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Are these the best accounting firms to work for in the U.S.?

Office party time! Cheers

Among certain circles, when the debate of the best accounting firms to work for comes up, the knee-jerk reaction is to say it’s the Big Four and everybody else. However, one upstart has crashed the party by focusing on improving its employees’ work/life balance, according to the latest Vault Accounting 50 Rankings based on an annual survey of accounting professionals in the U.S.

Best accounting firms

PwC took the top spot on the list for the fourth year in a row, while Deloitte and EY exchanged slots, with the former finishing in second place and the latter in third this year.

Grant Thornton was the firm that was able to displace KPMG from fourth place, as the latter moved to fifth.

What is it really like working for these firms? Based on anonymous employee reviews, these are the positives and negatives of the firms to make the top five.


A former deals advisory associate complimented PwC’s “great training - frequently the firm invests in developing new associates” and the fact that “you will be judged based on your teamwork and work product.” That person said PwC has a “great brand in the market place” that led to being “frequently contacted by headhunters for interesting corporate positions and consulting positions.”

On the downside, the former employee called the compensation “below market rate,” claiming that “advancement can be more structured than based on merit.”

The biggest complaint was a work/life balance skewed heavily toward work, but the firm’s prestige outweighed all such concerned and kept PwC at the top of the heap.


A former employee extolled the “smart, dedicated people who represent the brand” and “excellent resources for both work (research services, technology) and outside work (fitness subsidies, bonus programs).”

However, that same person cited “lower pay than industry” with “raises/bonuses dependent on group or partner in charge” combined with “long hours and an on-call mentality.”


“Great perks, which include happy hours, team dinners and Friday lunches,” a former employee said. “Great people who are young, energetic, smart co-workers you would hang out with after work. You get to work with Fortune 500 companies (banks, brokerages) on advisory and audit projects that have an impact on the client organization.”

On the other hand, “hours can be long: work-life balance is more challenging to achieve if that is desired.”

Grant Thornton

A current employee said, “The company has a youthful and fun culture,” but that “sometimes the systems are a little out of date, and the training is not quite enough for some people.”


Despite typical gripes about compensation, employees past and present had plenty of positive things to say about working at KPMG.

“Smart, hard-working employees,” a current employee said. “You are given the freedom to set your own schedules as long as you deliver. You have mentorship when you need it but you are not inundated with unsolicited management. KPMG treats you like a professional and expects you to act as one.

Photo credit: ajkkafe/iStock/Thinkstock

AUTHORDan Butcher US Editor
  • TM
    TMB Taxman01
    15 April 2016

    Wrapping up my 49th tax season, I spent my first 20 years with EY (then E&E/E&W) and PwC (then C&L). I've been with a my current firm (a single office, slightly larger than the EY office that I left in 1981) for the last 20 years. I've found that the long hours with emphasis on the work side of work/family is just a big part of the profession. What got to me was my daughter's comment - "Dad, I've grown up and you missed it." But that's way it was in the 1970s & 80s if you wanted to reach the top of the Top.

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