Accenture v. Big 4 Accounting: Which job do I take?
November 7, 2008 5:16 PM   Subscribe

What's working at Accenture like?

Specifically, in the Systems and Integration practice, although I am hoping to move to the Management Consulting practice-- the recruiter says that employees are eligible for consideration for that switch after a period of 2 years (quite likely to be recruiter BS, I understand).

I'm weighing an analyst position in the Systems and Integration practice against an entry-level accountant position with a Big 4 firm. Americans: think CPA; Canadians/Ireland/Aus/etc.: think CA.

FWIW: The consultant job pays a little more than 15,000 in the first year. I think for me personally, it's that I think the consulting job has a 80% probability to be more interesting, and it will probably pay better; in 5 years though, I think the exit opportunities might be a little better with the CPA/CA, possibly hours and money-wise. That's what I think, though.
posted by demagogue to Work & Money (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have never worked for Accenture, but I have been their client several times. You will work longer hours than normal at both jobs.

However accenture will be longer.

That said, I think you have a better opportunity to advance to greater things from accenture. integration is always in high demand. I wish we had a lot more of them right now.

Plus, if you learn the industries you consult for, you will get to know many contacts in the industry that can see your work ethic and smarts. This will open countless doors for you.
posted by Pants! at 5:30 PM on November 7, 2008

I've never worked for a consulting firm myself, but I did proofread this guide to Accenture, which seemed pretty comprehensive.

(Not trying to sell you it, just wanted to bring the tiny bit of Accenture knowledge I have to bear on the question!)
posted by limeonaire at 5:40 PM on November 7, 2008

Depends on where you want to go. Each of these 2 paths lead to different places. Do you want to end up consulting, or do you like being an accountant?

Consulting will typically expose you to a wider variety of companies, engagements, opportunities than going the CPA route, but also will bring more stress, etc. due to the dynamic and chaotic nature of the business. If this doesn't scare you, you might well served to go that route.

There are many other factors to consider, however, not the least of which is your predilection/tolerance to travel. Accenture is a global company, and you could end up hitting the road quite a bit...

Personal disclaimer: I've worked as a Management Consultant for 15+ years, 3.5 of which was with Accenture (Anderson Consulting at the time). FWIW, YMMV, yada yada.
posted by noahv at 6:06 PM on November 7, 2008

are u sure on that 15,000 figure? that sounds wrong -- unless you're saying it pays 15k *more* than the big 4 job which sounds about right.

by the way don't let the big 4 firm convince you you'll do any consulting... they may say they're consulting and they may bill like they're consulting but you will be typing and taking notes
posted by Barrows at 6:06 PM on November 7, 2008

Best answer: I'm an ex-Accenture consultant - mefi mail me if you would like to hear more, I'm bound by a current working relationship with them so can't be more specific on here.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:14 PM on November 7, 2008

Best answer: The consultant job pays a little more than 15,000 in the first year.

I'm assuming that's the delta between accounting and consulting, or else hopefully it's not in USD...

I have a few friends who work for Accenture, and I have worked with people from there. Accenture always seemed — to me as an outsider — to be very big on their "methods." There seemed to be a lot of training in that direction; I think all the new hires went to some sort of "summer camp" to learn about the Accenture Method and how it could apparently be applied to everything. (The in-person training may no longer be happening due to belt-tightening, this was a few years ago when the money flowed a little more freely across the industry.) They always seemed to have very slick PowerPoint templates.

I was never really enamored with all the 'Accenture Method' stuff, but that could have been a consequence of the people I was working with. (They seemed to take it a bit religiously.) But if they're still doing the kind of intensive training that the people I was with went through, it might be a good opportunity; at the very least it's a resume line that you'd be able to take pretty easily to any of the other major consultancies.

[A slight aside from your question]
Personally — and I don't know how far you should generalize this experience — I found it was easier to change roles by jumping firms than to change roles within the same organization. Lateral and "diagonal" (up and over) moves are pretty common in consulting, in my experience.

You will probably need, or at least find it helpful, to have an MBA before you try to make a serious run for Management Consulting; I think you may find a glass ceiling pretty quickly without one in that arena. I know a few people who have started out doing S.I. stuff, gotten their MBA while they were working, then jumped ship (and up in pay significantly) into management consulting positions. I don't know how easy this is, just that it's been done.

Anyway, as to your general question, I can't push for consulting vs. accounting since I'm not an accountant, but consulting has been fairly good to me. I've liked being able to focus on projects: coming in, learning about a new client, working with them, doing the work and delivering it, and then moving on to something else. It can be stressful and has significant work/life balance challenges at times, but I much prefer it to a straight 9-5. However I can imagine someone feeling just the opposite, so that's something you should put serious thought into.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:41 PM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Even though my experiences with Big 4 employment is somewhat elderly (around 5 years ago), I think the culture in these firms really never changes.

My ex worked as a consultant for Big 4 (not Accenture) for a few years1, and I was in HR at the same very big (biggest of the big) firm. I would describe his experience as intense.

Something to consider is that during the last big economic downturn, it was the consultants who were "let go", while the accountants stayed put.

Cannot but agree with Kadin2048 as to the "method" (which seems to be the Big 4 m.o.) - it can tend toward the cult-ish and is a bit "check the box" in the methodology: not a lot of creativity involved and, certainly none encouraged.

I would highly recommend reading Big Time Consulting - hilarious and really resonates (or maybe look back on it at the end of your time there).

Lewis Pinault's Consulting Demons is a pretty good read too.

All that said, having a couple of years Big 4 experience on your CV is a really a very impressive thing indeed.

1He now works for a boutique firm and is infinitely happier and more fulfilled. He's somewhat bitter and disillusioned about his Big 4 (was then 5) experience.
posted by the.carol.baxter.experience at 10:22 PM on November 7, 2008

Totally subjective data point: everyone I know seems to hate Accenture.
posted by dhoe at 11:33 PM on November 7, 2008

Best answer: This is Mrs. rks404 logging in for my first time ever to tell you that I'm a divorce lawyer, and if the Accenture position requires travel, I'd recommend the accounting firm even if the accounting firm also requires travel. I see far more Accenture divorces, and the people in them are pretty damaged. Accenture's travel schedules & corporate culture either attract personality disorders or it creates them (think narcissist in particular). Our friend works there, and in his division, he reports that they almost brag about eventually firing the bulk of their employees for not being the best. Which is so stressful for the employees as they face firing, then if you are one of the chosen, again, the narcissism. Another friend who used to work there as well as at other consulting companies says affairs with all the traveling consultants are more common - that might be attractive if you are young and fresh out of college, but if you're married and have kids, it's a bit terrifying. And I'd echo that in this economy, everyone still needs accountants, but might decide to postpone other consultant needs until revenues increase again, and this is an economy where security is a strong selling point.

And I do hear the hours are significantly longer.
posted by rks404 at 6:10 AM on November 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

Going off dhoe - I have no personal experience, but my friends who worked for Accenture were pretty miserable.
posted by lunasol at 11:51 AM on November 8, 2008

Response by poster: Everyone who guessed that the 15,000 was the delta was right! My blunder.

Thanks for all the tips and info and invitations to chat-- I really appreciate it! My gf found Mrs. rks404's Accenture divorce facilitating experiences particularly funny/worrisome.

Still haven't made up my mind, but you've all been really helpful.

For anyone else thinking about this, has been a good resource for reviews from former and current employees.

If anyone else has any thoughts, please post away.
posted by demagogue at 2:03 PM on November 11, 2008

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