2 offers.. Can't decide which one to take. Please help!


After applying for countless jobs and getting bout 50 rejections, I now have 2 job offers. 1 from PWC and 1 in a top 30 accountancy firm. I really really really can’t decide which one to go for. They’re both in Audit and Assurance, both doing the ACA. One starts in december and the other in April and there’s a few grand difference in their pay which isnt really significant to affect my decision. I believe at the smaller firm I will get a wider experience, I will get intensive training and support for the ACA and il be taking 2 ACA exams at a time (1 knowledge and 1 application paper), I will work on projects with AIM listed clients, professionals, privates, public, and have opportunities to work in adivosry and tax divisions too, il have the opportunity to travel to see clients all round the country and also a few abroad, and I will be one of 2 or 3 joining for the same posiiton and the same time (and of 6 or 7 aca students)
On the other hand, PWC well its the best accountnacy firm in the world… how can i turn them down after I worked so hard to get it… I don’t want to throw away this amazing and probably once in a life time opportunity away… but i just dnt know if its right for me… I will be one of maybe 30 or 40 people starting at the same time, I’ve heard that PWC have introduced self study and that the first 2 weeks il be at home by myself teaching myself 3 modules for which il have the exams 3 weeks after i’ve joined. I will be working in a single industry for the first 3years specialising, I know i iwll have plenty of opportunities for secondments abroad and other sectors and industries but i don’t know if that will be possible in the first 3 years. Im pretty sure all of my clients will be in london so no travelling around the country… I know in 3/4 years time i would love to work at pwc because i know the opportunities would be endless… but i dnt know if its the best place for me to gain the wider experience and my ACA qualification right now…

I tried making a list of all the pros and cons simiar to what ive done now, but for each point each firm has both negatives and positives to it so I really can’t decide.
Has anyone, or know of anyone who has maybe trained at a small firm then moved to one of the big 4?
does anyone recommend working at PWC over the smaller firm?
or recomment the smaller firm over PWC?
and does anyone know if it would be easier to move from a smaller firm to a bigger firm, or a bigger firm to a smaller firm.
Im in 2 minds about this, because ppl ive spoken to have sed that later on in life you can always move from pwc to a smaller firm if you dont like it, but it’ll be difficult for you to move to pwc. but pwc did say they take on people once they are ACA quailified. and also the top 30 firms ive had interviews and assessments with have said that they don’t take people who have trained at the big 4 because they have no experience and they are so industry specific so they can’t audit every1. so thats why i dont know if it would be easier to move from the bigger to a smaller. anyone have more knowedge and experience regarding this??
any help, insights, recommendations, thought would very much be appreciated because i really am in 2 minds.
Thank you!!


what is the top 30 firm?


i’d rather not say the name because they dont know i’ve got 2 offers… but basically they’re top 20-30 on accountancy age.


I think you should go toPwC. To put it bluntly if you had an offer from Oxford or Cambridge would you turn it down to go to another UK university not even in the top 20 universities (there are 19? in the Russell group). Go for the best.
Some of your “thoughts” on work and study with PwC I think are not entirely accurate and you should talk to a couple of PwC students.


One further comment. All this projection stuff about where you will go afterwards. Very admiarable but no one can predict job mobility when you’ll be qualifying in three years. That’s a heck of a long time in these current times in our economy.
The furthest you need look is training contract for 3 years and get qualified.
Pretty good social life for PwC students too!


I recently got an offer from PwC, and if I was faced with your dilemma I wouldn’t have to think twice - PwC!! But each to their own! As tutor said, don’t think too far into the future - some people don’t even make it through the exams :stuck_out_tongue:


Take it this way:

  • You are hoping to move from the other firm to PwC in the future. Once you have qualified with PwC; you may have the chance to move into Investment Banking or high similar jobs; your CV looks much better with PwC and you are more recognised; that may not be the case with the smaller firm. What is the point with exposure to all those different sectors if you can not utilise that in the future?
    I may be a little biased but this is my view. If you are really interested within financial services; than audit the financial services firms.



