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Old 10-30-2007, 11:27 PM   #21
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I've been a CPA in the US for about 20 years and I can tell you that the best thing I ever did for myself was to stumble into a Big 4 job.
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I currently do accounting consulting work for all kinds of companies, large and small, public and private, and I can tell you that pretty much all the time, the first thing clients ask is "Is she a CPA?", and the second thing they ask is "Is she Big 4?". So, unless you can predict right now that you will want to stay in a gov't job until you get your pension, my advice is to take a Big 4 job if you can get one, stick it out for a few years, get your certification, then move on.
The Big 4 have all kinds of practices within. If you are interested in a career that focuses on tax you can do that, then move to a civil service position, and ultimately have the option of staying there or going into private practice. The key is to have professional options.

In all honesty the folks who I have met who work for US IRS are not happy campers. NEVER, NEVER assume that a job with the gov is without a lot of pressure. They too have unrealistic expectations and jerks for managers. The key is to know that you can leave for better opportunities. The change in the retirement system for US Feds freed them from the shackles of CSRS, most of the retirement savings are portable.
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Old 10-31-2007, 07:09 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by meridiver View Post
I've been a CPA in the US for about 20 years and I can tell you that the best thing I ever did for myself was to stumble into a Big 4 job. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but since that seemed to be the aspiration of all the other accounting majors, I just followed the crowd.

As a result, doors are wide open to me that just aren't to many of the accountants I work with. Anytime I apply for a job, I'm automatically considered a superior candidate to anyone who is not a CPA from the Big 4 regardless of their background. Mind you, I'm not saying this is right, I'm just saying that it is true. I currently do accounting consulting work for all kinds of companies, large and small, public and private, and I can tell you that pretty much all the time, the first thing clients ask is "Is she a CPA?", and the second thing they ask is "Is she Big 4?". So, unless you can predict right now that you will want to stay in a gov't job until you get your pension, my advice is to take a Big 4 job if you can get one, stick it out for a few years, get your certification, then move on.
I agree 100% with Meridiver. Out of my 15 year career, only the first 3 were spent with a Big 4 firm. I didn't enjoy the experience and am much happier at a 2nd tier CPA firm, but that Big 4 experience is still a big plus on my resume.
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Old 06-04-2008, 05:44 AM   #23
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I am a CA who has moved on from the big 4 life, I have worked for smaller firms and are now working for a large multinational. You may not realize it while slaving away and putting up with the what the big 4 brings, but a few years after leaving you really to begin to see the benefit. The training and experiences provided by the Big 4 do set you up well for life. Well worth it, if you have the chance.


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Old 10-09-2008, 12:30 PM   #24
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Thanks for everyone's advice. Will accepting offer from big 4 starting Sept 2009 (audit for financial industry). Will get my CA and probably move on to tax or a mid-size.
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Old 10-16-2008, 03:08 PM   #25
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Currently 21 and an accounting major. Will be graduating in 2 more years.

Everyone is going for Big 4 jobs, however friends who've worked there (and moved on) tell tales of 80 hour work weeks for 45 grand, coming home Saturday and Sunday at 1am, telling me outright I'm going to hate my job but hey, the exit opportunities are worth it. i.e. headhunters calling on a weekly basis.

However, Canada Revenue Agency also has an auditor apprenticeship program. Start off at 41 grand, after a year of probation move to 50k. No overtime, or if there is, it's paid. Flexible work hours. Paid studies (MBA, law degree).

I'll be severely limiting my choices and while the starting salary is higher, the ceiling is much lower.

Just looking to retire as soon as possible with as painless a journey as possible. Gov't accounting sounds like a dream right now and the only concern is losing my job due to budget cuts and being screwed. Otherwise, I'd rather just stay in the government until I retire.

Which would you guys choose?
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secure job, decent pay, decent working conditions, minimum overtime, guaranteed pension, and employability as a tax expert at the back end.
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Old 10-16-2008, 04:00 PM   #26
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Thanks for everyone's advice. Will accepting offer from big 4 starting Sept 2009 (audit for financial industry). Will get my CA and probably move on to tax or a mid-size.
Congrats on your new job. Sounds like it will be a lot of work, but while you're young and single you can work hard and play hard too, just make sure you do both.

Don't get caught up in an expensive lifestyle, and you will have many options to choose from in a few years. Good luck!
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Old 10-16-2008, 08:27 PM   #27
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Congratulations. I have a second interview with on of the Big 4 in two weeks for a summer internship.
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Old 10-27-2008, 07:37 PM   #28
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Good luck! The rest of the school year is so relaxed after getting an offer.
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Old 10-28-2008, 08:26 AM   #29
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i worked private sector for 8 yrs and federal civil service for 18 yrs, in that order, in the US, so i had a taste of both.
civil service was overly bureaucratic and eventually became unbearable for the "idea person" that i am, but the "while w*rking" and post FIRE benefits were superior to private sector.
private sector was more unstable with respect to long term employment. benefits were much worse than civil service.
salaries were about equal only at entry level, but salary growth in private sector had more potential.

oops. i just saw your accepted a j*b in private sector. congratulations!
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Old 10-28-2008, 06:15 PM   #30
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Coming out of school, I would not take the job that had the shortest path to FIRE as the primary criteria. Make sure you enjoy what you do to some extent.

Decide what you want to do right NOW. Then when you get a salary, save 20% of it. And also keep your skills up to date so you can change jobs or careers as needed.

I graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree from a top 5 school and around my Junior year I realized that was not my path. I finished the degree, then found work in software. Turns out I had a great skill and passion for teaching software and 11 years later still doing something with the software I started with.

But at same time I have had to re-train myself on 4 different software packages to keep my skills current (we are bought and sold a lot- I am on 4th company name in 11 years).

This has opened some positions where I could train on taxes, financial planning and similar. No way would I have seen that door 11 years ago. I am setting aside 20% of gross pay along the way. FIRE is hopefully in 18 years.
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