What Are the Big 4 Accounting Firms? Definition and Critique

Over the past decade, quarterly funding to high growth start-ups has fallen just seven times. Through industry consolidation that began in 1989, what used to be the Big Eight has become the Big Four today. The eight, in alphabetical order, were Arthur Andersen, Arthur Young, Coopers & Lybrand, Deloitte Haskin & Sells, Ernst & Whinney, Peat Marwick Mitchell, Price Waterhouse, and Touche Ross—all U.S. or U.K. In July 1998, the Big Six became the Big Five when Price Waterhouse merged with Coopers & Lybrand to form PricewaterhouseCoopers. In many cases, each member firm practices in a single country, and is structured to comply with the regulatory environment in that country.

  • While working at the company, you are also eligible for advisory scholarships, which provide financial assistance to cover tuition fees and other related educational expenses.
  • Perrigo soon replaced the BDO auditors with ones from EY, who blessed the transactions, which federal regulators now claim are shams.
  • In 2018 the firm reported an astonishing $35.2 billion in revenue, the company has continued to grow over the past four years on average 7%, even with the recession.

Here are four qualities the Big 4 firms are looking for in new hires. More layoffs are still possible, but likely would be on a smaller scale, said John McGowan, a former tax technology leader for Deloitte and KPMG. Consulting fees, however, are a significant driver of firm profits. Such fees brought in half of the Big Four firms’ combined revenue last year.

Deloitte University

You have to work very hard and get used to coaching people as well. You also have to get used to working with more senior people at this level because you will most likely be working with a manager at this level. If you are going to work at the big 4, obtaining a big 4 internship is key.

In addition, the Big 4 have been criticised for conflicts of interest. In simple terms, they were paid to improve the profitability of clients, while also being responsible for auditing the financial records of those clients. Currently, KPMG is the smallest of the Big 4, with 2018 revenues of $29 billion. It is the only member of the Big 4 with its headquarters outside of London, and is based in the Netherlands. In 2016, Deloitte became iPhone’s ambassador to the business world. Through a deal with Apple, Deloitte opened a new practice with 5,000 employees.


Because there really aren’t any, at least none that would make a difference to the accountants using these products. PwC is highly regarded for its focus on employee well-being and professional growth, offering ample opportunities for learning and development. PwC is widely admired for its exceptional workplace culture, fostering an environment where you should thrive. The firm also offers flexible work arrangements and actively promotes a healthy personal and professional life balance, earning them well-deserved recognition. You’ll find more information for each career below, including a brief description, the industry average starting salary, and a list of pros/cons. Here’s a break-down showing the portion of each firm’s annual revenue that comes from these services.

Meet the Big 4 Accounting Firms

Mr. Deloitte is famous for being the first independent auditor ever to be hired by a public firm. In July 1998, Price Waterhouse merged with Coopers & Lybrand to form PricewaterhouseCoopers, further reducing number of market leaders to five. When you make it to the interview stage you know you’re close, so prepare accordingly. Dress sharp, be on time, know specific details about the company you are interviewing with, and be prepared to ask them questions. Just like any other job, accounting requires resumes for new hire candidates. There are many resume strategies, but we simply recommend that you make it clear you are qualified, then offer something that differentiates you from the crowd.

Why Work for the Big 4 Accounting Firms?

KPMG’s dedicated Leadership and Development department is committed to providing you with the necessary training and resources to tackle challenges at work. However, in recent years the pressure to meet performance targets and coyote buttes win new business has created a culture of competition, despite the firm’s attempt to foster collaboration and teamwork. Employees are supported in various ways, including tuition reimbursement, to develop essential skills.

If you counted up all the typical times for each position, you likely realized that it takes about years to be an equity partner at a big 4 accounting firm. The major line of service and the core “moneymaker” in the Big 4 is auditing (also referred to as assurance). Audit work typically generates over a third of total revenue, followed by Advisory and then Tax. As a student or working professional, you will run into Big 4 sooner or later. The Big 4 accounting firms – PwC, EY, Deloitte, and KPMG –  have evolved into their own ubiquitous brand.

Training Offered by KPMG

Deloitte is ranked number one with revenues of $59 billion of revenue in fiscal year 2022. As the only Big 4 firm that can be called a true consulting firm, Deloitte has a proven history of being able to pivot effectively. This entrepreneurial spirit pervades Deloitte’s culture and the company is known as the fastest moving of the Big 4. As a result, the company is known for having longer hours compared to the rest of the Big 4. If constant change and being able to take initiative are aspects you look for in a company, Deloitte is for you.

Regardless of whether professionals leave to work in smaller firms or to head up corporate finance departments, the respect that comes with working with the Big 4 is unmatched. Additionally, by working at one of the Big 4, accountants are exposed to a wide swath of industries and companies. These opportunities often help accountancy professionals determine their next career move. This creates the complication that smaller firms have no way to compete well enough to make it into the top end of the market. KPMG is last of the big four accounting firms with more than 670 offices located in over 150 countries. The firm was originally established in 1911 when William Barclay Peat & co. merged with Marwick Mitchell & Co. to form Peat Marwick.

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