Working at a Big 4 firm is certainly a significant milestone in anyone’s career. However, for the majority of people, a time comes when they consider leaving with the benefits of working in the Big 4 in the bag.
If you have done some research (or read some of my other blog posts) on life in a Big 4 firm, you will know that 3 years (upon qualification) after a graduate intake enters, many decide to leave and pursue opportunities elsewhere.
In this post I set out why Big 4 employees often leave and the benefits of working in the Big 4 in terms of career progression.
Why is staff turnover so high in the Big 4?
There are some internal reasons driving this turnover explained in detail here.
A huge advantage and draw that comes with working in the Big 4 are the opportunities that are made available externally. It is these opportunities that draw employees out of big 4 firms and into the external job market.
Benefits of working in the Big 4
1) Brand recognition
Having one of the 4 firms stated on a CV (or Resume) can often be seen as a golden ticket. In a recent study carried out by Forbes, the PwC brand was considered to be the fifth most recognisable corporate brand in the world. This is certainly one of the benefits of working in the Big 4.
In addition, potential employers are well aware of the type of culture that persists in these firms, and having years of experience in being able to manage the work and balance passing exams with the day-to-day demands of professional work is rewarded.
2) Pay increase
As mentioned above, it is usually the case that an external move generates an increase in pay. From experience, it is very much common practice for a London-based qualified auditor to demand a 25% pay increase when looking to move externally relative to the big 4 salary.
3) Work-life balance
It is no secret that the hours required within the big 4 can be long. I have first hand experience of working 50+ hour weeks on a regular basis. It is certainly possible to achieve a role with similar or higher pay that requires less working hours, although this is somewhat dependent on the industry that an employee moves into.
Progression in big 4 firms is very linear and structured. This can be both a good and a bad thing from an employee’s perspective. Upon qualification, the typical route from senior to manager takes two years, and with it comes a 10-15% pay bump. Despite this clear upward career path, waiting two years at this stage of a career is a long time.
Moving externally provides the opportunity to obtain the pay bump and can provide the manager level responsibilities but without having to wait two years.
Is starting your career in the Big 4 worth it?
On the whole, the big 4 is an excellent place to start a career due to the opportunities that having the recognisable name on your CV creates when leaving the big 4. Career progression at the big 4 firms is clear however is often overly rigid in that promotion only occurs after an allocated number of years experience which may not coincide with when an employee actually deserves the promotion.
The most common route for recently qualified seniors in the big 4 is to move externally and thus leaving the big 4 due to the increase in pay and better work-life balance. Despite the high staff turnover, starting your career in the big 4 remains an excellent choice.