Best Accounting Firms (Vault Top 50 Accounting Firms)

Two accountants at a desk working for one of Vault's top accounting firms.

PhotoAlto / Eric Audras / Getty Images

The Vault Accounting 50 is a widely used and reported annual ranking based on surveys of employees and job seekers in the accounting field. The top 10 overall in the 2020 release of this survey are:

  1. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
  2. Deloitte LLP
  4. Grant Thornton LLP
  6. Baker Tilly
  7. RSM US LLP 
  8. Plante Moran
  9. Moss Adams LLP
  10. Friedman

The top three firms of the Vault Accounting 50 are also members of the prestigious and highly regarded Big Four Public Accounting Firms. Thumbnail sketches of a few of the other firms on the list follow. All these firms have practice groups in audit, tax, and consulting.

Grant Thornton is based in Chicago, Illinois. It employs 6,500 people in the U.S. and is the sixth-largest accounting firm in the U.S. by revenues. It has a wide international presence.

BDO USA LLP was formerly known as BDO Seidman. It is the U.S. member firm of BDO International Ltd., with its U.S. headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. It has 50 offices and 5,000 employees in the U.S., plus 1,328 offices in 152 other countries.

Plante Moran is based in Southfield, Michigan. It has 23 offices and 2,200 employees located in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois. It also has international offices in Mexico, China, and India.

Moss Adams LLP, headquartered in Seattle, Washington, has 24 offices in the western U.S. and employs 2,000 people. It is the 15th-largest U.S. accounting firm by revenue. It is a founding member of Praxity, AISBL, an alliance of over 100 independent accounting and auditing firms from over 97 countries and territories.

Ranking and Rating Methodology

Respondents to the survey rated accounting firms on these seven dimensions or attributes (the percentage weights in parentheses are applied to derive the overall ranking):

  1. Prestige (40%)
  2. Firm culture (20%)
  3. Work-life balance (10%)
  4. Compensation (10%)
  5. Overall job satisfaction (10%)
  6. Business outlook (5%)
  7. Formal training programs (5%)

Additional Criteria

Though they do not factor into the overall ratings, also includes these evaluation criteria in its surveys:

  • Benefits
  • Client interaction
  • Green initiatives
  • Firm leadership
  • Hiring process
  • Hours
  • Informal training
  • Internal mobility
  • Philanthropy
  • Promotion policy
  • Relations with supervisors
  • Travel requirements

Also measured is diversity along each of these dimensions:

  • Overall
  • For women
  • For minorities
  • LGBT
  • For people with disabilities
  • For military veterans

Limitations of the Rankings

While the rating and ranking methodology used by is highly detailed, it nonetheless represents a summary of the personal opinions of survey respondents. As a result, it is fundamentally highly subjective. Accordingly, these rankings may or may not be representative of your own preferences in choosing among employers, work situations, and career paths. Another open question is how closely the pool of survey respondents actually represents the opinions of all employees.

Although the Big Four fill the top three spots, they regularly score much lower (usually in 20th place or below) along the dimensions that are most indicative of their desirability as places to work, most notably firm culture, work-life balance, and job satisfaction. Being the top four in prestige, which gets the highest weight, accounts for their high placement overall. It suggests that the Big Four may be more desirable as resume-building stopovers in a career path pointed elsewhere than as long-term career destinations.

In the 2013 survey, BDO ranked 29th overall. By the next year, it entered into the top 10, where it has remained since. Such a dramatic move raises questions about the robustness and quality of the survey samples.

About Vault

Founded in 1996 and headquartered in New York, seeks to inform job seekers about what it is like to work within a particular industry, company, or profession, and what is needed to get these jobs. Its database includes nearly 5,000 companies in over 120 industries, as well as over 840 professions. 

Best known are its rankings, ratings, and reviews of top employers by industry, as well as hundreds of internship programs, based on directed surveys of active employees and enrolled students. Vault also allows non-participants in its directed surveys to submit online reviews of their experiences, pay, interviews, etc. These rankings and ratings are cited in major publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, and Money.