Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
January 27, 2023

Who’s Smarter, Big 4 Accountants or Industry Accountants? A Debate

punctuation bubbles on a grey background

Yesterday we retweeted an observation about how the smartest people work at Big 4 firms hoping for some good discussion and discussion did in fact ensue. Decent discussion, actually. It warms my cold black heart to know that at least in our little corner of the internet people with differing opinions are still capable of having a healthy conversation among themselves.

Anyway, thought the back and forth was worth sharing.

Here’s the tweet that started it:

Before we get to responses I’d like to make one thing clear: I don’t think anyone is doubting the intelligence of people who work for Big 4 firms. Not around here, anyway. Though we have been relentlessly ragging on these firms for well over a decade, those criticisms are aimed squarely at the firms themselves — self-serving press releases, abuse of business jargon, questionable ethics, treating their people like emotionless robots who require little sleep, and of course the beloved low-pay-but-record-revenue model — and not the people who work there. Unless the people do something stupid, then yeah, sure. But mainly it’s the firms.

Without further ado as I’ve ado’d enough already, here are some good takes from yesterday’s discussion. I’ve done my best to organize them by microdiscussion.

He’s not wrong however his last point is part of the problem. Big 4 firms aren’t incentivized to improve their model because, much like Fallout 76, it just works. Moving on…

And a bit of bickering here:

A reasonable person could argue that it takes quite a bit of intelligence to play the politics required the further you go up the Big 4 ladder. Perhaps more social intelligence than book-learnin’ but intelligence nonetheless.

How about this one: is becoming a partner nowadays much harder than it was in the 90s? And does the partner track appeal to an entirely different caliber of person than it did back then?

And an aside to the “back in my day” discussion:

Join the discussion on Twitter or let loose in the comments below if you’d like. Keep in mind comments are lightly moderated to prevent spam so it may take a moment for your comment to appear.

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.


  1. Well, I agree that it definitely requires intelligence to go on the top of Big 4 ladder. I believe that Big 4 accountants are more smarter than the industry accountants. New partners in B4 are more aggressive towards success.

  2. With the economic pressures and technological advances, you’d be fucking nuts stay at big4 until Partner. Might as well leave so you can destress.

Comments are closed.

Related articles

closeup of racetrack finish line

If This Person Can Pass the CPA Exam, So Can You

I was cleaning out pics on my phone and was reminded of something I saw on Reddit a few weeks back: a screenshot of someone’s many, many, MANY CPA exam attempts over twelve years. Most people would have given up around the tenth attempt but this person persisted. And persisted. And persisted. So if you […]


EY Germany Gives 40 Partners and 380 Staff the Boot to Boost Profitability After That Whole Wirecard Thing

EY has been tightening the purse strings over the past several months ahead of the big Project Everest split, the vote on which remains delayed and should happen before the end of this quarter. The firm did not hand out mid-year bonuses in December and sources say that travel, training, and even hiring are on […]