To Big 4, or not to Big 4?

RateMyPlacement.co.uk give you the insider's guide to working for the 'Big 4' accountancy firms
Where to work

If you're dead set on a career in accountancy and professional services there must be many questions flying around your head; do you look at the PricewaterhouseCoopers as it had highest revenues last year? Do you look at Deloitte as it was the fastest growing last year? You know someone who works at KPMG, why not try there? Or, here's one for you, do you look at the Ernst & Young because it was rated higher by students last year? Oliver Sidwell from RateMyPlacement.co.uk explains what the students REALLY think about the Big 4 and beyond...

Three friends and I launched RateMyPlacement.co.uk last October to fill an information gap for students. The website has advice, jobs and already hosts over 1,000 reviews of work placements and internships by those that know best; the students that have been there and done it. Last month we declared the Top 20 Placement & Internship Employers 2007-2008 based entirely on student feedback and Ernst & Young (12th overall) was top of the Big 4 table with an average rating of 7.9 / 10!

But what do the ratings actually mean? Similar to a film review, a book review on Amazon.co.uk, or a hotel review on TripAdvisor.com, the actual rating itself isn't enough, the real value lies in the comments left by those who have consumed before you. From reading the comments left by students on RateMyPlacement.co.uk, you immediately get an insight into what it's like to work for a company. PricewaterhouseCoopers & Ernst & Young are rated most highly, let's put them head to head.

There appears to be a very strong investment in people and personal development at E&Y with the following comments from different reviews all hinting so:

  • "Ernst & Young have a truly people-oriented culture where everybody is friendly, welcoming and approachable"

  • "I felt like they were treating me as already being one of the team" One student even concludes their review with; "Really great experience, really good company, recommend it to anyone!". So what do students think about PwC then? The reviews place a similar emphasis on the training aspect of personal development...

  • "I would recommend PwC as a very good place to do your internship. What attracted me most to take the job was career prospects and upward mobility programmes through the firm, especially with opportunities to work abroad"

  • "the year effectively becomes the first of the three year graduate scheme run by PwC. The exams that I passed during the year will mean that I return to PwC as a second year graduate."

  • "I had a great placement, and I look forward to returning to PwC after Uni!" In an already competitive environment, will the current economic climate affect the intake of students into the Big 4? If you have your heart set on a career in accountancy and professional services, then why not explore your options outside of the Big 4?

BDO Stoy Hayward have 21 reviews on RateMyPlacement.co.uk, all again seeming to have a fantastic experience with the overall rating of 7.9 / 10. BDO have a summer internship scheme which is an "enjoyable and productive way to spend a summer "and a"very good experience over the eight weeks - would definitely recommend it". From their 2 reviews on RateMyPlacement.co.uk, Grant Thornton also appear to have a great scheme being recommended as the "best ever opportunity to learn how to account - all that was learnt was essential to either becoming an accountant or going into business", "it wasn't the best paid available I'm glad I did it and would definitely recommend the company to other students."

But what do all these comments mean?

Essentially, you have so many options available to you. Whether you apply for one of the Big 4 or you decide to venture outside of the Big 4 to pursue your career is obviously up to you, but ensure you research which company, which role and which location will suit you and your needs the most and your experience will hopefully be everything you expect it to be!