Large vs small accountancy firms: A guide for graduates

What kind of accountancy job would be right for you?

Whether you’re an accountancy graduate, considering an internship or apprenticeship, or even exploring a new career – considering which type of accountancy firm you’d like to work for is key to your success…and happiness.

So, what are some of the differences between working for a small firm and a large accountancy practice? And which would suit you best?

Fast track to the top – As a talented accountancy professional, or an ambitious graduate, there is no limit to what you can achieve in your career. However, working for a larger firm – in most cases, will get you there quicker. Large firms mean you’re exposed to large clients, large contacts and a larger workforce. Therefore, there can be more opportunities to climb the ladder. This isn’t always the case, and standout candidates can have a highly successful career with a smaller firm. But, if you want to work for one of the big four for example, you’ll begin a structured career path heading straight to the top. 

More variety and responsibility – However, if more variety and less pressure sound appealing – then working for a smaller firm might be for you. Now let’s be clear, as an accountant – wherever you work, long hours and a degree of pressure are standard. But if working for lots of clients across different industries appeals more to you than the prestige and rigid promotion policies associated with the big firms, then your choice is made. A small firm can offer so much in terms of role development, manager support, close client contact, potential for business development and perhaps a better work/life balance. We are generalising here, and there are exceptions of course. But these are the main differences between small and large firms.

Your colleagues – The people you work with have a massive influence on your happiness – that’s a fact. So, while you’re perfectly correct to place division, benefits, travel and promotion at the top of your wish list, your team should also feature somewhere. The big four will only hire the brightest, most talented and motivated individuals. And if you’re one of them, you’ll be surrounded by a highly driven team, with access to an extensive network of influential colleagues. However, if being on the bus home by 6pm to join your work mates at the five a side is more your style – it’s an SME for you! Smaller firms are close knit and enjoy spending time together. They work hard and play hard and enjoy their time together outside of the office. Whereas a longer working week isn’t out of the question for your big four counterparts, especially during busy seasons. So, your interaction with your team will be mainly office based. 

“There are so many factors to consider when choosing a firm to work for. Large or small, the match…the fit, it’s vital.  

We work closely with our candidates so we know what makes them tick. We won’t offer them a role which we know isn’t right for them.

And because we have such a good relationship with the firms we work with, that insight helps us match them with just the right person. We just know instinctively!”

Garry Howling, Public Practice Recruitment Ltd

You can start your search for your perfect role here today. 

Or call 03335 777 787 for advice from an expert accountancy recruiter – feel free to pick our brains.

You’ll also find lots of interesting information to help you with your job search over on our blog. 

At Public Practice Recruitment Ltd, we enjoy building relationships with candidates and clients. If you’d like our help, or feel like you’d like to explore your options, please get in touch. 


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