Accounting Internships: A Primer on the “Big 4”

Landing an internship at a “big 4” or medium tier accounting firm is a coveted milestone for many accounting students for a host of reasons, including the possible full-time offer that may result at the end of a successful experience. An internship is like a long, intense job interview; to land the internship, however, you have to break into the application process.

But if you’re just starting out, a really good question to ask is: “What is the ‘big 4’?” Let’s break it down.

The Big 4 accounting firms refer to:

It’s helpful to see just how “big” these four firms are in comparison to other firms. I used Accounting Today’s annual 2020 ranking of the biggest firms based on U.S. revenues; here is how the big 4 look compared to others in the industry (click here to interact with this data on Tableau)

Applying for Big 4 internships can be a lengthy but rewarding process. You must start early and do your homework; for instance, a summer 2022 internship will have an application process that begins in early October 2021.

These internships are also highly competitive, so every advantage matters, including

  • A good GPA (3.5 or higher is the goal) that represents you take your studies seriously and are committed to the rigor
  • Excel and spreadsheet skills. Read my article on the top-5 accounting skills for an entry level staff (this could apply to interns too).
  • Prior accounting or quantitative (working with data, databases, etc) experience

Check the links below for details about big-4 internships that are open now.

A final note: these are not your only options! There are many medium and smaller tier firms that can also offer great experiences. I’ve shared more about that in a separate post.

Categories: Accountancy