The average accounting salary in the U.S. will depend on what type of accountant you are, what part of your career you are in, and where you are located. Accounting salaries by state and accounting salaries by city vary widely. An accounting salary with a master’s degree will also be higher than an accounting salary with a bachelor’s degree.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2017, the median accounting salary was $69,034. The 10 percent of accountants who earned the most earned more than $122,210 per year while the 10 percent who earned the least earned $43,020 or less.
The field of accounting is growing at a pace that is higher than the average for other careers. The BLS reports that the accounting field is expected to continue growing at an annual rate of 10 percent through 2026. Accounting is among the highest-paying business careers and is one that is in greater-than-average demand.
Accountants do much more than simply calculate numbers. They serve as advisors to their clients and help them to make sound financial plans. Their primary jobs are to examine and prepare financial reports and records.
Accountants are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the financial records and that their clients’ tax returns are accurate and filed on time. They must also make certain that their clients’ taxes are paid on time.
Accountants may perform a variety of different tasks at work such as the following:
A CPA is an accountant, but not every accountant is a CPA. To become a certified public accountant, an accountant must meet some rigorous licensing requirements and pass the CPA exam. There are specific educational requirements for CPAs that extend beyond what is required to simply become an entry-level accountant.
Following graduation from college, accountants must work while they are being supervised by licensed CPAs for a minimum of one year. During college, the accountants who wish to become CPAs must also complete a minimum of 150 credit hours, including specific upper-level courses. After they have completed the educational and work requirements, the accountants then take the CPA exam.
CPAs are required to follow strict ethics rules, and they must take continuing professional education classes each year. They also have a fiduciary duty that they owe to their clients. Because of the many requirements, a CPA is a highly sought-after credential for both accountants and potential employers.
CPAs provide audit and assurance services to their clients. They may be employed by the private sector in the following roles:
Forensic accounting is a specialized area within the accounting field. Forensic accountants are responsible for investigating and analyzing financial records and giving expert opinions about them in court.
Forensic accountants may be called as expert witnesses in civil and criminal cases. Their testimony and work may be important for resolving civil financial disputes and for helping the prosecution prove white collar criminal matters such as embezzlement or fraud.
According to the annual salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average adjusted starting salary for accounting majors with four-year degrees in 2015 was $51,426. By contrast, the overall average starting salary for four-year degrees, including other degrees, was $50,219. However, the accounting salaries by state and city vary.
In terms of average starting salaries that have been adjusted for inflation since 1960, the NACE reports that accounting majors have enjoyed an increase in real dollars in the amount of 20.3 percent. Accounting majors earn more money on average than other popular four-year business majors, including business administration, business management, and marketing majors.
The average expected salary for a mid-level, experienced accountant will depend on his or her location, level of education, and the type of accounting work that he or she performs. According to the Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals, the average accounting salaries of different types of accountants with one to three years of experience and whose salaries fall at the 50th percentile are as follows:
With three to five years of experience, Robert Half reports that the average accounting salaries for accountants at the 50th percentile are $70,000 per year. With five or more years of experience, they can expect an average accountant salary of $80,000.
Senior accountants can make much more than their less-experienced counterparts. The amount that people can expect to earn will depend on their roles. For example, chief financial officers at the 50th percentile make average accounting salaries of $200,000 per year. Controllers who are at the 50th percentile make average accounting salaries of $125,000 per year.
Average accounting salaries by state and accounting salaries by city vary widely, including for people who are in senior accounting positions. For example, an experienced financial controller in Kansas City, Missouri earns an average accounting salary of $80,000 per year. By contrast, experienced financial controllers in New York City earn average accounting salaries of $113,128.
Certified public accountants command higher average starting accounting salaries than non-CPA accountants. Payscale reports that the average accounting salary for a CPA is $64,092. In addition to the base pay, CPAs also receive an average bonus of $3,911, an average commission of $5,022, and average profit-sharing of $2,539.
Like other types of accountant positions, CPAs command higher salaries when they are experienced. Payscale reports that the average accounting salary for an experienced CPA is $79,823.
Forensic accountants earn higher-than-average salaries because of the specialized nature of their jobs. Overall, the average forensic accountant salary is $65,823. The median accounting salary per hour for a forensic accountant is $25.10 per hour, excluding bonuses, commissions, and profit-sharing.
