The Accounting Career Data Sheet


Gold Member
Introduction and Mythbuster

I spent a lot of time on this and I don’t know if there is much of an audience. I don’t cover everything but you should have at the very least a better idea of the Accounting world than you did before so you can make a better career choice. I am also here to field any questions. Please let me know your thoughts as that will help me understand what value I added and what I can further add.

Lot of cats don’t choose Accounting as a major because there is a plethora of stereotypes associated with it which also imply that it is not a very masculine profession at all.

Let’s start with the stereotype. Imagine an accountant. What do you see? Most likely, you’ll see a nerdy white guy with a pocket protector, sitting in front of a computer. And when he’s not, you probably see him doing socially retarded things. In more ways than one, he can be seen as the ultimate “beta.”

Not to say these aren’t true in some cases, but as a start, let me call bullshit on this. In this post, I’ll explore the possibilities offered by an Accounting major, getting a CPA and the overall income potential one could have. Plus, I’ll sprinkle in how you can be alpha in the Accounting world. I’ll also break my analysis into backgrounds and paths. Certain backgrounds are ABSOLUTELY necessary for specific paths.

For the purpose of this discussion, when I say smaller company, I’m including small to medium size companies for the sake of simplicity. In turn these are sub $500 million. Anything over $500 million, especially $1 billion and above are larger companies. Keep in mind I made this up for the discussion, as thresholds are different in different circles. That being said, these thresholds do not fall that far out of this range especially when it comes to Accounting careers. Just a little perspective so you don’t get confused.

I’ll provide a Shakespearean epilogue in the beginning so you can foresee what’s coming: Unless you work for one of the Big 4 Accounting firms, don’t expect to “Kill it” in the Corporate Accounting world or go much further than an Accounting Manager at a large company at best. While not impossible, it’s just significantly more likely that you will have an opportunity to apply your masculine traits in a Big 4 firm and get farther in the business world in general than you would as a desk jockey. CPA has nothing to do with it, which I’ll explain further.

This being said, since this is more of a manosphere write up, it would be prudent to start with a discussion of what the Big 4 means since the most successful Accountants end up spending time there and the most alpha CFOs come from there. From there, I’ll work my way down to landing an internship, career paths and then the backgrounds required to get to these paths. I’ll finish off with a discussion on a “CPA.”

Big 4

The Big 4 are the top 4 Accounting firms. These are PriceWaterHouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG. It used to be the Big 5, but then Enron did some shady shit and their then Auditor Anderson bit the dust. Anderson’s other clients were then split amongst the other “4” firms. To get into the Big 4, you can be many things. They hire the frat/sorority types as well as the smart ass Big Bang Theory types. Guess who ends up doing the work and who leads? This being said, your GPA HAS to be above a 3.3 (out of 4.0). However, you generally don’t cut it if you have below 3.5. Overall, if you go on Linkedin and check the experience of successful CFOs at well known companies, you will see the Big 4 “stamp.”

So why is the Big 4 so glorious? It sounds like a bunch of people who think they’re better than others right? The Big 4 produces some of the most genuine, hard charging and assertive cats in the world (Big 4 are in every country). This is due to the experience offered to them and the people they are exposed to as their clients. I’ll speak for the Audit side as I haven’t worked as much on the Tax and Advisory side. As an Auditor at the Big 4, you get to audit the books of the largest companies in the world. For example, McDonalds is a Chicago Ernst & Young client, whereas TimeWarner is a New York City Ernst & Young client. Add Nestle, P&G and so on. Even as a first year staff accountant in New York City, you can sometimes get exposure to the top dogs at the Corporate office of these companies. I used to work on the Corporate Audit team of a major telecommunications carrier in my first year and it was not only one of the best experiences of my career, but dropped some of the brightest and most successful people in that industry into my network.

You audit the books. So what? That sounds like a desk job. NO. Auditing puts shit into perspective and you talk to a lot of people from varying backgrounds. I’m not talking about making sure the cash is good or receivables are being controlled. Leave that to the smaller accounting firms. I’m talking about: Oh shit, they filed bankruptcy, now what? Or, oh shit the client acquired a company, what kind of value are they getting? Is that shit reflected correctly in reports for the investors to decide if they should pump more money in? Or FRAUD. I bet you the auditors of Enron at Anderson learned more than any accountant ever did about fraud and cooking the books and how someone at the top layers runs their financial game.

What I’m saying is that the Big 4 Audit practice shows you the ins and outs of a large (often $1 billion plus) business by teaching you how a company functions through the process of Auditing. This means you learn how the business works without spending about 15 years in it doing each repetitive task for 2 years a piece. You get to break that shit down. You also learn to talk about complex concepts in a succinct manner and not sound like Elliot Rodgers. Consequently, you are talking to higher level people in the business world and you learn how to handle those conversations intelligently over time.

