Lucrative salaries, demand for accounting, and a lot of competition for talent that keeps pushing starting offers higher continue to make accounting a prime profession in the business world for anybody with the right blend of skills and credentials. An early investment in the right education paves the way to dream jobs in accounting that run the gamut for people with different interests and skillsets— from independent one-man operations and small local partnership firms on Main Street, to the echelons of corporate leadership and positions with Big 4 firms in the glass towers of the downtown financial districts in major metros across the country.
In 2020 there were more than 1.3 million accountants working in the United States, mostly based in urban areas and near regional hubs of commerce and industry. Since accountancy greases the skids for anything that involves money or audits, you’ll find accountants working for or contracted with every type of organization—large accounting consultancies, government agencies, major corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and the list goes on.
Accounting professionals fill an unimaginable variety of roles in those organizations, ranging from financial analysis to tax accounting to auditing to payroll services. Around a quarter of the profession is involved in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll. The common denominator among all of them is strong salaries across the board.
Accounting Trends: Demand is Strong, Salaries Are Growing, and the Perks Keep Getting Better
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides some general information on salary trends in the accounting profession, revealing what many in this profession already know: Demand is stronger than ever, and vacancies are getting harder and harder to fill. This means that when firms recruit professionals at all levels, from staff accountants and tax specialists to skilled auditors and CPAs, the process involves some pretty handsome starting offers at the respective levels.
In putting together salary statistics, the BLS places all these professionals in one broad category. This tends to skew figures low given the fact that the large majority of accountants are in salaried positions that don’t often come with the kind of bonuses and generous compensation packages reserved for CPAs, specialists and that elite class of accountants that go on to fill corporate leadership and c-suite positions.
For example, the BLS reports that accountants and auditors in the lower 25th percentile (those relatively new to the profession with little experience) earned $57,110 as of May 2020. But those who have made their way to the upper ranks of the profession courtesy of the CPA designation, a graduate degree, and some years of experience to draw on earn a salary of between $73,560 – $128,680 (50th – 90th percentile).
The average annual salary for this profession stands at an impressive $81,660.
In some cases, companies scrambling to fill these roles are adjusting hiring requirements, looking for people with the hard accounting skills it takes to chew through financial data even if their soft skills are a little less polished… This means that more and more, talented problem-solvers are finding positions they pay well, even if they can’t pick out a tie.
Tech continues to transform the field: Cloud computing, AI, machine learning – they’re all changing the way accountants do their jobs. If you want a competitive edge in the field, expect to be required to have knowledge of cloud-based systems, data analytics, emerging tools, and enterprise resource planning systems.
Strategic skills are key: With monotonous work like data entry automated out of existence years ago, firms are now looking for accountants who come to the table with real critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Salaries are going nowhere but up: The most sought-after accounting and finance professionals aren’t just getting one job offer – they’re getting multiple offers, and they’re becoming more confident in salary negotiations.
Firms are keeping compensation packages competitive: Perks remain an important part of the picture in the accounting and finance fields. Signing bonuses, matching gift programs for employee donations/fundraising, paid parental leave and, most recently, flexible work schedules and telecommuting options, many of which remain in place even after COVID restrictions have been lifted, are part of the salary packages for today’s accounting professionals.
In fact, the coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic influence on how and where accounting professionals work, with most firms implementing dramatic, long-term changes regarding everything from remote audits to more rapid conversions to cloud-based systems.
A Closer Look at Accounting Jobs
Some of the most popular accounting positions include:
- Accounting manager
- Certified Internal auditor
- Business analyst
- Payroll manager
- Senior accountant
- Financial analyst
- Staff accountant
- Forensic accounting
Skilled accounting and finance pros remain on the top of the most-wanted list in corporate accounting, with CPAs, of course, always ranking at the top, along with Certified Management Accountants (CMAs). New regulations keep senior accountants, financial analysts, and payroll managers busy. Firms continue to struggle to fill positions for public accountants, and it’s quite common for even entry-level public accountants to field multiple job offers.
For pros in the banking and financial markets, risk and compliance, and operations, job opportunities remain strong.
Salaries in Public Accounting
Competition for top talent in the public accounting industry has only become tougher over the past year, and retention and hiring have become key priorities. That’s driving salaries higher and increasing other compensation and retention tools used to sweeten the deal, from bonuses to flextime and paid time off, to non-standard benefits like day care assistance.
Accountants in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services earned an average salary of $85,050, as of May 2020.
Senior-level public accountants earn between $100,740 and $139,320, while those in specialist roles (financial analysts, financial risk specialists, etc.) earn between $71,390 and $91,560 in entry to middle-level positions and between $123,340 and $161,430 in senior positions.
Public accountants who serve as financial examiners focus on performing compliance and risk assessment duties and can be found contracted with or working for banks, brokerages and other financial firms and lenders that manage financial assets, as well as for the government bodies that regulate financial activity. These accounting professionals earn an average salary of $92,730, while those at the top end of the salary scale earn between $113,170 and $159,120.
Salaries in Corporate Accounting
Corporate accountants are in heavy demand in almost every sector, from manufacturing to real estate to healthcare. Major changes in the U.S. tax code, technology solutions implementation, merger and acquisition activity under the growing trend of massive corporate consolidations – all these things are accelerating the need for expert staff and senior accountants, financial analysts, and tax specialists.
As a result, average corporate accountant salaries, as of May 2020, remain strong in all industries:
- Federal government: $105,980
- Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing: $112,680
- Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities: $102,020
- Management of companies and enterprises: $82,770
- Oil and gas extraction: $85,050
- Insurance and employee benefit funds: $84,930
- Other information services: $99,910
- Other investment pools and funds: $85,880
At the pinnacle of corporate accounting in almost every company is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The most talented among them get starting offers in the mid six-figure range, even before stock options, bonuses and other incentives that are common at this level.
