Top 50 Accounting Firms To Work For In 2021

It’s a sign of the times. In its latest ranking of top accounting firms, Vault, a leading collector of market intelligence for employer ratings and reviews, has added information from firms on how they’re responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcements include new initiatives such as remote-work policies, virtual interview policies, and new internship and full-time hiring policies. As we know from Poets&Quants‘ reporting, dozens of firms that are top employers of MBAs have frozen hiring and rescinded offers. At the top of Vault’s 2021 accounting ranking, released today (April 14), PricewaterhouseCoopers — named the No. 1 firm for the eighth year in a row — had more to say on the subject than any other company.

PwC “has been an active corporate responder in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company’s sponsored pandemic proclamation reads. “In addition to the PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc.’s help to support local communities through charitable grants, PwC US leadership continues to be vocal about prioritizing foremost the health and safety of its people.

“As a result of PwC’s multi-year journey of helping to build a culture of flexibility and investing in the digital upskilling of its people, the firm was able to pivot quickly in response to COVID-19, enabling its entire workforce to collaborate and work remotely. This speed of response and early preparedness allowed PwC, almost seamlessly, to continue addressing client concerns and community needs, while also reinforcing its commitment to its people in various ways (such as offering enhanced benefits during this unprecedented time).”

Following PwC in the 2021 Vault accounting ranking are, in order, Deloitte, KPMG, BDO USA, and Plante Moran. Rounding out the top 10 are Baker Tilly, RSM, Moss Adams, CohnReznick, and Friedman.

(What are the top business schools for accounting? See How The U.S. News Top 50 B-Schools Rank By Specialization.)


Every year, Vault asks more than 10,000 accounting professionals to rate their own firms in various Quality of Life Categories (such as Firm Culture, Hours, Compensation, and Work/Life Balance); they also are asked to rate their peer firms in terms of Prestige — though accountants cannot rate their own firms and are asked to only rate those firms with which they were familiar. The Vault Accounting 50 is compiled using a weighted formula based on the following: 35% Prestige, 20% Firm Culture, 10% Satisfaction, 10% Compensation, 10% Work/Life Balance, 5% Business Outlook, 5% Formal Training, and 5% Informal Training.

It’s no surprise that the two firms ranked highest in Quality of Life are also among the most public about their plans for dealing with the pandemic. No. 5 Plante & Moran, a Michigan-based firm, and No. 11 Schellman & Co., a Tampa, Florida-based company, have launched task forces, closed offices nationally and internationally, restricted travel and fieldwork, and generally been models of “employee-first” corporate behavior.

Plante Moran rose three places to No. 5 thanks to its strong showing in the Quality of Life Rankings. The firm ranks No. 1 in Business Outlook, Hours, Travel Requirements, Vacation Policies, and Work/Life Balance, and No. 2 in Benefits, Client Interaction, Culture, Informal Training, Promotion Policies, and Overall Satisfaction. Peer accountants say Plante Moran is a “very good technical firm,” with a “great culture.” No surprise then that Plante Moran would be so aggressive in addressing COVID-19, assembling a pandemic task force of leaders across the firm to monitor, address, and mitigate risks presented by the virus. “Before states began enacting stay-in-place mandates, the firm closed its domestic and international offices and pivoted to working remotely to protect its staff and clients.”

Schellman, a newcomer to the Vault survey and ranking, is another big winner in Quality of Life, landing No. 1 in Benefits, Client Interaction, Compensation, Culture, Firm Leadership, Hiring Process, Internal Mobility, Relationships with Supervisors, and Overall Satisfaction; and No. 2 in Business Outlook and CSR Initiatives. Schellman also sweeps the Diversity Rankings, ranking No. 1 in Overall Diversity, Female Diversity, Minority Diversity, and LGBTQ Diversity. Schellman insiders tell us that the firm has a “team-oriented culture,” with “smart, motivated, friendly coworkers.” Among the best aspects of working for the firm are the “compensation and benefits,” and “training and client engagement opportunities.” Addressing coronavirus, the company “has placed the highest priority on the welfare of all team members, while providing continued and uninterrupted services to our clients.” Travel and on-site fieldwork for service delivery teams are restricted through June 30, and “all large office gatherings, learning and development activities, and community service and volunteer activities at Schellman have been moved to virtual platforms or deferred until a later time.”


PwC maintained its No. 1 ranking this year on the strength of being the top-ranked firm in Prestige and in all three Practice Areas (Audit & Assurance, Tax, and Forensic Accounting), as well as No. 2 in three Diversity categories: Overall Diversity, Minority Diversity, and LGBTQ Diversity. Deloitte, a fellow Big 4 firm, ranks No. 2 in both the Accounting 50 and Prestige, and takes the No. 2 spot in the Formal Training category. KPMG ranks No. 3 in the Accounting 50 and No. 1 in Formal Training.

Accountants at peer firms say that PwC is the “most prestigious Big 4,” “innovative and impressive,” and the “clear-cut global leader in knowledge and technology.” PwC insiders, meanwhile, appreciate “working with very intelligent, ambitious, talented coworkers — the caliber of people at PwC is unsurpassed in the industry,” and also cheer the firm’s schedule flexibility and work/life balance, saying they get to work with “great clients” and are treated to “a lot of training and growth opportunities.” At PwC, says one, “you work with the best companies in the world.”

“PwC dominates our rankings yet again,” Vault Senior Finance Editor Derek Loosvelt says. “The firm doesn’t rest on its laurels. Along with continuing to land the biggest, most complex clients, PwC has become the leader in training its staff in AI and other innovative technology. It has an excellent ‘Digital Upskilling’ program for its staff, and continues to improve its diversity and inclusion initiatives. There’s little doubt that PwC is the solid number-one firm in the accounting industry.”

The firm that rose the highest in this year’s Vault Accounting 50 ranking: Grassi & Co., one of the 100 largest tax, accounting, and business advisory firms in the U.S., rose from 46th to 20th, while BPM, one of the 50 largest public accounting and advisory firms, rose from 48th to 22nd. Besides Schellman, two other firms went from unranked to the top 25: Aprio appeared at No. 19 and Frazier & Deeter LLC appeared at No. 24. Both are based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The biggest drop was Grant Thornton LLP, the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd., which fell from No. 4 all the way down to No. 30.

Vault’s Accounting Quality of Life Rankings Winners:

Benefits: Schellman & Co.
Business Outlook: Plante Moran
Client Interaction: Schellman & Co.
Compensation: Schellman & Co.
CSR Initiatives: Brown Smith Wallace
Culture: Schellman & Co.
Diversity (Overall): Schellman & Co.
Diversity (Minorities): Schellman & Co.
Diversity (Women): Schellman & Co.
Diversity (LGBTQ): Schellman & Co.
Firm Leadership: Schellman & Co.
Formal Training: KPMG
Hiring Process: Schellman & Co.
Hours: Plante Moran
Informal Training: Frank, Rimerman + Co.
Internal Mobility: Schellman & Co.
Promotion Policies: PKF O’Connor Davies
Relationships with Supervisors: Schellman & Co.
Satisfaction: Schellman & Co.
Travel Requirements: Plante Moran
Vacation Policies: Plante Moran
Work/Life Balance: Plante Moran

Vault’s Accounting Practice Area Rankings Winners:

Audit & Assurance Accounting: PwC
Tax Accounting: PwC
Forensic Accounting: PwC

See the next pages for the Vault Top 50 Accounting Firms To Work For In 2021.

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