There are many reasons why a career in audit is a great path to go down, but there are also many reasons which I think may lead to people disliking the profession. One of those reasons is generally the disparity between salary and hours worked.
In the finance world, there are many career paths which involve many hours, some of them reaching 100 hour weeks (Investment banking!) However, these jobs are generally very well paid, which makes up for the fact that you may be doing unsociable hours in the office.
Audit on the other hand is overall not a very well paid job considering the time put into the profession. Admittedly, once you put all those hours in, eventually you may become a partner, and then the big money comes along, and you’ll likely work fewer hours. However, you’re likely going to have to grind out 20 years of your life working upwards of 70 hour weeks during busy periods. Is it worth it? Some people would say yes, while others will avoid this career progression like the plague.
You’re Easily Replaceable. Especially in the early years of audit, you’re going to feel like a disposable asset. People will leave, and almost before they’re out of the door, they will be replaced by someone else. Lower level audit doesn’t require much skill or intelligence. I’ve worked with smart auditors, and I’ve worked with stupid auditors – but they can generally all get the work done. The problem here lies that until you’re a manager and more difficult to replace, there’s very little reason for an audit firm to pay you a lot of money. They can just replace you with someone else more eager to do the work instead.
Individual Perceptions Differ. Many people are in accounting or audit for different reasons. Some dislike the salary because they see their friends going into Investment Banking or Consulting and getting paid significantly more out of University. This can make people resent the career path a little. Others (the category I fell into) are in the role for the future career potential, but those initial years you feel a bit trapped, and that you just want to get to the interesting work.
People will tell themselves the work will be worth it just for 3 years of sacrifice. However, many people will quickly realise they are not fans of working in audit, and will expect more pay to satisfy their dislike for the job they’re performing.
Many people would LOVE to work 60 hours a week for the average salary of a trainee auditor. But I think it also depends on your location. From what I’ve seen, Big 4 auditors in the US seem to be paid significantly more than those in the UK
I think what it boils down to is the fact that many people haver a perception of a career as an accountant which involves lots of money and a great career, and the reality isn’t always as sunshine and rainbows.
There are really long hours involved in your career, especially in the earlier years. During my peak time working in Big 4 Audit, I was working so many hours that my hourly salary was less than if I worked in the local McDonalds.
The difference is, working behind the counter of a McDonalds isn’t quite as likely to lead to you becoming the CFO or CEO of a global company. A career in accounting really is a slow burner, but has huge potential in your later years.
If you want to get rich quick, then a general career in audit definitely isn’t for you, but it can be a relatively easy route to a lucrative position in your later career. If you want to get rich quick, but potentially burn out fast, get into Investment Banking or something similar.
Another issue surrounding the hours and pay while working in audit, especially at Big 4 firms, is they majorly downplay the impact on your social life. My firm would go on about how flexible they were, and how you could enjoy life all time. However, the poor sod who ended up working on the Banking Audit, working 90 hour weeks definitely had little flexibility in their personal life.
To some extent, a career in Audit does sometimes feel as though you’ve been missold a dream. They highlight all the positives (most of which are inaccurate) and ignore the negatives, or portray them in a way which makes them seem as though they’re not that negative.
You also have to factor in how stable a career in audit is. During this questionable time, where many people are losing their jobs, the audit firms are standing strong. My local office has actually stopped hiring for the time being, but they’ve promised not to let anyone go during this uncertain time.
Despite all this – would I change the start of my career in audit? I definitely wouldn’t! If you’re considering beginning your career in audit, I would highly recommend it. Try and apply to Big 4 firms, as it really will give you the best experience possible. Take a look at some of my other posts which help to guide you in the path of landing that Big 4 role!