A profession like many others, such as law, medicine, and computer engineering, which requires an exponentially larger amount of input in terms of time and effort the lower in position the professional is. For instance, public accounting staff members often find themselves working what seems like more hours than actually exist in a week and wondering how there are people in the firm who actually maintain a family life. Stress also increases exponentially in the same direction in public accounting, as staff not only feel the normal pressure exerted by managers but also the effects of the pressure managers feel from partners. Stress at the higher levels such as manager is not only alleviated by the lesser amount of higher-ups exerting pressure, but also by the ability at these levels to make more of the decisions that ultimately affect the intensity of the work performed. Additionally, the increase in salary is also exponential, but in an inverse relationship to the levels of stress and input involved in public accounting, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle of stress.
Managers and partners, as opposed to staff, perform "high-level" reviews of staff work that consist of asking questions that can be answered by actually reviewing the work. These reviews also usually involve ignoring any improvement or highly effective solutions staff members may have implemented in the work, in order to focus on figuring out what can be blamed on them. This is especially relevant at the review level prior to the manager's review, wherein the reviewer employs the widespread technique of "CYA accounting," or "cover your ass accounting," to avoid as much blame for poor leadership and planning as possible.
Contrary to the frequent association made between accounting and taxes, public accounting, while often sharing the same seasonal upsurge in work from January to mid-April, is for the most part unrelated to tax day in the US. The "public" in public accounting most often refers to the audit of public companies, while tax accounting or risk analysis are some of the terms reserved for other services performed for public companies.
Public accounting in reference to audit means the audit of financial statements, which involves expressing an opinion as to the fair presentation of the information companies report in these financials. The process leading up to the opinion involves testing the numbers and assumptions reflected in the financials through statistical sampling, observation & inquiry, and other relevant methods of verification at twice the amount of intensity as will end up being necessary because of an important detail the engagement leader neglected to mention until the end of testing. This is what creates the enormous pressure placed upon and massive amounts of work performed by the staff, which is hardly noticed by those at higher levels who simply demand that it be done right, try half-assed-ly to verify that it was, and after statement issuance proclaim that the staff was integral part to the success of the audit in order to stake a claim on this chattel for the same client in future periods without having to train new staff.
For further information, see pwc, deloitte, Ernst & Young, and kpmg.
Staff at public accounting firms agree that although having beds and showers at the office is a depressing idea, it would actually be great for the hours they work.