It can be an invaluable experience IF you apply yourself. Expect to work some 60+ hours a week but it’s worth it if you play your cards right. I may do another write up on how to work it at the Big 4 to be successful but right now, I’ll summarize it to “don’t be a lazy fuck and you’ll be fine.”

Also, I'm not saying you can't get a similar experience at smaller Accounting firms but an experience at the Big 4 can be significantly better in terms of client and people profiles.

Career Paths

I’m not going to cover every single position for the sake of keeping this somewhat succinct as it’s already going to be a long data sheet. Just remember that there are a lot of options but the below are the paths you will eventually get to.

CFO – A CFO is responsible for not only for the company’s existing books but also for having a handle on financial results in the future based on strategies established by the business leaders. However, these guys are not the chubby ass dudes that walk in to the meeting room with thick glasses and sound like bitches. They are hired because they know how to ENGAGE their audience to tell a story to the CEO and other leader so they realize how much their mistakes can cost the company or strategies can grow the company.

This may be the ultimate career prize, next to Partner (below). Getting here at a large Corporation can mean busting your ass in the “Big 4” Accounting firms for at least a few years demonstrating an ability to not only complete tasks but getting people over to your side and building political capital by being the “go to” guy. At a smaller Corporation or business, it’s achievable without a Big 4 background. However, a good chunk of CFOs that I know from the largest companies come from a “Big 4” background.

As far as salary, these guys still seem to hover around mid-six figures at a large company but at least lower six figures at smaller companies for the most part. HOWEVER, at larger companies there is a sizable amount of stock based compensation (e.g. stock options) that can raise their compensation levels sometimes into the millions.

Most CFOs generally will have 15+ years of GOOD “non desk jockey” experience before they get into their role. My view is that you get to have a lot of interaction with other high value individuals and it can be a great role to have.

Partner at an Accounting firm – A partner’s responsibility used to be primarily to grow the business and maintain client relationships. However, after the debacle that was Enron, they also have a huge stake in the quality of their engagement projects. Yeah, you always thought this was the case right? Well, sometimes it takes a big fuck up for people to realize that partners need to do their job. As a result, some have been spending more time reviewing paper than they used to. So it certainly is not as glorious as it used to be.

To get here, don’t end up believing that you don’t need to bust your ass producing work as much as believe that you need to build relationships and therefore political and social capital. Keep in mind that these are the “Don Drapers” that SELL and not the guys that work 80 hours a week and burn themselves out. Burnouts don’t make partner. They get “counseled out” to one of the firm’s clients in a nice role; like an expanded severance package for their loyalty. Big 4 composes mostly of an Audit practice but followed by a significant Tax practice as well, in addition to smaller IT and Consulting practices.

A staff accountant in the Audit practice out of college starts off at about $55k to $60k nowadays at a larger city in the US within the Big 4 and some of the midsize audit firms as well. Tax accountants get paid about $10k more to start I believe. You can make a lower six figure income in 6 – 7 years from when you start with the fairly generous raises and bonuses. Of course if you make partner, you’re probably looking at mid six figures and higher. You can be a partner in as less as 10 years but the average is a few years higher. It can be very rewarding to be a partner and be able to game a client into hiring you.

Controller – He basically takes responsibility for all of the Accounting and Reporting of financial results. This includes the maintenance of the ledger as well as payables but much more. He has the Accounting team, and sometimes the Finance team working for him. To get here at a large Corporation, you definitely need a Big 4 Audit back ground and these may also include the “counseled out” guys I mentioned above. At smaller companies, you can get here starting from a staff Accountant and some tend to be lower performing Big 4 alum.

Staff Accountants start off at about $40k to $50k and Controllers at a fairly large company can make up to $200k or maybe even higher. However, when you add stock options as well, they’re looking at mid-six figures. It generally takes about 10 – 12 years of experience to become a Controller. Now my view is going to fade a bit; you will be spending a LOT of time at a desk looking at numbers and reading shit. You will have interaction with others but you not necessarily be convincing or negotiating or gaming, since Accounting is mostly black and white and when it’s not it’s still technical.

Tax Director / VP of Tax – These guys handle the tax payable to government authorities across the international locations of a given company. It can get really complicated based on what country you are based in. Some larger Corporations can have a sizable team of tax accountants to handle the various jurisdictions and keep abreast of the most recent legislations. You can get here from Tax accountant but generally the ones at larger Corporations have stronger backgrounds in International taxation that can generally only be garnered at a Big 4 firm.
These guys tend to get paid just as much as Controllers or even a bit more if the tax implications are complex in that industry. The experience time needed to head a tax team is the same amount as a Controller but could be higher based on the unique aspects of tax law and industry. This again is a desk job with a limited ability to stretch your social abilities.

