Do Accountants Work Long Hours? (The Truth to the Hours)

Another coffee, late nights and deliverables. For some, that could summarize their position as an accountant. It’s not all accountants though. Depending on where you work, the hours can be normal or long.

We’ll look at the hours in the accounting industry and also point out when and where they are the worst.

man working nighttime mug on hand

Do Accountants Work Long Hours? (Not All)

Accountants are often thought of as working long hours, especially during tax season. While it is true that accountants may have to put in extra hours during busy times, the overall workload and hours for an accountant can vary depending on a number of things.

First, the accounting work an individual does can affect the number of hours they work. Public accountants in the big 4 have more demanding schedules, with longer hours during tax season and busy audit periods.

On the flip side, accountants who work for companies in a more corporate setting generally have a more predictable routine of hours. Additionally, the size and type of organization an accountant work for can also impact their hours.

If the organization is understaffed, expect to be working long hours.

Smaller organizations may require accountants to wear multiple hats and handle various tasks, which can lead to long hours. The really small shops use their employees in audits but then have them prepare taxes in tax season.

Larger organizations, on the other hand, may have more specialized roles like designated audit and tax. This will give you more focus but it doesn’t mean you will necessarily have fewer hours. If anything, at a big firm, you’ll most likely have more hours than at a small firm.

An accountant’s level of experience can also affect their hours. Entry-level accountants may have to put in longer hours as they gain experience and learn the ropes, study for their CPA exams and do the heavy preparation at the firms.

Experienced accountants like second-year seniors, third-year seniors and managers may have a better handle on their workload and be able to manage their time more efficiently. That is a big “if” though.

If you are a high performer then the big 4 may just throw you on more jobs since you are performing so well. If you are an excellent accountant then get ready to be “rewarded” with more work.

In general, the hours for an accountant can vary depending on a number of factors like the size of the firm and being in busy season or not. 

While it is true that accountants may have to work long hours during busy times, the overall workload isn’t as bad outside of the busy season, audit issuances and deadlines.

Read More:

Are Accountants in Demand? (Market Demand of Accountants)

How Many Hours Do Accountants Work?

The number of hours that accountants work can range from 30 to 100 hours a week. You read that right. Big 4 busy seasons can be 7 days a week crushers while some small firms in the summer give off Fridays. Being mentally prepared will help with the long hours.

At some point as an accountant, you will work long hours. For most accountants, more than 40 hours is the norm. That doesn’t even take into consideration driving to and from the office or clients.

Private Accounting Hours: What to Expect

Ernst & Young accounting firm logo building

Private accountants, who work for companies rather than for accounting firms, can often expect to have weeks that are closer to 40 hour weeks. There just isn’t such a big swing in deadlines and even monthly close is predictable at companies. That is the biggest time that hours can run over.

Accountants in the private sector typically work regular business hours, with some flexibility depending on the organization they work for. For example, some private accountants may work 8-to-5, while others may have early morning or late evening hours.

That’s one of the benefits of private accounting, not to say that public accounting isn’t flexible because it can be.

Private accountants may also have the option to work part-time or on a flexible schedule, depending on the needs of the organization they work for. This can be a good option for those who want to balance their work with other commitments, such as parenting or more schooling.

If predictable hours is something you’d like then be sure to try a private accounting job after getting a bit of experience in the public accounting sector.

Public Accounting Hours: Expectations

Public accounting can be brutal. If you have heard of 60-80 hour weeks in the busy season, it is the truth. Be ready to work Saturdays at most small firms during the busy season. Hours can be unpredictable around deadlines and in tax season.

You will get tired, the hours can stress relationships and you may even question if the money is worth it at the low levels. Public accounting might even have you asking yourself if the firm is a legal pyramid scheme.

Jokes aside, not all small firms are that bad. In fact, most are great places to work. It is just tax season that can be a real beast.

 This is because the workload for public accountants is often more varied and can be more intense, especially during tax season.

Public accountants may work regular business hours, but they may also have to put in extra hours in the nights or weekends. Just like the big 4, the clients almost always come first. So if you are going to work long hours, why not just work at the big 4?

Read More:

Is Accounting Math Heavy? (Are Accountants Good at Math?)

Big 4 Accounting Hours: The Truth

If you thought small firms had bad hours then you have seen nothing yet until you join the big 4. Try to work a few audit seasons or tax seasons at EY, KPMG or PwC. They might have you crying like the other junior staff.

Starting out, the hours can be more than you are ever used to. There is a competitive culture in some big 4 offices to work more hours. Some people will stay in their seats until everyone around them leaves.

If you join the big 4, don’t give into any peer pressure and just get your job done. Good work goes much further than long hours.

While some big 4 accountants take pride in their long hours and share their battle stories, they quickly realize that no one cares once they leave the big 4. The earlier you learn this the better. Don’t volunteer yourself for every project because there will always be plenty of work.

At the big 4, you may also have to travel for work, which can involve long hours on the road, flying and being away from home for extended periods of time. Keep this in mind and ask the company before locking in your exciting big 4 job.

Lastly, as you’ll work with a diverse culture at the big 4, you’ll quickly realize some cultures work very hard. Take a diverse office with Indians, Philippines, Nigerians, Americans and British.

It is great for diversity but you’ll realize the work ethic of some of these groups is nothing short of incredible or crazy. You take your pick between incredible or crazy.

Is Busy Season Really That Bad?

man working long hours city skyline night

Busy season hours are highly dependent on the firm you work for. Work at the big 4 and expect 6 or 7-day weeks in the busy season. Smaller firms will be undoubtedly better. Ask most accountants though and they don’t look forward to the busy season. 

Do you really want to work Saturdays and Sundays when your friends are off since they don’t work in accounting? Do you never want to take a winter vacation to go skiing or snowboarding?

Good luck spending a lot of time with your significant other, family or friends. Your work will be your life in the busy season.

On top of the increased workload is increased stress. You’ll be eating more take out or order in, working out less and certainly stressed a bit more.

The one good thing is that at small firms, some of them will pay extra for the hours worked in busy season. Larger firms just give their bonus at the end of the year and it is not based as much on how many hours you work in the busy season.

Do Accountants Work Long Hours? Conclusion

Overall, the hours for accountants vary depending on where they work. That is the single biggest factor. It is no guarantee but if you want to work more stable hours then think about going into private accounting.

If you want to chase big pay days then you’ll have a long grind up the public accounting ladder.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart