Recent statistics reveal there are plenty of reasons why accountants can expect their career opportunities—and their salaries—to grow in upcoming years.
A 2013 survey conducted by professional staffing firm ManpowerGroup revealed that for the third year in a row, jobs in accounting and finance are among the top ten hardest jobs for employers to fill. This survey of 1,000 U.S.-based employers found that 32 percent reported having a lack of available candidates for accounting jobs. As demand for qualified accountants increase, so too has compensation as employers continue to develop better benefits packages and offer higher starting salaries in an effort to attract top talent.
The credentials and qualifications that top paying employers find most desirable include:
- Experience with one of the Big-Four accounting firms
- CPA license
- MBA (for jobs in senior-level finance)
- CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)
- PMP (Project Management Professional)
- CPP (Certified Payroll Professional)
- CIA (Certified Internal Auditor)
- CMA (Certified Management Accountant)
- CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor)
- CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)
- CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant)
For a comprehensive list, visit the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Post-Secondary Institutions and Programs.
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Salary Trends for New Accounting Program Graduates
Accounting Web, an online resource for accounting professionals, reported that many of the bigger firms in the country are offering signing bonuses for top grad talent. Recent graduates entering bigger firms out of college can expect a salary package in the range of the high $50,000s to the low $60,000s, depending on location. Even smaller firms are offering new grads salaries in the mid-$40,000 range.
A 2013 report published by the U.S. tax professional recruiting firms Tax Search Inc., TaxTalent.com, and the U.K.-based firm BPA found that the overall trend in accounting is an increased need for staffing and a limited supply of talent. The report found that demand for tax professionals across the board would remain high as lower supply continues to increase salary levels and incentives.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that more than half of all companies surveyed expect to hire recent graduates of accounting programs.
How Increased Hiring and Competition for Top Talent Drives up Starting Salaries
The Robert Half Salary Guide has become one of the most authoritative resources on starting salaries and hiring trends in the accounting and finance fields. Many employers now use the guide to benchmark their salaries.
As hiring continues and demand for qualified accountants grows, employers are increasingly under pressure to find and retain the best talent. As the economy surges forward and more jobs in accounting and finance are being filled, accounting departments are being expanded in an effort to relieve the burden on current staff and improve morale.
Other factors driving hiring in the accounting and finance fields include a steady stream of retiring baby boomers and regulatory compliance mandates that call for increased oversight and stricter controls. Professionals with specialized skills in the area of auditing, financial analysis, compliance, and business systems continue to experience the highest level of demand.
Corporate Accountant Salaries
Salaries for new accounting professionals (less than 1 year of experience) in the corporate environment (large companies: $250+ million in sales) earned the following annual salaries:
- Tax accountant: $47,500-$60,000
- Cost accountant: $46,750-$57,750
- General accountant: $45,250-$55,250
Experience plays a major role in the salaries of accountants, as is evident when looking at the average salaries of senior accounting professionals in the corporate environment (large companies: $250+ million in sales):
- Tax accountant: $76,000-$96,000
- Cost accountant: $69,750-$91,500
- General accountant: $57,500-$70,000
Salary ranges for auditors and business analysts remains high in the corporate environment, as these accounting professionals possess the specialized skills that many employers look for. Robert Half reported the following salaries for new auditors (less than 1 year of experience) with large companies ($250+ million in sales):
- Internal auditor: $52,000-$64,250
- IT auditor: $59,750-$75,500
- Financial reporting: $52,500-$64,250
- Business analyst: $50,000-$63,750
Similar to general accountants, senior auditors in the same corporate environment earned significantly more:
- Internal auditor: $80,000-$106,250
- IT auditor: $94,750-$125,500
- Financial reporting: $86,500-$107,000
- Business analyst: $78,000-$100,500
Not surprisingly, executive-level accounting positions in corporate accounting ($500+ million in sales) earned some of the highest salaries among all accounting professionals:
- Chief financial officer: $291,250-$465,750
- 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
- Corporate controller: $159,000-$224,750
Public Accountant Salaries
Accountants in the public accounting field experienced increases of about 4 percent between 2014 and 2015. Robert Half reported that new accountants (less than 1 year of experience) earned the following salaries in large firms ($250+ million in sales):
- Tax services: $55,750-$69,750
- Audit/assurance services: $56,000-$68,000
- Management services: $54,750-$71,250
Senior accountants in the same areas of public accounting earned significantly more, indicating the impressive salary potential for accounting professionals that possess significant experience:
- Tax services: $78,500-$106,500
- Audit/assurance services: $78,250-$101,250
- Management services: $77,500-$104,500
Accountants at the senior manager/director level earned the highest salaries in public accounting:
- Tax services: $119,000-$198,000
- Audit/assurance services; $118,500-$191,750
- Management services: $118,250-$195,250
Salaries Among Accountants in Financial Services
Accountants working in the financial services sector saw salary increases of between 2.9 and 3.7 percent between 2014 and 2015:
- Chief financial officer: $155,000-$275,000
- Controller (large firms): 151,500-$193,000
- Accountant (5+ years of experience): $70,500-$89,000
- Accountant (1 to 3 years of experience): $46,000-$59,750
- Product controller, manager: $94,000-$118,500
- Product controller (1 to 3 years of experience): $57,000-$73,250
- Financial planning and analysis, manager: $90,000-$120,500
- Financial planning and analysis (1 to 3 years of experience): $56,250-$75,000
Accountant Salaries by State
A 2014 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) revealed that accounting students earned an average starting salary of $52,900, which is substantially higher than the 2012 average of $49,700. The NACE survey also found that the professional, scientific, and technical services industry and the finance and insurance sector remain the top two employers within the accounting profession.
The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics provides an analysis of salaries for accountants throughout the country based on a state-by-state salary survey published in May 2014. These salaries represent salaried accountants on payroll with accounting firms and corporate accounting departments and do not include self-employed accountants in independent practice:
|Area name||Employment||Annual Mean Salary||Annual Median Salary|
|District of Columbia||10540||90220||84410|