Accounting Manager – Usually these guys are specifically responsible for the transaction level stuff and maintenance of the ledger only. He or she is the ultimate bitch in the Accounting world. His people don’t respect them enough and their bosses drop all the shit on their desk. This “sandwich” of sorts puts them in such a position that they end up doing even their staff’s work for them. They tend to be the more meek naturally introverted guys that never wanted to expand out of their comfort zone. The best ones are the “by the book” accountants that want to find “every penny.” I know guys that have retired in this role. Not recommended unless you have your own business in the works or something.

To get here, you can start off as a staff accountant and get here. If you don’t show much ambition, you’ll stay there for a while and even till retirement. True story. And, yes, they rarely make above $100k and tend to hover around the $80k - $90k mark. These guys tend to have about 7 years of experience before getting here. It could even lead to a Controller role but rarely. This is the ultimate desk job.

Director or VP of Internal Audit – These guys run teams in Corporations that audit all types of departments. This is usually the last stop for a burned out Senior Manager that was counseled out from the Big 4. It involves being the Board of Directors’ bitch and doing audits of dumb issues that the board came up with to keep the shareholder’s thinking that the they’re doing their job. The audits usually don’t amount to having results that I have ever seen as groundbreaking. I’ve seen audits of fork truck licenses.

I’ve seen these guys cut up to $300k at the largest firms but again, add stock compensation on top and they’re at mid-six figures. You generally need about 10 - 15 years of experience before you can lead an audit department. This can be a great role in that you will meet a lot of people and do a lot of convincing them that they are doing something wrong. HOWEVER, remember that you are talking about what most business leaders consider irrelevant. They just listen to you because they have to, not because you have skills.

Director / VP of Reporting – Basically this is the guy that is responsible for pulling the numbers together” and create reports that the investors can easily read. Think about pulling together all of the cash into one number or all of the companies liabilities into 2 or 3 different numbers based on how old they are. It can be a daunting task and can involve lots of staring in to spreadsheets. You also need to be a good writer as you will be writing about large complex transactions in a short and clear manner. The Controllers handle this at the smaller companies but it is separated at larger companies to a separate role since there are regulations involved. You almost always need experience in the Big 4 at larger companies to get here. You’re looking at about 6 – 7 years of strong Big 4 experience to get here and can make up to about $100k as a Manager and possibly about $200k as a director if you’re not promoted to Controller by then. This is a desk job, albeit a glorious one.

Bookkeepers - Generally, these guys keep the books and record transactions at smaller companies. Not much more. It’s a desk job. Nothing wrong with it but it’s the lowest you can aim for in the Accounting world. If you plan on making a career out of accounting don’t start here. Generally, these are people that used to do something else entirely and wanted to switch to a more stable job. Don’t expect to make more than about $50k at best for the rest of the career. Not much experience necessary.

Other routes – A few of my Big 4 alum went into the Finance route for large companies. Some are also in Treasury. Others handle large transactions for companies such as acquisitions. Others do consulting.

Educational Background Needed to “Kill it” or not

So now that I have described the primary roles you can have in the Accounting world, I’ll go ahead and break down the various backgrounds you can have and how they connect to the above paths.

Community college 2 year degree: Get ready to crunch a lot of fucking numbers. You will likely sit at a desk and manage the Accounts Receivable, or payables for a small sub $100 million company. Even that may be a stretch given that this level of education is more suited to a “Bookkeeper” type role I described above. People may be calling you asking why you didn’t pay their invoice on time. Get the drift? Bottom line: In this age of student loans and financial assistance, there is not much of an excuse for you not to aim higher. Compensation levels look more like $25k in a suburb up to maybe $35k in a big city. I haven’t seen even one person from this background cut it even as an Accounting Manager. If your goals are higher, read on.

University 4 year bachelors (unknown college): Now, we’re starting to go farther in the horizon of achievements. You are getting a full-fledged Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. However, let me make a distinction on the quality of the university. You have universities that have lower ranked “Business” schools which will give you a good education but DO NOT have any large companies recruiting from them. I’m talking about maybe like St. Thomas University or something like that from Bufu, Indiana. Reason being, their standards are not high enough for Big 4 to consider hiring its students. However, a degree from such a University will get you into a sub $500 million company as a Staff Accountant fairly easily as long as your Grade Point Average (GPA) is over 3.0 (out of 4.0). Below that GPA, you will have a tough time getting into positions at the larger companies. At the larger companies a staff accountant can make up to $45k starting out. These guys typically make it up to the Accounting Manager level and even the Controller level.

