Joining a high powered accounting firm is the goal of many aspiring accountants or new graduates, but it is not something that can be accomplished haphazardly. The big four–PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young–have competitive hiring practices, as a position with these firms grants the new hire with immense job security as well as lucrative benefits and compensation. Having a plan of action is a best bet when looking into these firms, to gain that competitive edge.

Have the Right Degree

Obviously, an appropriate degree is necessary when applying to the big four, but it’s not just about an appropriate degree, but having an attractive one, as well. A bachelors degree in accounting is pretty standard for firms like PwC and Ernst & Young, as is a masters degree, typically in tax. CPA certification is also a major asset when applying to these firms. While it is possible to become an accountant using varied education paths, these options are going to be the best way to angle for a career at a top accounting firm.

Internships

Almost as important as the degree is getting the right internship to prep for a big four career. An internship gives prospective candidates experience that is crucial, and lets the firms get a good look at how a potential new hire would work in the day to day of business. Each of the top four firms have excellent internship programs, but these too can be difficult to secure, as the competition is high. Attending a top school for accounting can help, as recruiters will actively seek out students at these universities to bring on board through an internship, which brings us to out next tip.

Choosing the Best School

Almost any reputable university is going to have a math or accounting degree available to students, but it is key to attend one of the most esteemed schools in accounting to draw the notice of the big four firms. This does not mean only looking at ivy league or private institutions, as there are a number of highly ranked public colleges across the nation. Do some prep work to make sure the universities under consideration are those the big four firms typically hire from.

Think About Specializing

Another ideal way to become an attractive candidate at firms like KPMG and Deloitte is to specialize in a specific area of tax. These firms have offices all over the world, and often certain offices specialize in one area of accounting, like international tax or corporate tax. By specializing in one area, either at school or through outside programs, you become a more attractive candidate at the offices dealing with that type of accounting. Another way to specialize is to engage in activities that can help in the field, like learning a foreign language or studying abroad when looking to do international tax.

Taking the time to craft an accounting career plan is the best way to ensure snaring an attractive spot at one of the big four firms. This includes picking the right degree and school, and getting good training through internships. With the right planning, you can make yourself the most attractive candidate possible, outshining the competition to snag a position in one of the world’s four leading accounting firms.