Corp Fin F500 or Big 4? ---> End goal MBA

breezy44's picture
Rank: Senior Baboon | 185

I'm interested to know others' opinions on whether a Big 4 gig or Corp Fin at a F500 would look "better" on an MBA application. Right now, I am working at a Big 4 in audit, and doing an advisory rotation with the strong possibility of entering into the advisory division full-time after two years. I'm strongly considering applying for corpfin positions after my first year, which will be in a few months.

Here's what I like about Big 4: it's a great place to start a career in so many ways. I see a lot of different clients which lead to great networking opportunities, everyone is young and fun, and I get to travel. But with corpfin, I think I'll enjoy the work more simply due to the fact that I'll be working for a company that actually produces a good... and however small of a part I have in that, at least it's something. Also, the hours are better. The pay is more or less the same from what I understand although the Big 4 rises a bit faster, but if I want to get my MBA down the road then I don't see much relevance. I'm not sure about the "prestige" between the two, but I don't place much emphasis on that. Being a prestige whore is a losing battle 100% of the time... if I like what I'm doing and am happy who cares right?

So is there a clear-cut answer on which one will look "better" on an MBA app, or which one will most likely offer experiences that I can spin into a good story? There are also so many corpfin positions... treasury, FPA, etc, and I want to make sure I'm not just basically doing reporting work for a F500... in which case Big 4 would be 10X better.

This stuff is really general... I just started working and quite frankly don't know shit yet. Is it one of those things that if you're good... you're good, and there's no clear-cut advantage of one over the other? I want to be exposed to as much as possible and learn as much as I can at this point. And thanks for all of your help... this website saved me when I was in a dark place, as unbelievable as that sounds.

Comments (15)

Mar 7, 2014

It's definitely not clear-cut, especially at this point in your career. There are a few important things that MBA admits take into account, including the actual projects you've worked on, growing responsibility, international experience, other unique experiences, GMAT scores (usually as a checkmark - this won't get you in), substantial volunteer opportunities, etc.

Both Big 4 and F500 send people to top MBAs. See this (you may have to create an account - just enter email/pass and skip the next step):

P&Q has that for other schools as well, but I digress. Here are some of the companies that send people to Harvard. They're obviously not all going to be corpfin, but whatever:

15 - Google
10 - Microsoft
7 - PwC
5 - Lockheed
5 - Shell

Here's for Columbia (
Deloitte - 27
Google - 5
PwC - 5
E&Y - 4
Capital One - 3
Conoco - 3
EMC - 3
KPMG - 3
Kraft - 3
Northrup - 3

Obviously a diverse group. Not all MBA programs are going to have the same accepted companies/positions. These are also going to change year-to-year. Best advice I've ever heard is essentially do what you want to do and do it well, you don't know what MBA admissions are going to want during the next admissions cycle.

Apr 12, 2014

Thanks for the article. It's a little unclear if the Deloitte at Columbia is their consulting practice and the PwC at Harvard is PwC Audit and not PwC Management consultant. It appears that a lot of consultants place very well, so not sure if the auditors are making up these numbers or not.

Apr 12, 2014

Yea, keep in mind also that they're missing 30%+ of each class. Based on anecdotal evidence from people I know, Big 4 accounting definitely do get into top MBAs. Honestly though, a top MBA is ridiculously hard to get into. Banking on that happening is setting yourself up for disappointment.

Mar 7, 2014

I am not currently pursuing an MBA so take this with a grain of salt...

The way I see it, and MBA is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. What are your plans post MBA? That should dictate your decision more than "what looks better" on your app. Your timeline is also going to be important; while I can only offer anecdotal evidence, the majority of those who I have seen go get an MBA from PwC (currently working there) leave as managers (5-6 year track at PwC, 4 years at the other Big4). An MBA is a prerequisite in some firms to be promoted past a certain point, so try to gauge what others who are in a similar career path are doing.

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Mar 7, 2014

Personally I would say it depends what group you get placed in. When you say advisory, what type of advisory? I am currently at a F500 with goal of MBA and my story is going to be built around international experience. 1 year out of college, I've already taken a 6 month expat assignment in Europe, and looking to expand that further. So my question to you is what kind of story can you build at big 4, or if you go F500 what are the opportunities there that's going to be unique compared to someone else in a similar position. The way I like to think about it - your competition is your peers doing the same job so how do you make yourself stand out. If you go advisory, whats going to set you apart from all the other guys in advisory applying? (perhaps your in M&A advisory and taken on very interesting deals that others havent)

Mar 7, 2014

Just put up a post with some more substantial information over here:

Keep in mind the data is incomplete and (I believe) under-represents F500

Mar 9, 2014

Right now, I am working at a Big 4 in audit, and doing an advisory rotation with the strong possibility of entering into the advisory division full-time after two years.

