Father: “When you walk down the street, when you’re in the shower, when you don’t have to be thinking about anything else, isn’t [accounting] what you think about?”
Son recollects: “My father paused. It was really a very tender and poignant moment, because I knew how much he loved me and how much he wanted me to be a [an accountant]."
Father: "[Son], I think you’d better get out of [accounting]. You ought to find something that you love so much that when you don’t have to think about anything, that’s what you think about.’ ”
Son followed his father's advice, switched his profession and became happy. This is a true story.
Federal executive branch: $84,520
Local government: $56,160
State government: $52,560
The starting salary of junior accountants and auditors with the federal government was $28,862 in 2007. Those who performed well in school were sometimes paid $35,752, while new hires with a master's degree or two years of professional experience usually began at $43,731. In regions where salaries are generally higher, the government sometimes pays more.
Position Information: Full-Time Permanent
Accounting Degree or a degree with 24 semester hours in accounting (See Qualifications)
At least one year of professional accounting experience equivalent to the GS-9 level in the Federal service.
You will focus primarily on accounting for monies received and disbursed through the three ABMC managed trust funds. Your duties will include:
Or maybe you want to work for NASA:
Department: US National Aeronautics & Space Administration
Agency: NASA Inspector General
Sub Agency: Office of Audits, Financial and Institutional Management Directorate Job
Announcement Number: IG09B0061
Job Title: Supervisory Auditor
Salary Range: 98,599.00 - 128,184.00 USD /year
Series & Grade: GS-0511-14
Open Period: Monday, August 31, 2009 to Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Position Information: Full-Time Permanent appointment
Duty Locations: Cleveland Metro area
Job Summary: The NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) serves as an independent audit and investigative organization. We conduct objective oversight of NASA programs and operations and independently report to the Administrator, Congress, and the public to further the Agency's accomplishment of its mission. The OIG consists of approximately 200 auditors, analysts, specialists, investigators, attorneys and support staff at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, and NASA Centers throughout the U.S.
Key Requirements: Position subject to pre-employment background investigation
Occasional travel may be required
Selectee must complete a financial disclosure statement
A one-year probationary period may be required
Selectee must be able to obtain and maintain SECRET security clearance.
Major Duties: Incumbent will serve as a project manager with responsibility of planning, developing, and directing broad and complex nationwide audits, reviews or surveys that have special impact on programs of national significance to NASA and other Federal government agencies, such as directing quality assessment reviews or studies that address the development, acquisition, and deployment of major systems. Manages special assignments, such as management or program reviews of unusual complexity, sensitivity, or significant national interest. Develops audit programs and plans, including functional responsibilities; specific project assignments; and audit objectives and requirements. Assesses matters such as overall effectiveness and efficiency; compliance with established policies, procedures, and government standards; and accomplishment of intended goals and objectives. Performs comprehensive analyses of overall operations in situations where decisions are complicated by the diversity of functional programs and operations, and conflicting requirements. Evaluates the quality of written documents such as audit reports and supporting working papers. Provides assistance during audit follow-up to monitor the resolution of audit recommendations. As a supervisor, incumbent will be responsible for providing technical requirements and descriptions of work to be accomplished; plan and establish the work schedules, deadlines, and standards for acceptable work; track progress and quality of performance and arrange for subordinates to conduct required inspections and decide the acceptability, rejection, or correction of work performed.; responsible for planning, assigning, and evaluating work to be accomplished; advice, counsel and or instruct the subordinate on both work and administrative matters; and hear and resolve complaints, effect minor disciplinary measures and identify developmental and training needs. The incumbent is responsible for furthering the goals of equal employment opportunity and diversity by taking positive steps to support the accomplishment of affirmative action objectives and by adhering to nondiscriminatory employment practices in all areas under his/her supervision.
This is an attractive option for those who don't like being a small fish in a big pond:
And would rather be a big fish in a small pond:
But before you jump ponds, be aware of what you are getting into. Talk to people who have done it recently -- especially those at the firm you are going to. We know one guy who jumped from big pond to little pond and about drowned in the middle of the first busy season. Here are the lessons we learned:
Big Four Big Pond v. Little Firm Little Pond
1. Pay curve. Until you become the biggest fish in the little pond, you are not going to eat very well. The salary curve for little ponds starts lower and has a very flat slope for several years, and a high risk of the curve never getting any steeper. On the other hand, for the aggressive fish in the little pond, if you can build up your own book of business you can surpass your big pond fish in salary in not too many years. As always, lots of variables. Investigate your little pond carefully before making the jump. Look at when the principals will most likely retire and how easy it would be for you to take over their book of business.
2. Hours Control. While not always true, you generally have more control over your hours in a Big Pond because there are more fish who can help you out in a squeeze and better time management tools. If you are one of the only fish in the little pond, however, you can easily find yourself underwater and unable to turn down work. The fish we know that jumped into a little pond got killed his first busy season and was working far more hours than he had been the previous season when he was a senior at KPMG. But the advantage with little ponds is that you can sometimes work out an agreement with the principals for a fixed number of hours -- not always the case, but more likely than at the big ponds.
3. Cool Clients. One of the bonuses of being in a Big Pond are the Big clients. While the work is not glamorous, it sure sounds glamorous to your friends when you tell them the names of the big sexy clients for whom you are working. At least it sounds a lot better than the little pond clients like Al's Muffler.
4. Jumping Back to Big Pond. Once you jump out of the big pond and get acclimated to the little pond, it's tough to jump back to the big pond later on. Not impossible, but tough. The other problem is your resume if you try and jump out of the little pond a few years down the road. To most employers (especially snobby ones like public companies), five years in the Big Pond usually looks better on a resume than two years in the Big Pond and three years in the Little Pond.
Lawyer office (note the large volumes of boxes and papers everywhere -- we'll get to that later):
Please chime in with your own observations . . .
Have you ever been asked to work on a firm holiday, a scheduled vacation, or until 5 in the morning FOR NO GOOD REASON? It's one thing for a professional, such as an accountant, to work long hours when a particular project requires it. It's a completely different thing, however, to be forced to work at absurd hours simply because a particular manager requires it.
We've received several complaints along these lines.
Shoemaker's Elves Manager. The manager who expects all of her staff to work like the shoemaker's elves and wait around all day during normal business hours to finally be given the project at 10 PM with the expectation that they slave away all night and finish the project by 9 AM the next morning -- while the manager is snoring away at home in a comfy bed.
Lonely Insomniac Manager. This is the manager that works all night with no real impending deadlines and expects all of her staff to stay up with her.
Hangover Manager. This manager waltzes into the office every day at noon to begin the workday and does not get around to doling out assignments until everyone is just about to shut down their laptops for the day.
Let us know about any other managers we are forgetting.
Such managers are not only a good way to drive away bright accountants who can easily get a job elsewhere, but also may expose the firm to liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The general elements of a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress are:
- Defendant acted intentionally or recklessly;
- Defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous;
- Defendant’s act is the cause of the distress; and
- Plaintiff suffers severe emotional distress as a result of defendant’s conduct.
Under these elements, it seems that some staff accountants might have a decent chance for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress by alleging:
-- The manager acted intentionally because she knew there was not an impending deadline but required the staff to work absurd hours anyway
-- The manager's conduct was extreme because she knew she was subjecting staff to extreme sleep deprivation and long hours without just cause
-- The manager's conduct caused the staff to be deprived of sleep and to work long hours, thereby subjecting staff to emotional, mental, and physical distress resulting in
- severe headaches
- back and spinal injuries or other permanent physical trauma from sitting at a laptop for more than 15 hours for several consecutive days
- weakened circulatory system from lack of aerobic exercise
- increased mortality
- divorce or aother inability to maintain healthy relationships
- decreased mental capacity
- increased suseptibility to accidents causing personal injury
- staff having to resign to maintain their health
Any other types of distress we are forgetting here?
I heard from a working mother accountant yesterday. She works at Ernst & Young and has wonderful things to say about EY's treatment of working mothers. Just to give you a taste of how flexible EY was with maternity leave -- when she told them that she had decided to quit the firm rather than go on maternity leave because she wanted to take more time off to spend with her newborn than the existing maternity leave schedule permitted, the firm said, "Don't quit. Just take an extended leave of absence for a year and come back then."
So she did. She took a year off. Of course she did not get paid a salary after the normal maternity leave time period expired. But she was able to keep her low-premium medical benefits during this time so long as she paid the premium -- which was a great benefit.
When she returned after her time off, she worked out a reduced work schedule with the firm for reduced pay. Though difficult, the managing partner and other partners are very supportive in helping her stick to the reduced schedule. Hats off to EY for such great treatment of working mothers.
But despite the great efforts of the firm and its partners to accommodate working mothers, being a part-time working mother takes a serious tax on the enjoyment that a working mother would hope to get from her career. Here's a list of some big concerns:
1. Mid-level management. While the managing partner and other office partners are supportive of the working mother's reduced work schedule. Senior staff and managers just don't seem to get it. When they watch the working mother shut down her laptop and leave the office while it is still daylight outside (to go retrieve her toddler from day care) they stare and feel like she is playing hookie -- even though she is getting paid far less than the full-time workers. They see her leave early. They don't see the small pay check (which is barely enough to cover day care expenses). And they judge.
Often times, managers and seniors come to the working mother just as she is about to leave the office and say they need her to take care of something before she goes. They don't get it. Kids have to be picked up from day care by the close of business or you are in big trouble. There is little or no flexibility here.
A similar event occurs when the seniors and managers ask the working mother to come in to the office on the day that they know is her day-off. It is not like she spends her day-off alone sipping lemonade on the beach while reading Twilight. That's the day she does the laundry, cleans the house, and tries to spend some time with her child. And her day off is also the day care lady's day off. What is she supposed to do with the poor child if she can't take him to day care? Leave him with the creepy old man next door?
2. Lower Review Scores. Because the working mother is giving baths and cleaning up cheerios off the kitchen floor, or hunched over her laptop in a make-shift home cubicle, and not at the office in view of other team members on those late late nights, the team does not see the working mother as an equal contributor to the effort. Come review time, the very high review scores that the working mother used to get are reduced to just "average" because the review committee can't justify giving her higher scores when she didn't put in as many hours at the office as the other accountants at her level.
3. No Over Time Pay. The working mother tells me that if she goes far beyond her normally scheduled hours, she doesn't get any overtime pay. That does not make sense, as I know other working women on reduced schedule at other firms who do get overtime pay. Part time mothers are part time because the remainder of their schedule is spent taking care of children and is inflexible. If working mothers are forced to put their kids in day care longer so that they can work longer hours in the office, they should be compensated accordingly in order to cover the costs of day care.
4. Short-Term Deadlines. Most projects in the accounting world have a very short deadline. A 30-hour project often cannot be spread over the course of a working mother's 30-hour work week. The managers and seniors want it done in two days. The problem is that children's schedules are not real flexible. They need someone to feed them, bathe them, change them, and sing them to sleep every night, not just once every three or four nights. Consequently, short-term projects are killer on the working mother, who ends up staying up until 4 AM time and time again just to take care of simple projects with very short deadlines.
Anyone have any tips or advice to help our working mother?
A: Sitting in a cubicle hunched over laptop staring at glaring white spreadsheets in dim light for 18 hours every day for years on end -- and not getting paid for it!
There are currently a number of class action lawsuits pending against the Big 4 relating to the firms' practice of not paying overtime wages to junior-level accountants. For example, several lawsuits pending against E&Y in California allege that E&Y is inviolation of California overtime wage and break period laws. The cases have been consolidated before Judge Jeremey Fogel in the Northern District of California. (If you have a Pacer login, see Case No. 05-04867-JF.) Here are excerpts from the operative complaint in one of the actions:
During all times relevant herein, the class members supported the business of Defendant by working under the direction of their superiors, the managers and partners of the defendant. Such work involved the class members assisting their superiors in the production of the products and services provided by the defendant’s business to its customers. The great majority of such work by the class members included, but was not limited to, secretarial, clerical, and data entry support work, including filing papers, organizing and assembling documents, taking notes of meetings, entering spreadsheet data and formatting spreadsheets, and similar tasks requiring very little or no exercise of independent judgment or discretion or any advanced professional degree or license or the prior completion of any extended course of academic or technical studies in any art or science.
Defendant compensated the named plaintiffs and the class members on a “salary only” basis whereby the named plaintiffs and the class members were paid a fixed salary for all hours worked during each week.
At all relevant times, the named plaintiffs and theplaintiff class members were required to work in excess of eight hours during the workday and in excess of 40 hours during the workweek and/or worked more than six consecutive days in a workweek.
During all relevant times the Wage Order No. 4 of the California Industrial Welfare Commission provided that “...nonexempt employees must be paid an overtime premium for all hours worked in excess of eight during the workday and in excess of 40 during the workweek, as well as for work performed on the seventh workday in a work week....”
Although the named plaintiffs and the plaintiff class members worked overtime as that term was defined in the relevant wage orders, Defendant failed and refused to pay the legally required state overtime premiums.
Throughout the above-described period Defendant repeatedly misrepresented to the members of the plaintiff class and the general public that the plaintiffs were “professional” or other sorts of employees exempt from the overtime laws of the State of California, the defendant also failing to require or have the class members take specified paid and/or unpaid meal and rest breaks as required by California law and did not pay the class members an hour of additional wages per day for such unreceived break time, as required by California law.
This misrepresentation and omission by the defendant gave defendant a competitive advantage over other employers who legitimately paid their workers the proper overtime wages and other wages required by California law and who also gave the employees the meal and rest breaks required by California law or the additional wages required by California law in lieu thereof.
Although the plaintiffs and the class members regularlyworked for amounts of time each day that would entitle them to the paid and unpaid rest and meal breaks provided for under California Labor Code Section 226.7 they often did not receive such daily rest and meal breaks and they did not receive one hour of additional pay on the days they did not receive such breaks.
For more information, you can contact the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in these actions:
Mark R. Thierman
Thierman Law Firm P.C.
7287 Lakeside Drive Reno, NV 89511
775/284-1500 Fax: 775-703-5029
Arthur William Lazear
Hoffman & Lazear
180 Grand Avenue, Suite 1550 Oakland, CA 94612
Folkenflik & McGerity
1500 Broadway 21st Floor New York, NY 10036 212-757-0400
Ross L. Libenson , Esq.
Law Offices Ross L. Libenson
180 Grand Avenue, Suite 1550 Oakland, CA 94612
510-763-5700 Fax: 510-835-1311
If you are an unhappy accountant at one of the Big 4 or another big accounting firm, Angry Accountants is the place for you. Non-partner accountants at the big accounting firms have been exploited for decades: long hours, high stress, infliction of emotional and physical distress, low low compensation, and no overtime pay. Angry Accountants is a place to post information about salaries, benefits, working conditions, policies, required hours, and any other information you have about your firm and your position that makes you unhappy. Send the information to us at AngryAccountants@gmail.com and, if appropriate, will write a post about it and protect your anonymity.
What's the purpose of Angry Accountants? It is not just a forum to vent your frustrations. While being able to vent is a healthy benefit, the primary purpose of Angry Accountants is to quickly disseminate information about what is going on at the big accounting firms to the accountant masses around the nation and around the world. Why? Information is power. Information like that shared on Angry Accountants is why your friends who went to law school are making four times as much as you at big law firms while working the same hours.
Let's back up a decade or two. In the mid-1990s, angry associates at big law firms, who like accountants had been oppressed and exploited by firm partners, started venting their frustrations on the internet. Those sites quickly gained popularity, and large amounts of information regarding salaries, hiring practices, etc., normally kept confidential by big law firms, became public knowledge. Read about it HERE. The publication of this information forced big law firms to take steps to appease their associates, for fear if they offended the law firm associate masses, they would lose the ability to compete with other big law firms to recruit the best and the brightest attorneys. The result? Law firm associate salaries and benefits began to sky rocket until they leveled out at a the much higher fair market value.
If you feel like you are not being compensated at fair market value for your services, write about it here anonymously or send it to us at AngryAccounts@gmail.com. Then, sit back and wait as the economics of an increase in information in the marketplace work in your favor to force the big accounting firms to pay fair market value.