Big Four Accounting Salary

The group consists of global privately-owned accounting partnerships. 

Patrick Curtis

Reviewed by

Patrick Curtis

Expertise: Private Equity | Investment Banking


February 16, 2023

Students and professionals aspire to work within the Big Four, a nickname given to the four largest professional service organizations. The group consists of global privately-owned accounting partnerships.

Often, salary compensation is one of the motivators for a job at one of these firms.

This oligopoly consists of Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (EY), and KPMG. They provide accounting and advisory services that have generated upwards of $160 billion combined in 2021, increasing by approximately $20 billion since 2018.

Thus, they can pay their employees well, so their first years often receive anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000, while their partners can make upwards of $250,000 to $350,000.

However, an overarching theme with salaries in this industry is that they vary for factors such as location, experience, and department.

These firms have great opportunities to grow due to their vast resources, training, global opportunities, and experience while following a pyramid-like structure that encourages professional development.

As a result, salaries are not stagnant for too long because employees can prosper with hard work, consistency, and accumulated skill. This enables individuals' career progression and the ability to become partners in about ten years.  

Job Overview at Big Four Accounting

The Big 4 offers audit/assurance, advisory, consulting, and tax services. In addition to the sub-industry you wish to pursue, the hierarchy within the organization is as follows: Associate, Senior Associate, Manager, Senior Manager, and Partner.

As an associate, you would find yourself earning $53,000-$61,000 within audit, $67,000-$72,000 in advisory, $81,000-$88,000 within consulting, and $59,000-$64,000 in tax.

Moreover, due to the Big Four's expansive reach, they have locations in every major city, including New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Seattle. As a result, salary ranges for said roles tend to be generalizations due to office variance.

Naturally, as you progress through the roles within the company, so does your salary. However, wages still vary depending on the part and the financial service.

For example, as a manager, you would find yourself earning $98,000-$112,000 within audit, $119,000-$133,000 in advisory, $137,000-$162,000 in consulting, and $106,000-$112,000 in tax.

Suppose you are interested in following a career path in the accounting industry. In that case, some skills that are highly necessary for your success and progression are Excel Modeling and Accounting Fundamental skills. 

Big Four Accounting Salary Rankings and Roles

A commonly-asked question by the public is which firm pays the best. Unfortunately, this answer is somewhat subjective due to the many moving parts, including which country, region, city, sub-industry (e.g., consulting vs. audit), and position one refer to.

According to The Big Four Accounting Firms, the firms are ranked Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG in terms of revenue and size. Therefore, it can be understood that the higher up one is in the hierarchy (e.g., associate versus partner), the more substantial one's pay will be.

Similarly, your salary can range from $250,000 to low seven-figure pay when you reach a partner position. Again, this takes around a decade to obtain but addresses the dispersed salary range.

Moreover, in terms of salary, consultants are generally paid the most, followed by advisory, tax, and then audit/assurance. However, it is worth mentioning that salary differences can often be marginal depending on the experience and value of a particular employee.

Therefore, someone working as an associate in Deloitte's consulting division may be making a similar salary to someone working as an associate in PwC's advisory division. Like many jobs, salary ranges at the Big 4 paint a good picture but are not the be-all-end-all.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)

PwC, founded in London in 1849, is the second biggest accounting firm in the United States. Founded by Samuel Price, the company grew to merge with Holyland and Waterhouse as well as with Coopers & Lybrand - thus, the name PricewaterhouseCoopers.

As of 2022, PricewaterhouseCoopers has over 295,000 employees and generates over $45 billion in revenue. They are heavily involved in the consumer markets, financial services, health, technology, media, and telecommunications industries.

PwC has training programs and seminars for current and potential employees online, free, and available to the general public. They can be found on their website, alongside case studies and featured insights.

In terms of salary, PwC pays its employees in the following general range:

  • Associate: $45,000 - $65,000
  • Senior Associate: $65,000 - $85,000
  • Manager: $100,000 - $130,000
  • Senior Manager: $150,000 - $180,000
  • Partner: $250,000+


Deloitte is the number one accounting firm in the United States, formed as a merger between three separate companies to create Deloitte LLP. Deloitte's subsidiaries include:

They have one of the higher starting salaries for employees at an average of $71,000. Additionally, they have the highest growth rate out of all the Big 4 firms, approximately 7-8% annually.

As of 2022, Deloitte has over 345,000 employees and generates over $50 billion in revenue.

They have a viral Discovery Intern program that targets undergraduate first- and second-year students to integrate them into the Deloitte community.

In terms of salary, Deloitte pays its employees in the following general range:

  • Associate: $45,000 - $65,000
  • Senior Associate: $65,000 - $85,000
  • Manager: $100,000 - $130,000
  • Senior Manager: $150,000 - $180,000
  • Partner: $250,000+


KPMG was established in 1911, boasting over 670 offices in over 150 countries to become one of the top four accounting firms in the world. While their growth rate may not precisely match those of Deloitte and PwC, they are still readily expanding, merging, and taking on new partners.

Last year, KPMG boasted over 236,000 employees and a revenue of over $32 billion. Additionally, KPMG's Lakehouse, located in Orlando, Florida, is apart from its competitors. They use the site as an innovation and development hub for their employees and interns.

Like the other major accounting firms, KPMG recruits on-campus while offering free webcasts and resources on its website for potential employees to garner CPE (Continuing Professional Education) credits.

In terms of salary, KPMG pays its employees in the following general range:

  • Associate: $45,000 - $60,000
  • Senior Associate: $60,000 - $80,000
  • Manager: $95,000 - $120,000
  • Senior Manager: $140,000 - $180,000
  • Partner: $250,000+

Ernst & Young (EY)

In 1989, two companies, Ernst & Ernst and Arthur Young & Company merged to form Ernst & Young - one of the top 3 accounting firms in the world. They have over 700 offices in 150 different countries, growing tremendously as part of the Big 4.

Another positive note is that EY is highly recognized for its diversity, as they recently launched the EAN (Entrepreneurs Access Network) immersion program. The initiative aids Black and Latinx companies in achieving growth.

Ernst and Young have over 312,000 employees and generate over $40 billion in revenue. In addition to their other services, EY offers private equity services, providing opportunities to source deal opportunities and combine sector insights.

In terms of salary, Ernst & Young pays its employees in the following general range:

  • Associate: $45,000 - $60,000
  • Senior Associate: $65,000 - $80,000
  • Manager: $100,000 - $120,000
  • Senior Manager: $150,000 - $180,000
  • Partner: $250,000+

Final Considerations

To conclude, working in the Big 4 eventually pays exceptionally well, and, as discussed above, entry-level salaries vary marginally for sector, city, and region.

Since their compensation packages are similar, another factor one should consider when applying would be the fit factor. A quick scan of each of the firms' pages shows they have different values and visions.

With this in mind, research which firms best aligns with your values in addition to the resources and training provided to advance your career progression.

For example, PwC's purpose is to "build trust in society and solve important problems." They accomplish this by acting with integrity to make a difference, caring, working together, and reimagining the possible.

Taking time to analyze each firm's purpose and values places you at a significant advantage when looking for a good salary. By demonstrating how your experiences provide value while aligning with the firm's goals, you increase your value and potential for higher pay.

Finally, reference our Accounting Foundations Course below. It will help you navigate the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement if you want to pursue a career in the Big Four's financial services sector.


Accounting Foundations Course

Everything You Need To Build Your Accounting Skills

To Help You Thrive in the Most Flexible Job in the World.

Learn More

Researched and authored by Shreyas John | LinkedIn

Reviewed and edited by James Fazeli-Sinaki | LinkedIn

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