I recently had a very similar problem. I ended up choosing the big 4 firm as I felt that I had worked so hard to get it, I couldn’t turn it down. Not only will I get paid more, I will have a better name on my CV that is universally recognised, and i would be starting with a lot of like minded individuals that no doubt would open up many social possibilities, which as I would be moving to the capital would be important. The hard work you may put in at PWC would no doubt be something you look back on as worth it. From people I have spoken to, it is easier to move from big 4 to a smaller firm than the other way around.

I felt that I would always be wondering 'what if…?" if I didn’t train with the best.

Good luck making a decision, I know it’s tough, but remember it’s a good problem to have!


Put it this way, you’ll probably become a more well rounded, better accountant with the mid tier firm. But you cant turn down PwC.


Without a shadow of doubt in my mind I’d definitely say take the PwC offer. The name carries you very far and the role is a lot more flexible than you think. If you are interested in diversifying the jobs you are booked on at PwC, all you have to do is ask and they’ll give it to you.


Thank you for all your views… thats what makes it sooo difficult… because it is PWC, I really dnt want to say no but tbh my main concern is that im worried about the exam structure and support. Due to the new “self-study” technique… and having an intense amount of exams and if I dont pass and fail then i have to get 44% to retake or im fired straight away worries me as I dont want to be fired on just joining… im worried i may be in a bit over my head at pwc. Like you said imiliano, some ppl dont make it thru the exams. thats y pwc recruit a lot of graduates because a lot of ppl fail and get fired or decide they dont like it, and half of them leave once they’ve got their qualification there… that makes me think I may be able to apply when i am qualified?! especially because i wouldnt be able to leave and work for an investment bank or anything till ive qualified… and to be honest im not overly ambitious… as a girl becoming a partner is really really hard… but i do want to become senior manager within 6/7yrs after qualification. not sure if id have more of a chance of doing this at a smaller or bigger firm.
having read my contract and things pwc really does sound amazing… im just worried i might not be able to take the intensity at pwc. i know it wont really be any different at another firms but think smaller firms are perhaps kinder?!
if any1 has any insight as to what it is like to work at PWC, or another mid-tier firm then i would really appreciate your thoughts. and thank you to every1 who has given me their thoughts so far… it is helping me a lot in making this extremely difficult decision.

and breadhead thats one of my main points for choosing pwc if i end up choosing… i worked sooo sooo hard to get in so how can i throw it away… but i dnt know there is just somethng inside me… this little inkling which is saying go for the smaller one. maybe becuase im scared of going for pwc as its something ive just dreamed and never thought i could achieve so i dnt want to fail… maybe i have a feeling that i may not succeed at pwc.

jungle boogie, could u tell me more about the flexibility at pwc. bcos in the interviews i had there the partner and senior manager sed that i’d only be in one industry for the first 3 yrs… once im qualified i have oppo for secondments. do you know what my choices of industrys are that i can work in? is like top tier and mid-tier like an industry choice?

thank you again everybody


u said u wanted to be at pwc in 3-4 yrs…so i dont quite understand why you would turn down an offer when ur getting to be in it NOW! surely being in PWC now will make sure that u r still in pwc after 3-4 yrs (of course if u don get laid off cos of recession or somethin!). u may not get a chance to be in pwc again if u turn it down now…dont worry about passing exams…if u think u will fail exams, theres an equally good chance of ‘failing’ ur assignments at work too, so be positive! Also, u said that the other firm also sponsors ur ACA so doesn’t that mean u can fail there too? As somebody with considerable work experience, i can tell you that brand name makes a HUGE difference on your CV, so my firm advice to you is to go for pwc and work your ass off ! good luck.


OK, well if you are worried about the ‘self study’ (I don’t know whether it’s something that is widely used or not!) then you are perfectly allowed to give PwC graduate recruitment a call and ask them about it. I’m sure they would be able to put you in touch with someone who has recently joined to have a chat too. I’m sure that would be extremely useful.

