The decision to put your eggs in the Big 4 or midmarket firm basket is one we must make as aspiring public accountants. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and you must weigh these along with your personality traits and preferences in order to make the decision that is the best for you.
Not to state the obvious, but the Big 4 could give you great opportunities down the road, especially if you are looking for experience and plan on making a career change in the future. Big 4 may give you the most access to Fortune 500 firms, which may allow you to join a firm that you have been auditing at some point. Further, the Big 4 probably is the best place to try to go if you have aspirations of working overseas. The prestige and name recognition of the Big 4 firms is something that you cannot underestimate either. All of these factors make this path a very viable and desirable choice. The downside would for the most part be the very intense hours that are required of auditors working for these firms. I also believe that your age when you start is a big factor in which type of firm to pursue. I think that to a lot of people, the Big 4 is a young-person’s game (speaking from an entry level position). If you are a bit older and have family commitments, a smaller firm with more flexible “work-life balance” may be a better fit.
This leads me on to the midmarket firms. While you may not have the same opportunities as far as international travel and large public company exposure, you will still have advantages that are worth considering. For one, the hours may not be quite as bad as Big 4 (this could be a negligible consideration; the reality is that the hours will be bad regardless). The other big factor for my money is that a smaller firm may give you a chance to be promoted faster and take on more responsibility earlier in your career. The smaller offices and less hectic cultures of midmarket may also appeal to some individuals.
Getting a job in public accounting is not quite as easy as just deciding which type of firm you would like to work for. The good news is that the accounting pie is big enough for different kinds of firms to have their share and be successful. Knowing where you stand and what may make you happiest is something to think about as you ponder your job opportunities down the road.