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Accounting firms help organizations handle their money and make important financial decisions. A company may be excellent at what it does within its chosen industry, but can still suffer as a business due to tax mistakes, bookkeeping errors, or even fraudulent activity.
Accounting mistakes are quite common. With the rise of small business ventures in recent years, many organizations don’t have the resources or the expertise to manage their own finances and accounting. That’s where accounting firms come in.
Public accounting firms are required to follow certain rules and procedures in the course of their work. These companies are required to follow accounting rules put in place by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) put forth by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).
Accounting firms can offer a number of services and specialties depending on the organization. Some accounting firms may work in the legal sector, as forensic and valuation specialists, some work in the IT sector at the intersection of technology and finance, and others work in a range of different accounting firms and accountant specialties.
As a whole, the accounting industry employs over 1,400,000 people according to the most recently available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The average salary of an accountant is around $71,550 per year, or $34.40 per hour, with a relatively high potential for growth. This data changes, however, based on the state and the area in which the worker is located.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also discusses the close link between the accounting industry and the economy at large. Auditing and accounting jobs are tied to the overall health of the economy because, as the economy grows, more workers who can prepare and evaluate financial records will be needed.
The accounting industry is currently undergoing a massive shift in workplace technology (as are many other industries in our current digital revolution). Cloud technology is quickly replacing spreadsheets and ledgers for an easier and more collaborative accounting process, and AI technology is becoming a popular choice for automating processes.
Accounting firms that utilize cloud technology add an average of five times more clients than firms that do not. According to this same set of data, approximately 67% of accountants prefer using cloud technology and believe it improves their business.
With cloud technology, accountants find that they are better able to focus energy on other parts of their job such as communicating with clients and managing work teams.
While accountants are responsible for many different areas of managing finances, some of the tasks required for the job can be repetitive and time-consuming. Today’s accountants are problem-solving solutions to this, including with the incorporation of AI automation.
Around 66% of accountants say they would be willing to learn about and incorporate AI technology into their practice to help complete some of the more rote and time-costly data entry and categorization tasks. Similarly, 80% of accounting executives believe that AI technology gives firms a competitive edge and increases productivity.
While the accounting industry has grown steadily over the years, like all industries it has had its fair share of challenges in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the five years leading up to 2020, the overall revenue of accounting services increased, but in 2020 the numbers will likely take a hit due to the economic recession.
Due to the pandemic and other factors, the industry is also currently transitioning from traditional in-person services to online web-based services. This trend may be a short-term fix for our current global situation, or it may be a trend that continues into the future of accounting.
Even with these challenges, however, the United States accounting industry as a whole is predicted to have an annual revenue of over $110 billion USD for the year 2020. Some companies, though, are responsible for the majority of this revenue.
In this article, we’ll discuss the ten largest accounting firms in the United States, by revenue. For a quick look, here’s the short version of our list:
The ten largest accounting firms in the United States are:
Deloitte — New York, NY
PwC — New York, NY
Ernst & Young — New York, NY
KPMG — New York, NY
RSM U.S. — Chicago, IL
Grant Thornton LLP — Chicago, IL
BDO USA LLP — Chicago, IL
CliftonLarsonAllen LLP — Minneapolis, MN
Cowe Horwath LLP — Chicago, IL
CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann PC — Cleveland, OH
Right away, some of the major takeaways of this list are the notable locations of these firms. As you can see, New York City appears to reign supreme as the accounting capital, with the top four entries being based out of this city.
These top four companies — Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, and KPMG — are also commonly known as the “Big Four” accounting firms. These four networks are often grouped together due to their large size and influence relative to other companies within this industry.
Chicago is also a major player in accounting firms, with four entries on our list being headquartered there.
How We Ranked the Top 10
For this list, we defined “largest” in terms of revenue, rather than number of employees, offices, partners, or any other measure. We ranked firms according to their most recently available revenue data. This data comes from statista.com, big4accountingfirms.org, and vault.com.
On this list, you will see large professional service networks, rather than individual, independent firms.
Below, is our list of the top ten largest accounting firms.
10 Largest Accounting Firms
New York, NY
Revenue (bil. USD): 21.91
The first entry on our list, and the largest accounting firm in the United States, is Deloitte LLP with a staggering 21.91 billion USD in revenue in 2019.
Deloitte LLP is a multinational professional services network, operating out of New York, New York in the United States, and London, England in the UK.
Deloitte LLP was founded in London all the way back in 1845, and now has a workforce of over 330,000 employees worldwide as of the year 2020. The firm has more than 80 offices in the United States and is headed by CEO Punit Renjen.
