Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
September 25, 2023

PwC Once Again Tops Vault Accounting 50 (2020)

It’s one of our favorite times of the year at GC HQ when our friends at Vault put out their yearly rankings of the top accounting firms in the U.S. in several categories. But for now, we’re going to focus on the overall top 50 ranking. The No. 1 firm in the U.S. for 2020, based on Vault’s methodology, is PwC—a title P. Dubs has held for the past seven years.

PwC US Chairman Tim Ryan will probably do an extra set of 100 sit-ups and 75 push-ups today to celebrate the occasion.

The cool thing about Vault’s rankings is it surveys only accounting professionals that work at these firms to come up with their lists. Vault uses a weighted formula that takes into account the issues accountants care most about, combining quality of life rankings (like culture, satisfaction, work/life balance, and compensation) with overall prestige.

Some initial observations on the 2020 Vault Accounting 50 overall rankings before we dig in:

  • The top five firms remain the same as last year; however, there was some movement among the top midtier firms that usually hold down spots Nos. 6-10. Friedman cracked the top 10 for the first time since 2012, while Crowe, which was No. 7 in 2019, fell 21 spots all the way down to No. 28 in 2020.
  • For the second year in a row, EY sits outside the top 25 at No. 27, up one spot from 2019.
  • The firms that made the biggest gains from 2019 were CohnReznick (up 19 spots to No. 11) and Mazars USA (up 14 spots to No. 25).
  • Besides Crowe, the firms that dropped the most spots from 2019 were BPM (down 28 spots to No. 48) and Dixon Hughes Goodman (down 20 spots to No. 31).
  • Four firms not ranked in 2019 made Vault’s 2020 Accounting 50: Freed Maxick CPAs (No. 23), Untracht Early (No. 24), Doeren Mayhew (No. 47), and The Bonadio Group (No. 50).

Next, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of working at the top 10 firms, based on anonymous but verified employee reviews posted on Vault within the past year or so (previous year ranking in parenthesis):

1. PwC (1)


  • “Generally good partners to work for, and smart people.”
  • “Exposure to big clients.”
  • “A company that truly values a work/life balance and understands the importance of its employees’ lives outside of the office.”
  • “Brand name recognition.”
  • “The level of opportunities provided to do new things, learn new skills, and constantly reimagine the possible.”


  • “Upper management may care about employees, but individual partners just care about making themselves money.”
  • “Busy season never ends.”
  • “To achieve a higher tier you must take on more than your fair share of work and you will receive the equivalent of about $50 a month. Rest assured you are adding more than $50 of value. The firm will take advantage of your productivity and in turn give you promises that are often empty.”
  • “Pretty much everything. This is a miserable place to work.”
  • “Feeling like a prostitute charging by the hour.”

2. Deloitte (2)


  • “I am surrounded by the best clients and the best professionals as colleagues working in a dynamic [emphasis added] environment as we look for opportunities to always get better.” [Are we sure this person doesn’t work at Grant Thornton?]
  • “Great place for working moms. We have an outstanding leave program, but this doesn’t limit you professionally. Our women still continue to rise to the top – just look at our female CEO!” [Welp.]
  • “The flexibility to get the work done wherever and whenever you want.”
  • “Great formal training at Deloitte University and prestigious firm.”
  • “A great place to grow old: Work/life balance, vacation policy, compensation.”


  • “Get the feeling that you are just a number and not a person.”
  • “Overtime, tight deadlines, too many requirements for promotion.”
  • “Boring work, lack of real training opportunities, inability to control career course, lack of mobility within the firm and no entrepreneurial spirit.”
  • “Inconsistencies among leadership in fulling Deloitte values, do not have sufficient time to work on personal development, mandatory training.”
  • “Poor lines of communication around performance and advancement.”

3. KPMG (3)


  • “Most people are brilliant and team-oriented. The firm is highly entrepreneurial.”
  • “This is the absolute best place to start and build a successful, rewarding career.”
  • “The learning environment is amazing and the people I work with every day are amazing. I am very excited about our future.”
  • “Competitive in pretty much every way with other firms except it has the best culture.”
  • “Flexibility to be a mom to my 3 kids.”


  • “Workload is ridiculous. They understaff jobs and reprimand employees for not getting work completed.”
  • “PCAOB expectations.” [Just ask David Middendorf and crew.]
  • “The firm continues to struggle with moving past ‘traditional’ accounting roles, how audits should be done (including the technology used) and breaking the model of a traditional accounting firm.”
  • “Communication is poor, work quality guidance is lacking from managers and micromanagement from above.”
  • “Lack of transparency regarding promotion/compensation opportunities; unfocused leadership.”