Hey, I was actually curious, how are internal transfers where you work? I'm still in my undergrad and I really want to get into advisory at the big 4 (preferably in their corp fin divisions, ie M&A advisory). Do you see any undergrads breaking in? Or is all internal transfers/graduate hires?

Mar 10, 2014

From what I have seen, there are a great deal of internal hires to the TAS divisions. Typically the high performers in audit with their CPAs move to TAS during their 3rd year or so. That being said, I definitely know people who got TAS jobs right out of undergrad. And if you're set on doing TAS right now, it wouldn't hurt to try. There are also so many divisions within TAS, so make sure you're applying wisely.

Mar 31, 2014

Makes sense, and sounds good thanks man. But in those regards, are the guys jumping into TAS right out of undergrad generally accounting focused people? Or do you think it would be possible to break in with a Finance Degree (as my school only allows you to specialize in one) but with a number of core accounting courses taken already

Oct 30, 2015

IMO, sticking with the Big 4 and trying to transfer to Transaction Services is a better route to MBA than Corporate Finance, unless you are able to land Corporate Development. It's a circular issue though, in other words, you might be able to leave Big 4 TS for Corp Dev but almost certainly not go from audit to Corp Dev. The exit ops you'll land from audit are most certainly FP&A at best, 95% leave for financial reporting/accounting/internal audit, so even getting FP&A can be a bit of a stretch at times.

Said differently, TS > Audit; Corp Development > FP&A/Financial Reporting ect. But from audit, the only move you can really make that gets you into a higher profile more prestigious and sexy job is to do an internal transfer to TS. this will vastly improve your MBA profile and also your career prospects in finance, breaking away from accounting entirely.

Also, within Transaction Services, Financial Due Diligence is the job you want. TS Valuations and TS Capital Markets Advisory, as well as M&A integration and pretty much any other job are all financial reporting oriented. Valuations sounds good, it's mostly finance majors, but at the end of the day, their job is to do post Acquisition asset valuations for intengibles and other assets, basically assigning acquisition price first to tangible assets and than to intangibles and goodwill. So TS- Valuation group values all those tangible and intangible assets to determine how much purchase price gets allocated to each. Lots of people think the valuations group does DCF valuations for actual deals...not so, the bankers do that, TS- FDD helps adjust valuations, but the V group is doing their work simply for after the fact financial reporting. that said it's still interesting work. I did one engagement for that group and valuing product level intangible assets involved using revenue and P&L forecasts, deriving cash flow, and discounting to current value just like a DCF model.

Anyway, Financial Due Diligence is one of the only jobs at the big 4 that helps clients with operational / deal values and results in actual deal offer reductions for buyers, so there's actual value there. As such, that role provides the best exit ops and the best MBA prospects. When I was in the TS-FDD practice, people were getting into top 10 MBA's all the time. Hell a buddy of mine just did Big 4 audit, no accelerated promotions, he just made manager in 6 years and then applied to Columbia MBA and was accepted and given a full scholarship based on how attractive he was as a candidate. So if he can get in w avg audit stats (granted he was just about the smartest dude I've ever known from the audit practice), I'm sure someone coming from TS who applies to 5-6 of the top 10 MBA programs will definitely get into 1-2 schools. Confidence is the key, don't ever be apologetic about working at the Big 4 in your essays or interviews. Make it seem like your completely satisfied w the Big 4 and it's been an amazing experience. Hone in on the leadership developed in audit. This really is true, in Corp Finance and TS, you won't really supervise anyone till manager level in TS and Sr. Manager/ Director level in corp finance. In audit, you manager 3-4 people as a Senior Assoc after 2-3 years, and that is the one single field in all of business where you can boast leadership skills so early in career and not be exaggerating in the least. An essay coming from Big 4 should absolutely highlight this fact, make the adcom fully aware of how much leadership responsibility is pushed down to Sr. Associates in audit and how every other industry lacks this.

good luck, I'm 100% sure that if you really want it, you will get into a top 10 or even a top 5 MBA and in the end you can do this whether you stay at big 4 or leave for Corp job!

Oct 30, 2015