Graduating with 125 Credit Hours? That’s a stressful idea…


Today we dig into the Bean Counter mailbag for this special question!

Hello Andrew,

Thanks for writing for us, I appreciate it greatly. I’m already a fan of your writing; they are very helpful especially for students.

I’m graduating December 2014 with a BS. I would like read about the best path to take after graduation. Is it best to only seek work with one of the Big 4 or will any company will do? I don’t want to waste my time and also their time in trying to get hired with one of the Big 4 if they won’t give me chance with just a Bachelors degree.

Thanks for all your help.

Well thank you for the kind words, I’m always jazzed that someone gets an inkling of benefit from my writing!

In regards to your questions, it’s not a simple answer. Most people, even prominent industry figures think that working for the Big 4 accounting firms is the best thing you can do for your career.

I disagree.

I don’t think it matters where you start working, but what does matter, is that it’s your choice. So many people that want to work for the Big 4, don’t get the job. It’s competitive, they require high GPA’s, and they want someone with the full package who is well rounded. They are also sent thousands more applications each year than they have positions.

What I would ask you is, what do you want?

I want everyone who reads the bean counter to make conscious choices about the path they take. I would rather someone work for a small local firm because that’s really the kind of lifestyle and experience they want, rather than start in the Big 4 because everyone says that should.

It’s also a shame to see troves of people who wanted to work for the Big 4, who are settling for other firms and feel like they weren’t enough at such an early stage of their career.

I mean they literally say:

“Ya, I tried to go Big 4, but then I ended up at [insert firm name].”


You don’t want to be reactive in your career. The hiring managers of the world shouldn’t have the final say in who you are or what you can achieve!

With that rant done, let’s answer your question about the Bachelors degree.

Note: I followed up with another email question and this individual will only have 125 hours at graduation with a bachelors.

As you’ll only have 125 hours, the Big 4 will have a difficult time looking at you as you don’t have enough hours to qualify for the CPA exam.

And let be honest.

This choice to start your career with 125 hours WILL stress you out.

If you want to get your CPA, you’ll be working full time in public accounting, have to take the additional classes to get your license, and try to pass four sections of the CPA exam, it’s bonkers!

Now, to be fair, I did work full-time during my masters and also took the CPA exam, but… I was not in public accounting. It was a laid back corporate accounting position to make some cash while I was still in school. Heck, sometimes I even did my homework or studied when I was there.

But public accounting is a completely different animal.

You’ll be stressed out, then have to go to class (assuming you don’t have client deadlines or travel). Oh, then when you’re done around 10pm and on weekend, break out the CPA exam materials!

Don’t do it. You’ll never be able to compete with peers who passed the exam and don’t have additional classes hanging over their head. The big 4 wouldn’t be interested in you, but… you may not even like your own life at that point.

So my recommendation is simple: take an extra year (maybe less) to pass the CPA exam and get the required 150 hours.

You can still work like I did and earn $20-40K. Then you will be a very appealing candidate with your CPA done, and a killer GPA because you can focus more on your school work.

Then you can go Big 4, regional, local firm, private or HECK maybe a CPA comedian!

Regardless, the important part is that you’ll have your pick of the litter! Your choice will be proactive in your job choice, not re-active and not making decisions based on what the company’s want.