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 Choosing where to spend your years as a trainee is possibly one of the most important decisions you will make in your career – your articles are the foundation of that career and will ultimately determine the direction you take.

While it may seem obvious that the firms known collectively as the ‘Big 4’ – Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and Ernst & Young (E&Y) – will be top of the list for the employment and career development opportunities they provide, don’t discount what smaller firms or different training environments can offer you. It’s important to weigh up all the options in terms of what each environment can give you to help you reach your individual goals. 

Essentially, writes Cathy Symmonds from CA Financial Appointments, working as a trainee at one of the Big 4 firms means pure audit training with large corporates in a number of industries and a focus on specialising in financial services or commerce. Training in this kind of environment and exposure to these kinds of clients will no doubt assist you if this is the direction you want your career to take - training at a Big 4 firm is a major bonus for your CV for the prestige it offers and may help you secure a good job post-articles.

While you may also get some exposure to larger corporates at a medium-sized firm, you should probably prepare yourself for more non-corporate clients. This isn’t necessarily a disadvantage because working with smaller clients often means you have the opportunity to be more hands-on through the audit process, gaining practical accounting exposure in order to ensure the audit is concluded successfully.

This is also true of small firms – a major advantage of training in a smaller environment is more practical experience earlier on, as well as more flexibility and variety in the type of work you do. Additionally, says Symmonds, the experience gained at small and medium sized firms will prove to be invaluable if you aren’t planning to take the straight CA (SA) route – if, for instance, you are planning to take the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) route, your exposure to smaller, non-corporate clients will stand you in good stead.

Whether you have decided to do your training at one of the Big 4, a medium tier or smaller audit firm, recognise that each environment has its advantages and disadvantages and each will provide you with valuable lessons and skills. It’s up to you what you make of the training environment that you choose and your attitude and approach will determine how successful you ultimately are – regardless of how big or small the company may be.

Epic Discussion

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