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Work Experience/Background Question

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Work Experience/Background Question [#permalink] New post 25 Jan 2011, 16:54
So I am getting ready to attend my masters of business taxation at USC. From what I've heard, there is a heavy recruiting session in the first semester. I always hear that getting into the big 4 sets you up for the future. Being able to put that on your resume shows that you have paid your dues and that you have elite training. I also understand that you get poor pay for the hours you actually work, and they pretty much work you to the ground.

My question is for the people who have worked or have experience on the tax side of accounting. I realize that the big 4 is an awesome place to start off at, but what about the IRS? Is there also demand for people who have been trained by the IRS, and how good will this look compared to having a big 4 background?

At the IRS, the hours are set, the pay is comparable or better, and I would assume it would be a good tax background because then you could say that you know exactly what the IRS is looking for.

I am sure that it depends on which specific part of tax you are in, because tax is pretty broad. I would really appreciate it if someone could give me some insight on this, and if they could give me a few examples as to where the IRS might be more beneficial to have as a background, and where the big 4 would be more beneficial to have as a background.

All thoughts and answers are greatly appreciated. Thank you.
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Re: Work Experience/Background Question [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2011, 19:13
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Big 4 definitely better for long term career potential than IRS. They will be looked at more favorably and will open more doors. Working for the IRS, or any other government job is not going to carry the prestige and pedigree that the big 4 firms will. Particularly if you ever want to be a consultant down the road, you can't do better than big 4 experience. Don't worry about the short term sacrifice--a few years proving yourself will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

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Re: Work Experience/Background Question [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2011, 20:50
Thanks a lot for the reply bryantmichaels. That's what I assumed also, and it does make sense.
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Re: Work Experience/Background Question [#permalink] New post 03 May 2011, 13:23
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Having worked for both Big 4 and the Govt, my opinion is more nuanced. All in all, I don't think it's as clear cut as "Big 4 good, Govt bad". I've seen many people toil away in obscurity with Big 4 and make a ton of money / live a good live as Feds.

On the one hand, Big 4 gives you very fast promotion potential and experience with lots and lots of clients, many of whom are Fortune 500 and also in need of CPAs. You can be a manager by 30 and make six figures by jumping to an AVP or middle manager role. But the hours are very bad (maybe 80-100 / week during busy seasons). Your coworkers will often not be that nice. It can get very competitive -- "up or out" culture in which you either make it to promotion or you leave. And your pay and benefits will be terrible compared to your hours.

On the other hand, the US Govt will give you great benefits, excellent working hours, and usually a nice work environment. Senior feds may not make as much money as senior partners, but it's easier to get there (in Big 4, not many people become partners or senior managers). And in many cases, senior feds can make six figures on 40 hrs / wk. With IRS you'll also get to travel and meet many potential types of businesses or wealthy individuals, many of whom might hire you later. If you stay for many years and ascend the senior ranks, you will also be in demand for consulting or even managerial roles in companies too.

It's really up to you. If you want to work like hell and get promoted very quickly, Big 4 might the better option, although you'll give up your life for it. If you want a comfortable lifestyle with great benefits but can wait slightly more for promotion, then the IRS won't be bad.

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Re: Work Experience/Background Question   [#permalink] 03 May 2011, 13:23
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