Bit of a bump, but I feel I have something to contribute to this thread. I graduated with my accounting degree having done a tax season internship my junior with a Sole practitioner CPA near Atlanta. I, like everyone else, wanted to go big 4, but several factors steered me away. Two big ones: -My friends were interning with much larger firms than my own and were absolutely miserable, even with the courting and pleasantries that a lot of these firms heaped on them. Not knocking the big firms, but these people didn't really learn much. My friend working for a big local in atlanta spent his entire internship auditing accounts receivable and cash accounts for a client. He was ready to switch majors by the end of it. I, on the other hand, worked that same semester with aforementioned sole practitioner. I kept the books on the regular for several clients, did almost every type of tax return, got a little client interaction, and I had an office with a desk and everything. I felt like I learned a ton in 4 months. -Additionally, my Dad was also a CPA who moved into industry around age 30. He worked for PriceWaterhouse (before it was PwC) for a couple years out of college before moving on to a smaller firm, and finally buying his own practice at age 26-27ish (had worked there awhile). He sold it 5 or so years later after being offer an executive level position at a big national paper company. He STRONGLY advised me against going for a big firm if I really wanted to be an accountant. He personally licked envelopes and did very basic accounting work for a year and 1/2 (and he had stellar grades) before moving to a firm with about 15 partners, where he was much happier. So, I took this advice and I now work for a 3 person firm (One CPA, one other staff guy my age, and me.). I initially worked as a property accountant for a capital fund for about 3 months after graduating but it was a startup and it went belly up quite quickly (Owner was much much too leveraged etc etc). I didn't want to start in private but it seemed dumb to turn down the job, and it all looked very promising. In any case I learned a ton in those three months (no prior accounting system for these properties, had a very experienced CPA as our CFO and boss, so it was intense...I had to learn fast). I got a great reference from my boss there and it got me a job in public, where I felt I really belonged. My job now is not exactly ridiculously exciting day to day, but I really like it a lot. The environment is very cool and I feel like I'm setting myself up for a great future, whether I stick with my current place or move on to bigger things (which you can do quite easily). The chance to help small business owners figure out their finances and make money just makes me feel like I'm doing what accountants are meant to do. You have to remember that, as a CPA, you essentially speak a language that few members of the public do, so you're invaluable to a business owner as you speak that language as well as theirs. You can put that to much better use and probably be much happier in your job at a smaller firm ultimately. If I were a business owner hiring an accountant, I'd rather see "Johnathan Doe & Associates CPAs" than PwC on a resume. It tells me this guy got his hands dirty and really put to use what he's learned. He's probably dealt with clients and if he's dressed well, then he's probably a slam dunk right off the bat. CLIFF NOTES: Big4 firms are great and they look good on your resume, but I think one can become a better accountant in a more individualized environment, and that will always be better for your career.