Many accountants begin their accounting career working at large public accounting firms. The four top public accounting firms in the United States are nicknamed the “Big Four.” The Big Four are accounting school is considered a very successful way to begin an accounting career.
A number of accountants move on to other opportunities after getting their start at a Big Four company. Some start their own firms, some become management accountants or internal auditors at large corporations, some work for the government, and others find different paths in the financial world and may work as financial planners or even CFOs. However, some accountants choose to make lifelong accounting careers within a Big Four firm.
Salaries at Big Four firms have higher averages than at other firms, which is one reason some accountants choose to stay. Your salary will increase each year, and after at least five years on the job, you may be eligible for a managerial position and a more significant raise. There is still a hierarchy at the managerial level. After at least seven years, you might be able to become a senior manager and enjoy another noticeable salary increase.
The salary increase between a managerial position and a partner of a Big Four firm is even more pronounced. Managers may average around $100,000 per year, while some partners earn upwards of $300,000 per year. Some senior partners at Big Four firms may even earn up to $1 million per year.
While the salary prospects for making partner at a Big Four firm are motivating, less than 5 percent of accountants who begin their accounting careers at Big Four firms actually continue on to become partners. This may partially be due to the lure of accounting careers elsewhere, such as the desire to work for a particular corporation or government agency or the desire to become self-employed. However, keep in mind that, even while personal interest may deter some people, the path to becoming a partner at a Big Four firm is a competitive one. You will need to earn your accounting certification early on and be proactive about staying up to date on accounting news, trends, and technology.