All posts by Stephanie

Reach for the Star: 5 Ways to Become Top Performer in Big 4

top performer in Big 4

You are super pumped to start your new job. Now, what are the qualities to become the top performer in Big 4? Is it through hard work, butt kissing, or pure luck? Here is my finding after talking to Big 4 seniors and mangers who have consistently been rated 1 or 2 in their firms.

1. Never Get Yourself Overwhelmed

Everyone agrees that Big 4 is a stressful place to work. Life as first year is pretty intense, but as you approach your second year, you don’t have excuses of a newbie anymore and it will be worse with mountains of things on your desk staring at you. The thing is, the more you worry about it, the less you get it done.

What you can do is to stop the vicious cycle. Divide the work into smaller, doable tasks. Tackle one small task at a time. Completing one round of tasks means you get some major work done, and it’s a great feeling. It’s the same strategy for any big challenges — such as the CPA exam, when tackling one study unit at a time is the best way to go.

2. Improve Efficiency with Technology

In my previous job, I went through an excellent training on how to manage Outlook. It cost my firm $399 for each participant (and we filled a big room), so you can imagine how well-regarded this method is.

The main takeaway is effective time management using the “4D” system. Incoming emails are divided into 4 categories:

  • Important + urgent
  • Important + not urgent
  • Unimportant + urgent
  • Unimportant + not urgent

Then, assign action appropriate to the categories:

  • Do the important + urgent
  • Delay (file to task list) the important + not urgent
  • Delegate the unimportant + urgent
  • Dump the unimportant + not urgent

This system has vastly improved my productivity at work and beyond.

I encourage that you find a way to efficiently manage your outlook in terms of email, appointment, to-dos and followups. This way, you can multitask with ease, a crucial skill to excel in professional service environment such as in public accounting and finance.

3. Take Initiatives

Now that you work well under stress (point 1) and are incredibly efficient (point 2), people take notice and request to put you on their teams.

You’ll be really busy, and this is great for your long term career, so don’t be jealous of the few who are constantly unassigned.

Instead, I suggest the opposite and get more involved in other capacities within the firm. Volunteer to campus recruiting events such as Meet the Firms, take part in resume screening and interviewing, lead firm community initiatives, find opportunities to help on sales pursuits, and take advantage of new opportunities and stretch assignments.

4. Jump for Unique Opportunities

As you move on to seniors and managers, there are other unique opportunities such as the international assignments. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth to explore.

5. Learn How to Say “No”

Before we get too excited, accept the fact that we are human beings and can’t work 24 hours. So, don’t be afraid to say “no”. It is easier said than done, but we have to understand what our limits are and what we can feasibly accomplish at the level of quality that we typically deliver.

Under-promise and over-deliver, and build your brand one audit at a time.

Final Thoughts

People have different ways to achieve success, but all paths centralize around key themes of hard work, perseverance, dedication, and ability to multi-task and prioritize seamlessly. The same rules apply whether you aim for the corner office in Big 4, or for C-level positions in Fortune 100. All the best!

Accounting Salary Negotiation Tips: 5 Dos and 6 Don’ts

accounting salary negotiatoin

Finally, you have an offer. Now, on salary negotiation — Can I do it, should I do it?

It depends.

The Art and Science of Salary Negotiation

First Year Associates in Big 4

The Big 4 generally has pretty set salaries so there isn’t much variation among its staffers. Also, they have so many people willing to work for them for less than what they offered you.

You can still give it a try, but be realistic what to expect. At the same time, unless you are super arrogant your offer won’t be withdrawn or affected by the negotiation.

Experienced Hire in Big 4

If you have excellent rating, work in a hot industry, and are actively poached by recruiters, you should be able to negotiate. In fact, the competing Big 4 will likely offer a considerably more attractive compensation package than what you currently have, even before you ask.

Regional Firms

In my opinion, the smaller the firm, the more flexibility you have on salary negotiation. Smaller firms have fewer rules and each partner has more say on hiring for his team.

Non-CPA Firms

Similar logic applies. A local company who needs an accountant with your expertise is more open to discuss than a Fortune 100 company looking to fill a vacancy in their 100-strong accounting department.

My Accounting Salary Negotiation Tips

1. Understand Your Worth (with Research)

Think about why you think you deserve more and be honest… if what you can offer them is justified, they will do it. If you got nothing special, they will just hire one of the other hundred candidates.

