Big Four accounting firms named best graduate employers in Australia

01 March 2018 6 min. read

The leading names in the professional services realm have again dominated the list of top graduate employers in Australia, with the Big Four accounting firms continuing to jostle for top spot.

The annual list of the top 100 most popular graduate employers of Australia is assessed according to application data from the graduate jobs website GradConnection, and announced in conjunction with the Australian Financial Review. For the fourth straight year, the big names in the assurance and advisory sector have featured at the pointy end of the list, claiming four of the top five spots, with the business consulting world following closely behind to jointly dominate the top-ten.

Since the award’s inception in 2015, representatives of the Big Four accounting firms have claimed each year’s title as the most popular graduate employer, but there has been stiff competition among them for the ultimate prize, with KPMG taking the inaugural crown and Deloitte triumphing in the past two years. This year, 2017’s runner-up PwC has trumped both for the 2018 gong, finishing ahead of KPMG in second and Deloitte in third, with EY landing in fifth.EY, PwC, Deloitte and KPMG


Winning the hearts and minds of graduate students for 2018, PwC in Australia forms part of the company’s global network of firms with a total head-count of more than 223,000 employees worldwide. For those graduates looking to join their ranks in Australia, PwC’s local director of talent acquisition, Julie Duncan, says the firm looks “for skills that are the most critical to our future as a business. Those skills include critical thinking, creative problem solving, communication skills, creativity, innovation and an ability to collaborate.”

Duncan adds; “We are actively pursuing candidates from all degrees, from all backgrounds and from a broad range of universities,” a theme echoed by numerous firms seeking to diversify their skill-set in the digital era, including third-place getter Deloitte; “The crossover of digital into everything means a digital graduate can work across risk advisory, financial advisory, audit, tax consulting – everywhere,” said Deloitte’s national talent acquisition director, Tanyth Lloyd


Deloitte in Australia employs some 7000 professionals (of the network’s approximately one quarter of a million employees worldwide), operating across 15 regional offices including locales in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste while generating revenues of over A$1.75 billion last financial year – at +15%, the third consecutive year of double-digit growth for the firm’s local arm. In 2017, the firm promoted 61 new partners, and welcomed a further 45 who joined through lateral channels, bringing the total to more than 700 across its local network.

Led by CEO Cindy Hook, who in 2015 was the first woman to be appointed to the top role of a local Big Four firm, Deloitte in Australia considers gender and cultural diversity as critical to its success, and has been consistently recognised as an equal opportunities leader by the Australian Federal Government as well as featuring in the top-ten list of local organisations for corporate social responsibility as being named by the specialist sustainability consultancy ACCSR – a firm which it has since brought into its fold.2018 Top100 Most Popular Graduate Employers


The third perennial contender for the most desired graduate employer title, and this year’s bridesmaid in second, KPMG nevertheless achieved a 5% engagement rate according to the graduate application data, to finish neck-and-neck with PwC. Like PwC and Deloitte, the firm makes a point of its diversity in recruitment, stating; “Our graduates and students are our future leaders, that is why we do not put parameters on qualifications or degree disciplines - we are open to all bright minds.”

As one of its 154 countries of operation worldwide, employing some 200,000 people across the globe, KPMG in Australia has 14 primary locations across the continent and a staff of approximately 6,700 employees, including over 400 those as partners. In terms of graduate recruitment, the firm has instituted a range of initiatives in line with the company’s keen digital focus. In addition to offering ‘virtual’ internships, where students can gain credit for completing an online task, KPMG has also developed an online app to help prospective employees determine the best match for its various practices, and has automated its application process for more immediate outcomes.  

“We have implemented robotic process automation to handle our applications 24 hours a day. Applicants don’t have to wait for a recruiter to review an application. Our gamified assessments are sent out automatically,” said Phil Rutherford, KPMG’s head of talent acquisition, “The feedback we have is that we can manage people and their expectations much better. Students want instant and that’s what they get.” 

Ernst & Young 

The last of the Big Four firms in EY has slowly crept its way up the list over the years, from seventh in 2015 and 2016, to sixth last year, and now climbing into the top-five for the first time in 2018. With a branch in each of Australia’s mainland capital cities, including Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin, Canberra and Perth, the local arm of EY’s operations contribute to its 700 offices worldwide – with its global number of employees fast closing in on the quarter of million mark.

In Australia, or more broadly Oceania, the firm has increasingly turned to graduates from the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, with EY’s regional talent leader, McGregor Dixon saying; “In 2017 STEM graduates were about 18 per cent of our intake which is a long way ahead of where it used to be… But bigger than that, the skills we want are about adapting to change. The background or degree you have is less important. People who are agile, resilient and like change can be really entrepreneurial or innovative and that’s absolutely what we want.”

Consulting Sector

Further to the Big Four, the top ten also saw a strong showing from the consulting sector, with Accenture, AECOM, and Protiviti crowding the leaderboard in seventh, eighth and ninth, joined in the top third of the list overall by Capgemini (24th), as well as Bain & Company (25th) and Grant Thornton (35th) as two of this year’s biggest bolters. In addition, the accounting network RSM has made its debut as the 32nd most desired employer by Australian graduates.