4. Grant Thornton (4)


  • “Great culture, people, and atmosphere! Couldn’t ask for a better place to start your career.”
  • “The size of the firm allows you to really step up and take on responsibility if you are game for it, even at an early stage in your career.”
  • “GT stands for “Good Times.”
  • “I love the people I work with and the clients I work with. The firm celebrates your achievements.”
  • “Great work/life balance. The firm values you and your contributions. There are great mentors within that help you grow faster and to your full potential.”


  • “The culture is, throw you in the shark tank and hope you survive.”
  • “Poor technology across the board. Need to upgrade multiple software platforms.”
  • “Leadership (out of touch, not engaged), too much emphasis on consensus building, disjointed infrastructure and internal support.”
  • “FTO policy, lack of reputation, benefits, overall very nascent consulting model that is hamstrung by the firm’s accounting origins.”
  • “Compensation is much less than some of my other offers, I would like to have more autonomy with choosing my own projects.”

5. BDO USA (5)


  • “The prestige of working at a top 8 firm. The generous holiday and PTO packages. Diverse client base offering excellent experience.”
  • “Great compensation and benefits, great culture and friendly people, open door policy, strong training program, strong mentorship and career advising program.”
  • “Exceptional professional quality of services, flexibility work schedule, culture.”
  • “Commitment to people, support for career growth and taking pride in what we do.”
  • “Working with people who are supportive and truly want the best for you and your career.”


  • “Compensation, hours requirement, recognition of work done by top management — no matter how much you do they always want more.”
  • “Work/life balance, managers, compensation.”
  • “Unrealistic expectations and lack of trust.”
  • “Excessive hours with subpar pay. Lack of staffing causing undue stress on individuals.”
  • “Lack of responsiveness and accountability in new employees which creates hardship for seasoned employees that end up taking on the responsibility.”

6. Baker Tilly (8)


  • “Baker Tilly supports me (a trained auditor) splitting my time 50/50 between auditing and consulting, which is a major career development mechanism.”
  • “They promote teamwork and always try to see what they can do to please the employees. Very receptive to feedback.”
  • “At Baker Tilly, you will be provided with the opportunity to grow and advance your career, no matter which way you define that.”
  • “Although the firm is a national firm, they do a great job of listening to everyone’s input and are receptive to many ideas.”
  • “Challenging work; compensation/benefits; culture; reputation of firm.”


  • “Most of the senior accountants do not appear to be happy and seem stressed out.”
  • “Pass on this opportunity and look elsewhere. The compensation and promotion systems are not based on merit, but based on a political buddy system. The opportunities for advancement of your career are very limited.”
  • “Unfair division of work. Some work more than others.”
  • “Compensation doesn’t match the hours worked. Maybe it’s typical for the field but the perception is that it isn’t and there isn’t much transparency. More should be done to retain top talent.”
  • “Lack of subject-matter expertise and managers that are not easy to get along with.”

7. RSM US (10)


  • “Authentic people who care. Real upward mobility if you’re patient and take initiative (earn it!). Big firm resources, opportunities and benefits with smaller firm/family feel. Super flexible – value that you are a person FIRST, worker second.”
  • “The local leadership and non-drama/no politics atmosphere.”
  • “You will be stretched as a professional, but the resulting growth is incredible.”
  • “Solid advancement path and steady salary increases.”
  • “Significant investments are made in our people to position them to adequately serve their clients, strong focus on work/life balance.”


  • “Compensation, number of hours worked, inadequate staffing and quality of staff.”
  • “The amount of work required of you starts not being worth the pay.”
  • “Management’s micromanaging and lack of development of staff.”
  • “Busy season and feeling like I don’t get rewarded for my work.”
  • “The firm takes what should be a prestigious career and turns it into a job.”

8. Plante Moran (6)


  • “Caring culture, focus on career advancement and developing current talent, opportunity abounds and is for the taking, flex time and generous pay and vacation time.”
  • “I have worked with great clients and have learned from amazing people who care about me.”
  • “The firm prides itself on being a best place to work and works hard to earn that reputation.”
  • “You can achieve career goals while achieving work/life balance and personal goals.”
  • “Great culture, great long term economic outlook and an incredible sense of fairness.”


  • “Compensation is below industry average and non-negotiable, promotions are based on years of experience rather than merit/accomplishments.”
  • “No clear route to management/leadership.”
  • “Silo effect (one hand does not know what the other is doing), lack of development (but this is improving).”
  • “It’s very feast or famine. I always feel like I have too much on my plate or not enough.”
  • “The 401k match, the travel over holidays.”