Let’s figure out how much people are willing to pay you. It is fairly straightforward in the accounting industry. Check out, or download the latest guide from Robert Half, and determine your salary level based on your education (bachelor or master’s), years of experience and location.

Your current compensation is another indicator, although if you are looking for a job you might be underpaid.

Depending on how eager you want this job, you may adjust your target compensation package to be higher, on par or below the industry average.

2. Make Sure They Offer First

As a negotiation tactic, ask them to give you a number, or at least a range. Their first number is unlikely to be their best number, and you can start to counter offer from there.

Note that no one can force you to disclose your salary information (although they will know during background check). If asked about the target compensation package, you can say “competitive, but I am really excited about the opportunity at your firm”. You may also say “based on my market research, someone with my education and experience is paid around X to Y.”

3. Be Confident and Stand Your Ground

Your contact point is usually HR. While you may be uneasy with salary discussion, HR does it on a daily basis. So don’t be embarrassed to tell them what you think you are worth, backed up by market research and solid demonstration of your value from past experience.

4. Be Respectful

At the same time, you should discuss with the employer with professionalism and respect. Try to understand the constraint the HR is facing. For example, you need more free time for the upcoming CPA exam, but realize that vacation days are fixed for all employees at your level. In this case, you may explore with HR on more PTO (paid time off), unpaid days off or other alternative working arrangement.

If you have a spouse that has insurance, you could negotiate not to take benefits in exchange for a higher salary. I did that with one of my previous jobs.

5. Be Willing to Walk Away

There is always a risk that they withdraw an offer if they think the gap is too wide to close. If you are dying for this offer, your may want to reconsider the tactics.

What You Should Never Do in Any Salary Negotiation

1. Lie about Your Current Salary

I have readers who told me they have been grossly underpaid in the current job, and they want to inflate their salary numbers to get a upper hand in negotiation.

Don’t do it.

Most company guidelines state that lying about your salary is the same as lying about your GPA. It is grounds for withdrawal of an offer or immediate termination if somehow it is found out after the fact.

Check out this page on how firms utilize verification services and how your current salary is revealed during background check.

2. Focus on Need / Greed rather than Value

Don’t tell the employer that you need a certain salary. The company has no obligation to pay more because you have student loan and mortgages. They do so if only they see value in you, either how much you are worth now, or as a long-term employee.

3. Ask to Speak to Person-in-Charge

I heard a story on how a candidate wasn’t happy with the offer and asked to speak to a higher up. This is plain arrogance. Pissing off the person who handed out the offer will lead you nowhere. It may even cost you the job.

4. Negotiate for the sake of Negotiating

This is just annoying and greedy and people know it. It doesn’t work, and the bitterness lingers if you decide to take the original offer.

5. Ask for Too Many Changes in Counteroffer

Target one or two areas to maximize your bargaining power. For example, you want more base salary and vacation days because of your master’s degree. If they don’t budge, you may counteroffer one more time, such as a one-time signing bonus or CPA bonus. It could also be intangible benefits such as a company phone or professional development opportunities.

Be systematic and don’t spread yourself too thin by going for every reimbursement opportunities you can think of.

6. Take the Negotiation Personally

This is also common sense. If negotiations break down between you and the employer, move on graciously, thanking the employer again for the opportunity. You never want to burn any bridges.

For Your Further Reading

Accounting Career Fair: 8 Steps to Leave Great Impression

accounting career fairFor undergraduates, accounting career fair is likely the first time you meet with official representatives from these firms. Career fairs range in size: it can be as small as a handful of reps in a function room, or it can be held in a resort with hundreds of local, regional and national companies across many industries.

General Career Fairs

These are big recruiting events organized by your college, or jointly with other nearby colleges to attractive more employers to attend. You will be able to meet not only Big 4 and other accounting firms, but also Fortune 500, regional and local companies.

Meet the Firms

Meet the Firms are smaller career fairs for the accounting and finance profession. Organized by your college’s accounting club or Beta Alpha Psi, they are usually bi-annual events: one during fall for full-time recruitment; another in winter to early spring for summer internships.

Dinner Social

Typically an invitation-only event, the format varies from BBQ to a rather formal dinner. The firm rep to student ratio is higher and you can consider this a pre-interview event. BBQs are more casual, but at dinners you make polite small talk, partners and managers pimp their firms, while associates attend for free food, and you get to talk about why you are interested in that particular accounting firm.

Why are You Attending the Career Fair?

