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Questions for anyone working in a "Big 4" accounting firm Watch

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    I'm starting to research career options after uni, and was having a read through of this thread here:

    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=2189547

    The OP's views there seemed pretty controversial but it brought up a few points which I have questions on, as well as in general. It would be great if anyone currently working in one of the big 4 firms could provide some answers!

    1) Do you need a mathematical background? I've looked into this and from what all the employers say, you don't. They'll accept anyone from any degree, and I spoke to a few current employees who told me all numbers are entered into a computer programme anyway so maths and doing calculations doesn't really come into it. Is this actually true? I'm currently doing a degree in modern languages, and the last time I did maths was at GCSE, where I got a B, so not great.

    And to be honest, I had never considered a career in finance or accountancy until recently - the reason I am considering this path is due to shallow things such as money, job security and prestige. Horribly shallow, I know. I do have a slight interest in it, but at the moment I cannot tell if it's all down to an actual deep interest in accountancy, or if it's because I've been seduced by the idea of having a respected well-paid job. So if I were to apply, Realistically, would I struggle?

    2) On a related note, what was your own motivation for applying for accounting? Were you genuinely fascinated by it before starting?

    3) What is the "point" of the ACA exam? I've heard that the companies will train you up, so is the exam waht this entails? And what can I do with the exam if I pass it? What is the "application" stage of the exam, and how is this different from the "knowledge" stage?

    4) What does it mean when companies say you get to work with clients? How exactly is this an advantage?

    5) What is a "job"? Sorry if it sounds like an obvious question, but I don't quite understand how the whole thing works - do you literally just get given a new job by your manager, go off and do it, then get given a new one to work on? Is each individual task a "job"?

    6) In the company I went to visit, they said you are given responsiblity for other colleagues pretty early on, i.e. handing out tasks to people. What kind of responsiblity do you have within your first year?

    7) What are the opportunities to move on afterwards? I hear a lot about things like "career progression" - but what does this mean? What kinds of things can you go off and do after a few years? And how many years do you plan on staying working in your chosen service area?

    Sorry for the barrage of questions, but even if you only answer one or two that would be such a great help!
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    (Original post by cactussed)
    I'm starting to research career options after uni, and was having a read through of this thread here:

    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=2189547

    The OP's views there seemed pretty controversial but it brought up a few points which I have questions on, as well as in general. It would be great if anyone currently working in one of the big 4 firms could provide some answers!

    1) Do you need a mathematical background? I've looked into this and from what all the employers say, you don't. They'll accept anyone from any degree, and I spoke to a few current employees who told me all numbers are entered into a computer programme anyway so maths and doing calculations doesn't really come into it. Is this actually true? I'm currently doing a degree in modern languages, and the last time I did maths was at GCSE, where I got a B, so not great.

    And to be honest, I had never considered a career in finance or accountancy until recently - the reason I am considering this path is due to shallow things such as money, job security and prestige. Horribly shallow, I know. I do have a slight interest in it, but at the moment I cannot tell if it's all down to an actual deep interest in accountancy, or if it's because I've been seduced by the idea of having a respected well-paid job. So if I were to apply, Realistically, would I struggle?

    Having good maths skills isn't a pre-requisite. All you need is an aptitude for working with numbers and a good set of soft skills (working with others, organisational, etc). If you can pass the numerical reasoning tests then you're capable.

    Yes, it's true that most numbers will be entered onto computer programmes. I think pretty much all firms (except the most old fashioned) use Excel. You do have to learn to interpret what you're entering though. As long as you comfortable with numbers, you should be able to understand double-entry bookkeeping. It takes time to master, but I think most people truly get to grips with it after about 6 months.




    2) On a related note, what was your own motivation for applying for accounting? Were you genuinely fascinated by it before starting?

    Job security basically. Also, I really love working with numbers. I actually enjoy number crunching and playing around with data. I enjoyed doing accounting and statistics at uni. I really hated studying humanities at school.

    3) What is the "point" of the ACA exam? I've heard that the companies will train you up, so is the exam waht this entails? And what can I do with the exam if I pass it? What is the "application" stage of the exam, and how is this different from the "knowledge" stage?

    I'll let someone else answer this since I'm not doing ACA at the moment.

    4) What does it mean when companies say you get to work with clients? How exactly is this an advantage?

