Evaluating Job Offers


Hello everyone,

I am graduating this coming May and I really need some help making a decision between the following 2 job offers:

  1. a role in the tax line of one of the “Big 4” accounting firms
  2. a 2 year government rotational program after which there’s no guarantee of continued employment but past success rates are over 80%

My conundrum is this. I don’t know how familiar many of you will be with the accounting industry, but option #1 (working for a big accounting firm) entails working grueling hours (60+) 2-4 months out of the year, a likely competitive working environment where new-hires generally try to trump one another’s hours, and did I mention overtime is unpaid? Now you may be asking why any new graduate would consider such a position but apparently working at these firms and obtaining your CPA designation brings with it prestige on your resume and a good reputation among future employers outside of public accounting. However, I’m very concerned as to what a position like this could do to my soul. For one, during busy season, I’ll have no time to pray. Also, I fear that work will consume my life to the point where my relationships will break down and all that I think about both at work and away from work will be, in fact, work.

The 2nd option appeals to me more for several reasons: equal salary, standard 40 hour work week all year long, variety of work, friendly atmosphere, lots of learning opportunities and much support is offered to you in terms of finding extended employment either during or after the 2 years. My only concern is the possibility of being jobless or being stuck in a short-term contract limbo after the 2 years are done. Were it not for this, I would easily choose this option. If I’m fortunate enough to obtain a position after the 2 years, I will also be eligible for a much higher salary - likely higher than I would be earning at the same point in time at option 1. And to be honest, I have always regarded the prospect of working for the government in the long term positively.

Now what I’m looking for here, Catholic Answers friends, is advice from a combined professional and spiritual perspective. All my accounting professors and those in the field recommend option 1 but I don’t want any job that will crush my soul and ruin my relationship with my family, friends or God. I want to work to live not vice-versa, even if that means a salary trade-off. Thank you and I appreciate any advice. If I can add more detail to help in your assessment, please do not hesitate to ask.


Praying to the Holy Spirit to give you guidance, direction, strength, fortitude & wisdom in your job discernment.


I wouldn’t consider a two-year full-time job temporary by any means. It’s a full-time, permanent job. There’s plenty of time to apply for new jobs, leverage your position into a more long-term offer, or reconsider your goals. Plus there’s no guarantee that job #1 would be a good fit for you in two years time, anyway.

Take the second job. Same pay, better hours, appears more life-sustaining? And the recommendations you’re getting to take job offer 1 aren’t jiving with you or giving you a sense of peace? Absolutely go with job 2.


If you go to Adoration place it into His hands. Also go to Mass and offer kip during the offertory during Mass. I’m struggling similarly except it is wether to stay in my first job out of college. I also wish I could attend daily Mass.


As I have family members who are accountants, I can tell you right now that you’re going to want to go with option 1. You need the CPA to get any decent job, and frankly the one family member who is in a role where he can hire always states that he will immediately throw out your resume if you are not a CPA.:coffeeread:

That being said, as soon as you have a CPA, start looking for another job.:smiley:


I would take the 2nd one in a heartbeat. The Big 4 work people to death.

Do you want to crash your car from lack of sleep during busy season? Lots of incidents like this. Do you want to come to work exhausted, and make critical mistakes which get you fired?

And remember, a tiny minority stays in the Big 4 throughout their career anyway, the overwhelming vast majority usually stay 2 years and leave. Some even stay 4 years then leave. This is a meat grinder, designed to turn you into hamburger.


First, thanks for posting.

I have an accounting degree and passed the CPA exam but I’m not currently using either.

I can’t make the call for you but I know I would have given my eye teeth for a Big 4 position after graduation. True, there’s “busy season,” but, as you suggest, a person with experience in public accounting can market that experience (for example, a person who works with bank clients might be highly desired by banks as employers).

If you really don’t want option #1 there may be a way of getting the CPA designation without the experience. In some states, if you have a master’s degree in accounting and you pass the exam they give you the designation automatically.

Good luck.


The most important thing for you to do is pass the CPA exam - first and foremost. If you don’t pass the exam prior to joining a Big 4 firm, you will be forced into traveling down a long road of burning the candle at both ends (to pass the exam and work overtime at the job).

If you pass the exam first, then join a Big 4 firm - it will be much more enjoyable, even if you only stay 2 years and work, work, work like a dog. Which is expected, by the way.

Alternatively, there are always regional firms, which some people enjoy much better. Public accounting is a very competitive environment. They will burn you out and not care one iota. There’s plenty of new accounting grads coming out of school each year to replace you. All they want to do is bill you at 3x salary.

View the public accounting world as a temporary training ground. If you go that route, do it with an eye towards moving up and out. If you are one of the chosen few, and have a natural aptitude for public accounting, stay longer.

Also, try to choose an industry specialty where you can become an expert in a sector or industry that appeals to you. It’s hard to know, but if you have a plan it will help in the decision making process.

Finally, get an advanced degree such as a PhD in Accounting if you really love it. Then you can consult for a Big 4 firm, teach, work in industry, etc. - many more doors open up to you. If you have the academic flair, go for it. You can write your own ticket. It is worth the time spent. Far more than working 2 or 3 years in a public accounting firm or industry job.

Best wishes.


Get a PhD in Accounting if you want to become an accounting professor. They claim there is a shortage of accounting PhD’s, and it appears to be true since salaries are rising.

Get a MACC for the other fields. You don’t need a PhD for those.


Some quick comments on this great post:

(1) You definitely want to pass the exam as early in the process as possible. In your state you may be able to take the exam prior to graduation (as some of my peers did).

(2) On the smaller/regional firms, I was told by some who worked there that you definitely can move up the ladder faster at a smaller firm than a big firm. Also a number of national firms (one in particular) are just about even with the Big 4 in prestige.

(3) On the Ph.D., it would definitely help for a career in academia, and accounting professors tend to command higher starting salaries than other professors. The school where I got my master’s offers a Ph.D. and provides full financial support for those accepted into the program.

I’m not totally sold on whether a Ph.D. would help that much for public accounting, though; I’ve heard conflicting arguments.

Good luck.


Just one last comment, as I saw this after I posted:

Ah, yes, the MACC (it was an MS at my school).

You’re in a better position, though, because you’ve already got a job offer and an employer who’ll probably pay for it for you. Better that than having to pay for it yourself and then competing for a job with undergrads, which is the way I did it.


A PhD will NOT help you in public accounting. A MACC will, but a PhD is overkill.


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