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Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!

#1 Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
22/02/2005 13:05


I have recently graduated and have an offer from one of the Big 4 to train as an ACA within the audit department but am feeling increasingly drawn towards consultancy due to the variety offered through the job. However, I have seom reservations about the consultancy game, namely the 'up or out' policy and the fact that I could be sent here there and everywhere with absolutely no social life at all! So I face a dilemma-accountancy would probably be more boring but bearable I guess and consulting clearly offers the most comprehensive career satisfaction. My question is; Can the lifestyle of a consultant be managed to actually hold down family life, relationships, friends outside work etc.. and where could I go after consulting with no professional qualification and five years worth of projects under my belt?

Any advice would be much appreciated on the lifestyle manageability and career options post consultancy.

Thanks in advance Confused Grad

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#2 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
22/02/2005 16:08


In response to your first question, the large consultancies differ greatly in their attitudes to work-life balance. I have worked for Accenture and there is a bit of a "face time" culture whereby you're expected to be in the office unitl a certain time etc. However, I have also worked for Capgemini and found that they really pushed for a work-life balance and accommodated your location preferences where possible. I was home most nights [if I wanted to be!] and had an active social life. So, advice would be to research the companies as they will differ in their stance to work-life balance.

Second, again depending on the company, they may support you doing professional qualifications. I undertook an MSc whilst at Capgemini and they fully supported and paid for it. You could also do an MBA and I'm sure other firms support this. CHeck out the websites and, if you are interviewed, ask questions of them.



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#3 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
22/02/2005 20:39


These are options I am certainly considering K and I think my personal aptitudes and what I will enjoy doing will be more suited to consulting as compared to accountancy. However, I am still reluctant to chase the consultancy line with the risk of being sent to Bangalore ofr six months as an ACN mate of mine has just been! But he loves his work and can't get enough of it so I guess maybe I'm just hesitant with no real justification-at 21 being sent around the world for work can't be a bad thing can it?

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#4 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
24/02/2005 12:18


In most consultancies, work-life balance seems to be much more of an issue for the higher grades (when people start having families and ties). This is the stage that the firms will look to give more balance as it becomes a retention issue. Grads tend to want to travel far more and there is often competition to get on the away jobs. Have a think about what the travel would do to your life and whether you think it is worth it for the experience.

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#5 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
24/02/2005 12:46


You're right in saying that the workload and location in consultancy is less predictable than in accountancy. Training as an accountant doesn't quite offer a 24/7-party lifestyle either, so it really comes down to whether you really want a steady, planned workload (and let's face it, quite boring work). It's a good qualification though, and could prove very useful if you decide to move to consulting or corporate finance later in your career. However, if you're after interesting, varied work with challenging and changing responsibilities, choose consulting. But make sure you choose the right company, since the type of work they do, industry focus and staffing/HR policies are key in determining what it'll be really like day-to-day. I've been in consulting for 3 years now, and have enjoyed a good work/life balance, with almost all project work based in London. The people (both colleagues and clients) are among the most interesting people I've ever met, and add even more variety to the work. To avoid becoming another consulting horror story yourself, just steer clear of Accenture, it's as simple as that ;)

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#6 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
24/02/2005 13:59

The confused grad

Thanks for your responses, it invaluable from my perspective hearing the stories from the trenches rather than news lifted straight from recruitment brochures.

Accountancy is of course a good option and something worthwhile to get hold of in terms of the cv boost and professional qualification but I'm just wondering whether it is the profession for me in the short term and the subsequent value it will add to my cv and employability in the longer term should I move into consulting. The variety offered is something I crave and look forward to and I guess lifestyles are fairly manageable as you guys and girls all seem to manage it ok.

Does anyone have any industry knowledge on the validity of ACA qualifications in consulting and the whether or not it will tie me down to purely financially based consulting later on in life should I take the plunge?