    Accountancy firms provide a large range of professional services for clients. For some services such as audit, you're able to get up close and personal with clients. When performing an audit, in most cases, you'll be working at the clients' premises. This allows you to initiate one-to-one conversations with client staff. It's an opportunity to engage in high-level conversations with experienced professionals (in most cases). It's a chance for you to demonstrate your knowledge, and you'll be respected for it (again, in most cases). I hated audit, but I think the most important skill I gained was learning to build good working relationship. In retail, you often hear people complain about stupid customers. Well, in audit you can't really call your clients stupid, you have to learn to get along with people from all walks of life.

    5) What is a "job"? Sorry if it sounds like an obvious question, but I don't quite understand how the whole thing works - do you literally just get given a new job by your manager, go off and do it, then get given a new one to work on? Is each individual task a "job"?


    A "job" is basically a client engagement. As an individual, your work will revolve around you being assigned to a number of different engagements. For example, working on an interim audit.

    6) In the company I went to visit, they said you are given responsiblity for other colleagues pretty early on, i.e. handing out tasks to people. What kind of responsiblity do you have within your first year?

    I can only really talk about audit here. But in audit, in first year, your responsibility is pretty much limited to helping out semi-seniors and seniors out on audits. You'll be doing relatively low risk work like checking a sample of purchases recorded on the accounting system are in agreement with supplier invoices. I say "low risk" because it's not very judgmental - an purchase invoice entry is either correct or wrong, it's an easy call to make. Other responsibilities in first year include observing a company's year-end stock take and performing test counts. Your work will be reviewed by managers and sometime they will raise "issues". Basically, this means that an area of work needs to be looked into further. You'll have to responsibility of "clearing" these issues and this might mean initiating a discussion with client staff or performing additional work.
    Hope that helps.
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    I'm going to answer this from the prospective of Audit.

    (Original post by cactussed)
    I'm starting to research career options after uni, and was having a read through of this thread here:

    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=2189547

    The OP's views there seemed pretty controversial but it brought up a few points which I have questions on, as well as in general. It would be great if anyone currently working in one of the big 4 firms could provide some answers!

    Bear in mind when considering the above thread that the OPs view is, as you said, controversial. You can find someone that hates any job, but his general points are rather ridiculous, so I wouldn't put a whole lot of weight on it.

    1) Do you need a mathematical background? I've looked into this and from what all the employers say, you don't. They'll accept anyone from any degree, and I spoke to a few current employees who told me all numbers are entered into a computer programme anyway so maths and doing calculations doesn't really come into it. Is this actually true? I'm currently doing a degree in modern languages, and the last time I did maths was at GCSE, where I got a B, so not great.

    And to be honest, I had never considered a career in finance or accountancy until recently - the reason I am considering this path is due to shallow things such as money, job security and prestige. Horribly shallow, I know. I do have a slight interest in it, but at the moment I cannot tell if it's all down to an actual deep interest in accountancy, or if it's because I've been seduced by the idea of having a respected well-paid job. So if I were to apply, Realistically, would I struggle?

    You need to be reasonably comfortable with numbers to perform the job, however the only real maths that you'll need to do will be for the ACA exams, and the maths is manageable.

    2) On a related note, what was your own motivation for applying for accounting? Were you genuinely fascinated by it before starting?

    Once you qualify it's a relatively secure, well paying job. Also lots of options upon qualification, which is a nice perk.

    3) What is the "point" of the ACA exam? I've heard that the companies will train you up, so is the exam waht this entails? And what can I do with the exam if I pass it? What is the "application" stage of the exam, and how is this different from the "knowledge" stage?

    This question doesn't make much sense. The point of the ACA exams (there's 15) are first and foremost to qualify, as you can't progress in accountancy without being chartered. The ACA will teach you a wide variety of theory and ultimately will leave you in good stead career wise. It's generally considered to be the best thing about the grad scheme, although it is hard work!

    4) What does it mean when companies say you get to work with clients? How exactly is this an advantage?

    You'll spend a lot of time on client sites working directly with clients at all levels. Can offer the opportunity to take on a relatively high level of responsibility quickly, and is a valuable skill to have.