University 5 year Masters: Now, we’re getting into the cream of the crop. You did 4 years of Accounting and have a Bachelor’s. Guess what, this is all the knowledge you need to succeed in the Accounting world. HOWEVER, you won’t succeed, because the dickheads up above that think they are smarter dictated that you are “required” to have a 5th year of education likely to satisfy the officials that thought Enron had stupid and unethical accountants and auditors who should have hit the books more. I do agree with the ethics part somewhat though.

The “5 year plan” is so you can accumulate enough credits to meet the CPA requirement in the USA. I see it as a blatant plan for the education system to jack your funds. Anyhow, you need 5 years to sit for the CPA for all the US states now (I’m about 99% sure) so take it or leave it. The guys that go to a good school and get into the Big 4 typically make it to at least the Controller level at a large company (e.g. Whirlpool) and at most CFO at a large Corporation or Partner at a Big 4 Accounting firm.

The Recruiting culture on Campus and Internships

Internships in the Accounting world almost always land you a full time offer out of college. I have seen College sophomores all the way up to seniors do internships. Sometimes the Big 4 firms offer programs that let you travel across the world during the internship. Other times there are also “leadership” programs for sophomores where you visit the offices for a few days, meet experienced professionals and get wined and dined in good restaurants.

In order to land an internship, get your resume spruced up and make sure your GPA is above 3.0. For larger companies and Big 4, they may not even look at it if it is below 3.5. You also need to be going to a recruitable school that has a good Accounting program which is about a 3 hour distance to a large Big 4 office. Think New York City and Chicago. The New York City offices of the Big 4 recruit as far as SUNY Albany which is 3 hours upstate. In Chicago, similarly, there is a good chunk of recruitment from U of I Champagne.

It’s not enough to go to recruiting events at the school to get an internship. If you just do that, you won’t get one. You need to join the premier business fraternities on campus AND run for its office. I would say, run for fucking president. Don’t take any less. In order to get into Beta Alpha Psi for example, you need at least a 3.3 or something GPA and maintain it. However, YOU WILL get better access to a lot of other people on the same path as well as access to professionals and recruiters at the Big 4 that will now try to recruit you over other people at the school. However, as a member of the executive board of these fraternities, especially as president, you have pretty much automatic DHV. I was being actively recruited by all the Big 4 without even a resume when was in that position. They were fighting over me.

The Big 4 offer internships at their locations in the Winter months and Summer months. If you want to get a good experience and learn about business, do a Winter internship there. If you want to chill out and have a great time, do a summer internship. Neither one has been known to boost career potential in any significant way for anyone I know. I personally did one in the summer and don’t regret it but have also had first years who interned in the Winter that did great work for me the same as a second year would have.

You will get paid decent money when you intern at the Big 4 or other big companies. Remember that in the Winter you will work more and get paid over time. That could be an extra grand to go over to Eastern Europe in the summer rather than intern then (fuck I should have done that).
Getting a job offer once you do an internship especially at the Big 4 is like “don’t fuck up game.” Exactly like it sounds, don’t fuck up and you’ll get a job offer. This means have a good attitude and do what they ask. One thing to remember is that there are a lot less internship positions offered than full time job offers. So the internship system at the Big 4 and larger Corporations is used to “screen” out the top candidates as a result.

The Truth about a CPA

If you get a CPA and don’t have a Big 4 background, don’t expect to climb the mount Everest of the McDonalds or Whirlpools of the world unless you also are coming from a highly recruited school. Inversely, if you have a great Big 4 background and didn’t bother to spend at least 10% of that time to get a CPA, also expect to dig your career grave early. This is if you want to climb a ladder and want to learn business.

Let’s explore the CPA further. Imagine you’re the Controller of a $600 million company and you just got the budget to promote one of your Staff Accountants to a Senior Accountant. One of them had a 3.9 GPA in college but doesn’t have a CPA. The other one had a 3.3 GPA in college but just spent the last year busting her ass to get a CPA and now proudly puts those three letters in her work signature. Who do you think the Controller will promote? This illustration indicates that having a CPA will easily carve a faster career path to a Controller role than not having one. I have seen guys in their 40s without a CPA that work as Senior Accountants, and their boss is a 30 year old Manager treating him like a paper pushing bitch.

On the other hand, if you want to stay in the small business world, and open your own small practice, a CPA is a designation that the rest of the public sees as “distinguishing.” This means that you will vigorously hunt for clients to your own business and they will give you a bunch of wrinkled receipts if they trust you. This doesn’t mean that this guy can handle the non-wrinkled receipts of a $2 billion company. He’s your local CPA and speaking with him should give you a warm and fuzzy feeling about your money. In this context, the CPA designation is a holy grail of trust. As a CPA firm owner, you will need to bust your ass finding clients because there is really no shortage of CPAs in a given town.

