For nearly a decade, Vault has been ranking accounting firms in terms of prestige. This year, in our annual Accounting Survey, conducted from April through June, over 2,200 accounting professionals were asked to assess their peer firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on prestige—they were unable to rate their own firm, and were asked to rate only firms with which they were familiar. And for the second straight year, industry insiders named PricewaterhouseCoopers the most prestigious accounting firm in North America. In fact, the top five spots were unchanged from last year's rankings.
With a score of 8.408, PwC outdistanced fellow Big Four firms Ernst & Young (the No. 2 firm in prestige, with a score of 8.278), Deloitte (No. 3, 8.222) and KPMG (No. 4, 7.732). The highest ranking non-Big Four firm was again Grant Thornton, which took the No. 5 spot with a score of 6.817.
According to surveyed professionals outside PwC, the firm is the "best company of the Big Four in terms of benefits and employee morale." It's also "well respected," has a "favorable public perception" and a "great culture," and "offers many opportunities" for its staff. Meanwhile, Ernst & Young, the No. 2 firm for the second year in a row, is said to be the "industry leader," have "the best talent" and possess a "hardworking," "intelligent," "classy" staff.
The big mover this year among the top 10 was BDO Seidman ("a good mid-tier firm, growing in size and market share"), which leaped three spots from No. 9 to No. 6. Further down the rankings, Clifton Gunderson (a "solid regional") made a strong move, jumping seven places from No. 19 to No. 12; and Reznick Group ("the 'fun accountants,' as opposed to the stereotypical nerdy accountants") climbed six places from No. 22 to No. 16.
Other significant climbs were made by Dixon Hughes ("big down South"), which rose four spots to No. 21; Novogradac ("a large competitor in the real estate auditing business"), which jumped four places to No. 25; and CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman ("a large, solid firm"), which moved up three spots to No. 23.
The biggest drop in the top 25 came from LarsonAllen ("good firm but lacks work/life balance"), which fell eight places to No. 22. Other significant falls came from Amper Politziner & Mattia ("a strong competitor" with a "poor working environment"), which slid seven spots to No. 20; and Cherry Bekaert & Holland ("known in the Southeast, yet not considered a competitive firm"), which fell four places to No. 19.
Check out the complete 2011 Vault Accounting Prestige Rankings.