Thanks CG

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#7 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
24/02/2005 15:43


It looks like you are still thoughts concur with other guys who have replied. In our business (been in it for 18yrs) there are two camps. The travel is or is not an issue and you fit your life around it. The crucial thing for you to consider regarding ACA as a qual to help you in Consulting is the fact that you may end up being badged as such and could be limited to particular roles. We all have specialisms, yours could be a lucrative one, you just have to make a choice an go with it, you never know what esle will happen.

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#8 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
24/02/2005 17:29


I agree with mn. ACA is a great qualification to have on your CV. Many consultancies will offer to fund CIMA - some will require you to sit it. ACA is a great advantage if you wish to go from consultancy to financial services. Neither will ever be a disadvantage.

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#9 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
24/02/2005 20:01

The confused grad again

It seems I have been busted!!-am obviously still very undecided yet it has been suggested to me very recently the stories I have concerning being sent here there and everywhere with no life outside of work in a consultancy field were from accountants!! I think consultancy is the way forward, the work seems alot more varied and with post grad study thrown into my early years I guess i wont be at such a loss in years to come if I do consider a more 'home-based' career.

Just out of interest, those of you that are wanting to be at home more with wives, husbands, partners kids etc...., how are you managing that in terms of your workloal and career etc? That's my main worry I guess-you guys are obviously married etc and have a life outside work so do you find your profession impinges on your life outside work etc...?

Thanks again, CG

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#10 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
25/02/2005 01:22


I'm a CPA but into consulting for 7 years. A few comments

1. It's easier for an accountant (eg auditor) to move into consulting than vice versa.

2. Try to get your CPA/CA

3. In the 10 to 15 years' span, if you start off with audit and do well, you make partner. In consulting, very are there for 10 years, they bring in someone 20 years'. But consulting does offer a better exposure and remuneration INITIALLY.

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#11 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
25/02/2005 10:50


CG, Adding to my previous reply, I am a Director in a decent sized national consultancy. Travel and families can work out if you make sure that the medium term balance is covered. The route at the start is not easy because you are not in control of your time as your line manager and your client is. The longer you are in the game, the more managable your time can become as you progress up the ranks. In my experience, providing that your head and heart comes home with you, there should not be a problem. If you, like many of us though, really like the job, it is more difficult to 'be at home'. No easy answers but there can be real job satisfaction in the role ..... families do have a habit of being affected when we are not happy at work.

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#12 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
25/02/2005 17:08

Less Confused Grad

Thanks for you thoughts.

MN-that is my main worry that I might be at home more regularly with accountancy but I might also be pretty cheesed off after a week of doing something I'm hating so it seems to present a trade off between the two. I'm going for consultancy despite my job offer with one of the Big Four-I'm expecting it to be harder to get passed the grad recruitment stages but fingers crossed it'll work out ok and i'll land a role i'm comfortable with. In terms of the travel and being more in control of your time the higher up the consultancy ranks you go-that's somehting I'm happy to hear. Basically as long as it is actully manageable to some degree at the right times of my life then it seems the most rewardig career I can think of!!

Thanks again for you advice,

Less Confused Grad (maybe)

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#13 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
01/03/2005 12:08


Most grads come in, do ACA and get out. It's hard graft and not much fun. In my opinion you're better off doing CIMA/MBA down the line once you know what you want to do. I stumbled into my role in process review work and 2 years down the line am doing Project/Change Management consultancy for one of the big four (and their paying for me to do CIMA on their time).

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#14 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
02/03/2005 10:33

Thought I was less confused

Sounds like you've struck gold-that sounds like its much more up my street!!! What do the ACA grads do post qualification, where do they go?

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#15 Re: Consultant vs accountant!-confused grad!
30/03/2005 14:18


If I was you, I would go for consulting whilst trying to obtain an ACA/Post grad qualification. The reason why I say that is cos consulting is harder to get in than accounting. There is a huge shortage in accounting at the moment so I do not believe it'll be hard for you to get a job with an ACA background. Consulting is definitely more interesting and since you're young, you should be looking for a challenge! You can even move back to the big 4 in their advisory department after a few years if you want a more balanced lifestyle. Consulting will definitely give you more exit opportunities I believe!

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