Consulting firms are segmented into different tiers. There are the MBB strategy firms (McKinsey, Bain, and BCG), considered the most prestigious consulting firms. In addition, there are the Big Four firms (Deloitte, EY, PwC, and KPMG). These get their designation from being the four largest global accounting firms. These firms have largely diversified their services over time and now work in related fields, including consulting, which is by far their most profitable line of business.
Within the Big 4 firms, Deloitte is generally considered to be the most prestigious and KPMG the least prestigious. PwC and EY are at a similar level of prestige. Both PwC and EY offer strategy and operations consulting services, with the firms using acquisitions to bolster their strategy offerings. Specifically, PwC acquired Booz & Company (now “Strategy&”) and EY acquired Parthenon Group (“EY-Parthenon”). While these two strategy arms work on more big picture strategy projects, the legacy brands (PwC and EY) typically work on more operations-type projects.
As a candidate, deciding between PwC versus EY may be a difficult choice, given the surface-level similarities. This article will take a deeper look and compare the experiences at PwC versus EY along several dimensions including work-life balance, prestige, and job satisfaction.
Table of Contents:
- PwC & EY Compared
- Work-life Balance
- Role & Job Satisfaction
- EY vs PwC Culture
- Salary & Benefits
- Exit Opportunities
PwC & EY Compared
When thinking of work-life balance across consulting firms, it is important to distinguish between a few dimensions:
- Type of work
Before we dive deeper, a quick note. The idea of work-life balance in the consulting industry is more myth than reality, as much as firms want you to believe differently. You will work long hours (65+ a week is not uncommon) and, at most firms, you’ll work weekends during certain times of year and on certain projects.
Of course, with some firms and in some roles, you’ll have a better balance than at other firms (e.g., MBB and firms like Oliver Wyman generally tend to work more than firms like EY/PwC/KPMG), but for most roles with any top firm, expect to work hard and long. That’s just how the industry works.
So, our advice? Don’t go into consulting if you’re looking for a 40-hour-a-week job.
Now, in regard to work-life balance at PwC and EY, you can think about:
- Firms: While EY-Parthenon and Strategy& may have comparable hours, the hours in these strategy-focused groups will typically be higher than the hours in other EY and PwC groups (i.e., accounting, tax, audit). Outside of these two groups, the hours are generally comparable.
- People: This is one of the most critical pieces that impacts work-life balance at PwC versus EY. Working with management that descope projects will result in better hours than working with management that often look to expand the scope of the project.
- Type of work: Generally, working on high-level strategy or due diligence projects will be longer hours than working on staff augmentation / operations projects.
As such, the work-life difference between EY vs PwC is largely dependent on whether you are in EY-Parthenon or Strategy&. Outside of these groups, the work-life balance is generally dependent on the people you work with and the type of work you do.
There are several dimensions that influence the prestige of EY versus PwC: reputation, revenue, size, culture, people, clients, and types of work. What makes it difficult to name a clear-cut winner is that both firms match up very closely! A few notes:
- EY-Parthenon and Strategy&: EY-Parthenon and Strategy& are the most prestigious arms of EY and PwC, so if prestige is what you’re looking for, look no further. The pay at these strategy arms also reflects the higher market value of the work you’ll be doing.
- EY vs PwC: While PwC slightly beats out EY on this dimension, there is not a massive gulf.
Having trouble identifying which firm is the right fit for you? The key to figuring this out is networking (AKA talking with people at the firm). Don’t know where to begin? Read our networking guide for a good starting point.
Role & Job Satisfaction
Given the size of EY and PwC, the experiences you can have within the firms differ greatly. As such, there is not one “foolproof” statement that will adequately compare the role and job satisfaction between the firms. Instead, your job satisfaction is dependent on the people you work with and the type of work you get to do. Here, again, is where networking comes in. The single best way to discover what the people are like is to talk with them face-to-face (virtually or in-person).
EY vs PwC Culture
Culture ratings for EY and PwC are similar across most metrics. However, what makes culture at PwC vs EY so tricky to nail down is the size of both companies. Because of this, there are a lot of “sub-cultures” within the firms.
For example, a financial services group may be more serious than a consumer goods group. And the culture of the New York office is guaranteed to feel different than at the São Paulo office. As such, when distinguishing the culture between EY and PwC, it is important to understand your specific group’s (or specific geographies’) vibes versus making generalized statements.
What we said earlier about networking also applies to culture. You can’t gain a feel for a firm’s culture from its website or sleek marketing collateral. The best way to determine what firm culture is like is to talk with people on the inside. After talking to a few different folks at PwC, for example, you’ll start to develop a feel for the “personality” of the firm and if you “click” with it – or not.
Salary & Benefits
The salary at PwC is slightly higher than the salary at EY. Per our salary report, the salaries are:
PwC (general): $83,000 base
PwC (Strategy&): $100,000 base
EY (general): $80,000 base
EY-Parthenon: $90,000 base
While the salary at PwC is higher than that at EY, the benefits between the companies are generally comparable. Of note, Strategy& has the highest base salary across the Big 4 competitors.
At a junior level, the impact of management quality is not the most critical consideration (especially at large companies like EY and PwC where you will have limited contact with firm leadership). On Glassdoor, the senior management ratings and approval of CEO statistics are generally comparable; however, the stats for EY slightly eke out those from PwC. For example, the senior management approval ratings for EY is 3.7 out of 5 stars whereas the senior management approval ratings for PwC is 3.6 out of 5 stars. In addition, the CEO approval rating is 86% for EY and 83% for PwC.
EY-Parthenon and Strategy& exit opportunities are more like those of Tier 1 consulting firms, and include exits into corporate strategy, PE, entrepreneurship, and more.
The exit opportunities for EY and PwC are generally comparable. Unlike the exit roles for EY-Parthenon and Strategy&, the exit opportunities for these groups are more operational in nature. Nonetheless, EY or PwC are both fantastic brand names to have on your resume.
EY and PwC are quite similar across a lot of dimensions. Both companies have grown their consulting offerings in recent years but still perform a lot of accounting/tax/audit/assurance work globally. The traditional EY and PwC brands have similar levels of prestige and culture, and work-life balance is largely group/practice dependent. To get interview ready for PwC or EY, work with an expert Management Consulted coach – learn more.
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