Just remember though, getting a CPA license is akin to the bar exam in that passing with flying colors on the bar exam doesn’t make you a good Partner at a decent law firm same as passing a CPA in the same way won’t make you a Partner at a decent Accounting firm. One requires social skills and the other requires studying. Simple as that.

A CPA can also do your taxes, but so can you, unless you have investment trusts and complicated shit like that.

Bottom line is that a CPA designation opens doors but you need a combination of other achievements to succeed in certain paths.


No data sheet is complete without talking about how it relates to girls. I know it's not in the game section but hope I'll get a little leeway. I’ll say this. Girls in the Big 4 Accounting firms can be hot, legit 8s. A lot of them come from well off families too and are trying to “make their own way.” Stand outside of Ernst & Young at 5 times square in NYC and you can tell me if I’m wrong. A lot of these girls want to work hard and some can be very motivated.

However, when they party, they go all out. They are surrounded by other guys in the profession and they work so much that they complain about not being able to meet anyone else. A good amount of them get married to other Accountants or Finance dudes they met in their circle. So if you deflect their serious attitude and you can become their savior, it can work. Remember, they usually don’t get that. As I write this, I realize that gaming outside 5 times square may not be a bad idea. Hope someone can try it and let me know. Another example is University of Miami (of Ohio) chicks. A lot of them come to Chicago recruited from the Big 4 and they are also upper echelon. Some of these girls I know are not only cute but also very smart and work very hard.

At large Corporations, you will also be around a few cute girls but not in Accounting. You will get an old hag in Accounts Payable or a dyke Accounting Manager. The smaller a company gets the older its crowd gets. It’s a factor of lack of motivation as people stay in certain roles forever without making an effort to move up or out. It works for them but not for you if you want to get laid. In contrast, at the Big 4, you always have young fun people to hang out with.

Interns can be a good pool of talent there if you’re an experienced guy. You can have them stay back an extra hour so you can show them how to audit your assets. :laugh:

In Summary

So let’s recap. Market is good nowadays and it's looking up. That means that when someone fucks things up, you actually end up having more jobs out there. Take Enron for example and the resulting Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) regulation. There are literally a bunch of SOX people running around that wouldn’t have existed if the Enron execs didn’t screw up. Same with other aspects of a growing market like mergers and acquisitions. They are on the high right now and are therefore creating more jobs for the Accounting field.

You can learn a lot about the business world going the Big 4 path. You can also do great starting off in a large Corporation and working your way up. However, the more time you spend in Corporations, the more you will turn into a desk jockey as an accountant. Internships at Big 4 firms are THE WAY TO GO. Joining a good “recruitable” college is also a good idea. And when the Big 4 professionals are on campus they should be coming to you (join a business frat), not the other way around. When they do come, you should be the first person to see them and that can only happen if you are the president or at least another member of the frat’s board. CPA can really open doors but understanding its limitations is important. In order to be a Big 4 partner, the most important thing is GAME and social skills. However, to get in and stay at the Big 4, a CPA is a requirement. Starting a small CPA business can be very rewarding but expect to do a lot of shitty number crunching and expect to do a lot of selling before getting solid clients. Also don’t expect to start a CPA business right out of college or with a few years’ experience. You may need at least a good 5 years to get a solid grasp of accounting and cash flow concepts so you can really help your small business clients watch their costs as well as manage money in the bank without wasting it.

You can make upwards of $500k + as a CFO but at the very least can have a low end six figure income if you are somewhat motivated. If you are a true gamesman and salesman you can enjoy the life and benefits as a partner (albeit a bit more regulated nowadays) and make an even better living.

And, oh yeah, girls at Big 4 can be hot but at smaller companies don’t bother.


Gold Member
Awesome, repped.

Quick question. Any practical difference between getting a master's, and just taking 150 hours of undergrad classes to set for the CPA? Or does it not matter as long as you get the CPA?

I have a cousin that just took extra classes over the summers, graduated with 150 hours, and took the CPA exam immediately. Good idea?
iop890 said:
Awesome, repped.

Quick question. Any practical difference between getting a master's, and just taking 150 hours of undergrad classes to set for the CPA? Or does it not matter as long as you get the CPA?

I have a cousin that just took extra classes over the summers, graduated with 150 hours, and took the CPA exam immediately. Good idea?

It's always good to have a masters degree, but the rules vary state to state in order to obtain a liscense.


Thanks for the post, it explains a lot. From reading it seems like one must get a CPA, have great game/social skills, and work in the Big 4 to get most out of an accounting career, assuming the goal is to work as an accountant for 7+ years. What are the pros and cons of industry/corporate versus public accounting? Or is the "Big 4/CFO/Partner" path the best route for a career in accounting and anything less shouldn't be considered?


Great datasheet Cobra, tons of information. I had been wondering if there were other accountants on the forum.

