Big 4 Accounting Firms Salary Breakdown

Big 4 Accounting Firms Salary Breakdown

As an accounting or finance major, your dream job is likely to be with one of the 4 major accounting firms. Nicknamed “The Big 4,” these 4 firms account for 80 percent of all business auditing done in the United States, and a sizable portion of global finance. As a result, they offer very competitive and comfortable salaries for anyone working for them, even at an entry level position.

Which of the “Big 4” Accounting firms is right for you? This article is a breakdown of the big four firms, an average starting salary range for each of them, and some additional parameters that help determine the size of your starting accounting salary.

#1: Deloitte Salary Information

Big 4 Accounting Firms SalaryAlso known as Deloitte LLP and Deloitte and Touche LLP, this is the number one firm in the world. The secret to its success is that over time multiple smaller firms were absorbed by Deloitte, either through a merger or complete buyout. As a result, Deloitte is a very powerful and successful firm, able to offer a very generous tax accountant salary for prospective employees.

The average Deloitte starting salary for an employee is in the range of $45,000 to $60,000 annually. In order to get a starting salary on the higher end of that spectrum, it helps to take part in a university program run by Deloitte, and to pick a location in a major metropolitan area such as New York City, their central location. An employee with less experience or from a less urban location can expect a salary on the lower end of the spectrum, but with yearly promotions and advanced certifications, this is sure to change over time.

#2: PricewaterhouseCoopers Salary Information

PwC is the fifth largest privately owned company in the United States, and the number two accounting company in the world. With more than 180,000 employees and an average annual profit of 31 billion dollars, they are a solid choice for enterprising accountants looking for a job. A PricewaterhouseCoopers starting salary would be in the range of $48,000 to $68,000 for a position as an accounting associate.

The factors that influence the size of a PwC salary are location (similar to Deloitte, this company is based in New York) and prior experience. Some other ways to ensure a higher starting CPA salary are if you work as an intern with them, or if you take advantage of their training programs and seminars. PricewaterhouseCoopers features a robust training program for aspiring employees, but unlike Deloitte, they offer their programs free of charge and open to anyone.

#3: Ernst & Young Salary Information

Ernst & Young, the number three accounting company in the world, was founded in 1989 after a merger of Arthur Young & Company and Ernst & Ernst. Although they have struggled in the past, recent acquisitions in Denmark have resulted in a terrific past few years, with annual profits of around $26 billion. They have locations all around the world, but their main office is located in London. The average certified public accountant salary for this company is in the range of $40,000 to $63,000 for an entry level position.

In addition to being a very popular place to work at and a successful company, Ernst & Young is well known for its employee diversity, so if you are looking for a diverse work environment you would benefit from applying here. Some ways to ensure a higher starting salary are to be located in one of their major locations (London and New York), or to attend one of their numerous college recruiting events. Unfortunately, these events are not public or free like PwC, but they are still definitely worth looking into for enterprising accountants.

#4: KPMG Salary Information

Having originated in Amsterdam, KPMG is a large accounting organization with locations in the US, China, and India, to list only a few. They have over 150,000 employees on their payroll and report an average annual profit of $23 billion. A tax accountant salary at KPMG averages in the range of $46,000 to $62,000. However, after around 5 years of working there, the average salary shoots up to around $106,000, so it pays to stick around.

Some other methods of ensuring a higher starting salary are taking advantage of their free online training resources and attending one of their college classes. Similar to Ernst & Young, KPMG is frequently listed as a terrific diversity hire, with a very culturally diverse working environment. This is due to their international offices, meaning that potential employees can benefit from higher starting salaries if they are located in China, India, or Europe, not just New York City.


Something to keep in mind with accountant’s salaries are that they don’t stay at one level for very long. Hard working, dedicated employees at any of these four firms can expect to move up the ranks very quickly, with noticeable pay increases along the way. Even if one firm has a lower starting salary than some of the others, or if your starting salary is lower than you may have hoped, know that the amount you make annually is likely to change for the better, fairly quickly.

One thing all these companies have in common when looking for employees is an accounting or finance degree from a reputable school, a few years of experience or an internship, and their prospective employee being located in a metropolitan area such as New York City. Keep these things in mind, and you should find yourself with a cushy accounting job right out of school, especially when you’ve got that CPA certification in sight. If you are yet to start your journey towards becoming a CPA, now’s the time to start! Find out which CPA Review Course is right for you!

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  • Biplab Kumar Patra
    Posted at 20 August, 2017 23:24 PM Reply

    I am B Com Graduate with 4 years of experience in small accounting sector. How can I get job at Big 4.

    • Bryce Welker, CPA
      Posted at 22 August, 2017 12:26 PM Reply

      Send in your resume and request and interview! Do whatever it takes to get in front of the people in charge of hiring at a location near you and then have a killer interview!

      Posted at 2 June, 2017 01:38 AM Reply

      Don't pay attention to the salary stats. I started for one of these firms at the bottom of the list in the Midwest (so it's not an inflated NY salary) and was offered $68k. I now make $90k after 1.5 years of working there. It depends on your ability, not the firm.