People go to these fairs for different reasons. For those who are starting out, this is a good place for initial research. You can talk to recruiters and employee representatives from many firms and industries, and ask honest questions you might otherwise avoid in formal interviews. You can even ask some of them to review your resume and seek for their advice. From there you can narrow down your preference when it’s time for interviews.

For others who know which firms they are interested in, it’s a pre-interview process and a chance to leave a good impression.

What You Should Bring and Wear at Accounting Career Fair

Most organizers specify the dress code, but it is most likely business formal. Whatever people say, I would go for conservative business formal because this is what the recruiters and attending professionals expect to see.

I would also bring a nice leather resume holder with at least 10 copies of your resume; blank paper, pen as well as a place to hold all the business cards you will be collecting. For guys this means the suit pockets but ladies may need to think about where to put them.

What If My College isn’t a Target School?

If big accounting firms don’t attend your school’s campus fair, you might want to contact nearby schools and see if you can participate their fair. If you manage to get in (or sneak in), be honest to recruiters and tell them why you are there.

Your Steps to Success at the Career Fair

Most students are inexperienced in attending career fairs. You have a great advantage if you follow these steps and mentally go through what you will see and whom you will meet on the day.

1. Research Ahead

You don’t have time and energy to visit all attending firms. You must prioritize, and research helps narrow down your choices. I would pick 4-6 companies to allow sufficient time for you to chat with the representatives and leave a good impression.

2. Be Likeable

You have two goals in this fair:

  • Get your target firms to like you
  • Show them that you are serious

The first goal is more important than the second in my opinion. Accounting firms host these recruiting events to scout candidates that are a good fit for their firm. If they like you, it’s good fit.

Part of your job as a public accountant is to talk to people on a daily basis, may it be your client, team or interns. Therefore, CPA firms look for candidates who can hold a decent conversation. I have suggestions below on questions for the associates and managers. If you run out of questions, you can also talk about your hobbies, sports, or whatever that click with that person. Just don’t get too carried away or else you’ll miss goal #2 (show them that you are serious).

3. Start with Your Least Favorite Firms

It is pretty normal to get nervous, and this affects your ability to converse naturally and be likable. To calm yourself down and boost your confidence, start chatting with people in the firms that you don’t really want to join. It could be the last choice among your 4-6 firms in mind, or it could be any company with friendly looking representatives. Once you are settled and excited to meet people, move on to your target firms.

4. Target the Associates, not the Partner

Your peers would naturally want to talk to partner or senior manager, since these guys are more important and have more say in the recruiting process.

While this is true, I don’t prefer this strategy.

I suggest that you talk to the junior accountants first. First, you don’t need to queue up and talk to them, and they are usually eager to talk to you because they want to appear to work hard.

Second, they are closer to your age, and are more helpful in answering your “real” questions (by that I mean questions you really want to get answers for, not those to impress).

Good questions include:

  • How is your transition from school to working full-time?
  • What type of training you received at the firm starting out to prepare you for work?
  • Any advice on what to accomplish before starting?
  • What should I focus on in school during my last semesters?

Don’t ask these bad questions:

  • Technical questions, especially those above your own experience — don’t pretend like you know more than you do
  • Specific questions about the firm — wouldn’t it be embarrassing if they don’t know
  • Recent scandals of the firm — always stay positive

Another important reason is that many attending associates and seniors are alumni of your school. That’s why they are at this career fair and not elsewhere. There are so many things in common that you can bring up and start an interesting conversation. Back to point #2, being able to carry a good conversation is the key to impress.

Once you think they like you enough, you can ask for their business cards, and even ask them to introduce you to their manager or above. It’s much better (and faster) to approach the partner this way.

5. Get Introduced to the Manager+

Being introduced by the associates is equivalent to a stamp of approval, and yes, the manager/SM/partner should pay more attention to you. To take advantage of this opportunity, don’t chit chat about random things with the partner. He is busy and easily distracted by the 20 students around him each trying to ask a question.

Begin by saying how helpful the associates have been telling you about the everyday life as a first year. Ride on that and ask similar question related to the senior guy. For example, if you have been discussing the various industry groups, ask about how the partner got into his group, or how life was like back then when he was a first year. Something that stirs his fond memory and hopefully connect his old self with you.

6. Wrap Up the Conversation

Be considerate and don’t talk to the partner for an hour. Besides, you have other firms to meet.  Wrap up the conversation gracefully as soon as you think you’ve left a good impression. Get their contacts for follow up, thank them and leave.

