ACA Qualifications … You Don’t Have To Go Big 4!

We caught up with a candidate who recently became an ACA Qualified Accountant and we were keen to understand what their thoughts were on the experience they have gained from working for a Regional Firm as opposed to that they would have gained from going into one of the Big 4. Continue reading below … 

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ACA Qualifications … You Don’t Have To Go Big 4!


At 15ten15 we have a team of recruitment consultants dedicated to Accountancy & Finance, this sector is also the origin of where our business actually grew out of. We know – as most people do – that a very typical case of entering this world of work is to go from University straight into one of the Big 4 accountancy firms; PwC, KPMG, Deloitte or EY. 

However, as a business we also work with a large number of successful Senior Finance professionals who did not take this route. We were very passionate to get something out there which illustrates that taking the journey above isn’t the only way that someone can pursue a career in Finance, nor is it the right or preferred path for everyone. 

Our recently qualified candidate did go to University, however they chose not to take a position at a Big 4 accountancy firm despite receiving offers from 2 separate companies. They actually opted for a Regional Firm instead that they thought better suited their personality and would give them a more enjoyable experience on the whole. We discussed the positives of going Regional. 


Ability To Find What You Like Or Dislike 

Typically, when joining one of the Big 4, you join within a specific division of that firm – e.g. Audit. What this entails effectively is signing up to this particular area of Accountancy exclusively for a minimum of 3 years until you qualify. Even after qualifying, you’re also sat there with 3 years experience in one particular field and 0 years experience (other than exams) in any other. 

This is great if you’re passionate about a particular field of Accountancy and that is all you want to do, however if you’re unsure on what you want to do for the rest of your life this could well end up with you being stuck doing something you don’t enjoy for 3 years until you qualify and then having to start from scratch in another department after that. 

Within the smaller firms, what most people find is that they get wider exposure & practical experience within the Accountancy profession – e.g. Audit, Tax, Management Accounts, etc. –  and are able to understand what they like, what they are good at and what they could see themselves forging a long-term career within. 


More Hands On Client Experience 

Typically, if you work within the Big 4 you’ll be working for Large Corporate Clients within a larger team. There are many positives to this sort of exposure, however there are also some drawbacks such as how closely you interact with business owners / senior professionals within that business, and the level of responsibility you personally have when the project is split between 10-20 accountants as opposed to 1 or 2. 

Our candidate explained that in most cases, when they are on-site, they will be the sole representative of their firm. Meaning that they are key point of contact for that business and that alongside gaining a wider skill base – from a wider range or tasks – they are also developing business relationship skills from having to interact with their clients and run the project. 


Work-Life Balance

Whilst we’re not suggesting that any career decisions should solely be made on how much time away from the office you get, it is obviously a very important detail to any job or career. At 15ten15, we believe that balancing work and life is crucial and wanting to have the ability to pursue your passions should not be something that you feel bad about because you ‘need to be at work’ all of the time. 

Our candidate runs off a target of how many billable hours they charge out each month, which is standard practice for the Accountancy Industry. Their performance for the past 12 – 18 months has consistently been at the 98% mark. Meaning that for every hour worked, 98% of those have been performing client services. 

We do however know from our extended candidate reach, that within the Big 4, targets for billable hours can actually extend beyond 100% of your hours worked – one candidate indicating that their target was 125%. To put this into context, that results in actually having to work 5 hours for every 4 hours that you are contracted to work & get paid for each week / month / year. 



Overall, our candidate felt that they had made the right decision in not taking up the offer from 2 of the big 4. Their decision was based on the wider exposure they have received during training – claiming this has actually made them a better accountant overall – and the balance they have managed to find between the office and at home. 

Whilst, at 15ten15, we do not feel that the regional firm route is perfect – going big 4 also has lots of benefits which smaller firms cannot compete with – we do feel that it is in an option which should not be ignored. 

Depending on what you’re looking for from a working environment, the smaller regional route might be a better match for you. It is also important to remember that going through the big 4 channel is not your only chance to become a Qualified Accountant. 


Next Steps

If you are interested in talking with our team about training opportunities in the area within Accountancy & Finance, then please get in touch with 15ten15 on 0113 468 1054, also please register as a candidate at 

For more hints & tips around careers and other areas of life, make sure to subscribe to our mailing list using the form at the top of the page and also to follow @15ten15 on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn. 

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