Skip to Main Content
by Derek Loosvelt | September 21, 2010


For nearly the past decade, Vault has released rankings of the top accounting firms in North America, helping students and experienced professionals make more informed career decisions.

When Vault initially began ranking accounting firms, we only ranked firms in terms of prestige—that is, in terms of a firm's reputation as perceived by professionals at other accounting firms. Later, Vault increased its rankings offerings to include "quality of life categories," such as firm culture, compensation, hours, management treatment, diversity, training and business outlook, among others. In these categories, firms were rated by their own professionals, as opposed to those at other companies.

In the past, Vault's main accounting ranking—the ranking featured most prominently on and in our annual Guide to the Top 50 Accounting Firms—was our prestige ranking. This year, though, that has changed.

After asking accounting professionals what matters most to them when choosing an employer, they told us, overwhelmingly, that firm culture, as opposed to prestige, is the most important determining factor. In fact, 36 percent of all accounting professionals we surveyed told us that firm culture was most important, while only 11 percent cited prestige as most important. The other top factors cited by survey respondents were: lifestyle/work-balance (14 percent), location (13 percent), compensation (5 percent) and training opportunities (also 5 percent).

As a result, Vault has taken this feedback and created a new Vault Accounting 50, showcasing the firms that are the Best to Work For—a ranking compiled using the following weighted formula that reflects the issues job seekers care about most:

40 percent prestige
20 percent firm culture
10 overall satisfaction
10 compensation
10 hours
10 business outlook

This new Best to Work For ranking will replace the prestige ranking as the featured ranking on and in the Vault Guide to the Top 50 Accounting Firms.

This doesn't mean, however, that we are doing away with the prestige ranking. We still believe prestige to be a very important measure of a firm's attractiveness to employees, thus the reason prestige makes up 40 percent of our new Best to Work For ranking. In addition, the prestige rankings will still appear prominently on our web site as well as in our annual accounting Guide (and stay tuned: next week, we will unveil our accounting prestige rankings).

And so, without further ado, below are the results of the new Vault Accounting 50:

Our inaugural No. 1 Best to Work For accounting firm is New York-headquartered Deloitte. With a score of 7.538, Deloitte edged out fellow Big Four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which placed No. 2 with a score of 7.410. Rounding out the top five were Rothstein Kass (6.469) at No. 3, Marcum (6.410) at No. 4 and Dixon Hughes (6.267) at No. 5.

Why Deloitte was No. 1

The battle between Deloitte and PwC was a fierce one: Deloitte handily beat PwC in the areas of overall satisfaction, hours and compensation, but PwC edged out Deloitte in prestige, culture and business outlook. What ultimately made the difference between No. 1 and No. 2 was the margin by which Deloitte topped PricewaterhouseCoopers in the categories in which it bested its rival. Deloitte scored more than one-half point higher than PwC in satisfaction, hours and compensation; meanwhile, PwC scored less than two-tenths of a point higher than Deloitte in prestige, firm culture and business outlook.

Almost unanimously, professionals outside Deloitte say it's a "very prestigious," "top of the line" accounting firm filled with "good people" who have a "strong reputation for excellence." Insiders at the firm are equally as complimentary, and many point to Deloitte's commitment to training as its best asset. "I believe this is one of the greatest perks about Deloitte," says one firm insider. "We have amazing training opportunities. We're even building Deloitte University, which will be the only facility of its type among the big firms.”

Deloitte staff also like that they're "constantly exposed to different things and learn something new every day," and believe that manager/staff relations are extremely cordial. "Most managers and senior professionals treat junior staff and consultants very well," notes one Deloitte insider. "I've never felt like I couldn’t have candid conversations with the partners, and I feel that I have a very strong relationship with my staff.”

There is one thing, though, that outsiders and insiders alike don't rave about when speaking of Deloitte: the hours. That is, the firm is said to "overwork its employees," and working there is thought to be a "grind."  Insiders aren't all that surprised that hours are long. “I know that the long hours come with the job," says one Deloitte staff member, but "working long hours all the time gets old. Sometimes it’s hard to take time off.”

Overall, Deloitte insiders are rather pleased with their jobs. Speaking about her satisfaction, one staff member says, “I’ve transferred positions within the firm, which was, essentially, taking on a new job. I’ve enjoyed the transfer, and I’m definitely satisfied with the firm’s ability to grow with my career.”

No. 2 PwC

Regarding PwC's firm culture, one insider says, “The firm adheres to a work-hard, play-hard mentality. My office is a close-knit group and enjoys spending time together during non-work hours. On the job we have an open-door policy where ideas and thoughts are freely shared. Our partner has made it clear that anyone can reach out to him regarding anything.”

No. 3 Rothstein Kass

Here's one RK insider on his overall job satisfaction: "The people within the firm make it an easy place to come to on a daily basis. For the most part, everyone gets along very well, and most people enjoy spending time with other employees outside of the work environment. Although public accounting can be stressful at times, the people here make all the difference.”

No. 4 Marcum

An insider on comp: “Marcum pays at the higher end of the pay scale. Compensation is extremely competitive.”

No. 5 Dixon Hughes

One of the firm's accountants on Dixon Hughes' business outlook: “We're in a unique position as a regional firm. We're big enough and talented enough to compete with Big Four firms for clients, but are also small enough to compete with some of the regional firms for clients. Our business outlook is good, and we're looking forward to the things to come.”

Check out the rest of the firms ranked in the Vault Accounting 50.


Filed Under: Finance
Subscribe to the Vault

Be the first to read new articles and get updates from the Vault team.