Accounting Busy Season
If you have any interest in working at a public accounting firm, you have undoubtedly heard that scary word “busy season.” You may have even heard some busy season “horror stories” from those within the profession. How concerned should you be? What can you expect during busy season? The answers to these questions depend on a few different factors including the type of client and the size of the accounting firm but, rest assured, accountants take the word “busy” to a whole new level.
At a large accounting firm, you can expect to work a minimum of 60 hours per week during busy season. However, it is not uncommon for accountants to put in over 80 hours per week, including nights and weekends. Now for some good news – 65% of publicly traded companies in the United States operate on a calendar year-end and the Securities and Exchange Commission allows public companies 90 days after their fiscal year-end to file their form 10K. Why would this be good news? This means that the busiest time of the year is usually during the winter months (January-March). That is why “busy season” is known to start in January when most companies close their books and end in March, near the SEC deadline. If there ever was a good time to work so many hours, winter season would be it. However, if you work at an accounting firm that has many private business clients, the busy season can extend into April or even May because private businesses do not have the same SEC deadline that public companies do.
When most accounting students find out they will be working 60-80 hours per week during busy season, they wonder what a 12+ hour work day is really like. After all, how can they possibly get through a day without one of those afternoon power naps? Even though the prospect of working from 8am-9pm (or later) sounds horrific, you would be surprised at how fast the day goes by when you have so much to accomplish. During my first busy season week, the first thought that popped into my head when 9pm rolled around was “Wow this day went by fast. I wish there was more time!” When your mind is focused on completing so many tasks at once, the time, days, and months will fly by – as scary as that sounds.
You may be asked to travel a significant amount of the time during busy season. Public accounting firms will often assemble audit engagement teams made up of individuals from various offices around the country. It all really depends on the initial scheduling and management determination as to how each person’s time is utilized throughout busy season. It isn’t rare for an audit professional to spend 70% or more of their time out of town during, especially when working for a Big Four accounting firm. However, there really isn’t a big difference between working a 12 hour day in town or a 12 hour day out of town; both schedules require you to put your social life on hold. The good news is you should be able to save up a lot of money during this time. Not only will your meals and travel be paid for but you won’t find much time outside of work to spend money on entertainment and discretionary items.
The thought of busy season can bring a lot stress and anxiety but if you can mentally prepare yourself and try to weigh the positives and the negatives you can tackle your first busy season with no problems. For more information on the accounting profession, CLICK HERE.