7. Take Notes before Your Forget

Lots of things are going on at the career fair. It would be such as waste (or disaster) if you forget or mix up the details of whom you have talked to. John used to jot down tiny notes on the back of people’s business cards. I used to laugh at him but this is actually a quick and effective way to get organized.

8. Shoot Our Your Thank you Emails

While memory still fresh, write thank you emails to the people you had 3-5 minutes of good chat with. Customize each email with the sparks and highlight of the conversation. Express yourself as someone who is interested not just about a job, but the people who are representing the firm.

Some readers suggest to connect them using Linkedin. I haven’t tried sending thank you notes via Linkedin, but it’s a great idea to explore.

Final Thoughts

Campus recruiting is the easiest way to break into Big 4 and big accounting firms. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd with so many students there, but if implement the above strategies, you give yourself a great start. Good luck!

Check out Roger CPA Review’s Tips on Meet the Firms

For Your Further Reading

Big 4 Offer Rescinded: 4 Scenarios for Your Reference

Big 4 offer rescinded

Some of you may be worrying your Big 4 offer being rescinded for different reasons. Here are the most common concerns from my readers, and how I think you should react:

1. Big 4 Offer Rescinded after Negotiation

The firms will not revoke the offer simply because you try to negotiate. Don’t worry, you have the right to do it.

Whether there is room for negotiation is another story. For first year, the pay is pretty much standard depending on location and your education. For experienced hires, you may have some leeway based on how urgent the Big 4 needs you (mostly because of your industry expertise).

2. Offer Rescinded after Background Check

Some of you might be worrying about offer withdrawal due to unfavorable background check.

If it is a relatively minor offense such as DUI (driving under influence) and that it is not related to finance and integrity, it should be fine. You might still get a call from HR requesting an explanation. I would say be honest about it, and try your best to explain why it happened back then, and why it will never happen again.

3. Offer Rescinded due to Grades

Your GPA should have been clearly stated on your resume. If not, one of the interviewers should have asked you. If you believe your grades are low but somehow they extend an offer — congratulations, they must have liked you enough.

However, if you have been lying about your GPA, you are in bigger trouble. HR usually requests that you send in the transcripts upon graduation and therefore your grades would be clearly shown. At this point, there isn’t much you can do.

4. Offer Rescinded due to Incorrect Salary Information

I have seen lateral hires inflating their salary numbers hoping to shoot for more in the Big 4. They might not be lying exactly, but they estimate their bonus and quantify benefits that weren’t actually paid. Not a good idea.

Lying about your salary is grounds for withdrawing an offer. Once you give a salary number that is recorded and depending on the company they may or may not verify your salary. So it’s a risky game, you can’t change your answer once you have given it and if they request that your salary be verified you are pretty much done.

From what I know, the Big 4 as well as most Fortune 500 companies participate in and use a company called The Work Number which provides employment verification and salary verification. There is another similar service known as HireRight. If your current company participates in either of these two services, the Big 4 can pull your salary history.

The Work Number and HireRight verification reports are very detailed. They list all the companies, positions held, annual salary numbers, bonuses paid, bi weekly gross pay figures, and vacation balances.


Your offer will most likely not be revoked due to negotiation, minor offenses and low grades. The killer is dishonesty. Let’s stay truthful and honest as public accountants. Ethics is highly valued in our profession.

For Your Further Reading

Paving Your Way to Big 4 International Assignment

big 4 international assignment

One attraction of working in a global firm is the opportunity to work overseas for a few years without disrupting your career. At the Big 4, they are known as international assignments. Are you ready for that?

Timing of the International Assignment

Big 4 international assignment, also known as international rotation, is arranged when there is a need of technical skills in overseas offices. Because they mostly want US GAAP expertise, only seniors and above are qualified, with most going at manager or senior manager level.

The terms of your global mobility contract is usually negotiated between home country, host country, and possibly also the client. Your home office pays a minimum expat benefits, such as basic relocation and storage expenses.

The better your industry and skills match with what is required in the host office, the more likely they will pay for extra benefits. This may include housing (rent and agency fees), full relocation expenses, meal allowance, education allowance for children, and assisting your spouse to find work in the host country. The higher your level, the higher the benefits.

Nature of Assignment

Given the nature of work, there are more international rotations in assurance than in tax and advisory.