    5) What is a "job"? Sorry if it sounds like an obvious question, but I don't quite understand how the whole thing works - do you literally just get given a new job by your manager, go off and do it, then get given a new one to work on? Is each individual task a "job"?

    As above, a client engagement.

    6) In the company I went to visit, they said you are given responsiblity for other colleagues pretty early on, i.e. handing out tasks to people. What kind of responsiblity do you have within your first year?

    You can't surely expect responsibility over other employees during your first year, how would that work! However within two years you'll be an assistant manager and fresh grads will be reporting in to you.

    7) What are the opportunities to move on afterwards? I hear a lot about things like "career progression" - but what does this mean? What kinds of things can you go off and do after a few years? And how many years do you plan on staying working in your chosen service area?

    Vary widely, the most popular choice is to work in the finance department of 'normal' companies (referred to as industry). You can go in with a high salary due to the training (ACA) provided by your firm. Lots will leave after 3 years when they qualify, and similarly at each level there will be leavers. You need to judge when to leave the big 4, as there is no point staying if you're not going to progress further. However if you're progressing then the potential rewards can be huge.

    Sorry for the barrage of questions, but even if you only answer one or two that would be such a great help!
    Hope some of that helps.
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    (Original post by cactussed)
    I'm starting to research career options after uni, and was having a read through of this thread here:

    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=2189547

    The OP's views there seemed pretty controversial but it brought up a few points which I have questions on, as well as in general. It would be great if anyone currently working in one of the big 4 firms could provide some answers!

    1) Do you need a mathematical background? I've looked into this and from what all the employers say, you don't. They'll accept anyone from any degree, and I spoke to a few current employees who told me all numbers are entered into a computer programme anyway so maths and doing calculations doesn't really come into it. Is this actually true? I'm currently doing a degree in modern languages, and the last time I did maths was at GCSE, where I got a B, so not great.

    And to be honest, I had never considered a career in finance or accountancy until recently - the reason I am considering this path is due to shallow things such as money, job security and prestige. Horribly shallow, I know. I do have a slight interest in it, but at the moment I cannot tell if it's all down to an actual deep interest in accountancy, or if it's because I've been seduced by the idea of having a respected well-paid job. So if I were to apply, Realistically, would I struggle?
    hay! I don't think you will struggle. I am crap at maths and am doing okay with it, it is true that Excel and calculators are relied on like ALL the time. No one even expects you to be good at maths ha. it's more important that your brain can work a certain way to grasp the ACA as it is really difficult, mainly because of the time committments (you have like, no time and its tiring to study after work). the ACA questions they ask you are a joke. You can study the notes and then attempt a Question and it'll be the opposite of what you've just learnt. So its important to train your brain to acertain way of thinking/working stuff out- you will probs struggle at first but once you get past the learning curve you'll be fine. And with certain exams (e.g. assurance, law, business and finance) you may even do better than your maths/economics/accountancy background colleagues as you'll be better at English. I wouldn't worry about it; a guy in my intake did history and he got 100% on his accounting exam! and around 4 people i know who failed the accounting exam all did maths/finance at uni.
    Dont worry about your motives either! i am the same, i only got interested in it cos it seemed like a job i could feel good about myself in. It was tough starting tho, becos my colleagues are quite geeky and boring; it seems to be the type of people the profession attracts (however you will meet some normal and really fun people, they r just a dime a dozen). Becos before i started i got it confused with banking and thoguht everyone would be really fun and have like lawyer-type personalities and that the guys would be really hot..but it turned out to be the opposite. but it doesnt matter cos for every 20 boring people you work with there'll be like one who is really cool . and there are some hot guys- they all seem to be quite old tho!? like where i work one of the parnters is really fit, and 2 of the managers are hot. The moneys not amazing but you still earn enough money to buy designer handbags and pay for haircuts and eyebrow waxes and w/e else you want. Like tomorrow im going out 2 buy a pair of kurt geigers. so in that way the job is good 4 prestige; plus when u tell ppl you work for __ and they actually know who it is its amazin! but yes dont feel bad about wanting the job for those reasons..i dont really see the point of having a job if it isnt prestigous . and u have to feel good about yourself and your job



    2) On a related note, what was your own motivation for applying for accounting? Were you genuinely fascinated by it before starting?
    same as u, i wanted a presitguous job where i could feel gd about myself and earn enough money to pay for nice clothes and stuff

