What are the Big Four Accounting Firms (and Why Students Want to Work in Them!)

This article is sponsored by PTE Academic

Many graduates aspire to work in one of the ‘Big Four’ after finishing their studies, and with good reason.

They offer jobs in one of the most in-demand careers in Australia and are a great stepping stone to working internationally. We spoke to Ersnt & Young Campus Recruitment Senior Consultant, Charlene Ellison, to find out more about the Big Four firms, why you would want to work for them and how to get a job with them!

Who are the Big Four accounting firms?

The ‘Big Four’ – Deloitte Australia, Ernst & Young (EY), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and KPMG – are the four largest accounting and consulting firms with the best reputations in the world. They offer the kind of job stability associated with large, successful companies as well as an exciting range of career pathways and opportunities.

What kinds of jobs are available at the Big Four?

The Big Four offer career pathways in many streams, including accounting, auditing, finance, assurance, consulting and strategy, tax, legal, transactions, human resources and people advisory services, data and analytics and technology.

As well as graduate jobs, the Big Four firms also offer internship, graduate and vacation programs, including pathways specifically for international students. Try Googling your chosen Big Four firm with ‘international student’ to find more information.

Why would you want to work for one of the Big Four?

The Big Four are well regarded, and a popular choice for graduates due to their global reach, high-quality training programs, variety of service lines, career progression, workplace culture, opportunities for travel, the chance to network with other influential organisations and the sheer size (and numbers of jobs available).

One important reason to work for the Big Four is their reputation – having one of them on your resume looks really good to any prospective employer. Other organisations and employers will already know about the kind of training you’ve had and kinds of projects you’ve worked on.

The Big Four are known for their diversity. As huge, multinational companies, they are keen to employ people from a wide variety of cultural and educational backgrounds. Although accounting is their focus, they recognise the value of people with knowledge of everything from IT to law and commerce.

Workplace culture is another prized aspect of these companies. The Big Four are known for their lack of hierarchy – new graduates are valued just as much as senior employees. They also provide inclusive and collaborative environments to help employees feel good about themselves, their roles and their talents.

Due to their size, there’s a lot of variety in the type of work you’ll do. It’s likely you’ll be exposed to a number of different industries and projects, and even have the opportunity to travel! Career progression is another bonus of working for the Big Four. In large organisations, there’s always plenty of opportunities to progress and to move around.

To work out which Big Four firm is the best to work for – for you – you’ll need to do your own research!

How to get a job with the Big Four

What do the Big Four look for in a candidate?

According to Charlene, they look for candidates with the following qualities:

  • Strong communicator
  • Team player 
  • Adaptable
  • Analytical
  • Numbers savvy
  • Global mindset

Communication is one of the most important skills.

“We look at your ability to adapt your communication style based on your audience and deliver messages in a clear and professional way,” shares Charlene.

These firms will also want to know about your ability to network and build rapport, flexibility in a changing work environment, problem-solving capabilities, ability to interpret data, thirst for new knowledge, interest in current affairs and market activity, and ability to keep up with technological innovations.

How can you prepare yourself before applying for a job at one of the Big Four?

One of the best ways to prepare for applying is to build up your work experience: join extra-curricular activities, get involved with student societies that share common interests and areas of study and arrange casual or part-time work (or even volunteer) in the field you’re interested in. For example, LinkedIn is a great place to make professional and social connections. It’s also a good idea to do your research – familiarise yourself with the key players and kinds of jobs available.

It’s also important that you can demonstrate your English language proficiency, so make sure your relevant English test is up-to-date.

Final tips for getting a job

Make sure you’ve thoroughly researched the area you would like to apply in. Companies like these are looking for passion and real enthusiasm for the work. As part of this, connect with the firm on social media and attend social events (online or in person) to learn more about the firm and their application processes.

When you’ve selected your dream job, read through the application process carefully and make sure you know what is required of you, including all documents you may need. Have everything ready before you begin the application process. 

Last of all, make sure you check your emails frequently for any communication about your application or changes to the process!

For more specific tips on how to apply to the Big Four firms, visit the company’s websites.