Since we’ve already checked out for three-day weekend and a reader needs advice ASAP, we’ll dispense with another edition of “Accounting Career Couch.” An aspiring accountant is trying to decide between joining the advisory and audit practice of a Big 4 firm but – surprise! – can’t decide since she likes both. Sigh.

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Back to our indecisive co-ed:

Hi Caleb:

I feel as if I am facing a small dilemma at a pivotal point in my young accounting career. I am interviewing with one of the Big 4 tomorrow and have been asked which service area I would prefer to go into: Audit or Advisory.

To be honest, with this job market, I would love either and I am 100% sure I would be a good fit for either type of position. I am very actively involved in Beta Alpha Psi and my resume is very “plump” with positive customer service experience. I posses very strong soft skills at quite a young age and have a lot of leadership experience in school and through my role in BAP. The company I am interviewing with is my #1 and I have built two strong relationships, each in each service area. For my high interest in Advisory, I can say, I always gravitate toward the headlines that have become the new hot topics that include, fraud, forensic accounting, and investigation. This is consistent with my very investigative and curious personality. However, on the other hand, understanding and learning the breakdown of a specific client’s company as I am involved in an audit interests me very much. The point is, what are the pros and cons for the two different services: Audit v Advisory. What is the opinion for a positive, fulfilling career in each service area, as public accounting is my interest for a lifetime? Am I hurting myself by letting the company choose where to put me by saying I am interest in BOTH opportunities?

To answer your last question – yes, it’s our feeling that you are marginalizing yourself by saying you’re interested in both practices. If you’re on the fence about which to join, other candidates that are more sure about their preference may have an edge over you. Make a choice for crissakes.

With that in mind, let’s break down a few pros and cons.


Audit – Your schedule is more predictable; less travel.

Advisory – Money is better; work is sexier; better reputation.


Audit – If you’re the type of person that is easily bored, then you will eventually get bored with auditing; auditing practices are bureaucratic nightmares – keeping up accounting and auditing rule changes; audit does not enjoy a sterling reputation.

Advisory – Hours can be unpredictable – you might work late nights for weeks (sometimes months) away from your home office or quite the opposite – you might find yourself with nothing to do for weeks at at time; the advisory practice is more susceptible to changes in the economy which means if things get bad, layoffs are more likely in advisory than in audit.

The real question is – what path do you want your career to take? You say that “public accounting is my interest for a lifetime.” Call us cynical but we’ll be shocked – SHOCKED! – if this is true in 3-4 years. If you really, really, really think that it is true, then audit is probably the choice for you. You’ll find a business line you like and if you’re ambitious and active within your firm, you’ll be on the partner track.

On the other hand since you say you’re drawn to fraud, forensics, investigative nature etc., we feel you should go with your instincts and go for advisory. Granted, Sam Antar will also tell you that you need the proverbial ironclad balls but those come in over time.

Anyone else faced with this dilemma? Anyone made the choice and got some input? Fire away.