I'm just finishing up my second year at a Big 4 firm in NYC. I work in the Audit practice as well. From my short time in the industry, and what I hear at work, I'd agree with everything that Cobra said.

If you'd like to make it to a high up position in the accounting field then you need to start in Public, and it should be the Big 4. The firms that are just below have a ton of opportunities as well but you won't have experience with the same type of clients and a lot of the recruiters specifically look for Big 4 experience.

In terms of the work/life of Public Accounting, it's going to vary based on your clients but you will always be busy from for Year End (January-March) at a minimum. Busy season hours can be rough but at least it's during the winter months. However, some unlucky people are on multiple year ends and they could be working crazy hours most of the year. The variability and unpredictability is one of the biggest turn offs of the Big 4 and why a ton of people leave.

For Cobra, are you still working in accounting and what area do you work in? You laid out the general framework well but it's interesting to see the path people take after leaving the Big 4.


iop890 said:
Awesome, repped.

Quick question. Any practical difference between getting a master's, and just taking 150 hours of undergrad classes to set for the CPA? Or does it not matter as long as you get the CPA?

I have a cousin that just took extra classes over the summers, graduated with 150 hours, and took the CPA exam immediately. Good idea?

It doesn't matter how you get the 150 hours. I have the 150 hours from taking extra courses in undergrad and I would recommend it if possible.

All jobs care about is that you have the CPA.


Gold Member
Damn Cobra, you are ALIVE!

Definitely liking these sheets, everything you do comes off as ultimate self improvement.

Mind telling us how does one survive 60+ hours at the office? I was going apeshit doing 63 a week PLUS being on-call 1 week a month.


Gold Member
Thanks everyone for the reps and props. Happy to add some value and help however I can. Also appreciate the questions as it helps me add more. Overall, the responses motivate me to do this more often.

Hans Dix said:
Fuck damn how have I not repped you yet

Thanks Hans. Sending you a reply to your PM.

iop890 said:
Quick question. Any practical difference between getting a master's, and just taking 150 hours of undergrad classes to set for the CPA? Or does it not matter as long as you get the CPA?

I have a cousin that just took extra classes over the summers, graduated with 150 hours, and took the CPA exam immediately. Good idea?

The Practical difference depends on your goals and it depends on the mood and mix of the decision makers that decide who gets the job. Additionally, it depends on how early you engage these fucks (as I noted in the Recruiting section above). The answer will also be a bit different based on the path you take.

The decision makers in a Corporation (as opposed to Accounting firm/Big 4) for an Accounting (not Tax) position are more likely to give a higher weight to credentials like a Master's whereas a smart and socially adept decision maker at the Big 4 would tend to lean more towards your social skills (e.g. extra curricular activities, travel, etc.).

I was one of the decision makers many times at the Big 4 and I could easily make the case about how one cat has a masters in accounting but he didn't do shit else as far as extra-curricular activities. Sure he has a 4.0 GPA but what else is he bringing to the table? And what kind of vibe did he give. I remember talking about how engaging one of the guys I interviewed was and how excited he was to talk about his travels. I added that I see him as a leader on an engagement team due to his assertiveness. On the other hand, there have also been people that have been painted as the "workers" and still got hired because they are needed. That round table can be an interesting one and I can write a whole article about how that works. I talked to a girl that I rated real low one time but a Partner (female) went to the same school so she got hired. This is true.

Just keep in mind that GPA and CPA get you in the door but good connections (interviews included) win the job. Don't worry about a Master's as much as you worry about making connections in college. Even though both are great, one is more relevant than the other. You don't want some dude that got "counseled out" of the Big 4 and hated it because he didn't get promoted to partner to say that this guy doesn't have a master's. Some of these guys can get real bitter. I know at least one.

This being said, if you are pursuing a Tax position, get a Masters in Taxation period. I feel you may NEED that to even get your foot in the door of a Tax Practice in the Big 4 or large Corporations. Tax laws are complicated across the world and you don't learn enough about them in a 4 year Bachelor's program. That extra year is to drill that shit into your head so you can apply better. The Audit practice is not like that and material can be covered in a good 4 year program.

pt8498 said:
Thanks for the post, it explains a lot. From reading it seems like one must get a CPA, have great game/social skills, and work in the Big 4 to get most out of an accounting career, assuming the goal is to work as an accountant for 7+ years. What are the pros and cons of industry/corporate versus public accounting? Or is the "Big 4/CFO/Partner" path the best route for a career in accounting and anything less shouldn't be considered?

I think I covered that above but I'll shoot out an example to make it clear.

