Accounting is a stable and rewarding career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of certified public accountants (CPAs) in 2014 was $65,940, and job growth is at 11 percent compared to 7 percent for all occupations. However, you may experience even greater rewards by utilizing the following five tips to land a job with one of the Big Four accounting firms.
1. Do Your Research on the Big Four.
The first step in getting a job with a Big Four firm is to understand what they are, what they do and what they expect. Two of these multinational accounting networks, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Ernst & Young (EY) are headquartered in the U.K. However, Deloitte’s offices are in the U.S., and KPMG is based in the Netherlands.
While all of these firms are engaged in the same type of business, they each have different specialties and divisions. For instance, at PwC, 50 percent of new hires go directly into auditing, but other firms are often on the lookout for tax specialists or transactional accountants. What all of the firms have in common, however, is that they hire people who understand what they want to do, where they want to be, and for whom they want to work.
2. Enroll in a Degree-Earning College Program.
While it is important to do your research, it is equally important to receive a quality education from an accredited college or university. Expensive Ivy League schools are great, but they are not absolutely necessary. An affordable online program from a local college or state university can get you just as far as long as you have decent grades. It is generally believed that graduates need a 3.4 GPA at minimum, but some employees have been hired with only a 3.0 GPA.
When you are applying to a college, look for opportunities rather than prestige. Many lesser-known institutes of higher learning have a wide range of opportunities available, such as guest lecturers, internships and one-on-one time with instructors.
3. Apply for an Internship.
Your chances of earning a position at a Big Four accounting firm can be dramatically improved by landing an internship with one of them. Even though internships can be a great deal of work with little or no pay, these positions are highly undervalued by many students. Through an internship, you will receive hands-on experience on how the company operates, and you will discover what you have to do to get a starting position with a decent salary. Once you have one foot in the door, getting the rest of yourself in is much easier.
4. Network With Current Employees.
While most people like to think the world is theirs if they only work hard enough, this is not always the case in the real world. This old expression holds true much more than many would like to believe: It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. If you have a friend or relative working at one of the Big Four firms, his or her recommendation will go a long way. Even if a recommendation is not forthcoming, he or she may be able to give you some inside tips on what it takes to get hired. At the very least, you will be able to listen to some firsthand experiences on interviewing.
5. Work on Your Resume.
When you believe you have the knowledge, skills, experience and connections to get a job at a Big Four firm, you must set some time aside to prepare a dynamic, eye-catching resume and cover letter. This is likely the first your future boss will see of you, and it has to be impeccable. One big mistake many applicants make is using a general resume that could be sent to any company. For the best results, you must shape your resume to correlate with the firm and what the firm expects from its employees.
Landing a job with one of the Big Four accounting firms is a difficult task, but it is hardly impossible. Enrolling in a suitable college program and earning at least a 3.0 GPA is essential, and you can increase your chances of success by learning about each company, obtaining an internship and networking with employees of the firm you believe is the best match for your short-term and long-term goals.