However, it seems you are quite drawn to the top 30 firm. Firstly, there is no reason that you can’t forge an extremely successful career having trained at a smaller firm. The most important thing is to get qualified. There is no point working your arse off at PwC if you hate every minute of it, it might put you off accountancy for life!

I don’t know how long you have to tell the firms whether or not you are accepting their offers, and I know it may take a while but have you thought about applying to the real mid-tier firms such as BDO Stoy Hayward and Grant Thornton? They are reputed to have a great work-life balance, and are smaller than the Big 4, for that personal feel, but are still huge players in the industry and recognisable names on your CV. Just a thought. If you were to accept PwC, you could still apply for jobs in the meantime and eventually turn them down if you found something you much preferred.

Good luck with your decision, and let us know who you choose!


I wouldn’t worry about whether you can cope with the exams. If pwc think you can and you put in the effort then you can. I also wouldn’t let being a girl bog you down. Alot of partners are men because when they started with pwc there was still some form of sexual discrimination. If you don’t make it an issue it won’t become one. If i was you i would definatley go with pwc in a second but thats just me. You should decide what things are important to you and then really do your homework on how well they are dealt with at each company.

One thing I would say is keep an eye on the long term. If you think going home at 5pm is important with you maybe its worth trying the long hours of pwc and when your qualified you could get a much better 9-5 job than otherwise.

Good luck with your decision and congradulations on your offers


I’ve been following the thread with interest.
You sound like a real worrier. I understand your thoughts. Basically your head says PwC but your heart and more importantly your personal comfort zone is telling you that you think you cannot cope with PwC but you’ll be ok with a smaller firm. It is a confidence thing really.
As someone above said, you have been through the PwC interview process, so in theory they think you are suitable to work for them. Clearly these things are never 100% foolproof and like any job offers sometimes they get it wrong for all sorts of reasons.
Let’s assume they got you right! BUT do you have a history of not coping?
What is your degree in? What University did you go to? Did you cope ok (ie with the normal anxiety that everyone has)with Uni exams and A level exams? Or do you get totally worried and nervous with exams? I ask this because you seem to have decided already that you are not going to cope with accountancy exams.
I know that the PwC April joiners this year sat 6 knowledge exams and 3 application exams by September 9th. Whereas the graduates who started in September this year took three knowledge modules within the first month of joining. They take the next three knowledge modules in December and then the first three application exams in late spring/early summer 2010.
There’s one point to think about. Now, the folks who joined in April had a bit of a tough time but at least the stuff they covered in the first three knowledge modules wasn’t all forgotten when they sat the equivalent topics as application papers. These guys have a break from exams til they sit the other three application exams in March 2010. You should phone and talk to someone in PwC about the exam timetable. But basically you have to do the exams sometime or why bother with this career choice!
Take a look at the exam stats on the ICAEW website. There is a very high pass rate. (There is also a section which gives you a breakdown of degree/subject etc of all graduate trainees- not all numerate or business based) A lot of the students get awful marks to begin with in their online progress tests but they do get to grips with these new (to most of them) topics and practically everyone passes the real exams.
The self study is not in all the subjects. You do not go home and study for three weeks . There is a mixture of college (Kaplan in London) and home study. You are given a very detailed program which tells you which chapters to read before lunch, which after and then you sit online progress tests. Most of the financial accounting knowledge module is taught in college. Tax, law and audit were mainly self study but it is so well structured and timetabled. There are tutors to assist and they will do online tutorials if there is a particular issue that many find difficult.
OK, your small firm does one knowledge and one application subject at a time. That sounds quite sensible, but at some point you’ll have to cover the professional stage (6 knowledege and 6 application exams) in your first year and the advanced stage in years two and three, yes?
PwC and the other big 4 allow two attempts at each exam. How does that compare with your small firm?
You have to understand that a lot of people join the big 4 to get the ACA qualification then move on to industry, banking or whatever. The firms cannot keep on all the graduates who join (think of an organization pyramid shape) and they expect a huge number to leave. During this recession that formula came a bit unstuck as the newly qualifieds weren’t leaving due to lack of jobs “outside”. I don’t think there is a very high graduate dropout rate before qualifying. Ask them.
The comments about small firms not taking on accountants who qualified with the big 4 are frankly not worth listening to. How on earth do they think the big 4 are the big 4???
Here is a question worth looking into. Do you think that the PwC regional offices offer a better variety and challege work wise than PwC London where you’ll mainly be on very large clients?


