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What do you do on a Big 4 internship?

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Internships are a very common way of getting work experience and accounting students have many to choose from. The Big 4 accounting firms – Deloitte, PwC, EY, KPMG – the world’s largest professional services networks, all offer internship programmes, mainly to undergraduates during university holidays. These last anywhere from four weeks to three months and act as funnels to the popular graduate schemes.

There are three key service areas that all the firms provide internships in: assurance (audit), tax, advisory (consulting). Some also offer more specific service areas, for example, actuarial (PwC), real estate (Deloitte) and financial services – transactions (EY).

The three Big 4 core services:

1. Audit /Assurance

Audit is a complex area, but also one that provides a great education in how a business works. As an audit intern you’ll spend time with senior managers at client offices preparing the legal financial documents every business is required to perform. You’ll get an inside view of how a business operates and what makes it fail and succeed. You might then be asked to provide assessment and opinion on best practice for assuring a business is legally fulfilling its financial and fiscal responsibilities, all the while learning what constitutes a successful or underperforming enterprise.

2. Tax

Again, tax is complicated and very technical. As an intern you’ll assist client-facing teams. For example, at EY you’ll ‘help clients fulfil their tax obligations, taking into account the prospect of change. We work with organisations and individuals to structure transactions and operations in a tax-effective manner, mitigate tax risk and comply effectively with tax laws. From day one you can be working on projects varying from tax compliance to advising on tax-structuring and transfer-pricing implications.’

3. Advisory

Advisory, or consulting, focuses on ‘change’ – business improvement and forward looking strategies. Consulting at Deloitte is described as ‘helping clients solve some of their most complex problems, all the way from developing the initial ideas to delivering and measuring the end results – all across some wide-ranging projects. You could, for instance, be defining where and how a company should improve its systems and processes, or finding new ways to make the most of its talent.’


A lot of the specialisms revolve around consulting on specific corporate or industry issues, for example, business consulting (management consulting, risk and regulation, and strategy), financial advisory (corporate deals and forensics) or technology (consulting and delivery).

According to EY, you’ll work with corporate or public sector clients on complex assignments alongside teams from various disciplines and jurisdictions. You’ll advise clients on buying or selling companies or listing on stock exchanges. You’ll perform financial due diligence, assessing a target firm’s finances and business projections, identifying opportunities and risks. You’ll then help report the findings to your clients, their banks, investors and other parties.

  • Deloitte: real estate, actuarial, economic consulting and financial advisory – restructuring services.
  • EY: transactions, corporate finance, restructuring, valuations and business modelling
  • PwC: deals, legal vacation scheme, actuarial, technology
  • KPMG: business consulting, financial advisory, technology

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