Winter vs Summer Big 4 Internships (Deloitte, KPMG, EY, & PwC)

by | Dec 12, 2016 | Career, Compensation | 23 comments

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If you are trying to decide between a summer or winter internship with a big 4 (KPMG, Deloitte, Pwc, or E&Y) or public accounting firm, there are a few things you need to consider. Honestly it doesn’t make a big difference between the two time periods, because you’ll most likely get an offer as long as you have a good attitude and don’t screw everything up. We don’t expect a lot from interns, and I don’t mean that in a negative way, but there is a big learning curve and we don’t really invest a ton of time into development because you’ll only be there for a few months. There is still a lot of training of course, but generally interns aren’t given really tough tasks that would require serious thought. So do your best and you’ll be fine.

What are the differences between a summer and winter internship?

The biggest distinction between the two periods of time is that in the summer, there is really not a huge demand for interns. Most of the work for audit and tax is around the winter, though there are exceptions. The winter interns (January-March) will be the busiest and will have more than the summer interns due to the client workload. We work crazy hours during busy season, and usually (hopefully) it gets to a more normal schedule in the summer, where we are planning the year end audits and doing quarterly reviews. For audit are plenty of clients that have a 6/30/12 “year end” (instead of 12/31/12, which is what makes us make us busy January-March) which will keep you busy, and tax has several reporting deadlines approaching and special tasks they will be working on.

Winter wins

Ok so you will be busier in the winter – what does that mean. Put simply – it means you could get a ton of overtime (hours over 40). Big 4 Interns get paid $20-$30 an hour with the intention of matching the full time salary of a first year, assuming a 40 hour week. Except they frequently work 60 or more hours a week during busy season and end up making more than the managers during this time. For this reason alone, I think it is worth doing a winter internship rather than a summer. On the other hand they may only work you 40 hours a week, so there is that to consider.

Another reason I think winter is better than summer is that since you will usually be working longer, you will naturally get more experience. I’ve seen it and also heard from other seniors that those who have done a winter internship compared with a summer internship start off as a 1st year pick up things quicker and are better at their jobs. In addition to working longer, you may actually add some value to the engagement and pitch in and perform some actual testwork. I frequently see summer interns working on things that are not time sensitive like rolling forward documents.** I don’t say this to discourage summer interns like they aren’t helpful, because that isn’t the case, it’s just that when we’re busy we utilize the interns more. If you are a summer intern and you are on a busy client, you will have the same experience.

What are the downsides?

The downside to working a winter big 4 internship is that you will have to take a semester off from school. I think this tradeoff is well worth it. Yeah, you could finish a semester earlier, but college isn’t the worst thing ever to stick around in. If you are deciding between no internship and a winter internship, absolutely take the winter internship, even if it means an extra semester.

* A 60 hour workweek would probably look like M-Th 9am to 10pm, and Friday probably leave at 6. I haven’t seen interns work weekends before but it is possible. This is assuming the team has a “working” lunch and dinner, by (interns) bringing in food so the audit/tax fest can go uninterrupted.

** “Rolling forward” documents and files mean that you take the testwork or memos ect, and update it for the current year so that we don’t have to “re-invent” the wheel and we can leverage our testwork from the prior year. Usually things haven’t changed from year to year and all that is needed is updating the dates and names on the workpaper. Do use caution here because situations will change, so read through whatever you’re rolling forward and try and pick up on if anything has changed.