    3) What is the "point" of the ACA exam? I've heard that the companies will train you up, so is the exam waht this entails? And what can I do with the exam if I pass it? What is the "application" stage of the exam, and how is this different from the "knowledge" stage?
    The ACA exam Im not sure what the point is for the firm cos they have 2 pay for it, maybe so they can brag 2 clients that they have chartered accountants working for them? but for you there is a huge opint! it gets you a £10000 pay rise and huge respect in the industry..like being chartered is like being in premier league . There's 15 x exams in total. 6 of them are 'knowledge moduls' which is online multiple choice tests. then after u do them u do the next 6 which is application, apparently these application ones are much harder cos your judged against each other and the losers get automatically failed and sacked (if u dont pass the retake). i.e. they take the bottom percentile third and fail them , so if you get 90% but all your colleagues get 95%, theyll take the people who get 90% and fail them for being the lowest scorers, even if you get a really high mark.

    4) What does it mean when companies say you get to work with clients? How exactly is this an advantage?
    dont know

    5) What is a "job"? Sorry if it sounds like an obvious question, but I don't quite understand how the whole thing works - do you literally just get given a new job by your manager, go off and do it, then get given a new one to work on? Is each individual task a "job"?


    6) In the company I went to visit, they said you are given responsiblity for other colleagues pretty early on, i.e. handing out tasks to people. What kind of responsiblity do you have within your first year?
    2 soon to tell (ive only been there for 4 months)

    7) What are the opportunities to move on afterwards? I hear a lot about things like "career progression" - but what does this mean? What kinds of things can you go off and do after a few years? And how many years do you plan on staying working in your chosen service area?
    nt 2 sure

    Sorry for the barrage of questions, but even if you only answer one or two that would be such a great help!
    goo dluck!x
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    (Original post by cactussed)
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    Hey, thanks for asking these questions, they really help me out too


    --


    One question I have is how do you get to other clients? Do you have to drive yourself or do they pay for you to get the train or do they have people who drive you there?
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    (Original post by Runninground)
    One question I have is how do you get to other clients? Do you have to drive yourself or do they pay for you to get the train or do they have people who drive you there?
    Generally firms cover all reasonable expenses incurred reaching a client site. That can be a mileage allowance per mile travelled if you drive, or the cost of your train fare if you use public transport.
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    (Original post by M1011)
    Generally firms cover all reasonable expenses incurred reaching a client site. That can be a mileage allowance per mile travelled if you drive, or the cost of your train fare if you use public transport.
    Ok thanks. Did you enter on the school leaver or graduate scheme?
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    (Original post by Runninground)
    Ok thanks. Did you enter on the school leaver or graduate scheme?
    Grad scheme, although I know a few school leavers if you have questions?
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    (Original post by M1011)
    Grad scheme, although I know a few school leavers if you have questions?
    Ok. I've not got any specific questions but i'll let you know if I do think of any
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    (Original post by Runninground)
    Hey, thanks for asking these questions, they really help me out too


    --


    One question I have is how do you get to other clients? Do you have to drive yourself or do they pay for you to get the train or do they have people who drive you there?
    We get chauffeur-driven limos to every job.
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    (Original post by Brotherhood)
    We get chauffeur-driven limos to every job.
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    (Original post by Runninground)
    Slight element of truth, partners and directors I believe, can expense drivers if they have several meetings in one day and getting the tube/other transport wouldn't make sense.

    (Original post by Ikidyounot.)
    And finally is there anything you wish someone had told you about working with one of the big 4, or a misconception you had before you actually started working there that you'd share with an undergraduate! I'd be much obliged : )
    Don't put it on a pedestal. Yes it's great working for one of the best companies in the world but, the gloss quickly wears off. Like anywhere else, it has it's flaws. A job is a job, work is work.
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    (Original post by S)
    Hope that helps.
    (Original post by M1011)
    I'm going to answer this from the prospective of Audit.
    Hope some of that helps.
    (Original post by Alexiel)
    goo dluck!x
    Only just read these properly due to being swamped with deadlines, thanks to all of you for your answers!
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    the ACA is just certification. majority of trainees will leave for roles in industry where even the less bloated CIMA/ACCA are of dubious worth
 
 
 
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