06/05/2021

Career in Finance Small Firm vs. Big Four

The Big 4 is the dream for a lot of accountants and finance professionals, but is it all it’s cracked up to be? Or are smaller companies just as rewarding?

The Big 4 firms (PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG) are the leading names in the accountancy industry. Everyone’s heard of them, and everyone wants to work for them. However, working in a large, multinational corporation may not be the most suitable pathway for all graduates.

At the University of Bolton, our MSc Accountancy and Financial Management course focuses on personal and professional development, and that means carving a career path that’s right for you. While some people thrive in a fast-paced environment, others prefer working in small teams.

So what’s right for you after your master’s in finance degree? Our dedicated Employability Team is here to support your chosen career in finance, no matter where you see yourself. And here are the pros and cons of small firm vs. large firm accountancy to help you decide:

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The pros of working in a small firm

- Close working relationships

If you’re a people person, and like to build meaningful partnerships with colleagues, a small firm could be suited to you.

Quick career development

Smaller companies don’t always have formal training and this means learning on the job and getting real, hands-on experience fast.

Better work/life balance

Often with smaller firms, there’s less pressure to hit targets or spend out-of-office hours dealing with clients. As a result, you’ll have more time to focus on your wellbeing and may find the job more relaxed and enjoyable.

Grow your experience

Unlike large organisations, there’s an element of ‘all hands on deck’ and that means being able to diversify your skills and experience, which can look great on your CV. For instance, small firms have the chance to perform entire audits alone so you’ll get to witness the whole process.

The cons of working in a small firm

- Less exposure

Without the name of the Big Four, you may get less exposure when you’re ready to progress. For a successful career in finance, firms like PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG provide a good stepping stone for better opportunities.

Less pay

Although not always true, smaller firms don’t always have the most attractive salaries (comparatively). However, progression may be easier in a smaller firm, which can be a way to boost your earnings.

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The pros of working in a large firm

Big name clients

Work for the best and grow your portfolio at a large firm, such as one of the Big Four. The breadth and the quality of their client base is unrivalled, so you can gain some fantastic experience on the job.

Excellent training opportunities

Top accounting companies tend to provide the best access to training, including in-house training as well as external courses and awards.

Exit opportunities are second to none

Not only will you be able to develop your client portfolio, but having a name likePwC, Deloitte or KPMG on your CV will open up a whole world of career opportunities.

The cons of working in a large firm

Longer hours at work

It’s no secret that these larger firms demand more of your time. But this is often reflected in the high salary, and learning good time management skills can be an effective tool to streamline large workloads.

More pressure to meet client needs

Your clients are your first priority, and this may result in a lot of pressure. But if you thrive in a high-pressure environment, this could be for you.

Launch your career in finance at the University of Bolton!

The University of Bolton ranks No.1 in the UK for Teaching Quality and Student Experience for Accountancy & Finance Courses.* This makes us one of the best places to develop your career.

Our MSc Accountancy and Financial Management programme is taught in line with the ACCA Strategic Professional Level, and can be a stepping stone for a number of different finance careers.

To find out more about applying for a master’s in finance in September 2021, go to our course page.

Or if you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on +44 (0)1204 903 394 or admissions@bolton.ac.uk.

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