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The Pros & Cons of Working at a Startup vs a Big Company in 2023

working at start up and big company

As students approach the culmination of their academic journey, the question of what lies ahead becomes increasingly pressing. Whether you dream of launching your own venture or immersing yourself in a corporate environment, planning for your future is crucial to achieving success. Indeed, transitioning from academia to the professional world can be daunting, but with the right knowledge and preparation, you can make the most of your career. If you’re considering working for a company to hone your skills, an important decision lies ahead: should you join a startup or a well-established corporation?

Understanding Startups and Big Corporations

Before delving into the advantages and disadvantages of each option, let’s first define what startups and big corporations are.

Startups are typically young companies founded by entrepreneurs aiming to develop a unique product or service. According to US Census Bureau, there were approximately 50 million new startups launched in 2022 alone.

On the other hand, big corporations, also known as “corporates”, are large, well-established companies with hundreds to thousands of employees. They generally have a stable market presence and a hierarchical structure. As of 2021, there were over 20,000 corporations in the United States with 500 or more employees.

Weighing the Pros and Cons: Startup vs. Big Corporation

When deciding between a startup and a big corporation, it’s essential to consider the unique advantages and challenges that each presents.

Working at a Startup


Broad Scope of Work

In a startup, you’re often required to wear multiple hats. This could range from marketing and sales to product development and customer service. You’ll likely be exposed to different aspects of the business, enabling you to gain a wide array of experiences. This can be invaluable in understanding how different facets of a business operate and interconnect.

Close-knit Community

Startups generally have smaller teams, which can foster a strong sense of camaraderie. You’ll likely work closely with team members across different roles, fostering cross-functional collaboration. This can lead to a more inclusive and supportive work environment, where everyone’s opinion matters.

Faster Career Progression

Due to their dynamic nature, startups often provide opportunities for rapid career progression. As the company grows, you may find yourself taking on more responsibilities and moving up the ranks quicker than you would in a larger corporation.


Less Financial Stability

Startups are often backed by venture capital and are subject to financial instability. They may face challenges in securing funding or generating revenue, leading to uncertainties such as layoffs or even closure.

Intense Workload

The ‘all hands on deck’ approach in startups can mean longer hours and high-pressure situations. Balancing multiple roles and tasks can make it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Working at a Big Corporation


Higher Salaries and Comprehensive Benefits

Corporations typically have the resources to offer competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits, including health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. These perks can provide a sense of financial security and stability.

Structured Roles

Corporations usually have clear job descriptions and well-defined career paths. This allows you to specialize in a specific area of your field, honing your skills and expertise over time.

Prestigious Name on Your Resume

Working for a reputable corporation can add a significant weight to your resume. It signals to future employers that you’ve operated in a professional environment and have been exposed to industry-standard practices.


Slow Decision-Making Processes

Larger corporations tend to have bureaucratic structures, which can slow down decision-making processes. This could lead to frustration if you prefer a more agile and dynamic work environment.

Less Noticeable Contributions

In a large corporation, you might feel like a small cog in a big machine. With so many employees, your individual contributions may not be as noticeable or recognized as they would be in a smaller team.

What Fits You Most? Choosing Between a Startup and a Big Corporation

Choosing between a startup and a large corporation is largely determined by your personal career goals, personality, and work style. Here are some factors to consider:

Risk Tolerance

Startups can offer exciting opportunities, but they also come with a degree of risk due to their uncertain nature. If you’re comfortable with this level of uncertainty and enjoy the thrill of shaping a company from the ground up, a startup might be a good fit for you.

Learning Opportunities

If you value a wide range of experiences and the chance to wear multiple hats, a startup could provide a rich learning environment. On the other hand, if you want to specialize in a particular area and appreciate structured learning and development programs, a corporation might be more suitable.

Work-Life Balance

Startups often require employees to work long hours and juggle multiple roles, which can impact work-life balance. If you prefer a more predictable schedule and structured work environment, a big corporation may be a better fit.

Career Progression

If you’re ambitious and eager to climb the career ladder quickly, the fast-paced nature of startups can provide rapid career progression. However, if you value stability and a clear, defined career path, a larger corporation may offer that.

Culture and Environment

Consider the type of work culture and environment you thrive in. If you enjoy a close-knit, collaborative atmosphere with less hierarchy, you might enjoy working at a startup. In contrast, if you prefer a more formal, structured environment with clear hierarchies and procedures, a big corporation might be more appealing.

Making an Informed Decision: Reflect on Your Strengths and Weaknesses

In conclusion, choosing between a startup or a big corporation is a significant career decision. It’s not just about the size of the company but about how well its culture, work pace, and opportunities align with your strengths and weaknesses.

Startups and corporations each come with their unique sets of benefits and challenges. Startups often offer dynamic, fast-paced environments where you can quickly learn and grow. On the other hand, corporations provide stability, structured career paths, and the chance to learn from established professionals in the field.

The best way to make this decision is to reflect on your own skills and preferences. Are you someone who thrives in an unpredictable, innovative environment, or do you prefer a more stable, structured setting? Understanding your strengths and areas for improvement can guide you towards the right choice.

Remember, there’s no ‘right’ answer to this question. The most important thing is to choose an environment that aligns with your career goals, plays to your strengths, and provides opportunities to address your weaknesses. This approach will help ensure that whatever path you choose, it leads to growth and fulfillment in your career.


  • RJ Sinclair

    RJ is our resident money guru, with a knack for keeping finances neat and organized. With previous experience as a budget manager in supply chain companies, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. Count on RJ as a trustworthy source for valuable money tips and advice to help you make the most of your financial journey.

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