Salary progression and more general career progression are two common things that prospective KPMG UK audit employees are interested in. Generally speaking, an audit role in a Big 4 firm like KPMG will attract a strong opening salary and a clearly defined path to more senior roles and the higher salaries associated with them.
An entry-level auditor at KPMG in the major city offices can expect to earn approximately £30k per year. Once qualified as a Chartered Accountant, an Auditor can expect to be earning more than £45k per year. After this point, the salary becomes more closely tied to performance.
I remember before starting in Big 4 Audit back in 2015 that I was very interested in how my salary would grow over time and what role I could find myself in after 3, 5 or even 10 years. Whilst this information is scattered around the internet by sources you can half-trust, I have put together the below post which lays out exactly where KPMG audit employees can expect to be in their careers and what salary they’ll be able to earn at each stage.
What is the normal career progression in KPMG UK audit?
Typical career progression within Audit at KPMG UK involves 3 years as an associate until fully qualified, 2 years as an Assistant Manager, 2-3 years as an Audit Manager, 2-5 years as a Senior Audit Manager and the rest of the audit career as a Director or Partner.
Whilst career progression will vary based on each individual’s ability, impact and availability of positions within a department, there is a fairly uniform career route within KPMG UK.
There are two routes into an entry-level role within Audit at KPMG UK. The most common route is via a graduate scheme which starts after graduation from University and allows employees to gain a professional accountancy qualification over three years.
There is also the 360 Apprenticeship programme which allows those who don’t choose to go to University to join KPMG from school and earn a professional accountancy qualification over a 5-year period.
Before qualification, KPMG employees are known as “E grades” with a first-year graduate being referred to as an “E1”, a second-year graduate as an “E2” and so on.
At the end of these 3 or 5-year periods, the employee would be a fully qualified Accountant and be promoted to Assistant Manager.
Assistant Managers (also known as “D Grades” within KPMG UK) begin to take on the management of the day-to-day practicalities of an audit.
All being well, an Assistant Manager could expect to be promoted to Manager after 1.5 – 3 years depending on performance and staffing requirements within the department. Being assertive and putting yourself forward for promotion as soon as possible is an advisable course of action for those looking to progress as quickly as possible.
Once an Auditor progresses to the Manager level (known as ‘C Grade’ within KPMG UK) – they are directly responsible for the management of audit engagements and are the key point of contact for the client. At this stage, career progression becomes less uniform and more down to an individual’s performance and impact on their clients.
A top-performing Manager can be promoted to Senior Manager in as little as a year but 2-3 years is more common.
A Senior Manager performs a very similar role to a Manager albeit with more challenging or larger engagements on their docket. There is often an expectation that a Senior Manager will be more involved in the development and leadership of the department at this point in their careers.
Senior Manager is typically the job role where people hit a ceiling with limited scope for more Audit Directors and Partners in the department. For this reason, Senior Managers can be in their role from as little as one year before promotion to five years plus in some cases.
The final two roles in a KPMG UK audit department are Directors and Partners who both fulfil similar roles in that they are the responsible individuals for client engagements and sign the audit opinions.
The progression to an Audit Partner (and therefore a profit share participant) rather than an Audit Director tends to be due to the individual’s impact on clients and the wider department as well as a bit of office politics.
For a more general sense of the salary, you can expect to earn in Big 4 audit, click on the following link to take a read of my recent post on The Big 4: Salary and Travel information.
How long does it take to qualify as a Chartered Accountant in audit at KPMG UK?
It takes three years for a graduate-scheme employee and five years for an apprentice to qualify as a Chartered Accountant at KPMG UK assuming all exam and working day requirements are met. The practical process for applying for certification typically takes one to two months to finalise.
Graduates will typically be on a 36-month training contract and will be fully qualified once all exams have been passed and the required number of training days logged. At the end of the 36 months, the training file will be signed off by the professional body and the employee will receive their certification.
My advice would be to maintain your training file throughout the 36-month training contract to avoid this hurdle when it comes to getting your file ready for sign-off.
How much can a first-year graduate trainee earn in audit at KPMG UK?
A first-year KPMG UK graduate trainee working in audit can expect to earn a salary of around £30,000 per annum. This would typically be accompanied by a year-end bonus of £1,000 dependent on wider firm performance.
Generally speaking, this is a high entry-level salary compared with the wider marketplace. This role will still earn you more than most graduate positions but is not as competitive as industries like equity research and investment banking.
One thing to be conscious of is that audit trainees can often work long hours combined with the high stress of professional qualification exams. Whilst a starting salary of £30k may seem appealing, it’s not without its downsides and Big 4 trainees are made to work hard for their money.
