Joined: 12 Aug 2012
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Re: what do you guys think about this article? [#permalink]
18 Aug 2012, 22:57
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This is what I've been told, and anybody with industry experience can probably tell you better:
1) Major caveat: Every office is different. Working long hours (50-70) is the norm, but working psycho 100-hour weeks ten months out of the year doesn't have to be.
2) All of the Big Four have this weird cult mentality about work. That's why they look especially hard for people who fit into their culture, like fratters. One aspect of this dominant culture is that being an associate is like a 2-year-long period of hazing. Somebody was a d*ck to your higher-ups somewhere way back and gosh darnit they're going to make you go through the same thing. Most professions have unhealthy hazing environments, and there are certainly far worse ones than accounting. BigLaw associates work far worse hours than accountants, both for better pay (not that much better, though, since cost of living is astronomical in places like New York where most BigLawyers are located) and because the job situation for lawyers is far worse than the one for accountants. An accountant can give the finger to his employer at the two year mark and jump into industry, making more money for less work. A BigLawyer? Yeah, they may be well paid but they do trivial sh*t that's completely and totally worthless to anybody except the BigLaw firm that hired them. If you get out of BigLaw you need to accept that your best income years are likely behind you. Investment bankers also come to mind: Bear in mind that for every Ivy League banker with the models and bottles life there are many more who are absolute slaves to their jobs. Both of those fields have insanely high attrition rates - almost as bad as Big Four. Also, the Big Four attrition rate is artificially high because leaving the Big Four at the two- or three-year mark is the norm and is built into the entire process.
2a) Don't be an accountant in New York City. For the love of God, just don't. They tend to start at like $55k there, which after cost of living adjustments is such a pitiful salary as to be almost insulting. $55k in New York, according to the Cost of Living calculator I'm using, is like $22.5k in Houston (my target market). The salaries kinda adjust for location, but they don't adjust as much as they should, so going to an area with a large market that's cheap to live in (like Texas) is smart.
3) The two-year mark. If you know about CPA licensing, you should understand why two years is significant. You need two years (in a lot of states) before you can put those magic three letters after your name, which means they have your nuts in a vice until then and they know it. Since 2 years also coincides with becoming a senior in most cases (standard jump-off point) they also just want to make sure they've milked you for as much productivity as they possibly can.
So, in conclusion:
No way around it, the first couple years will probably suck. That's the price you pay for admission, the hazing. If you decide to stay after that, stay for the job security, not the desire to make partner. The number of people who make partner is miniscule, and many partners themselves say that it is the worst part of their career because the brown-nosing you do for clients is much worse than what you do for your superiors. If you want to jump at the two- or three-year mark, don't worry about it because that's what most people do. When you're in there, people will typically be contacting you offering jobs, so it's not like you're totally out in the cold, and the Big Four alumni network is very large. If you get married and have kids, don't stay unless job security is the absolute priority one to you - you owe your family your presence, and generally the pay is better in industry so you're not even giving that up. Either path you choose, all steps of the way, aggressively save money. I'm guessing you're wanting to do accounting because you think steady paychecks are really awesome in a sh*tty economy - that's my motivation and the motivation of most people I know who study accounting - but steady paychecks that stop aren't much better than unsteady paychecks.