There are exceptions, of course. My husband John started at Financial Advisory Services at PwC at the New York headquarters. A few months into his job, he was sent to Tokyo for a 6-month international assignment. He stayed at the Imperial Hotel for the entire time and ate so much sushi (on company’s account) that he got food poisoning… It was however very tedious work. There was a reason to send him there.

Career Progression

There are two types of international assignments: strategic and non-strategic.

Strategic Rotation: The Pros

Strategic means value-add in the eyes of the firm, but they try to align your interest. This means the opportunity also matches your industry and technical expertise. For strategic assignments, the firm will take care of you in the host country and make sure you come back to broadly what you want to do.

You may express your preference in terms of location, but for top performers willing to be placed in any office to add the most value, the firm has the most incentive to keep you happy with a generous expat package and a good position when you return to the US.

International assignments are great personal experience, and may help your career, particularly after the Big Four. The experience is invaluable from a resume perspective and shows to your firm and prospective employers you are willing to take risks for the right opportunities.

Strategic Rotation: The Cons

This isn’t for everybody, especially those with family and kids.

At the same time, some people have a hard time integrating back to the US office after a couple of years. Lots of client and staff turnover may have happened in past 2 years, and you may not be able to get back to your client and your team.

Non-Strategic Rotations

These are more random temporary relocations without much strategic value to the firm, nor do they offer long-term career development. John’s Tokyo assignment mentioned above is non-strategic.

If you are able to return to your own team after a few months, it could be a cool experience and an interesting stint to mention in the resume. However, you do run a risk of doing random, mundane and tedious work all day, with local staff whom you don’t click.

Compensation and Tax Issues

For most people I talk to, the compensation remains the same, with adjustment due to the difference in cost of living. For strategic assignments, the adjustment is usually favorable. For example, if your children need to attend expensive English-speaking schools in the host country, the firm will pay for that. You may be given a driver and housekeeper if that is the local custom.

For tax, you won’t be better or worst off. The firm pays your actual tax, then calculate the portion you need to pay them using a tax equalization mechanism. HR personnel specializing in expat arrangement will take care of this.

Does Big 4 International Assignment Accelerate My Path to Partnership?

It depends. Most strategic international assignments are jobs with large clients, which is always helpful in your track record within the Big 4. If the client is not only big, but also complex and generates lots of revenue, it is the best one you can get. If you are lucky enough to work under a popular partner in the host office, even better.

On the other hand, if your client isn’t meaningful and you work under an unknown partner in a small office, you are better off just getting to a big market in the US (New York, Chicago, Silicon Valley). From there, get on a high profile client and work as hard as you can.

If you like the idea of traveling, working with large clients give you enough opportunities to travel to their regional offices. Short trips to many different places could be a more interesting experience than one big international assignment.

How to Increase Your Chance of Success

Okay. You still want to do it. What should you do?

1. Strive to be Top Performer

Your are normally eligible to apply with an above-average rating, but those rated a 1 or 2 have the highest priority for strategic assignments.

2. Plan Early

Once you hit senior (or second year for high performers), discuss with your performance development coach, who can get additional information from HR.

3. Make Your Business Case

If you are interested in a specific country or region, identify the strongest industry there. For example, if you are interested in a Hong Kong rotation and banks are the highest-profile clients there, you should start manage your career and get financial services experience. The better you prepare, the stronger your business case by the time you are eligible to apply.

4. Brush up the Local Language

Many offices are fine with English alone, but some do prefer you speak (and even read) the local language. Again, it could only help your case.

5. Stay in Contact with Your Colleagues in Home Office

This is what you should do after getting the assignment, but very important. Keeping regular contact with your team and colleagues in your home office will help your transition back to the US much easier. Simple gestures such as emailing to say hi, sending Christmas cards to important people, and dropping by the office whenever you are back to your home town for vacation… there are many ways to keep people from forgetting you.

Best of luck to your exciting adventure!

For Your Further Reading

How to Prepare for Informational Interview over Lunch

informational interview over lunchLet’s say you met a Big 4 senior manager at a networking event, and through persistent follow ups, you are finally invited to have lunch with her near the office.

You really want to turn this into an opportunity at the firm. How do you make the best use of it?

Informational Interview over Lunch

1. Identify Common Topic(s) in Advance

First, this is a lunch. I bet the senior manager wouldn’t want to talk about accounting principals and latest changes in GAAP. You can let her choose a topic, but it’s better if you can initiate a conversation.

During the follow ups, you should have done something right to lead to this lunch. Most likely you two have something in common — Did you come from the same town? Do you have common friends, favorite movies, kids, dogs, etc. These are all great places to start the conversation.

