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Take a pay cut to join a Big 4?

I got into accounting by changing careers in mid-life. For the past few years, I've gone to grad school part-time to get a M.Acc. while working full-time at a small firm that provides outsourced accounting services to businesses (basically glorified bookkeeping). Although our firm is not a CPA firm, my manager has a CPA, and so I have the work experience for a non-attest CPA license. I make decent money–enough to support a kid and live comfortably. In just 10 weeks, I'll finish my M.Acc., and I have a conditional offer to start as a staff auditor at a Big 4 firm.

Trouble is, the pay is the same as any staff auditor would make right out of college. So, I'll have to take a $20,000/year pay cut, which will require some severe belt-tightening. I received a similar offer from a mid-tier firm (staff auditor at a $20k pay cut). I've applied for more senior positions at public firms, but none are interested in me for those jobs since I don't have public accounting experience.

Even though I've been working in business since I graduated college 20 years ago, I have to start at the bottom. I'm not too proud to do that, but I'm questioning whether it's wise to do so. I don't want to work in industry. I'd like to work in public accounting, but is there another way? Or should I stay at my current firm and lobby for a promotion?

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