Compensation Watch ’21: Did BDO USA Ante Up This Year?

Over the last week or so we analyzed how raises this year compared to previous years at RSM US and Grant Thornton. Now it’s time to take a look at raises this year at the last of the mini-Big 3 firms, BDO USA, which leapfrogged GT to become the sixth-largest public accounting firm in the U.S. in terms of revenue.

Like RSM (and unlike Grant Thornton), BDO did shell out raises in 2020, albeit a little later than normal and a little smaller than usual because of the Rona and all that. So BDOers were eagerly awaiting if this year’s bounty would be even better. They got their answer last month.

To find out what this year’s numbers were like, I went on r/accounting and went through the BDO comp threads for 2021 and 2020. I also checked out the 2019 comp thread on Reddit, as well as the 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014 comp threads on this here site, although none of those provided a ton of comp data, but I added what I could. I then calculated the average raise percentage for each step up in rank or promotion where data was available (i.e, L2->L3, L3->L4, L4->L5, L5->L6, etc).

Yeah, BDO does things kinda weird with its L’s. That’s not surprising coming from the Little Dipper of public accounting firms.

Here’s a handy key to help all you non-BDOers sort everything out:

  • L2/L3: staff/experienced staff (A1/A2)
  • L4/L5: senior/experienced senior (S1/S2)
  • L6/L7: manager/experienced manager (M1/M2)
  • L8: senior manager

And these average raise percentages don’t take into account factors like location/cost of living, line of service, academic degrees, rating (needs improvement, keep developing, successful, and fantastic), and bonuses/awards. This is just the average percentage of how much base pay increased per step up in rank/promotion. Got it? Good.

Let’s take a look at those numbers:


  • 9.7% (2021)
  • 6.1% (2020)
  • 11% (2019; only one entry)
  • 9% (2016)


  • 36% (2021; only one entry)
  • 9.5% (2020)
  • 18% (2019; only one entry)


  • 12.2% (2021)
  • 8.2% (2020)
  • 18% (2017; only one entry)
  • 8% (2016; only one entry)


  • 16.4% (2021)
  • 9% (2020)
  • 7% (2017; only one entry)
  • 14% (2014; only one entry)


  • 46% (2021)
  • 8% (2020; only one entry)
  • 11% (2016; only one entry)


  • N/A (2021)
  • 7.5% (2020)
  • 3.5% (2015; one entry)


  • 23% (2021; only one entry)

While there was some complaining from BDOers this year about their raises (one person who went from experienced staff to senior, or L3->L4, only got a 3% raise, lol), a lot seemed OK with theirs. Two people who went from experienced senior to manager (L5->L6) got 46% raises, while others who work in Wayne’s World got 21%, 23%, 28%, and 36% pay bumps. It seems most of the criticism on the chatter sites is that even with their raises, many BDOers still believe they are underpaid.

Spread your joy/misery/reactions to your comp news if the mood strikes you.

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