2. Be Likeable

You never know the true purpose and outcome of this meet up. It could simply be a nice gesture on her part, or this could be an informal first interview.

In any case, present yourself as a likeable person. Everyone wants to hire cheerful, easy going and positive people as colleagues. Also, as a client-oriented business, the Big 4 looks for candidates who can carry a good conversation with clients.

The last thing you want to do is getting too nervous. It looks awkward, and gives a bad impression that you are thinking way ahead of yourself.

3. Be Prepared to Talk about Your Career Goals

Assuming she is older than you, it’s pretty normal for her to ask about your career aspiration. Be prepared to say something for medium to long term. You should definitely express your desire to work in her firm. For Big 4, the standard would be the training, exposure and prestige. You can also talk about the desire to continue your career in audi, tax or whatever you are doing right now.

4. Ask for Advice

A good way to take pressure off your shoulder is to turn the table and ask for her advice. After expressing your interest in the firm, ask for general advice of getting into the firm as an experienced hire (assuming you are one), or any specific tips you would like to get for your own situation. You can also ask for her experience and how she came to be successful. A subtle flattery is fine.

5. Offer Help

You can end the lunch by offering help. It could be anything e.g. helping her to follow up on the vet you mentioned earlier. The main purpose is to create a reason to contact her at a later date, and at the same time leave a great impression as a helpful and likeable person.

What Do You Think?

What are your suggestions? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Big 4 CPA Bonus, Reimbursement and Perks at a Glance

Big 4 cpa bonus

If you work for a Big 4 firm, you may have heard what is referred to as the “Big 4 bonus.” However, while the Big 4 CPA bonus is significant in dollar value, your overall Big 4 salary is also important to consider. Therefore, we are going to cover not only the bonuses but also Big 4 salaries and other perks.

In the U.S., as of 2020 the average Certified Public Accountant (CPA) earns a yearly salary of $67,909. For comparison’s sake, the average accountant without a CPA license earns a yearly salary of $51,577. Clearly, having those three letters on your resume gives you a financial advantage.

PayScale further breaks down CPA salary data. According to their findings, entry-level CPAs earn an average salary of $54,429 a year, while mid-career CPAs draw an average salary of $70,661 a year. The most experienced professionals make an average salary of $95,866 a year.

Big 4 salaries are typically higher than mid-tier and regional accounting firm salaries. Therefore, many accounting majors strive to become employed by the Big 4 due to the higher earning potential (among other things).

However, CPAs also have earnings potential beyond their base salaries. For example, many CPAs are eligible to receive bonuses based on their performance. In fact, some companies even provide accountants with a public accounting bonus when they receive their CPA designation. Among these companies are the “Big 4,” or the largest accounting firms. They include Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC.

The Standard Big 4 CPA Bonus

Typically, you will receive $5,000 upon passing the CPA Exam within the first year of joining your firm. The amount is lower if you take longer to complete it. Most Big 4 will give you $3,000 if you pass within the second year and $1,000 if you pass within the third year. If you pass the exam before your first day of work, you will receive the CPA bonus one to two months after the start date.

Here are the exact wordings from each of the Big 4 on their CPA bonuses:


PwC offers significant incentives to those who obtain their CPA and other primary credentials (CFA, CISA, CIA) early, as well as reimbursement and educational programs to help you achieve this goal.”

– Page on Compensation and Rewards

PwC no longer publishes specifics on its CPA bonus. A year ago, it had reportedly been raised from $5,000 to $6,000. However, with pay cuts due to the pandemic, we’re unsure whether this is still the case.


KPMG awards $5,000 when you join KPMG with your CPA exam passed, or if you pass all parts of the CPA exam within your first year of employment or CPA exam eligibility, whichever is later.

KPMG awards $3,000 when you complete and pass your CPA exam during your second year of employment or CPA exam eligibility, whichever is later.”

– Page on Our Opportunities


We provide upfront reimbursement for one certification review course and associated exam registration fees for first-time exam takers for required certifications. We also offer a professional certification bonus to reward you for attainment of required professional certifications early in your career.”

– PDF on Professional Certification


Deloitte recognizes that the key to success goes beyond learning and coaching support. As they work to achieve their professional designation, our students receive ample study time (through both paid and unpaid days) and financial support for annual fees and CPA tuition. Candidates also receive a professional designation cash bonus upon successful completion of the CFE.”

