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4 Reasons to Start Your Career at the Big 4

Aug 13, 2018
How beginning your career with a stint in public accounting at Deloitte, EY, KPMG, or PwC pays off

By Kara Sherrer

Starting a career at one of the four biggest accounting firms in the world — Deloitte, EY, KPMG, or PwC — will set you up for success and open many professional doors. Whether you plan to stay in public accounting or not, working for the Big 4 early on will help you develop your career, build your network, gain exposure to a variety of industries, and expand your geographic opportunities. Here are the four main reasons to start your career at the Big 4:

1. Big 4 Helps With Developing Your Career 

James Powell, Managing Partner of KPMG’s Nashville office

James Powell

Starting your career at the Big 4 puts you on a solid foundation, and your momentum only builds from there. The firms provide many opportunities for training and professional development, and a solid starting salary is often supplemented through annual promotions. Working at the Big 4 also gives you a chance to hone your technical skills, especially in the accounting and financial realms, which is always helpful for a career in business. Plus, you’ll get management experience after your first couple years on the job, an advantage that can fast-track you past peers at other companies who don’t get to manage others so early on.

“The world-class training, the people you’re working with and learning from…it’s so invaluable, and that’s what public accounting gives you,” said James Powell, the Managing Partner of KPMG’s Nashville office and the National Partner in Charge of Campus Recruiting and University Relations.

2. Building Your Network

Vanderbilt MAcc students network with recruiters from the Big 4

MAcc students network with recruiters from the Big 4

Starting your career at the Big 4 can exponentially increase the size of your professional network. If you complete a Master of Accountancy degree, you’ll meet students who will go on to work for Big 4 firms and beyond. Once you start working, you’ll build relationships with a wide variety of people — including senior business leaders — at your firm and at client firms. As those people continue to pursue professional opportunities, your network expands even more.

After Cam Cooper (MAcc’15) started work at EY’s Nashville office, he began meeting “right away” with controllers, vice presidents, chief financial officers, and other executives at major client companies — which he says wouldn’t have happened if he had pursued a different career.

3. Big 4 Gives Exposure to Industries

Emily O'Dell, Director of Admissions of the MAcc Program

Emily O’Dell, MAcc Programs Director

You won’t only learn about public accounting while working at the Big 4: you’ll also be exposed to the industries of your clients. This makes it easy to transition to the client side or pursue other business opportunities after you make manager (or whenever you decide it’s time for the next step in your career). In addition, you can find out which industries are a good fit for you.

“As an associate starting out as an intern, you will be placed on a variety of clients so that you get a feel for different industries,” said Emily O’Dell, the Director of the MAcc Programs at Vanderbilt Business. “The benefit of that is that you get a sense of what all is out there. And you do have the opportunity to focus on something that you’re interested in so you can limit that boredom that may come from doing something you’re not interested in doing. So there are a lot of options in public accounting — you’re not just backed into a corner with one thing.”

4. Expanding Your Geographic Opportunities

The Big 4 are global companies with offices around the world

Employment opportunities for Vanderbilt MAcc students

There are more than 30 major metro areas across the U.S. that host Big 4 offices. If you come from a smaller town, or went to college at a school with more of a regional recruiting focus, earning a Master of Accountancy degree and then launching your career with the Big 4 opens up a lot of geographic opportunities you wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise. For example, Adam Schechtman grew up in the same house in San Diego his whole life — then used his MAcc degree to launch a career in valuation at Deloitte in NYC.

And the geographic opportunities aren’t just confined to the U.S. The Big 4 are global companies with offices around the world, opening up chances for international rotations. Mary Hsu (MAcc’09) worked in Singapore and Switzerland during her time at PwC; she’s now a VP at Goldman Sachs.

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