Students dream of working at one of the top accounting firms and receiving a Big Four accounting salary. Many hope to land a job as an associate or a staff accountant in a major professional services firm (the Big Four – Deloitte, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, or Ernst & Young). With several entry options in different departments such as tax, audit, and advisory, the opportunities are varied.
The Corporate Finance Institute hopes to provide some insights into general Big Four accounting salary figures. In addition to very attractive salary and compensation, the Big Four offer experience, resources, training, and global opportunities that are second to none.
In general, for a first-year audit or tax associate, salaries among the Big Four firms are fairly similar. They range anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000, depending on the department, country, city, and office location. A key difference in a Big Four firm is that accountant salaries don’t stay at a certain level for a long time. With a combination of skill, dedication, and hard work, it is fairly reasonable for employees to expect to move up the ranks very quickly, which is associated with obtaining significant salary increases.
Career progression differs from firm to firm and from department to department but generally follows a pyramid-like structure.
Big Four Accounting Salary Figures
Salary figures vary quite a lot depending on the department and location. In fact, remuneration often depends more on the country, and more specifically on the city, rather than on the firm itself. Although tax associates are usually associated with earning slightly more than audit associates when starting out, after several years of experience, salaries become quite similar and really depend on the overall performance of the individual.
Generally, compensation figures within the Big Four are often almost identical, with only a few minor differences. Some average numbers are shown below for a Big Four accounting salary in the United States (in USD). Salaries in Canada or the UK are different and are often slightly lower than those in the United States.
To conclude, when considering a career in a Big Four public accounting firm, starting out compensation packages are almost identical. In fact, the more important factor is “fit”. Fit involves examining which company’s values, employees, clients, industries, and overall work culture align best with your own attributes. Even though the Big Four may generally look fairly similar, each firm emphasizes key values that are not always similar to its peers. Starting out, students should focus more on experiences, career progression, growth, resources, fit, and training provided by the firms to help them advance in their preferred career path.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide on Big Four Accounting Salaries. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following resources will be helpful: