Welcome to the where-the-hell-is-Bahrain? edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today's edition, a future E&Y tax associate wants the lowdown on the black and yellow ladder. How high are these rungs, anyway? Caught in a career conundrum? Have a co-worker that keeps swiping your red Swingline? Want to put the moves on a fellow auditor in the copy room? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help you avoid anything that involves in a knuckle. Back to our girl on the partner track:
Hi, I will be starting in the tax dept of a Big Four soon. How long would it take to move up the tax ladder? (Yes, yes I know your response will be to start first before I start thinking about promotions… But I am thinking ahead…)
What is the minimum number of years typically required at each level? Are exceptions ever made? What goes into promotion decisions? How long would it take to get to the partner/director level? Is the promotion criteria generally standard across all Big Four or is there some variation? Thanks, Ms. Thinking Ahead
Dear Ms TA, You're quite the eager….errr, go-getter aren't you? That's good, I like my accountants ambitious. We're not intimately familiar with the ladder at E&Y but we'll give it a go and let the bean gallery fill in the gaps. Typically, you can expect to be an associate two to three years before being promoted to senior. Depending on the needs of your practice group and your performance, this could be shorter or longer. In order to get the bump to manager, you can expect another three years at a minimum, again, subject to the needs of your group and whether or not you're impressing the pants off the brass. From there, you can expect at least two years at manager, another two to three as a senior manager and then, if you're lucky and you have a good business case, TPTB might start looking at your for admittance to the partnership. Altogether, you're looking at a bare minimum of nine years before you can even get a whiff of partner and twelve to fifteen is probably a more realistic time frame. There are exceptions of course but that's more or less the timeline. Because tax doesn't have the same fee pressure as their audit counterparts the wait might not be as long but don't forget, not just anyone gets into the partnership. You need to be a performer and be able to win new clients. The benefit of tax is that it has more diverse career paths available, so if you find discover that you're a wizard at transfer pricing or M&A, you might see a quicker ascension. This presupposes the fact that you obtain your CPA in a timely fashion as most tax practices will not promote you to manager without a CPA, a JD or EA. How about it black and yellow tax troops? Dispel with the gory details as necessary.