My first post, but this topic is relevant to me - I'm a Senior Associate in audit for one of the Big 4 firms. I haven't read through the entire thread, but I'd like to make one important observation: Audit and Tax positions at a public accounting firm are COMPLETELY different than an accounting position in the industry. The work product, culture, personalities and expectations are just not comparable.
My clients are primarily in the asset management industry with a couple real estate jobs mixed in throughout the year. I've been able to audit some of the largest mutual funds and hedge funds around and the opportunity to learn is limitless, even though sometimes the work itself may be boring. It's really up to yourself to take away as much as you can from the experience. I personally enjoy my job enough to continue with it thus far, but its mainly because of the clients I work on. If I was stuck auditing manufacturing or insurance clients I may have quit a long time ago. It just depends.
There are many ways to make 6 figures and public accounting is definitely one of those ways, plus the job security is pretty crucial. If you have senior associate experience at a big 4, you should be able to land a decent paying job when times are tough, and you can snag a great job when the economy is on the up.
That being said, I am looking to transition out of audit, but to stay within professional services. My aim is an advisory or consulting position within the big 4 or similar consulting firm such as Accenture, Booze Allen, etc. I'm a CPA and CFE, and have taken the lsat's but have decided against pursing it further. I'm currently researching MBA programs as well.
I'm more than happy to answer any questions you guys may have. From what I can tell there are a lot of younger people on this board who are about to enter the workforce, so I may have some insight for you guys.
Take care, all, and excuse any spelling/grammar errors.