For a future CPA, there’s no time more exciting than preparing to complete your education and embark on your first career move into accounting. For some accounting students, deciding where to begin working right out of school may be almost reflexive, as many soon-to-be graduates have been conditioned to view a Big 4 job as the only path to success after completing college. While Big 4 firms do offer a wide variety of employment and development opportunities for the new accounting graduate, finding your professional stride with a mid-sized CPA firm may provide just the right mix of growth and balance to offer a great start to your accounting career.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider your employment options after college:
How important is variety to me when it comes to the type of work I do?
In general, medium-sized accounting firms can offer broader practical experience than a Big 4 firm, allowing you to take on a variety of different roles with several clients, even early on in your career. This diversity could give you a better understanding of the big picture of servicing the client holistically, helping to build a strong knowledge base and allowing you to explore different areas of accounting, so you can discover what best suits your talents and interests.
Big 4 firms generally have many employees working with large companies, so this may result in spending most of your time working with a single client in a very specific and narrowly focused role. For some people, the lack of variety can become tedious, and it may pigeonhole you into a limited niche if you do decide to take your talents elsewhere in the future.
Do I want balance and flexibility in my work?
Smaller, mid-tier accounting firms open up many opportunities for flexibility and work/life balance that their team members value. Sure, tax season is stressful and demanding for every tax professional, but outside of that time of the year, smaller firms may offer a number of flexible work options, including remote work and schedule shifting, to meet personal and family needs as they arise.
By contrast, Big 4 firms are renowned for often cultivating high stress levels and demanding grueling hours, particularly for new associates who are just establishing themselves in their careers. Regular overtime, nights and weekends are not out of the ordinary in a big accounting firm environment, while this may be more of a rarity in a mid-sized firm. At our firm in Sarasota, Florida, we typically work a 37.5 hour work week, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 4:30 outside of busy season. Other firms may have different schedules.
Is salary all that matters when I’m looking for a career?
While Big 4 firms generally offer top salaries in the industry, the required overtime for a salaried position can often make the actual hourly rate much less attractive than the compensation package looks on paper. Medium-sized firms can offer team members a competitive base salary, and they can be located anywhere in the country, where the cost of living may be lower than large metropolitan cities where large accounting firms are typically headquartered. Our firm also offers team members overtime pay, which is quite unique in the accounting field.
After considering your budget and salary requirements, it’s always a good idea to contemplate trade-offs when it comes to work/life balance, company culture, office location and overall employee satisfaction when it comes to accepting employment. Making your first career choice is one of the most exciting times in your life, and there are many opportunities and options to consider. Take time to evaluate all of your options and explore the alternatives that a mid-sized CPA firm may have to offer to new accounting professionals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jared Dennis is the Talent Acquisition Specialist at Kerkering Barberio, a mid-sized accounting firm ranked as a Tampa Bay Business Journal Top-10 accounting firm and a 2021 Accounting Today Best Firms to Work For. KB is headquartered in Sarasota, Florida, a beautiful beachfront city that was recently ranked in the top ten Best Places to Live by U.S. News and World Report. For more than fifty years, Kerkering Barberio has called Sarasota home because the city is a vibrant, exciting and beautiful place to live and work. If you’re exploring opportunities in the accounting industry, reach out to Jared at to discuss.