Feeling down about post-Big 4 options

Art.Vandelay's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 721

I'm a Big 4 audit intern, just finishing up for the summer. Going into this, I was really pumped about my career prospects post-Big 4 (I know its kinda soon to be thinking of an exit strategy, but I'm playing the odds here). At my school, Big 4 audit is just about the best thing you can do, as we're a complete non-target for just about anything. My internship/FT offer was in a different part of the country (major metro). There are much more respectable target schools in this area for things like consulting, banking, etc. A lot of my fellow interns are either trying to switch to advisory (Man. consulting), or have no intention of taking the audit offers, and basically shit on anything accounting related (mindless grunt work, exiting to "bookkeeping"), comparing it people going into banking, consulting, corp fin with "better" work and more money.

I know a crack at IB at a BB is rare, but that's not something I want due to the hours. Consulting does intrigue me, but even that isn't necessary. I just want to be in a position with more of a forward looking role, that I can move up in a company in some sort of senior leadership capacity.

I don't hate accounting, and honestly believe your career satisfaction comes more from other factors than the actual work, but I don't want to feel like all I'm doing is looking back. I want to help the company move forward.

Honestly, starting/buying into a small tax & accounting practice sounds appealing too, but if I don't go entrepreneurial, I don't want to just be a controller in F500. I'd love to get to a point that I can work around 50 hours a week in a VP/Director type role (striking a balance between optimistic and realistic) in a non-strictly accounting role.

I guess my question is how doable is this path, and what is the best time to leave public accounting? The firm I'm at promotes to senior after 3 years rather than 2, if that means anything. Like I said, I have no problem putting in my time. I know I'm not owed anything and have to stay hungry and earn it, which I intend to do, but I want to make sure I'm doing the best thing I can for my career, both in terms of advancement and opportunity. I really have no desires for an MBA, due to lost income and the high cost of any program that's worth it. I do believe that I'm in control of my career and always have, but lately I'm feeling a little discouraged and just want to make sure I'm giving myself all the tools and knowledge I can to help with the next step.

Any thoughts, opinions, and tips are greatly appreciated!

When Can I Leave the Big Four and What Can I Do After the Big 4?

Regardless of what your classmates and fellow interns may say, there are a good number of options that you can pursue after working in the big 4 - you simply need to be aggressive and persistent. Our users shared their thoughts below.

CorpFinanceGuy - Corporate Finance Analyst:

Put in your 2 years and then find some tech entrepreneur and convince him that you can handle all of the financials. Equity + experience actually managing a real company's financials = valuable. Assume some roles other than just finance, which is typical in a small company, and then hope the company takes off. If that happens, your career trajectory is significantly better off than doing regular FPA or other auditing bullshit.


Wish I had done the big 4 internship first then jumped into this role as Big 4 + MBA will get you into more interviews than not. My advice: deal with auditing as it gives you credibility and always be looking out for better opportunities.

You can learn more about quitting the Big 4 in a video below.

Read More About Leaving the Big 4 on WSO

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