Which is Better: Audit Firm or Private Company?

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CIA Exam Part 2 Difficulty vs Part 1Lynnel is our CIA exam blogger from the Philippines. She writes every Friday.

Every person has different personality, culture or tradition and preferences. But then, accountants and auditors anywhere in the world seem to prefer working in Big Four audit firms. And I ask myself — why?

Once a person is graduated with an accounting or auditing degree, there are preferences of employer to choose, an audit firm or other private company.

Traditionally, accounting graduates here in the Philippines prefer to work in an audit firm because of the knowledge and experience they can gain.

In addition to that, I heard that the market value of an auditor is higher when working in an audit firm versus in other private companies. This is especially when the auditor switches from an audit firm to the corporates.

When I graduated from college in 2015, I foresee myself working at a manufacturing company. I was really fascinated with the industry and it really excited me to learn more. I wasn’t into audit firms since I heard stories from my professors that the workplace is stressful and exhausting. Is that right?

I was afraid to lose time with my family and friends. In my first year in a retail industry, even though I was stressed out with heavy workload, I can still spare time with my family and friend to achieve work-life balance. In the Philippines, our culture is to prioritize family rather than work, because a happy family is a happy life.

Lately, my view changes when somebody from an audit firm asked me to apply for an advisory associate position in an audit firm. The firm is not one of the Big Four, but I heard that it is one of the fastest growing in the Philippines.

I was tempted to push through the application and somehow decline the offer twice, but there is the feeling that bothers me to try, explore and get out of my comfort zone. Who knows, there might be a big break for my career once I enter public accounting.

I have decided that after I pass part 3 (being optimistic) on May, I will apply in the said auditing firm as they have said that there would be available positions that time. I am still hesitant but there’s no harm in trying.

Note from Stephanie

I think you should give it a try! I didn’t work as an auditor but I used to work very closely with Big 4 auditors — the team pretty much stationed at our company for the entire year, and I saw how they work on a daily basis.

Public accounting is more stressful with more demanding hours, but it is a good exposure and a great opportunity to get a broad set of experience.

You are young and have the stamina to work long stressful hours. Family is very important, but you still have your weekends with them (most of the time). In the future, when you have dependents and more responsibility outside of work, you can always switch to work in the industry. It is much harder to do it the other way round.

I have this post on public vs corporate accounting that you may find helpful.

About the Author Lynnel

Lynnel is a recent graduate, with a BSBA Major in Internal Auditing in the Philippines. Lynnel passed Part 1 and 2 on the same day, and Part 3 on her first attempt.

  • Annette says:

    Hi Lynnel

    I am working at a Big4 and it is not as stressful as everyone makes it out to be (well, that is my personal feeling, but again we are a pretty small office (20 employees within Advisory). I work only from 8-5 and no weekends. Maybe, but really seldom, I sit 1-2 hours extra to wrap up something. Yes, I see some of my managers really working a lot – but I think that is also personal preference and not necessarily required. We always say if you can work smart and effective you can finish your work in 8 hours. I guess it also depends on the team, size of clients and own experience.

    You get exposure to different industries, client cultures and audit topics. For me it was important to start at a Audit Firm to test the waters (i.e. industry, market, clients etc.) before I actually signed up permanently with a private company. Audit firms also give you opportunity to travel if they have international clients and you get the chance to work with many different nationalities.

    I have worked several times on 3 months or longer secondments at clients, doing boring day-to-day work, and have always been glad that I could say “Ciao – I am off to a new client – learning something new”.

    Also your career progression is way faster in an audit firm. After almost 6 years I am Assistant Manager (could have been earlier if I had passed my CIA sooner). Audit firms promote you on your performance and qualification, private company might not have vacancy/need for more than 1 or 2 IA managers, so you would be stuck as Senior until the Manager leaves (I have seen that with co-source teams). Once you have your manager position you can job hunt in the private sector, way easier to find a good job.

    Yes you might not be paid as much as at a private company – but the learning and development totally compensates for that (after all that is a very big part of audit firms – Career growth and development)

    To sum up – I personally find the Big4 experience quite valuable and once you have reached a certain level of experience and role, it is no problem to move on.

    You are welcome to ask me more questions regarding working at a Big4 🙂

    • Lynnel says:

      Thank you Stephanie and Annette for sharing. I am somehow convince to try it once I’m done with CIA part 3 (being optimistic) on May. I think I need to think about it thoroughly because once I got there it may happen that my expenses is greater than the income. 😂 I hope , not.

  • Yung Jun says:

    Hi, Lynnel.

    Not sure whether my opinion helps, but I would like to share some experience in working an Audit Firm as an outsourced internal auditor.

    My first career after graduate is an outsource internal auditor. My company is an affiliate subsidiary of an long established audit firm that focus in internal audit, risk management, and compliance advisory. Working hours is considerable, but given my client scattered around the countries, it can be very tense given the deadline and enormous travelling have consume my mental.

    It gives me a great exposure on different industries and further widen my working experience. The environment have successfully give me a great starting point to further my career in the industry. For example, to coupe up with different client’s industry needs, I need to prepare the engagement working paper that suit to their needs. For new client, I need to done some preliminary survey and do a lot of read up. It strengthens my knowledge on that industry and after gaining sufficient knowledge on different industries, I am able to utilize my knowledge to different industry’s client.

    At the same time, you might need to devote some responsibility and discipline when you work as an outsourced services provider. Professionalism is encouraged to withstand all time as you represent the company and your profession. Therefore, it might make some of the people reluctant to join the outsourced services provider albeit the long working time and low paid compare to other industry peer.

    If you wish to join the Audit Firm, you might can consider to do the survey on the company’s structure, culture and employee satisfactions level. You can have a better opportunity to learn compare to those work in particular industry if the company is supportive to their staff growth and the senior is helpful enough.

    At conclusion, I find myself lucky enough to have a start in internal audit by joining an outsource firm which have strengthen my knowledge and capability before I specialize my career in property industry.

    Feel free to ask if you have any queries

    • Lynnel says:

      Hi Yung Jun, your post is very informative. Thanks for your advice specially regarding researching on the company’s structure, culture and satisfaction level. It really helps. I just want to ask , do you think there are advantages, except for the learning, to those auditors who came from audit firm and switch to private companies? Thanks a lot!

      • Yung Jun says:

        Hi, Lynnel.

        From my personal view, auditors who came from audit firm are able to adapt themselves to different working situation as they handle different client and job request every day. Other than that, auditors from audit firm have the capability to bring the new thinking from other industry into the industry that he/she wish to specialize. Another type of advantage is he/she might able to survive with their best practices of IA if the company in join doesn’t have a good Internal Audit structure. You can assist to setup the department if the company you joined doesn’t have a sound structure of IA function. In fact, not all private company have a good IA practices but audit firm are required to maintain it to attract and retain client.

        However, they might lack of the specialized knowledge on the particular industries that their private companies involve unless they have gain sufficient experience and understanding on that industry by working long enough serving this kind of client. Otherwise, outsourced internal auditor might find themselves have a problem to adapt to the particular industries mind sight on IA function which I had experienced when I change to my current career.

        So, to sum up the advantage, audit firm might be provide a good training ground but I do encourage you to join private companies once you think you have gain enough experience on the particular industry e.g. Manufacturing. That’s my personal opinion. =)

        Feel free to ask me for clarification if you any inquiries

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