9. Moss Adams (9)


  • “Opportunities to work with great clients, brilliant teams, and involved leadership all with excellent compensation.”
  • “Optimistic culture, focus on mentorship, small firm feel with the resources and depth of a larger firm.”
  • “Flexibility, work/life balance, ability to work without much micromanagement.”
  • “The workload here is very manageable as the firm only requires 55 hour weeks in busy season and the scheduling team works really hard to evenly distribute the firms’ workload.”
  • “It is well established and highly regarded; there are tremendous technical resources across the firm.”


  • “Compensation, hours, stress, being overworked, some members of management.”
  • “Being one of the very few people of color in the office is difficult and can be daunting. I wish the firm would put the same amount of effort as it does in retaining its women to attract more people of color.”
  • “They emphasize work/life balance, but that was not achieved for me. Compensation is not high enough for the amount of hours worked. You are treated nice for first couple of months, but after you are chewed out all the way until manager. If you’re willing to sell your soul and be unhappy for the next 4-6 years of your life, you can make it here.”
  • “Gossips gossiping.”
  • “Pay, promotion policies, Big 4 mindset, lack of communication, gap between firm leadership and the rest of the firm.”

10. Friedman (13)


  • “I have freedom to do the job the way I want.”
  • “Progressive firm with excellent leadership and commitment to growth and firm culture.”
  • “Great company culture, easily talk to any employee unlike other mid-size accounting firms.”
  • “Relaxed atmosphere. Good people.”
  • “Firm very much cares about quality of life and willing to work with individual to make situation work.”


  • “Staff are treated like they are dispensable. No positive outlook on the future.”
  • “Compensation is not quite competitive.”
  • “Few women and minorities in leadership positions.”
  • “Benefits could be better.”
  • “Way too many emails and intrusions by HR and marketing.”

And here are the rest of the pack, firms Nos. 11-50 on Vault’s 2020 Accounting 50 list:

  1. CohnReznick (30)
  2. Eide Bailly (12)
  3. Armanino (18)
  4. Frank, Rimerman + Co. (14)
  5. Withum (21)
  6. PKF O’Connor Davies (19)
  7. Brown Smith Wallace (15)
  8. Elliott Davis (17)
  9. CBIZ MHM (26)
  10. Marks Paneth (25)
  11. Sikich (23)
  12. Rehmann (24)
  13. Freed Maxick CPAs (NR)
  14. Untracht Early (NR)
  15. Mazars USA (39)
  16. MBE CPAs (26)
  17. EY (28)
  18. Crowe (7)
  19. CliftonLarsonAllen (29)
  20. BKD (31)
  21. Dixon Hughes Goodman (11)
  22. Marcum (33)
  23. EisnerAmper (34)
  24. Cherry Bekaert (32)
  25. Wipfli (35)
  26. Citrin Cooperman & Co. (41)
  27. UHY Advisors (37)
  28. RubinBrown (38)
  29. The Siegfried Group (40)
  30. Cohen & Co. (36)
  31. Blum Shapiro & Co. (42)
  32. Novogradac & Co. (44)
  33. Anchin (45)
  34. Weaver (48)
  35. Berdon (47)
  36. Grassi & Co.
  37. Doeren Mayhew (NR)
  38. BPM (20)
  39. Carr, Riggs & Ingram (43)
  40. The Bonadio Group (NR)

Let the bragging and bitching commence.

Latest Accounting Jobs--Apply Now:

Have something to add to this story? Give us a shout by email, Twitter, or text/call the tipline at 202-505-8885. As always, all tips are anonymous.

Related articles

Woman wearing a dunce cap writing I WILL NOT on a concrete wall

Look What PwC Made the Australian Government Have to Do

The Australian government released exposure draft legislation yesterday in response to “the PwC matter” and the funniest part is the special email they made to receive comments: [email protected]. Not ConsultingReponse or Sept23TaxReform, specifically PwCResponse. In four separate exposure drafts that amend the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA) and/or the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA), […]

US Capitol at night

If You’re Looking For Career Options, Give Government Auditing a Look

Ed. note: This post brought to you by the Big Government Auditing™ lobby. Just kidding, it’s a guest post from Parker Skaats, CPA, an experienced government worker who’s here to pitch the joys of government work to the unwashed overworked masses.  Okay, let’s be real for a second. When you hear “government auditing,” do you […]