A State By State Accounting Guide
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Average CPA and Accountant Salary Guide

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are about 1.2 million accountants in the United States, mostly concentrated in urban areas and regional hubs. Accountants work in large accounting firms, government agencies, major corporations, small businesses, as well as non-profit and educational institutions. Accountants working for firms specializing in public accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services make up the largest percentage of all accountants—about 37 percent. 

Robert Half—widely considered the go-to resource for current salary trends in the field of accounting—reported that the hiring environment continues to improve in accounting, with many employers now actively focused on recruiting and retaining top talent. The Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide also reported that new jobs are being created to support business growth, and vacant positions are being filled rapidly.

Robert Half reports that some of the largest shortages in talent are in the following accounting specialties:

  • Accounting/auditing
  • Financial analysis
  • Compliance
  • Business systems

Salaries in Public Accounting

One of the biggest trends in public accounting is the demand for senior accountants with at least three years of experience, particularly in the areas of tax and audit. Similar to private organizations, public accounting firms are aggressively recruiting top accounting students, with many students offered jobs even before they graduate.

Robert Half salary highlights for accountants in public accounting include:

  • Senior managers/directors in tax services earned salaries within the range of $95,500 and $198,000 in 2015, an increase of 3.7 percent from 2014.
  • Tax services manager salaries also increased more than 3 percent between 2014 and 2015, to a range of between $88,750 and $139,000.
  • Accountants working in audit/assurance services at the senior manager/director level earned salaries that were comparable to those in tax services, at between $94,250 and $191,750.
  • Senior managers/directors in management services earned salaries within the range of $95,250 and $195,250 in 2015, an average increase of 3.5 percent from the prior year.

Senior-level professionals in public accounting at large firms earned the following, annual salaries in 2015:

  • Tax services: $78,500-$106,500
  • Audit/assurance services: $97,250-$135,500
  • Management services: $70,000-$95,250

Accountants with limited experience (up to 1 year of experience) working for large public accounting firms ($250+ million in sales) also saw their salaries increase an average of 2.9 percent between 2014 and 2015:

  • Tax services: $55,750-$69,750
  • Audit/Assurance Services: $56,000-$68,000
  • Management Services: $54,750-$71,250

Salaries in Corporate Accounting

Robert Half reports that CPA firms face strict competition from the corporate sector when it comes to hiring and retaining top accountants.

Chief financial officers enjoy some of the highest salaries among all accounting professionals. This is reflected in 2015 salary statistics from Robert Half, which showed a salary range for CFOs at the largest firms ($500+ million in sales) that was between $291,250 and $466,750 annually.

Other senior-level accountants at the largest private firms ($500+ million in sales) also enjoyed top salaries in 2015:

  • Treasurer: $291,000-$453,750
  • Vice President of Finance: $231,750-$375,750
  • Director of Finance: $159,250-$236,500
  • Director of Accounting: $152,500-$209,000
  • Director of Financial Reporting: $154,000-$217,500
  • Corporate Controller: $159,000-$224,750
  • Controller: $153,000-$209,000
  • Divisional Controller: $141,750-$194,500
  • Assistant Controller: $118,500-$160,000
  • Assistant Treasurer: $114,000-$159,000
  • Chief Compliance Officer: $169,500-$240,750
  • Chief Audit Executive/Vice President, Internal Audit/Internal Audit Director: $174,750-$266,500
  • Internal Auditor: $100,000-$144,250
  • IT Auditor: $110,000-$158,500
  • Financial Reporting: $108,000-$147,250

General accountants in large corporate accounting firms ($250+ million in sales) also earned competitive salaries in 2015, with the majority of positions experiencing a 3.6 to 4 percent average salary increase over 2014:

  • General accountant
    • Manager: $84,500-$118,000
    • Senior: $68,750-$87,750
    • 1 to 3 years of experience: $53,750-$69,500
    • Up to 1 year of experience: $42,250-$55,250
  • Cost accountant
    • Manager: $86,500-$116,500
    • Senior: $69,750-$91,500
    • 1 to 3 years of experience: $54,750-$71,000
    • Up to 1 year of experience: $46,750-$57,750
  • Tax accountant
    • Manager: $92,500-$129,250
    • Senior: $76,000-$96,000
    • 1 to 3 years of experience: $56,000-$75,500
    • Up to 1 year of experience: $47,500-$60,000

Financial Services

According to the Robert Half salary survey, the financial services sector has undergone a transformation designed to address accountability and transparency issues. This means companies in financial services are actively pursuing accounting professionals who can meet regulatory directives, manage institutional risk, and implement new capital structures.

Accounting professionals who can oversee regulatory compliance and integrated governance, risk, and compliance programs are in demand. Just a few of the companies seeking out the services of these accounting professionals include asset management, private equity, and hedge fund management firms.

These firms are also in need of accounting professionals who can handle fund accounting, taxation, and investment and valuation analyses. Robert Half reported salary spikes for professionals in risk and compliance in 2015, with many now offering sign-on bonuses and other incentives:

Finance and Accounting
As of 2015, top salaries in finance accounting ranged between:

  • Chief financial officer: $155,000-$275,000
  • Controller (large firms): $151,500-$193,000

Financial planning and analysis professionals and general accountants earned the following salaries, as of 2015:

  • Accountant (5+ years of experience): $70,500-$89,000
  • Accountant (3 to 5 years of experience): $58,500-$74,000
  • Accountant (1 to 3 years of experience): $46,000-$59,750
  • Financial planning and analysis manager: $90,000-$120,500
  • Financial planning and analysis (3 to 5 years of experience): $67,500-$88,250
  • Financial planning and analysis (1 to 3 years of experience): $56,250-$75,000

Similar accounting professionals earned the following, average salaries in 2015:

  • Hedge fund accountant (manager): $85,750-$119,250
  • Mutual fund accountant (manager): $74,750-$96,250
  • Internal auditor (manager): $91,000-$126,000
  • Regulatory reporting (manager): $92,000-$118,500
  • Financial analyst: $54,500-$80,250
  • Tax accountant: $57,250-$78,000

Risk and Compliance
Some of the top salaries for accounting professionals in risk and compliance in 2015 included:

  • Chief risk officer: $152,520-$234,000
  • Market risk analyst (manager): $95,250-$137,500
  • Credit risk analyst (manager): $93,000-$120,750
  • Operational risk analyst (manager): $91,500-$116,500
  • Chief compliance officer (large firms): $161,000-$238,750
  • Compliance officer (large firms): $102,000-$137,500
  • Compliance manager (large firms): $86,250-$113,250
  • Compliance analyst: $53,750-$84,000
  • Anti-money laundering specialist: $71,500-$95,500
  • Fraud investigator: $68,000-$91,750
  • Regulatory affairs specialist: $65,750-$95,250
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