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Consider a Mid-Market Accounting Firm Before Taking a Job in Industry

mid-market accounting firm

“Two years here [a Big 4 firm] to get that on my resume, then on to private industry.”

That, in a nutshell, is how lots of Big 4 associates talk about their career. For some of them, it’s a fine plan. In a way, it’s an extension of what many accounting students believe: get into a Big 4 firm and use that as a springboard to a career in private industry.

But there are pros and cons to everything, and this is no exception. The illusion of a well-paid job with set hours is not often the reality. In truth, the initial salary bump is usually followed by small annual increases; every accounting department has a busy season (or seasons), and the position that looks so promising can turn into a routine job.

Before you make the leap to industry, it’s worth thinking about extending your career in public at a mid-market accounting firm. Here are some considerations:

  • If you like serving clients and helping them make their businesses better, a mid-market firm may be a better choice for you. When you’re working at a company, you only have one client.
  • If you like learning and doing new things, consider whether an industry job will pigeon-hole you. Will you be satisfied if you’re only responsible for doing only a few tasks? Will you become bored doing the same thing over and over?
  • If you crave work/life balance, start a firm and make your own hours. You can automate the practice and work from anywhere. 
  • If you want to make a difference, a mid-market accounting firm may be the place for you. As an advisor to clients, you can impact how they perceive a wide variety of personal and business decisions.
  • Helping others can be exciting. And not only do you serve as an advisor to your clients, but you can also impact the culture of your firm as well.
  • As firms move away from hourly billing to value or project-based pricing, the culture of the profession is shifting. At a firm, you can help lead the change.
  • If your goal is to earn a high salary, consider how much you’ll be making after 5 or 10 years in an industry job. Sure, you may have a higher salary than your public accounting cohorts at first, but according to Payscale an accountant’s pay increases somewhat for the first 5 to 10 years, but additional experience doesn’t have a big effect on pay. If you become a partner or owner, you can earn 2-3 times what senior finance people are making in-house.
  • Speaking of becoming a partner or owner, how many CFOs are there at a company? It’s not a trick question: There is only one. At firms, there are many partners/owners, which gives you a greater opportunity to advance in your career.

A mid-market accounting firm is a great option for people who are entrepreneurial, like learning and want to help others. But you are the only one who knows what the best decision is for you.

Before You Leave Public Accounting, Consider This