thank you for all your comments…
I have applied to both Grant Thornton and BDO and have assessment centres with them both, my bdo one is next week but its just that those jobs start in September and I really want a job now, so while i’ve already got 2 perfectly good jobs don’t really want to wait 10months unemployed cos i really do need some money. but thank you anyway… i know that they would be amazing but i just cant really afford to wait, especially when theres no guarantee of a job. Im going to withdraw my applicaitons today infact from them all.

Tutor thank you so so so much for your post. It has been extremely helpful. I am definitely going to call both companies up and ask them some questions because now I have both contracts just want to make sure of a few things before I make my decision. The whole home study thing being structured and oppo for online tutors and things is really good and osmething i didnt realise before.
The small firm works with the HAT group who do the internal training and support for smaller firms, and yes bascially id be doing 4 exams at a time (but learning only 2 topics), and there are 4 different sittings, 4 papers in each apart from the advanced. but i am going to find out when the exams would actually be, cos if each sitting is 2months apart or something then it would be like PWC anyway so wouldnt be anymore advantageous.
I went to Southampton uni and did Maths with Management sciences and got a 2:1, but I do have the tendency to not perfrom very well in exams sometimes even tho im capable of doing the work and i work really hard, sometimes things just go horribly wrong and so thats what worries me a little. I do know at both firms I would ahve to work equally as hard, its just that at pwc i’d be doing 9 exams and at the smaller one i’d be doing either 4 or 8 (which im going to confirm today), at the end of the day i will be qualified withing 3 years at both firms but do i want the stress and pressure of all my exams straightaway, or the less stressed route of qualifying and learning on the job while doing exams.
Im not sure about PWC’s regional offices but I know that deloittes regional offices are not industry specific and therefore do offer a wider experience. Unfortunately i couldnt apply to the pwc regional office because they didnt have an april intake, and I need a job asap.
I am going to speak to both firms today in order to make my final decision… its just tough because literally every single person has been saying PWC and it would be utterly crazy and stupid to not listen to what every single person is saying, and I have started to believe that I would do well at PWC, I would work crazy amounts to succeed and I would love to say “I work at PWC” cos I have always wanted to work there… but there is just this voice in the back of my head and in my heart that keeps sayng the smaller one… like everytime i start thinking yes im going to go with pwc, i dnt feel happy and just keep thinking nooooo the little firm! and when i think of the little firm i do feel happy and how I cant wait to start, and I do still think about pwc and just think am i making the right decision throwing pwc away but its not as strong as the other voice… if you get what i mean?! I dont know i just dnt want to make the worst decision of my life… but i think that in the place that i work, I want to get a lot of knowledge and skills from them but also I want to give a lot of my skills and knowledge to them to make them better, and I dnt think id have the oppo to do that at pwc cos they’re already no1, they cant get any better… u know!? but i know that id be the stupidest person on the world to say no to pwc and so i really really dont want to do that!! i really wish i wasnt in this position… every1 keeps saying its a good position to be in but it really isnt. i honestly cannot stop thinking about it, I havent slept in a week. if it was anyfirm other than pwc then it wouldnt be as hard, but its just because its pwc, how can i throw that away? but deep down inside i think id rather work for the smaller one becuse i think i would be more happy (but then again i dnt know if i would)… soory ive really rambled on!!


WOW!!! Go for the small one… Read the book written by Jan Sramek and Muzaffar Khan (Racing towards excellence); it may help. If you strongly feel you will be happy at the smaller place; go for it. You wold have gone much further with PwC though. All the best with your decision making; let us know what you decide.