Unlike other financial industries, the typical bonuses are nothing to write home about at around £1,000 per year. At this stage of the career, bonuses will not fluctuate based on performance and will tend to be standard across the year group. If the firm has had a particularly good or bad year, the bonus pot may shrink or grow accordingly.
For a 360 Apprentice, the starting salary will be approximately £20,000. This is notably lower than graduates starting salary reflecting the value of the graduate’s University education. £20,000 per year straight out of school without a degree is still a good starting salary, particularly when the paid-for professional qualification and lunch allowance benefits are considered.
How much can a second year graduate earn in audit at KPMG UK?
A second-year KPMG UK graduate trainee working in audit can expect to earn a salary of around £34,000 per annum. This would typically be accompanied by a year-end bonus of £1,000 dependent on wider firm performance.
A £4,000 annual salary increase from £30,000 in the first year to around £34,000 in the second year represents a 13% increase. Most audit trainees will be far more useful members of the team by this stage and the annual pay starts to reflect this increased importance.
It’s also worth noting that KPMG covers lunch costs with a lunch allowance to use within the canteen at KPMG offices or a £4 per day expense allowance when working at a client site. This works out to a benefit of around £1,000 per year when annualised across the 260 working days of the year.
How much can a third year graduate earn in audit at KPMG?
A third-year KPMG UK graduate trainee working in audit can expect to earn a salary of around £40,000 per annum representing a greater year-on-year increase than between years 1 and 2. This would typically be accompanied by a year-end bonus of £1,000 dependent on wider firm performance.
A £6,000 salary bump works out as an annual increase of around 18% which does reflect the far greater impact and responsibility that 3rd-year trainees (also known as senior associates or E3’s) will have.
The bonus will stay consistent throughout the training contract at around £1,000 a year and won’t meaningfully change until promotion to the Assistant Manager position.
How much can a newly qualified Accountant (Assistant Manager) earn in audit at KPMG?
A newly-qualified Assistant Manager in audit at KPMG will earn in the region of £50,000 per year which is around a 25% year-on-year increase. Assistant Managers will also be entitled to a larger share of the annual bonus pot and can expect around £2k per year depending on wider firm performance.
After qualifying, many KPMG auditors face the choice between continuing in audit and working as an Assistant Manager or leaving to work in industry. Generally speaking, qualified accountants from KPMG can expect to earn more outside of the audit firm if they take their future job search seriously but the career progression opportunities may not be as predictable or lucrative as at KPMG.
A high performing Assistant Manager (also known as D1) may be able to be promoted to Manager within as little as 1.5 years which incentivises many to stay on within the audit department.
Once Assistant Manager’s reach D2 level i.e. their second year of being an Assistant Manager, their salaries will likely increase to close to £52,500 – £55,000 depending on individual performance and location.
How do post-qualification audit salaries at KPMG compare to the other Big 4 firms?
KPMG UK compares favourably with the other Big 4 audit firms for audit salaries. Following a 2022 review, KPMG increased all staff pay by up to £4,000 to reflect high inflation and increased cost of living. Audit Manager and Senior Manager salaries are broadly similar amongst the Big 4.
Whilst all four members of the Big 4 pay similar salaries to their employees, KPMG does appear to pay marginally higher than the others in the more junior positions (Audit Associates and Assistant Managers). This is likely a plan to remain competitive with the other Big 4 members.
At Manager and Senior Manager level and above, KPMG pays broadly in line with the other members of the Big 4, albeit with individual differences arising through external hiring, incentivising talented staff and performance.
For my guides on career and salary progression at the other big four firms, check out the links below:
PwC UK Audit – Career and Salary Progression
Deloitte UK Audit – Career and Salary Progression
EY UK Audit – Career and Salary Progression
How much can an Audit Manager earn at KPMG?
A KPMG Audit Manager (C grade) will earn in the region of £55k in the first year of the role which can increase to £60k+ after a year in the role. Managers will also be entitled to a larger share of the annual bonus pot and can expect around £3-5k per year depending on wider firm performance.
Once KPMG UK audit employees reach the Audit Manager level, the salaries are slightly less rigid and more aligned to the individual’s performance and impact on the department. So whilst a brand new Audit Manager can expect to earn around £55k in the first year, this will vary.
For example, a new Audit Manager hired into the firm may receive more as an incentive to join the business or a particularly strong performing Assistant Manager may attract a higher starting salary than average if they have agreed to manage a significant client.
How long will it take to become an Audit Manager at KPMG?
At KPMG UK, it will take around 5 years to progress from a graduate new-starter to an Audit Manager. This will involve a 3-year training contract and then 2 years as an Assistant Manager. For those starting as an Apprentice, it will take 7-8 years to reach Audit Manager.
