Do all ACA qualifications hold the same weight?


I have been offered a position with McIntyre & Hudson a mid tier firm and currently waiting for a interview after completing my numerical tests for deloitte. However the mid tier firm did appeal to me, but how much more prestigious is a ACA from the big 4 then a mid-tier firm???


But its not like degree level where economics at LSE and Portsmouth vary greatly in difficulty all ACAs are the same across the board.


I disagree to a certain extent - I’ve heard of the ‘Big 4 clone syndrome’. Interesting discussion!


I’ve heard of the ‘Big 4 clone syndrome’

Please elaborate!


What is the Big 4 Clone Syndrome?!

ACA is an exam board - so all ACA qualifications are the same because all tests are standardised.

Think of ACA as like your GCSEs, rather than like a course from a university. Like GCSEs, the exams are the same no matter what school you go to, whereas at university the exams vary from uni to uni.

However… recruiters and employers in the future will certainly pay attention to the firm you worked at when you were studying your ACA. If you were working at PwC when you got your ACA, you are more attractive than a candidate who was working at a far smaller/less well known firm, even if they got an ACA too.


In that if you work in a smaller firm you may get more variety of work whereas in a larger firm you will receive less variety. I’ve heard the same thing said of management consultancy and law firms. I’m surprised no one else has heard of it?


Thinking about it, I wonder if the person who told me came from a smaller firm and had a chip on his shoulder about it!

It’s like the train in-house debate - it depends who you ask on what opinon you get!


I don’t think it’s always harder to get into a Big 4. Some of the smaller firms I’ve seen want even higher A Levels than big 4 and still the same 2:1
Interview wise, yes the Big 4 tend to have a million stages but most small firms do as well. Plus when we say smaller firms cannot compete with the time and money that goes into training are we including mid tier firms which have a compromise or is this simply discussing the opposite ends of the scale?


No I agree though. A big 4 on your CV is always going to stand out especially against small firms that nobody has heard of. Probably now more than ever with potential bankers also applying so the standard is extremely high. Due the current job situation though I would say just to get yourself on a training contract to work towards the ACA qualification is an achievement!


In response to the original query, an ACA is a professional qualification, you do the same syllabus and sit the same exams regardless of which firm you complete it at.

However, there is always a prestige attached to Big 4 and probably rightly so. They generally have tougher academic requirements (although GT, BDO, etc are more or less similar) and the clients they deal will be bigger than other firms (Big 4 firms audit 99 out of the FTSE100).

The actual work experience you get during your audit training will no doubt be more limited than say someone who trained at mid tier or smaller firm. This is because Big 4 need bigger teams for bigger audits and this means that you focus on one miniscule area of that audit. You can however request to work on smaller audits to get more varied experience so this can be mitigated.

There is an argument that some future employers don’t like Big 4 candidates as there experience isn’t as varied, fair play I’m sure this is true in some cases. However overall this is quashed by the number of employers who ONLY look at Big 4 candidates due to, rightly or wrongly, the name on their CV.

Don’t get me wrong though – mid tier has its benefits and generally people who qualify with a Top 10 firm are lumped in the same category as Big 4 anyway. People who qualify at smaller firms will see responsibility a lot earlier than at larger ones. The long and short is an ACA will open doors regardless of where you do it. To be honest if you work hard enough you can get anywhere.