– Page on The Deloitte CPA Advantage

Like PwC, Deloitte does not offer specifics, but according to accounting forums, this firm offers the standard $5,000 within one year and $3,000 within two years.

Other CPA Related Perks, Sponsorships, and Reimbursement

Exam Fee Reimbursement

In addition to the bonus, firms will cover the application and exam registration fees as well. Most Big 4 firms will pay whether you pass or not, but they will only reimburse your first attempt at each part of the exam.

Review Course Payment

The Big 4 has direct billing with Becker, which will send you the self-study course. One of the Big 4 gives you the choice of Wiley CPAexcel as well. If you have already paid for the review courses, you should be able to negotiate a higher signing bonus equivalent to this amount.


The understanding is that Big 4 auditors can only be promoted to manager after they pass the CPA exam. Normally, they expect you to have passed by the time you become a senior.

Special Note

According to the standard rule, you are entitled to the above bonuses and perks if you work for the firm for at least a year. Be sure to check the disclaimer in your offer letter or contract. If you leave the company after less than a year, you may have to pay back your bonus.

Additionally, PwC used to offer a $20,000 bonus to winners of the Elijah Watt Sells Award for the highest scores on the CPA Exam. However, as of 2020, this is no longer the case.

What You WON’T Get Immediately After Passing

Salary raise

At the Big 4, you don’t get a salary raise right after passing the exam, but you will likely receive a bigger salary bump at the next annual review.

Automatic money transfer into your account

You must take the initiative to contact HR, fill out the necessary paperwork, and provide proof of your passing. Processing time can range from a few weeks to a few months — please expect two to three pay cycles before you get it. Also, be aware that the clock on your year at the firm may begin when you receive the bonus, not when you file the paperwork.

Tax exemption of any sort

This bonus is taxable. Period.

CPA Bonus in Local and Regional CPA Firms

For mid-size to large regional CPA firms, you can expect a bonus of $1,000 to $2,000. Additionally, some firms may offer a salary raise or even a promotion. The amount largely depends on the size and location of the firm. You may be able to negotiate the reimbursement of exam fees and review courses as well. These benefits are repayable if you leave the firm within a certain period, typically within one to two years.

You will get a pat on the back for small and local CPA firms. I’m not too sure about the bonus, though.  Fortunately, a salary increase is always negotiable…

Anyway, the Biggest Bonus is…

You don’t need to study for this gruesome exam ever again!

When considering CPA Exam bonuses, remember that this is a one-time payout. It’s nice, but it’s a short-term financial perk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Big 4 accounting firms pay bonuses? Do you get a signing bonus at a Big 4?

Traditionally, yes, Big 4 firms have offered a number of bonuses to employees. The CPA Exam bonus is just one of many. If you’re specifically asking, “do Big 4 firms offer signing bonuses?” the answer is also usually yes. However, the presence of a signing bonus may vary from year to year or even location to location. Additionally, with the economic effects of the pandemic, bonuses may be smaller or put on hold entirely.

How much is the Big 4 signing bonus?

I get this question a lot, phrased in many different ways, including:

  • What is the typical Big 4 bonus?
  • What are bonuses like at Big 4 accounting firms?
  • How much bonus can an associate earn at a Big 4 firm?

While situations may differ by candidate and region, the typical signing bonus at a Big 4 firm is $2,500 to $5,000. Because each member of the Big 4 tends to follow the lead of the others, this is standard across all four companies.

As for other bonuses, the median is around 8% of your Big 4 salary. However, if you perform well, you will likely receive a higher percentage as a bonus.

When do Big 4 accounting firms issue a bonus?

If you’re asking “when do you get a signing bonus at a Big 4 firm?” the answer is, usually, along with your first paycheck. Other bonuses may be issued based on important work milestones, the length of time you’ve been with the firm, or the holiday season. However, the important thing to remember about bonuses is that they are, in fact, a bonus – that is, they’re not guaranteed income.

Does Big 4 let you keep your promotion bonus if you leave?

For most signing and CPA bonuses, there will be wording in the contract that says you must repay the bonus if you leave the firm within a set time. This is to prevent candidates from signing on for huge bonuses and then leaving for another employer. Typically, you must stay with the firm at least a year or pay back the bonus. The answer is the same for most promotion bonuses, as well.

Does your mentor get a bonus if you accept an offer at a Big 4 firm?

When you begin a job at a Big 4 firm like PwC, you’ll usually be paired with a partner or director to help mentor and guide you. However, whether this mentor receives a bonus for this role is unclear.