Like other accounting jobs, forensic accountants earn much more when they are experienced. Payscale reports that the average accounting salary for an experienced forensic accountant is $92,894.
Since becoming a certified public accountant takes additional work, licensure, an exam, and added educational requirements, CPA accounting salaries are higher on average than the accounting salaries of non-CPA accountants. As previously described, a CPA accountant salary averages a base of $64,092 per year.
By contrast, average accounting salaries for non-CPA attorneys are lower. According to the Robert Half survey, the average general accounting salary is $60,000 per year.
Forensic accountants also earn higher incomes than general accountants because of the demands of their jobs. Because they must analyze and investigate financial records in a manner that will be admissible in court, they command higher salaries.
According to Payscale, the average accounting salary for a forensic accountant is $65,823. This is substantially higher than the $60,000 average accounting salaries earned by general accountants as reported in the Robert Half survey.
When comparing CPA salaries to forensic accountant salaries, it is important to note that most forensic accountants are also CPAs. They are simply specialized within their fields to conduct forensic work.
Forensic accountants earn slightly more on average than people who are employed as CPAs. As previously noted, forensic accountants enjoy average salaries of $65,823 per year as compared to the average reported CPA salary of $64,092 per year.
Accountants who are in senior roles, those who hold CPAs, and those with specialized positions have added expectations. CPAs owe a fiduciary duty to their clients and must attend continuing professional education classes each year. Senior-level accountants may have managerial duties or may oversee the major financial decisions of their organizations if they serve as CFOs.
Forensic accountants are expected to meet very high investigatory and analytical standards. They are also expected to testify in court when they are needed. Finally, accounting professionals who command high salaries may be expected to put in additional hours at work each week beyond 40 hours.
While you might not earn working as an entry-level accountant for a lower salary, there are some perks to holding a lower-paying job as an accountant. Associate accountants have fewer responsibilities at work and may not experience as much stress as compared to those who are in high-pressure positions.
Many associate accountants also work 40 hours per week, leaving them more time and freedom to do other things during their off-hours. Since the entry-level salaries for lower-paid accountants are still competitive, people in these roles may still earn a comfortable living while enjoying a better work-life balance.
The highest-paid accounting job is a chief financial officer. The BLS reports that in 2017, chief executives, which include CFOs, averaged $183,270 per year. CFOs often have advanced degrees beyond a Bachelor’s degree, and the accounting salary with a Masters that they might earn may be higher than a salary with a Bachelor’s degree.
The second-highest paid accounting job is a controller, which the BLS lists under the category of financial managers. In 2017, controllers earned an average salary of $125,080 per year.
The demand for accountants outstrips the demand for many other types of professionals. The BLS reports that the industry is expected to grow at a rate of 10 percent per year through 2026, as previously described.
This means that as an accountant, you have an excellent job outlook. Accountants are in demand across industry sectors and can find positions in the government, the nonprofit sector, in private corporations, and in education.
The BLS reports that most accountants work full-time hours of 40 hours per week. In 2016, the BLS reports that 20 percent of accountants regularly worked more than 40 hours per week. Accountants may be likelier to work overtime hours during certain busy times of the year, including the fiscal year end, tax time, and in the time leading up to the issuance of quarterly earnings reports for publicly held corporations.
The type of accountant that you are may also impact the number of hours that you work. If you work in an entry-level role, you will likely be required to work 40 hours per week. If you are instead a financial manager, a controller, or a CFO, your greater responsibilities may mandate that you regularly work many more hours each week beyond 40.
Accountants are employed across industry sectors and in many different settings, including the following:
In 2017, there were 1.24 million accountants in the U.S. The three largest accounting firms by revenue during that year included Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young. Together, these three huge firms generated a total revenue of $44.64 billion.
Bento for Business offers specialized debit cards that are designed so that the lives of accountants are easier. The cards allow you to categorize the transactions that are made based on individual departments, amounts spent, or location. You can create custom tags so that you can easily filter data in whatever way that you wish.
The debit cards come with robust controls that help to prevent business fraud. They can be restricted by merchant category codes so that you can control where they can be used. When employees use the cards, they will not need to request expense reimbursements. Finally, the cards allow the automatic importing of transaction data so that the work of accounts payable is streamlined.
Bento for Business offers a card API that allows developers to integrate it with your proprietary software. This allows you to instantly create cards from within your applications so that they can be used to securely make purchases remotely.
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