What is national markets audit at KPMG?
In some KPMG UK offices, employees will be split by industry e.g. banking, financial services etc. One such category is ‘national markets’ which basically refers to all clients who don’t fit into the other pre-determined groupings. At smaller regional offices, all clients will be grouped into the ‘national markets’ category.
For example, local KPMG offices such as Reading or Milton Keynes, won’t have specific departments for financial services audits, even if there are some financial service clients in the area. All clients are simply referred to as ‘National Markets’ and audit staff work across the client base.
This can have pros and cons. National markets auditors will likely have a wider breadth of clients which may make the role more interesting and allow the employee to better explore what they are interested in. However, specific sectors like financial services and banking typically pay slightly more and allow the auditor to specialise in a lucrative field.
How much can an Audit Senior Manager earn at KPMG?
A KPMG Audit Senior Manager will earn in the region of £65-70k in the first year of the role which can increase to £80k+ as they develop and depending on performance. A Senior Audit Manager’s additional compensation including cash bonuses can vary significantly with a lower limit of £5k per year.
An Audit Senior Manager is a senior role within the Audit Departments, outranked only by Directors and Partners. Senior Managers will typically manage the most complex or largest engagements and have a wider role within the department whether that be being in charge of employee welfare or driving department-wide quality initiatives.
As the role is less predictable and regimented than more junior roles, the salary and bonus expectations tend to have more variability and be more difficult to predict with any accuracy. A first-year Senior Manager could reasonably expect to earn total compensation (basic pay plus bonuses and benefits) of at least £75k per year.
How long will it take to become an Audit Senior Manager at KPMG?
At KPMG UK, it will take around 7 years to progress from a graduate new-starter to Audit Senior Manager. This will involve a 3-year training contract, 2 years as an Assistant Manager and 2 years as a Manager. For those starting as an Apprentice, it will take 10 years to become Senior Managers.
How much can an Audit Director earn at KPMG?
A KPMG UK Audit Director will earn around £100k in the first year of the role, depending on performance and longevity. Audit Director bonuses can vary significantly but generally speaking Audit Directors will not be part of the profit share as an Audit Partner would be.
How much can an Audit Partner earn at KPMG?
The majority of KPMG UK Audit Partners’ compensation comes in the form of a profit-sharing arrangement rather than a salary. This fluctuates based on the performance of the wider firm but as per The Guardian, KPMG paid its Partner’s an average of £572,000 last year.
It’s important to note that this is an average and is skewed by particularly high earners like the Chairman who was reported to earn over £1.7m last year. Whilst it is difficult to state with any real certainty, my instinct would be that an ordinary Audit Partner without any additional firm-wide responsibilities would be toward the lower end of this average, likely in the 150-300k per annum range.
Whilst KPMG pays good salaries across the board, it should be clear that to earn a truly outstanding salary, it’s necessary to progress to the Audit Partner level which is a hugely difficult task.
How long will it take to become an Audit Partner at KPMG?
At KPMG UK, it will take around 15 years to progress from a new starter to Audit Partner but this is highly variable based on individual performance and can be both shorter in some cases and much longer in others. Many KPMG audit employees never make it to Partner and top out as Audit Directors.
Unlike other roles in the Audit department, becoming an Audit Partner isn’t as simple as putting the time in and doing a reasonably good job. Only those in the department who are genuinely impactful and have the right temperament and nature to own the firm end up becoming Partners. It is quite common for Audit employees to progress to Director level and then hit a ceiling either through choice or not having the necessary qualities of a Partner.
Is it hard to find a secondment when working in KPMG UK audit?
Whilst working for KPMG UK in audit, it can be difficult to arrange a secondment to another part of the Business. Whilst it is fairly common and something the firm appears to be getting better at, audit departments don’t want to lose their key resources, making seconding difficult.
My advice to those looking to transfer away from Audit to another department after qualification is to make this known as early as possible. If you leave it until the last minute, the audit department management will have had no time to plan for losing you as a resource and not be particularly receptive to helping.
It will also be necessary to cultivate a relationship with someone in the department you are looking to join to have someone to advocate for you on the other side.
As always, please remember I am an Accountant, but not your Accountant. In this post (and all of my others) I share information and oftentimes give anecdotes about what has worked well for me. However, I do not know your personal financial situation and so do not offer individual financial advice. If you are unsure of a particular financial subject, please hire a qualified financial advisor to guide you.
This article has been written by Luke Girling, ACA – a qualified Accountant and personal finance enthusiast in the UK. Please visit my ‘About‘ page for more information. To verify my ACA credentials – please search for my name at the ICAEW member finder. Please comment below or contact me here to get in touch with questions or ideas for future posts.