Before You Accept Your Big 4 Firm Offer, Make Sure It’s Actually The Job You Think It Is


Many students don’t realize that just because you accept an offer at the Big 4, it doesn’t mean you’re actually getting the job everyone thinks of.

What do I mean? Let’s find out.

Hello Bean Counter,

I have a question to run by you. I am freshly out of college and finished my CPA. I got a tax internship with [another national firm] to start this January, which I accepted. I am now being offered an internship with PwC in the service delivery center as a tax intern. While I was interviewing with [another national firm], another fellow interviewee was actually already working in with PwC in the delivery center doing taxes and she was trying to change firms. She said that the work was too redundant and the hours were to long. I know you worked for PwC and was hoping to get your advice. I want to get as much experience doing a variety of returns but I know Big 4 is what everyone strives for. What would your advice be to someone in my situation? I am not exactly sure how the Delivery Center compares to [another national firm]. I want to be in the best position for me to advance quickly. I am not sure what I want to do in the future but I am very ambitious and always striving to move forward. I don’t want to be stuck doing the same thing too long.

Can you shine some light to the pros and cons of each direction or direct me to some of your helpful resources?

Thank you so much!!

A little over 5 years ago, all of the Big 4 firms created “Delivery Centers”. Some were created in foreign countries like India and Argentina, others here in the US. While delivery centers are still part of the firm, your experience, pay, and job will be NOTHING like what it would be at a normal firm office.

First off, here are a few differences:

  • Delivery centers pay about 30% less than practice offices
  • Your experience does not compare. 2 years in a delivery center isn’t the same as 2 years in the practice office or even 2 years at a local firm
  • You most likely will not travel
  • You most likely will never speak to clients of the firm and you won’t go to their office
  • In my estimation, about 90% of people who start their career in delivery centers never make it to the practice office
    • However, I have seen people transfer to practice offices in the same firm, or another firm after 1-2 years of experience

Essentially, this is outsourcing. The firms transfer low-level work to lesser experienced staff at delivery centers domestically and abroad. You will make spreadsheets, phone calls, track basic information. But you won’t be in charge of tax or audit engagements. You aren’t responsible for the overall job, just a few parts of it. The experience you gain in these places is VERY limited.

APPLY: Passing the CPA Exam Before Your Start Is KEY to Having an Edge Against Others in Your Class regardless of which Big 5 office you’re in.

For years I have counseled anyone I have spoken to considering one of these options:

You are better off working for a smaller local, regional, or national firm than you are working in a service delivery center. You career trajectory will be stunted and transferring to another job will be very tough. You may be able to find a job as most people don’t know the difference between delivery centers and practice offices, but you will probably not be able to perform at the level to meet the requirements of the job. You just didn’t get good, solid experience. You only work on low-level, compartmentalized tasks.

The other national firm in this persons situation is absolutely the right choice. The service delivery center is not where you want to be. I liked PwC a lot, and in my opinion, working at the PwC practice office would be superior to another national firm (if it were my personal choice). But not the delivery center.

If you want to work Big 4, work at the national firm for 1-2 years, then transfer to PwC, EY, KMPG, DT, etc. That would be an easy move and the best for your long-term career. You’re much more likely to receive a position and actually excel with the smaller firm practice office experience!

All that negativity aside, it can work. If you don’t find a job elsewhere, take this one. People that had a lower GPA often start off here. But just know that you need to start working towards transferring on day 1. Be on your “A” game at all times and after you get people to like you, let them know about your plans to transfer to a practice office. It can happen in 1-2 years if you play your cards right.

Be careful, know what office you’ve been given an offer for!