Deloitte LLP provides services including taxes, audits, financial advisory, risk advisory, consulting, and legal services.
New York, NY
Revenue (bil. USD): 17.4
At our number two position, with a whopping 17.4 billion USD revenue, is the New York-based PwC U.S., also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers. PwC manages around 276,000 employees worldwide, and it operates out of 742 different locations in 157 countries.
PwC is another older firm, originally founded in 1854 but came into its modern form in 1998. The multinational company is headed by Chairperson Robert Moritz.
PwC offers advisory, assurance, consulting, data and analytics, actuarial, and legal services through their extended network of firms.
New York, NY
Revenue (bil. USD): 15
Our third-place pick is the “big four” accounting firm Ernst & Young Global Limited, or simply Ernst & Young, with a revenue of 15 billion USD in 2019.
Ernst & Young has more than 700 offices in 150 countries across the globe, with 29,000 employees working in the U.S. and 300,000 employees worldwide.
Ernst & Young is a multinational company, headquartered in both New York, New York, and London, UK. The firm is headed by chairperson and CEO Carmine Di Sibio.
Ernst & Young offers assurance, advisory, consulting, digital strategy, and legal services.
New York, NY
Revenue (bil. USD): 9.97
The fourth entry on our list, and the final of the so-called “big four accounting firms” is KPMG with an annual revenue of 9.97 billion USD in 2019.
Though the company is Anglo-Dutch, with its main headquarters based out of the Netherlands and the UK, it still does massive numbers within the United States out of its New York-based office.
KPMG was founded in 1987, and now has 227,000 employees working out of firms in 147 countries. The company is headed by chairperson Bill Thomas. KPMG offers services including assurance, actuarial work, financial, legal, and tax advice, and consulting.
Revenue (bil. USD): 2.44
Though it is officially out of the “big four” distinction, RSM U.S. is still a massive company occupying the fifth spot on this list. In 2019, RSM made an annual revenue of 2.44 billion USD.
The Chicago-based company holds offices in 86 cities in the U.S. and Canada, and has over 11,000 employees working in these offices. Internationally, RSM employs 43,000 people and operates 800 offices in over 120 countries.
RSM was founded in 1926 and is now headed by CEO Joe Adams. The company offers auditing, tax, and consulting services to its clients.
Revenue (bil. USD): 1.95
Grant Thornton lands at our number six position on this list with an annual revenue of 1.95 billion USD according to its most recently available financial records. Grant Thornton was founded in 1924 and is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.
Grant Thornton employs more than 8,500 individuals in its U.S. sector alone, has 550 partners, and operates out of 59 offices across the U.S. The firm is headed by CEO Brad Preber.
The company offers a variety of professional services to its clients and has a number of specialty areas, such as mergers and acquisitions.
Revenue (bil. USD): 1.64
Global accounting network BDO USA LLP comes in at number seven on our list, having an annual revenue of 1.64 billion USD. The company was founded in 1910, and now employs over 7,3000 people in its U.S. offices.
Globally, BDO operates out of 167 countries and employs 91,000 workers in its 1,658 offices. The company is headed by CEO Wayne Berson, and it offers accounting, tax, consulting, and other professional services to its clients.
Revenue (bil. USD): 1.15
At number eight, we have CliftonLarsonAllen with a revenue of 1.15 billion USD annually. Based out of Minneapolis, this accounting firm is the first and only one on this list coming out of Minnesota. The firm employs over 6,000 people and operates out of 90 offices.
The firm was founded in 2012, after a merger between the companies Clifton Gunderson and LarsonAllen. CliftonLarsonAllen’s chief executive is Danny Schleper. The company provides services in accounting, audits, taxes, advisory, and consulting.
Revenue (bil. USD): 0.96
Holding the ninth position in this top ten list is Chicago-based firm Crowe Horwath LLP with an annual revenue of 960 million USD. Crowe Horwath is made up of more than 220 individual firms, with 42,000 employees in 130 countries.
The CEO of Crowe Horwath is David Mellor. Some of the services provided by Crowe Horwath include tax, audit, management consulting, and financial and risk advisory.
CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann PC
Revenue (bil. USD): 0.81
Our final entry on this list, and the tenth-largest accounting firm in the United States, is CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann with an annual revenue of 810 million USD. The Cleveland-based company is our first and only firm on this list from Ohio.
CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann was created out of a merger in 1998, and now employs over 4,000 people out of 133 offices. The company is headed by president Andy Burczyk, and it is involved in many industries including software, manufacturing, government, and financial institutions.
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