Steps to Becoming an Accountant in New York

As home to the New York Stock Exchange and the financial district of Wall Street, New York City continues to carry a weighty reputation for being the financial capital of the world. The Federal Reserve Bank has a location here, and New York City is where some of the world’s most powerful private banking institutions are headquartered. Investment banks like JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are legendary fixtures in Manhattan, as are some of the world’s biggest credit issuers like Citibank and the American Express Company. Insurance and financial service providers with headquarters in New York number in the dozens, and include American International Group (AIG), The Dreyfus Corporation, and Merrill Lynch.

New York is a hub of international commerce where accountants familiar with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are assets to the multinational corporations and international accounting firms they work for. The Hearst Corporation, IBM, Pfizer pharmaceuticals, and the Sony Corporation of America are just a few of the global business giants headquartered in New York.

There is considerable variance in areas of specialty for those interested in becoming accountants in New York. Those with personalities better suited to nonprofit accounting work for organizations like the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Government accountants work for agencies like the New York City Department of Education and New York’s FBI offices where they manage allocated funds drawn from state and federal tax revenue.

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CPAs in New York

The New York State Board of Public Accountancy grants CPA licensure to qualified applicants who have completed 150 semester hours of college credit, passed the Uniform CPA Exam, and who have gone on to gain a year of experience in the field. Since most bachelor’s programs consist of just 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting provides the perfect path to earning the additional credit hours required for a CPA license in New York. CPAs specializing in management accounting, auditing, and attestation thrive in New York City, as all of the “Big Four” CPA firms have offices here to serve the banking and financial service industries. In fact, three of the Big Four (Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young) have their U.S. headquarters here.

New York Accountants: Salary and Employment Industries

As the beating heart of banking and finance in the United States, New York’s accountants and auditors, particularly those in specialized subfields like forensic accounting, will continue to find their services in high demand. You can’t talk about New York without leading with the financial services industry, but there’s a lot more going on here that makes this place a mecca for management accountants, controllers, budget analysts, cost and capital accountants, and CPAs with the kind of accounting chops corporations are looking for.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranks New York number three in the nation for overall employment in the field, and shows the New York Metro as having the highest paid accountants and auditors in the country with an average base salary of $160,930. There’s no surprises there, since this is a metric NYC always seems to lead in, no matter the profession. Statewide, accountants and auditors here earn $96,300 on average.

Still, these are overall averages for a big range of specialties and job titles so they don’t provide a lot of detail on how different roles in different industries, credentials, and levels of experience lead to different salary offers. That’s where information from the professional recruiting firm, Robert Half, Inc comes in.

Salaries for Accountants in New York Working in Different Specialized Roles

The 2019 Robert Half Accounting and Finance Salary Guide provides further detail on the salaries associated with specific types of accounting jobs, providing ranges that show the 25th percentile on one end and the 95th on the other.

These ranges are wide, but for good reason. They represent the differences in pay for accounting professionals based on factors like industry, years of experience, and specialty skills or certifications. Bonuses and other incentives aren’t included here, and can add considerably to the base salaries listed. All the salaries shown here are specific to New York City.

Corporate Staff Accountants in Financial Services

New York based companies have corporate offices teaming with accountants at every level, from entry-level staff accountants to senior-level cost accountants. Those with just a year or two of experience earn a median salary of $87,110, while those at the manager level earn a mid-level salary of $129,260.

Salary offers in New York City based on other levels of experience fell within these ranges:

  • Manager: $107,131-$199,510
  • Senior: $89,569-$164,034
  • 1 to 3 years: $68,845-$136,285

Corporate Controllers

Controllers are the experts of fiscal responsibility and regulatory compliance in the corporate environment, so they’re a big deal in New York City’s financial services firms and in other corporations. Keeping businesses on the right side of the law is something that corporations value so it comes as no surprise that their midpoint salary is $166,141. The top five percent in NYC earn $291,889.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants bring their unique skillset to the financial services industry to investigate fraud claims and ensure everything is copasetic with financial statements. And when it isn’t, these specialists are called in to examine documents and computer records during legal proceedings.

In New York City their salary range is $106,780-$203,374, with those at the 50th percentile earning $129,260.

Tax Specialists and Auditors in Public Accounting Firms

In public accounting, New York CPAs performing external audits and assurance services along with those that serve as tax consultants for major corporations are the stars of the show. They are also among the highest paid. At the director-level, CPAs in public accounting firms earn salaries that many would consider impressive; in audit and assurance services, these pros earn $293,294 at the 95th percentile, while those in tax services earn $298,211 at the same level.

Salary ranges for lower-level non-certified public accountants in New York City performing these same services are shown here:

Audit/Assurance Services

  • Manager: $104,672-$200,212
  • Senior: $74,816-$142,608
  • 1-3 years’ experience: $61,118-$116,264

Tax Services

  • Manager: $121,181-$230,771
  • Senior: $85,002-$158,765
  • 1-3 years’ experience: $67,089-$128,558

Accountants in Executive Roles

As the world’s financial capital, it’s no surprise that CFOs in NYC’s financial services sector earn a midpoint salary of $285,918 a year, with the top five percent earning $702,500.

This, of course, is representative of base starting salary offers. At this level in the corporate hierarchy bonuses, stock options and other incentives can be valued at considerably more than the base salary itself.

Accounting Salaries in New York’s Cities and Non-Metro Areas

Accountants in New York State can earn widely differing salaries. Where a particular accountant falls on this range is dependent largely on specialty, location, and CPA licensure.

Area Name
Annual Mean Wage
Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls
Capital/Northern New York nonmetropolitan area
Central East New York nonmetropolitan area
Glens Falls
New York-Newark-Jersey City
Southwest New York nonmetropolitan area
Watertown-Fort Drum

(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)

Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout New York State

New York state tax preparers earned $63,440 per year on average. The average for tax preparers in metropolitan areas tends to be higher, with the 75th percentile reporting salaries of up to $106,150 in the New York Cityarea.

The table below shows salary and employment data for New York-based tax preparers in metropolitan and non-metro areas of the state (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018):

Area Name
Annual Mean Wage
Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
Southwest New York nonmetropolitan area

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of specialty within the field of accounting and auditing – BLS salary data represents state and MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Salary data for specific job titles sourced from the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting & Finance Professionals – All ranges represent starting salaries at the 25th and 95th percentiles unless otherwise noted, with midpoint figures representing the 50th percentile. Experience, specialty area, credentials, and role all influence where salaries might fall within this range. These base salaries do not include bonuses or other incentives.

Job growth projections sourced from the New York State Department of Labor and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database –

All salary and job growth data accessed in May 2019.