Other senior professionals also command very strong salaries on the basis of their expertise in specific business sectors and accounting specialties. In a tightening market, companies are offering generous compensation packages to attract talented leaders with real knowledge of accounting.
Financial managers, for example—CPAs and other accountants who assume managerial and leadership roles in corporations, banks, insurance companies and investment firms—earn an average salary of $151,510, with those in the upper 25th percentile commanding salaries that range from $186,030 to more than $208,000.
Some of the top-paying industries for financial managers, according to average salary, include:
- Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments: $206,050
- Monetary authorities – Central Bank: $200,780
- Cable and other subscription programming: $196,520
- Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing: $195,340
Accountant and Auditor Salaries, by State
Here you can find the salary ranges standard for accountants and auditors in your state (50th – 90th percentile), as reported for May 2020 (BLS shows overall averages for all accounting professions, including all education and credential levels):
Alabama: $64,040 – $110,200 (approximately 18,170 accountants and auditors)
Alaska: $75,800 – $115,190 (approximately 2,480 accountants and auditors)
Arizona: $68,680 – $115,830 (approximately 23,280 accountants and auditors)
Arkansas: $63,220 – $107,030 (approximately 7,040 accountants and auditors)
California: $79,030 – $135,410 (approximately 150,050 accountants and auditors)
Colorado: $76,720 – $133,250 (approximately 36,470 accountants and auditors)
Connecticut: $79,210 – $125,580 (approximately 15,870 accountants and auditors)
Delaware: $76,950 – $122,930 (approximately 5,010 accountants and auditors)
District of Columbia: $103,410 – $161,140 (approximately 10,050 accountants and auditors)
Florida: $65,100 – $118,600 (approximately 73,690 accountants and auditors)
Georgia: $73,940 – $133,410 (approximately 34,800 accountants and auditors)
Hawaii: $61,640 – $96,710 (approximately 4,680 accountants and auditors)
Idaho: $61,650 – $106,760 (approximately 4,130 accountants and auditors)
Illinois: $71,270 – $118,520 (approximately 49,590 accountants and auditors)
Indiana: $66,480 – $111,010 (approximately 21,470 accountants and auditors)
Iowa: $64,720 – $105,570 (approximately 10,340 accountants and auditors)
Kansas: $63,560 – $107,530 (approximately 12,830 accountants and auditors)
Kentucky: $62,550 – $116,280 (approximately 11,380 accountants and auditors)
Louisiana: $62,190 – $102,190 (approximately 12,440 accountants and auditors)
Maine: $64,300 – $106,330 (approximately 4,720 accountants and auditors)
Maryland: $76,250 – $129,940 (approximately 23,710 accountants and auditors)
Massachusetts: $81,190 – $136,490 (approximately 34,710 accountants and auditors)
Michigan: $68,980 – $115,150 (approximately 34,020 accountants and auditors)
Minnesota: $70,390 – $109,800 (approximately 23,810 accountants and auditors)
Mississippi: $60,000 – $105,230 (approximately 5,800 accountants and auditors)
Missouri: $64,850 – $110,920 (approximately 26,990 accountants and auditors)
Montana: $63,240 – $106,830 (approximately 3,460 accountants and auditors)
Nebraska: $63,830 – $106,970 (approximately 7,990 accountants and auditors)
Nevada: $63,970 – $100,230 (approximately 7,720 accountants and auditors)
New Hampshire: $69,280 – $108,020 (approximately 5,390 accountants and auditors)
New Jersey: $88,370 – $146,380 (approximately 39,060 accountants and auditors)
New Mexico: $61,290 – $102,290 (approximately 6,430 accountants and auditors)
New York: $89,210 – $162,900 (approximately 112,360 accountants and auditors)
North Carolina: $72,900 – $126,000 (approximately 35,890 accountants and auditors)
North Dakota: $61,930 – $101,060 (approximately 4,210 accountants and auditors)
Ohio: $67,860 – $113,320 (approximately 46,880 accountants and auditors)
Oklahoma: $66,860 – $117,630 (approximately 14,420 accountants and auditors)
Oregon: $71,790 – $111,410 (approximately 12,720 accountants and auditors)
Pennsylvania: $70,420 – $120,200 (approximately 50,240 accountants and auditors)
Rhode Island: $79,380 – $129,640 (approximately 5,050 accountants and auditors)
South Carolina: $60,950 – $105,400 (approximately 15,410 accountants and auditors)
South Dakota: $64,940 – $97,520 (approximately 4,940 accountants and auditors)
Tennessee: $64,120 – $104,190 (approximately 18,960 accountants and auditors)
Texas: $73,420 – $123,770 (approximately 109,470 accountants and auditors)
Utah: $64,100 – $109,040 (approximately 11,210 accountants and auditors)
Vermont: $66,940 – $105,140 (approximately 2,260 accountants and auditors)
Virginia: $79,670 – $135,700 (approximately 43,550 accountants and auditors)
Washington: $77,190 – $127,050 (approximately 30,620 accountants and auditors)
West Virginia: $63,390 – $103,630 (approximately 4,380 accountants and auditors)
Wisconsin: $67,840 – $105,780 (approximately 21,990 accountants and auditors)
Wyoming: $62,580 – $101,900 (approximately 1,940 accountants and auditors)
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job growth data for Accountants and Auditors, Financial Examiners, Financial Managers, and Chief Executives. Figures represent national and state data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2021.