Indigo567, now that I see your degree is Maths with Management Science I think you’ll be fine with the ACA exams as your brain is already engaged with numbers. Seriously, the main issue with the ACA exams is the amount of stuff to get through. It comes as a bit of a shock at first but you get used to it and you get into a study routine. You might even find it a breeze, you never know. BUT AND REMEMBER THIS, YOU ONLY NEED 55% TO PASS. Kaplan have a very high pass rate getting through. Something like 85%. You are surely better than 15% of your intake at PwC. With a maths etc degree, YES!! You’ll be fine with computational stuff and I presume that your degree may also have covered some of the other topics in ACA. Have you looked at the ICAEW website to see the subjects? It may be that your degree gives you an exemption in some of the subjects. Explore this too. (I’m thinking maybe of Business & Finance or Management Information )
Stop putting yourself down. You are classic female graduate. Males tend to be far more confident sometimes too confident. There is no reason for you to think you are any less capable than all the other people going to join PwC. You’ll meet some right pl**kers really amd wonder what the heck you worried about.
Oh and one other thing. Right now there are a lot of grads at the big 4 not very busy as work is still slack during this ongoing recession. So it’s not all long hours.





Hi everyone… thank you for all ur comments and views… they have been extremely helpful and has all helped me come to a decision (i think!)
I spoke to both firms yesterday and I realised that PWC’s 4 industries I get a choice from are Bank and Capital markets, Invesment and fund management, Top Tier and Mid Tier. I would love to work in top tier or mid tier as I will be getting an experience of different industries withing hte ftse 100 or smaller corporates. This ticked a big box for PWC as “not getting a wide experience” was one of my main concerns. Also exam structure as you know was another main concern. Having thought id be doing 4 exams (2 topics) at the smaller firm I got my timeline of exams and found that id be doing the 2 knowledge papers in feb and the 2 application papers in sept, so id still ahve to go over and revise it. The exams are very very spread out in the smaller firm, whereby id only be doing 2 exams every 4months, and id be completing my advanced stage exams in dec 2012 (when my 3yr training contract ends). This is good and bad… good in the sense that obv id be getting a lot more client contact early on and its a good mixture between exams and client work, but bad in the sense that im always going to have exams to do and id ahve to revise after work. At least at PWC, even thouhgh it is exam heavy at the beginning, il be part qualified in 1yr and exam qualified in 2yrs, and you know if im not very good at the ACA and its not for me then at least il find out the first few months of joining and can pursue a new career without wasting a yr or 2.
I think I thought the smaller firm would be a lot better than it actually probably will be, and I thought PWC was a lot stricter and less supportive than it actually is.
Also I remembered that when i first started applying… i only applied to audit cos i knew it would be easy to get a job. I acutally wanted to work in Advisory, especially Business restrucutring and recovery, but I got so caught up in all these I forgot about my real objectives and I know at PWC I will definitely get the opportunity to do this, even if it is for a year or 2 on secondment.
I am still scared that i will be fired before i even step foot in the office, but I am going to work extremely hard in order to be successful. Id forgotten that PWC was the one who made me choose a career in accountnacy and the ACA (2 years ago when i first started thinking aobut careers I did their interactive challenge on their website… a virtual week at pwc in assurance, advisory and tax and I loved it and remember thinking PWC is where I want to work… and last year i applied for advisory and didnt pass my interview I was distraught… so I dont know why it has taken me so long to decide, but I dont think i truly believed I had got in. Now I do and i am so proud to say I got an offer from pwc, “I work for PWC”.
it really was a difficult decision to make but I think if I was unhappy at either firm, Id regret it more if the firm I was working at and didnt like was the smaller firm so I think Im going to accept PWC’s offer!
Thank you again to everyone who gave me their time to post their thoughts. I really really do appreciate it and I have listened to what everyone has sed. THANK YOU!