

 
Apr 30,2013
rondo87:

As a big 4 auditor about to get his CPA License, I would think that the CPA would help, but I would question how you would be able to get the necessary hours to become certified. Passing the tests is great, but if you want to really make it worth it, I would make sure you can get the proper accounting hours.

^Agreed - I just took the CPA exam and know that in most states you have to have approx. 30 credit hours of accounting (not finance) courses. At my school if you were a finance major and minored in accounting I believe this fulfilled the requirement. Not sure if everyone was aware of this.

Also, I work at a Big 4 firm and the number of CPAs depends on what group you are in. Typical divisions include:

Forensic Accounting - most are CPAs or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
Financial Risk Management / Credit Risk - most are Finance majors / non-CPAs, but there are still a good number of CPAs
IT Consulting - not many CPAs, obviously
Internal Audit - mostly all CPAs / CIAs

-Also, in order to be promoted to Manager for Audit / Tax (not sure about consulting) you must hold a CPA or other certification (CIA, CFSA, etc)

 
Mar 31,2013

How confident are you that the tax system is still dynamic and not static in 10 years tho something else to conisser

 
 
Apr 30,2013

Better to spend your time practicing cases

 
Mar 31,2013

We will prob be a flat tax system in a few years

 
 
Mar 31,2013
blastoise:

We will prob be a flat tax system in a few years

Yes and we will have gold standard

Get busy living

 
Apr 30,2013

No. You'd be better off trying to start a small business on campus - that would be something eye-catching on the resume

 
Apr 30,2013

I haven't seen one yet.

 
Apr 30,2013

I have never met a partner at an MBB firm that holds any kind of consulting certification. What does that tell you?

 
Apr 30,2013