Actually, the question our philosopher pal posted was a bit more hostile than the question in the headline above.
It was more like this:
Every single post in this sub is dominated by big four. "Will I get in to big 4 with a 3.99 gpa? Will a W hurt my chances at big 4? I spend 12 hours a day rubber stamping bullshit at big 4 and now I hate my life, did I make a mistake going into accounting?" I'm so sick of hearing about big four, and I'm especially sick of hearing about how everyone working there is miserable.
So where in the world did all you guys get the idea that your career is a waste of time or you are an unworthy failure if you aren't working at b4? There are SO MANY opportunities in the world of accounting. There are a million public accounting firms out there that actually treat their employees well. You can work in government, nonprofit, small business, huge business, doing just about anything. Go apply to one!
How do you rile up a virtual room full of accounting enthusiasts, many of whom are just finishing out their undergrads or in their first year or two on the job? Curse the Big 4, obviously.
Clearly accounting students are aware there are options other than the Big 4, and clearly some of them even sign with regional firms, or — GASP — don't even go the public route at all. And? The good majority will still go into Big 4. Why? Because Big 4, duh.
Because they are told from the moment they take their first accounting class that Big 4 is the only way to go. If someone signs on with a small firm, the first thought the herd has is "what, you weren't good enough for Big 4?" Big 4 recruiters are crawling all over campus with their cookies and Kool-Aid and their tchotchkes like pharmceutical reps at your doctor's office.
To answer the original question, who the hell told all those kids that Big 4 is the only employer they should ever think about? Everyone.