Dude A starts off as a Staff Accountant at Playboy because he didn't want to deal with the Big 4 hours. He said he wanted to have a life and didn't want to waste 60 hours a week at the Big 4. Instead he works 40 hours a week at Playboy and goes out to bars and parties when he gets off at 5 pm. He games hard and gets laid but has to put in a lot of work. 6 years pass. This guy is a senior accountant and he learned a lot about system A and system B since there are a lot of transactions at Playboy that pass through those systems and there had to be dedicated person to take care of that. He's great at what he does. However, he didn't learn shit about systems C through Z that complete the financial reporting of Playboy. A manager position opens up. He applies BUT doesn't get it. Why? Because he doesn't have an expansive enough knowledge (which he could have gotten as a result of being at the Big 4 doing Audit) about every single aspect of Playboy's financial accounting.

Dude B flirted with one of the recruiters that came to his school. He had a lower GPA but was in a social frat as well as a business frat (e.g. Beta Alpha Psi). He got an internship at the Big 4. At the end of the internship, the Big 4 took him to Disneyworld for a "Leadership Conference" (Yeah...). Over there, he fucked some Big 4 girls from Eastern Europe since it was an "International" Internship Conference. He didn't fuck up the internship and laughed off all of the pranks his audit teams played on him. So he got a job offer and took it. He spends 6 years auditing Playboy, while going to awesome lunches and dinners and hanging around Playboy execs. In 5 years, he was managing most portions of the Playboy audit for the Big 4. He fucked some of the hotter girls at the Big 4 that he gamed at the Happy Hours and social events that he didn't pay for. He also kept in touch with every single person he worked for and with. He knew the Company's financial situation better than the Controller did. At the 6 year mark, he was being highly sought out by larger companies in the area. His phone rang off the hook from recruiters trying to place him that he had to tell a lot of them to fuck off. Remember that position I told you about that Dude A applied for. They interviewed Dude B and saw that he was being pursued by other big firms. So..Well, Dude B got it. And guess who the hiring manager was? One of the guys he worked for as an intern that played pranks on him every day. The hiring manager said that he really liked working with Dude B back in the day. Oh and you know there are parties at the Playboy mansion, like the ones where Hugh goes all out? He got to go there when he was on the Big 4 team of Playboy. This scenario was "inspired" by many a true story, of course certain details changed to protect the innocent. :)

Keep in mind, Dude B could have also gone the Partner route and probably made better money from the profits from his projects than a CFO ever could.

Not saying Corporate is not the way to go but expect to give up a lot (especially solid connections with future CFOs and partners of Big 4) if you go that route.

Macklin said:
For Cobra, are you still working in accounting and what area do you work in? You laid out the general framework well but it's interesting to see the path people take after leaving the Big 4.

I spent almost 7 years in a Big 4 and did just fine. I was lucky enough to have made some amazing connections in the NYC and Chicago markets of the industry. I won't put any names here. I started a family at the end and that was my priority. So I took my connections and did the Corporate hustle for another 3 years. Ran into a lot of true tool boxes and desk jockeys there and a few genuine players.

However, Corporate wanted to turn me into a desk jockey as well (like they always do). So I decided to make a transition out of it. I was sick of staring at Spreadsheets instead of talking to clients and hanging around cute girls at the Big 4. I decided, after weighing pros and cons of going back into the Big 4 to go into the recruiting business in the industry. I realized I have solid connections and can make a good living off of the hiring market by supplementing that with the knowledge I accumulated. I'm not going to wait for someone in Corporate to tell me that I need another 2 years to be Controller or another 5 years to be CFO. I'd rather make a living from talking to people, taking them out and giving them some value. Without the almost 10 years in the Accounting world, I don't think I would have been able to do well in the recruiting hustle.

Cattle Rustler said:
Mind telling us how does one survive 60+ hours at the office? I was going apeshit doing 63 a week PLUS being on-call 1 week a month.

Firstly, CR, thanks for the kind words. You've been a solid fan of mine for a while and trust me the feeling is mutual.

Well 60+ hours at a Big 4 office is different from 60+ at a desk in Corporate. In the Big 4, you're spending those 60 hours talking to experienced people and learning how to socially interact in addition to learning about their big ass business. You're also surrounded by hot girls in the office on Saturday mornings (since you have to come in for the most part) that haven't been banged since they were also working 60+ hours. You work hard and play hard at the Big 4 but at Corporate you may work hard but end up playing with your Manager's kids on the weekends.
I've been in accounting for about 10 years and the CPA along with public accounting is pretty much necessary if you want to get anywhere. Even for solid senior or assistant controller jobs at desirable firms both are going to be required.

I have the CPA but never worked in public and it's definitely closed a lot of doors (though I make good money and don't have a hard time getting jobs). I got a job at a major hedge fund right out of school and have been stuck in asset management since. Again, even with 10 years of specific industry experience at very well know firms a lot of doors are closed to me without public experience.

