Working for big companies versus small companies

Not all businesses are created equal. In much the same way as choosing between city living or the country life, there are differences between working for a large company and a small one that can impact your quality of life. There is no right answer for which is ‘best’ but read on to see how they compare, and which might be right for you.


Larger companies may offer greater opportunities for career progression. “With different departments and positions and an ever-expanding hierarchy of roles, the sky’s the limit,” says Defined career paths help guide you to the next steps in your career, and documented job competencies make it simple to see the skills and experience expected of each job role.

With small companies, there is often less clarity on career progression. The positive aspect is that this can mean fast advancement if you find yourself in a growing company and are able to take on the ever-expanding responsibilities. However, some small companies stay small, so there’s a risk of finding yourself stuck in one place.


Big companies usually have defined training budgets and may actively encourage employees to develop themselves and gain new qualifications. Smaller companies tend to offer less defined training paths, instead using on-the-job training to develop skills and experience. This can lead to fast-paced personal development, but it may be harder to evidence your competencies to a future employer without the recognition that comes from achieving a formal qualification or experiencing a big company training programme.

Job security

Larger, established companies can offer better job security, as they are more resilient to short-term financial difficulties. However, as Kane Partners argue, this doesn’t mean the opposite is true of smaller companies. Although statistically, small companies come and go at a higher rate, small companies generally use recent innovations, more efficient business models and new technologies, which means that employees may gain the latest market-relevant skills and be more attractive to future employers.


A smaller company often means working in a smaller team. You’re more likely to get to know all your co-workers and bosses, which fosters a culture of openness, idea sharing and less hierarchy. It can also open up opportunities for you to grow and develop your career.

At big companies with hundreds or thousands of employees you will need to work harder if you want to stand out from the crowd and get noticed for career development opportunities – but this can also provide greater networking opportunities.

Benefits and salary

Reports on whether big companies pay more than smaller companies are conflicting. In larger organisations, defined pay scales are likely to set the level of pay for each role. In smaller companies there is more flexibility to pay an appropriate salary, but there may not be the money to afford big pay cheques.

Big companies can often afford to attract talent with more benefits, like gym memberships, canteens, social events, pensions, private health care, childcare, discounts and more.

Small companies may not have the budget for these benefits, but they can offer more flexibility and work/life balance. “Smaller companies know that they cannot provide the same benefits that a large corporation can, so will often go out of their way to make the working conditions as pleasant as possible,” say

It’s an important decision to make when you’re job hunting. Do you go for the small company with greater risks but more chance to shine? Or a larger, established company with awesome benefits and a brand that will enhance your CV, but where you risk of being lost in the crowd? It is of course a personal decision – the challenge is to determine which environment works best for you.