The Big Four Consulting Firms: How Do They Fit into the Industry?

The Big Four Firms, Explained

You’ve probably heard about the Big 4 consulting firms if you’re preparing for interviews: Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PWC. These firms are larger than McKinsey, Bain, and BCG – the MBBs – and offer a wider range of services.

So you might wonder, how are they different? 

And do I have a better shot at landing an offer?

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • How the Big 4 consulting firms fit into the industry
  • The history of the Big 4 consulting firms
  • Pros and cons of working for the Big 4 firms 
  • Our 4 tips for acing your interviews with the Big 4 consulting firms

Let’s get started!

How Do the Big 4 Fit into the Consulting Industry?

The term “Big 4” refers to the 4 largest professional services firms by revenue: Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (Deloitte), KPMG International (KPMG), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Ernst & Young (EY).

The Big 4 originated in the accounting industry. Through consolidation that started in the early 1990s, what was formerly the Big 8 in accounting became the Big 4. They’ve dominated the accounting industry, with the majority of the Fortune 500 companies audited by one of the Big 4. 

In addition to accounting and auditing services, the Big 4 provide management consulting, legal, taxation, corporate finance, and advisory services. The Big 4 account for more than 35% of consulting market share, with revenues that exceed the combined sales of the 3 prestigious MBB firms. 

Though the term Big 4 started in the accounting industry, it’s also used in management consulting.

The Big 4 offer two types of consulting services:

  • Implementation projects. This is the majority of the Big 4’s consulting business. Projects include helping clients implement strategic recommendations made by other firms, or setting up new processes, organizational structures, or technology.
  • Strategy consulting: This is a smaller part of their business that has grown through the acquisition of smaller firms like Parthenon by EY. It’s similar to what MBBs offer, supporting clients’ key business decisions – for example, helping a company determine which markets to enter and how to win in those markets. 

We categorize management consulting firms into 3 segments: The Big 4, MBB, and Boutique consulting firms.


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History of the Big 4 Firms


Deloitte is the largest of the Big 4 by revenue, with 300,000+ employees in 700+ locations. Deloitte was founded in London in 1845 and expanded through mergers, most notably the 1989 merger between U.S. firm Deloitte Haskins & Sells and Touche Ross to form Deloitte & Touche.

In the 2000s, Deloitte acquired a number of firms to expand into digital and data transformation and intelligence services, among others. Deloitte offers audit, consulting (including public sector consulting), financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and legal services. 


PricewaterhouseCoopers or PwC is the second largest of the Big 4, with 300,000+ employees across 150+ countries. PwC was created when Coopers & Lybrand merged with Price Waterhouse firms in 1998. Similar to Deloitte, both firms date back to the 19th century. PwC also acquired a number of firms in the 2000s. PwC is divided into three service lines: assurance (e.g., audits), advisory (includes consulting practices), and tax. 


Ernst & Young or EY is the 3rd largest of the Big 4, with 300,000+ employees across 150 countries. EY was formed in 1989 by the merger of two accounting firms: Ernst & Whinney and Arthur Young & Co. Similar to Deloitte and PwC, EY is a result of multiple mergers and acquisitions, the oldest of which dates back to 1849. EY offers consulting, strategy, transactions, tax, and assurance services. 


KPMG is the final of the Big 4, with 200,000+ employees in 144 countries. KPMG resulted from a 1987 merger between Peat Marwick International and Klynveld Main Goerdeler. Similar to the other Big 4, it is a result of mergers and acquisitions, the oldest of which dates back to 1818. KPMG offers 3 service areas: audit, tax, and advisory. 

Pros and Cons of the Big Four vs. Other Consulting Firms


The Big Four Firms, Explained

Recruiting at the Big 4 is very competitive. However, due to their size (they have ~20 times more staff than MBBs), the Big 4 recruit far more people, so by the numbers, may not be as selective as the MBBs. The Big 4 also have more projects and cover more geographical scope meaning there are more opportunities to enter as a consultant.

Typically, their recruiting process will have an initial screening round and 3 rounds of interviews, including case study and personal experience (fit) interviews. 


Big 4 consulting firms typically offer better work-life balance than MBBs, though this depends on the project. The firms primarily focus on implementation projects which usually are scoped to take longer than strategy projects and tend to be more straightforward. Big 4 teams tend to work more with middle managers rather than the C-Suite like the MBB consultants. 

All of this influences the culture of Big 4 firms. For example, Big 4 consultants tend to stay employed at the firms longer than MBBs (in the U.S., an average of ~9 years compared to ~2-3 years in MBBs). One of the unique selling points for the Big 4 consulting firms is they have consistently been ranked as great places to work:

  • EY has been ranked for the past 24 years on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. In 2022, EY ranked #52 with 90% of the staff reporting they feel supported at work. As the COVID-19 pandemic changed how we work, EY implemented policies and programs that support the staff, such as 2 week-long vacation breaks in summer and winter in the U.S. and two days a week work from home policy in the UK. 
  • Deloitte, PwC, and KPMG were also ranked as Great Places to Work, ranking #24, #41, and #63, respectively, with a majority of employees citing the people and benefits.

Professional Development and Training

The Big 4 offer extensive professional development opportunities. For example, Deloitte University has delivered 6M+ learning hours to 500,000+ staff. There are ample opportunities to learn on the job as junior consultants work with middle managers at the client. Similar to the MBBs, these firms invest an extraordinary amount of resources in their people, making the consulting industry one of the best business training grounds around.

Career progression

Big 4 consultants often work for 6+ months for the same client and therefore become embedded into the client’s organization. They tend to specialize in certain industries early in their careers, unlike MBB consultants, who specialize later and typically work on 3-week to 3-month projects. Both Big 4 consulting and MBB firms have similar job levels from consultants to partners. However, in Big 4 consulting firms, the progression to partner is slower. 

Big 4 consulting firms offer similar exit opportunities to MBB firms. One advantage for consultants from Big 4 firms is that because they specialize early in their careers, they may find it easier to get a management or expert position in their industry.

4 Tips To Ace Your Interviews with the Big Four Consulting Firms

1. Do your homework.

The Big Four Firms, Explained

Research the firm and location you’re applying to. Read through the firm’s website to understand the service lines, growth plans, culture, and type of work you can expect. Reach out to your network to speak to connections at the firm you’re interested in.

2. Stand out before and during your interview.

Your qualifications and experience will get you through the door. Once there, don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Speak confidently about your experiences and skills. This is not the time to be overly humble.

3. Practice! Practice! Practice!

The best way to prepare for the interviews is to practice. Practicing both for the case study and for fit interviews will build your confidence. See Case Interview Prep and Behavioral Interviews for more help on acing each type of interview.

4. Be authentic and present.

Truly listen to the questions you’re asked and respond succinctly. If you don’t understand a question, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Finally, try to be natural, as interviewers are genuinely interested in the real you.

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • How the Big 4 consulting firms fit into the management consulting industry
  • The history of the Big 4 consulting firms 
  • What it’s like to work for the Big 4 firms and how they compare vs. MBBs
  • 4 tips to ace interviews with any of the Big 4 firms

Still have questions?

f you have more questions about the Big Four consulting firms, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s recruiters will answer them.

Other people prepping for Big Four recruiting found the following pages helpful:

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