From time to time I interview junior level people and always tell them to do what they have to do to get that first job in public accounting.

I guess for anyone, it's best to read job ads for the job you eventually want and study the requirements. Then make sure you're checking those boxes along the way.


Gold Member
^^^ would you mind posting some honest detail on working for a hedge fund as an accountant?

It's something that a lot in my network have gone to but I myself know little about it. And I don't think these people are being 100% honest with me. :dodgy:

Guaranteed rep from me if you can.
Awesome post Cobra!

Is it possible for anyone to do something like this for Investment Banking? I am very interested in going that direction and information from someone in that field would be great.
As far as industry goes, I would say that buy side asset management/hedge funds are a pretty good place to be. The hours are good 35 - 40 hours a week in NYC, the benefits are almost unheard of in other industries, and the money can be good - decent base + bonuses of 20 - 100% depending on the firm and the year.

There are two paths for accountants in asset management:

1) Operations - this is trade reconciliation, valuing the portfolios, and fund accounting - which means doing the books of the fund, not the firm. I have done this work and it tends to be a dead end. But, some experience here and understanding is critical if you want to be an executive (CFO, CCO) in an asset management firm. This area gives you a really good understanding of trade flow (desk, clearing, settlement) and a lot of insight into operational risk. If you know how to work with IT to make things flow from the trade desk to accounting/reporting there is a lot of money out there for you. A manager in operations at a top firm in NYC could expect to make between $400 - $500k/year all in. Most grunts in operations are making between $70k - $120 base and $15 - $40k bonus in NYC.

Most of the cats doing this think that they're going to make the jump to front office but they're dead wrong. The guys in the front office studied history at Dartmouth not finance/accounting at Buruch (sp?). To move to the front office pedigree is huge. They would be better off to focus on operations, learn more about IT and systems and try to rise within that department. It's not sexy at all but it can be alright.

2) Corporate accounting - this is keeping the books of the firm. I have found this to be extremely cushy since there are like 10 days of actual work a month. From a business stand point asset management is very simple: you have a pile of assets that you earn management fees on, your only expenses are compensation, rent, and market data. What falls out at the end is net income.

Again this work is not sexy, but can be pretty good. A senior accountant at a decent firm (again NYC dollars so adjust to a local market) will make $80 - $100k base. Bonus again probably $20k - $40k. A controller will make $250k base + $250k bonus. CFO is usually over $1mm.

Overall I would say that asset management is a really good spot to be (it tends to be the end game for most cats in public). But I will caution that the politics are super heavy. Most people department heads in the back office tend to have inferiority complexes and really try to flex nuts to assert their value. Because they see the 7 and 8 figure salaries of the front office guys they feel somewhat inferior and there tends to be a lot of infighting between the back office departments (corporate finance, operations, risk) to see who can be queen bee.

If there is anything I haven't covered that you'd like to know about let me know.
Cattle Rustler said:
Essential said:
Awesome post Cobra!

Is it possible for anyone to do something like this for Investment Banking? I am very interested in going that direction and information from someone in that field would be great.

Search for WestCoast's posts.

Also this:

Thanks CR, I have been reading Wallstreetplayboy's posts ever since they started. Great posts not only about IB, but also on other topics. Highly recommend to others.

I will have to check out WestCoast's posts.

CR are you in IB?
There's a lot I want to add on to this thread. I'm in public accounting (tax) and I just joined KPMG. I'll go through it tomorrow.

Cobra, what level did you get to in Big 4? I saw the part about how you went back into recruiting. I really wanted to go audit for the outs but I just couldn't do it -


Gold Member
^^^ Would be great. My tax knowledge listed above is fairly vague and could use some meat.

I joined as an intern in their risk (Internal Audit Outsourcing) practice but got a staff offer lined up in the Audit practice for when I graduated. I've been sorrounded by a lot of tax professionals and know their motivations and frustrations but never worked in that practice.

Any reason why you didn't want to do audit?
Cobra said:
^^^ Would be great. My tax knowledge listed above is fairly vague and could use some meat.

I joined as an intern in their risk (Internal Audit Outsourcing) practice but got a staff offer lined up in the Audit practice for when I graduated. I've been sorrounded by a lot of tax professionals and know their motivations and frustrations but never worked in that practice.

Any reason why you didn't want to do audit?

I did not do well in audit in college. Ironically, it was my lowest CPA score as well.

While I don't fully understand what auditors do, the small amount of work I was exposed to did not seem exciting or have meaning to me. I was also turned off by the travel.

That isn't to say we don't have our bad days too - work can be mundane after multiple years. I'm sort of hitting that point right now.

I will say though - girls and people on the audit side are: 1. on average better looking and 2. more social. At my last job, I fucked up by not making friends with more audit side people.

I think the outs in audit are much better than the outs for tax.