For Your Further Reading

University Auditor Jobs: the Pros and Cons

University Auditor pros and cons Accounting Resume

Jake has been working in the Internal Audit department at his alma mater for a year now. He is kind enough to share his experience with us.

Life as a University Auditor

How did you get this job?

I saw a job opening at the university I went to when I took my master’s degree.  It is really interesting to see how the university is run on the other side.

How do you like your job?

I LOVE it. As an internal auditor, I get to meet with people in different departments — from the college, law school, and medical school, to the state-of-the-art stadium, art galleries, medical center to construction (they are building new dorms at the moment). I feel like I am exposed to and learning something new every day.

More importantly, I feel valued and that I am making a difference.

How is the work-life balance?

I worked in a mid-size public accounting firm for a couple of years. Compared to that it’s been a great work-life balance here. I normally work 8 hours on weekdays and there is little stress. Colleagues are nice, flexible and understanding, probably because no one is stressed out here.

Also, there is not much traveling. Some people like the experience of traveling around the world. For me, as a husband and a new dad, I appreciate the fact that we have little traveling.

What are the cons?

Work mostly involves operational audit versus financial audit. This means you look at purchasing, payroll, and various programs. If you enjoy working on lots of numbers and complex mathematical models, this may not suit you.

Also, salary tends to be lower unless you work in a big, research-intensive university. Benefits is usually good though. If you work in a state school you get a state retirement plan.

What is the career path?

I need to take and pass the CPA exam within 3 years in order to become a senior. A certification and/or experience is required for a supervisory role. Going forward, I am not sure — the office isn’t big… senior positions become available only if someone moves on or retires.

Any advice for those interested in becoming a University Auditor?

I’ve met with other IA people in neighboring universities. It seems like most of us prefer to hire someone with master’s degrees.

The fact that you went to the university is helpful. My interview was actually quite tough, meeting everyone in the team for an afternoon. But at the end of the day it’s personality fit.

If you are still in college, try landing an internship at the Internal Audit office. It’s a great experience and they will likely offer you a position if it is available, either right away or years later if you keep in touch with them.

Additionally, you can work as a Certified Internal Auditor and bypass the CPA Exam entirely. You can learn about CIA tips and CIA benefits to help inform your certification decisions.


Role of CFO

CFO Roles and Salary

The Chief Financial Officer or CFO’s scope of responsibility has evolved from bean counter and oversight to the “strategic advisor”, as accounting itself evolves from collecting, validating and reporting data to provide and supporting analysis for decision-making. Learning about the Role of a CFO depends on what you’d most like to focus on. We’re able to share with you some CFO responsibilities and salaries.

Both financial and non-financial key performance indicators, e.g. churn rate of telecom companies.

An extreme case is Amazon now that they use predictable analysis by using algorithms based on customer shopping patterns and ratings to suggest to customers items they would likely be interested in.

Also, at the operational level, Amazon uses weather climate models for more efficient shipping.

But any company will need a team to start asking intelligent questions.

It’s progressive for the accounting function to provide marketing and sales with a reliable and accurate picture of which customers are more profitable and which are less profitable.

If you’re interested in Upgrading your Accounting career, we have more information to share.

You can learn more about accounting executive roles here:

Audit Billable Hours: What’s Enough for Work and CPA License

audit billable hoursThis is not common, but some new hires worry about not having enough audit billable hours, especially if this is one of the experience requirements for your CPA license.

Monitoring Audit Billable Hours of Entry-Level Accountants

It is the responsibility of managers, your counselor, staff planning and ultimately the office leadership to make sure you get enough billable hours.

If you are new, they may just be leaving your schedule open, because they don’t yet know what your strengths are, and will throw you in where they think you’ll fit best later.

But then, it could be an oversight. Managers and seniors are busy and they cannot monitor everyone on a daily basis. Here is what you can do .

1. Be Proactive

Speak to your counselor, see if this is “normal” or if he could help you dig up some more work. Then, speak to the seniors and the managers in your teams, and let them know that you have unallocated time. You could also email the person in charge of scheduling, and ask him to pass your name along to anyone needing assistance. This will show some major initiative on your part as well.

2. Be Friendly

You can also get to know people in the office by speaking to them by the coffee machine or any informal hangout area, letting them know that you exist and that you have unallocated time.

3. Do Your Job Well

Do well on your engagements, and people will start picking you up if you ask them if they need help.