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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 bonus is significant in dollar value, your overall big 4 salary is also importation. Therefore, we are going to cover not only the bonuses but also big 4 salaries and other perks.

In the U.S., the average Certified Public Accountant (CPA) earns a yearly salary of $65,032. For comparison’s sake, the average accountant without the CPA earns a yearly salary of $50,706. So 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 $51,940 a year while mid-career CPAs draw an average salary of $69,213 a year. The most experienced professionals make an average salary of $93,442 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 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. And in fact, some companies even provide accountants with a 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

You will be getting $5,000 upon passing of 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 done within the second year, and $1,000 if done within the third year.

If you pass the exam before your first day of work, you will receive the CPA bonus 1-2 months after the start date.

Here are the exact wordings on the CPA bonus:


We offer significant incentives to those who obtain their CPA or other primary credential early, as well as reimbursement and educational programs to help you achieve this goal. For those taking and passing the CPA exam prior to starting or within your first year in Assurance or Tax at the firm, you may be eligible for a $5,000 bonus.”

– Page on compensation and Benefits


$5,000 award to Campus hire Associates joining KPMG with CPA exam passed, or who pass all parts of the CPA exam within 1st year of employment or CPA exam eligibility, whichever is later.

$3,000 award to Campus hire Associates who complete and pass the CPA exam during their second year of employment or CPA exam eligibility, whichever is later.

– Page on CPA Incentive Program


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.”

– Page on students/life-at-EY

(CPA exam bonus information not available on Deloitte’s page)

Other CPA Related Perks, Sponsorships and Reimbursement

1. Exam Fee Reimbursement

Also, the application and exam registration fees are covered as well. Most Big 4 will pay whether you pass or not, but they will only reimburse your first attempt of each part of the exam.

2. Review Course Payment

The Big 4 has direct billing with Becker and you will be given 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.

3. Promotion

The understanding is that Big 4 auditors can only be promoted to manager after they pass the CPA exam, and normally, they expect you are done by the time you become senior.

4. Special Bonus to Elijah Watt Sells Award Winners

Each year, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants honors a number of individuals with the Elijah Watt Sells award for the highest cumulative scores on the Uniform CPA Examination. PwC awards a bonus of $20,000 to any PwC staff member who receives this prestigious industry recognition.”

I found this in the PwC annual report. I heard (but wasn’t able to confirm) that Deloitte and EY don’t have this bonus.

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 (check the disclaimer in your offer letter or contract).

What You WON’T Get Immediately after Passing

1. Salary raise

In 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.

2. Automatic money transfer into your account

You need to 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 2-3 pay cycles before you get it.

3. 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 $1,000-2,000. Some firms may choose to 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 1-2 years.

For small and local CPA firms, you will get a pat on the back. Not too sure about the bonus though.  Salary increase is always negotiable…

Anyway, the Biggest Bonus is…

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

For Your Further Reading

  • How to talk your employer into paying for your CPA exam
  • CPA exam preparation tips

About the Author Stephanie