Accounting and Finance Jobs at Small and Large Companies: Does Size Matter?

A common stereotype is that large companies offer the best of everything: Salaries, bonuses, benefits, career advancement and even social opportunities. The truth is, both large and small firms have their advantages.

Here’s some career advice: Determining which company size you prefer is really a matter of finding a good match for your personal taste and professional goals. Carefully examine the offerings at both types of organizations when searching for accounting and finance jobs in order to find the perfect spot for you.

Benefits and perks

The larger the company, the greater its bargaining power for negotiating bigger discounts on employee benefits. The largest companies typically have more space to accommodate perks such as subsidized cafeterias, on-site gyms and in-house daycare.

On the other hand, small companies can get creative with their perks simply because they must — in order to attract and retain top talent. In some small companies, particularly startups, perks can be downright quirky. Even in more staid small enterprises, greater access to management gives the individual more of an opportunity to have a say in benefits and perks.

Work to live or live to work?

Whether it’s a long-established family-owned firm or a new startup, small companies tend to be less rigid and formal than big companies. That can make for a more pleasant — and relaxed — work environment overall.

The flip side is that smaller companies have fewer staff and are less able to spare employees the time for personal responsibilities and professional development. If you’re an employee at a big company, requesting a morning off to run errands or to attend a work-related seminar is not apt to create managerial heartburn.

Going somewhere?

One key advantage a large employer offers over a small one: Lateral movement. You may be able to transfer to another department or company division to try your hand in a wide range of sub-disciplines, from bookkeeping to business development. If you work for a national firm, you could conceivably transfer to another part of the country.

Smaller companies tend to have few layers of management, and you can take on a wider range of responsibilities and gain exposure to different parts of the business. Larger firms have a more structured company ladder — and there are more rungs on it as well. So if your goal is to advance quickly, a large company will be more suited to your needs.

Wide-reaching roles

Your chance to make a mark professionally will feel different in a small business because there are fewer positions available and each employee usually takes on a wider range of tasks and responsibilities. You might end up being professionally challenged, which is a good thing. However, you could also end up being stretched too thin, so be aware of this pitfall before you take the job.

Ten-year plan

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? A wise bit of career advice is to get to know your manager and to seek mentoring opportunities for future growth: Smaller firms almost always guarantee access to management. In a larger company, your boss may be 3,000 miles away and you may feel like only one of many cogs in the company’s massive engine.

If your dream is to work abroad or travel, the best career advice would be to seek employment in a large enterprise. Bigger companies often have a more extensive global reach and more international opportunities.

Corporate culture

Hate red tape? If you’re the type of person who likes the chance to run with a great new idea, you’ll probably find a small company or even a startup more to your liking.

In your hunt for accounting and finance jobs, consider the differences between large and small enterprises to find the best match for your professional goals and personality type. If you value in-house amenities and the allure of international prospects, a large organization could be a good fit. If you find an intimate office with your manager and other mentors close by more appealing, you may be better-suited to smaller enterprises. 

Do you feel more comfortable with a small or large organization? Share your thoughts in the comments section.