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You Can Count on an Accounting Salary to Be Lucrative and Steady!

The accounting profession is one that treats people well over the lifetime of their career because people and businesses need them! What a wonderful position to find yourself in…a job that is critical for tracking profits and taxes.Not only is accounting a great profession…it also pays a great salary. The average annual wage reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is $59,430 as of May 2008. 

Paying Excellent Wages Over a Career Path!

In May 2006 the median annual accountant salary was $54,630. In two years the median rose from $54,630 in 2006 to $59,430 in 2008.  That is a great increase, but the news is even better.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted a survey of accountant and auditor salaries and the numbers were reported by the US Department of Labor. The survey found that accountants with a bachelor’s degree were starting work in 2006 at an average salary of $46,718.

Though this is an average figure, meaning some make more and some make less, the fact is you can earn an excellent salary right out of college with no experience.  Gain some experience and the salary picture gets even better.

Here are the LOWBALL median figures for accountant salaries based on experience.  These are the low figures meaning you can often start your career at a much higher rate. For accountants salary figures are great!

Up to one year of experience                        $33,900
Between 1 and 4 years experience               $35,800
Between 5 and 9 years experience               $39,300
Between 10 and 19 years experience           $39,800
Over 20 years experience                             $40,650

The starting salaries are higher for accountants with graduate degrees and/or certifications. For example, you will find the median salary for people with a master’s degree in accounting was $49,277. That means the average salary accountant positions with MBAs make is almost $2,600 more a year than people with bachelor’s degrees earn.

Job Prospects Are As Excellent As the Salaries

The job prospects for accountants at all levels are excellent simply because this is such a critical occupation.  Everyone at some point in their lives is going to need an accountant. In addition, there are various career paths to choose among which affords you many more opportunities to earn a good salary or wage. You don’t have to just look at jobs at big companies because there thousands of jobs in small offices, contracted labor positions, specialization accounting jobs, and even in self-employment.

The Department of Labor reports there were 1,133,580 people employed as accountants and auditors in May 2008. They projection is that by 2016, there will be 1,500,000 openings. But the job opportunities are sure to grow, and perhaps exponentially, in the government sector as the US moves toward greater government control or administration of private sector activities.  For example, if the US chooses to implement a nationalized health care plan of any kind there will be a need for another agency of some sort that will most likely hire thousands of accountants.

The market factors that are expected to keep accounting job opportunities roaring ahead include the following.

  • Increasing complexity in accounting rules and regulations
  • Resumption of U.S. economic growth leading to job creation
  • Growth in small business start-ups over the next 10 years
  • Increasing government regulation imposing stricter rules on businesses and individuals
  • Increasingly complex tax laws
  • Increasing shareholder and government scrutiny of records
  • Increasing use of technology making it necessary to have tighter monitoring and controls to prevent fraud and theft

The accounting field is in a state of expansion which is good news for you. For example, the use of technology for global sales and the increasing cases of computer fraud has led to brisk employment of forensic accountants.  That leads to another point. The accountants who earn a CPA will have the greatest job prospects simply because of the complexity of the laws and rules just described.

If you want to take full advantage of a hot job market for accountants, then consider getting your CPA license or at least obtain additional certification of some kind beyond your degree!

What Affects Your Accounting Salary the Most?

Since we were speaking of certifications, it only makes sense now to discuss what affects your accounting salary the most. There are a lot of factors.  You already saw the difference the number of years of experience can make in the lowball starting salary of an accountant. Now check out the UPPER beginning salary amount based on years of experience.

Up to one year of experience                        $45,138
Between 1 and 4 years experience               $48,385
Between 5 and 9 years experience               $53,344
Between 10 and 19 years experience           $54,923
Over 20 years experience                             $56,398

So how do you get top salary in a position? That depends on the other factors surrounding the job. Following is a list of factors with some samples of accountants’ salary range data for illustration purposes.

  • Degree obtained ($33,300 for Associate’s Degree versus $39,800 for MBA)
  • Type of employer ($36,500 at Private Practice Firm versus $40,700 for a Contract Accountant)
  • Industry of employment
  • Type and/or number of certifications ($39,500 for CPA versus $43,200 for a Certified Fraud Examiner)
  • Company size ($33,500 for smallest to $41,400 for largest)
  • City location ($40,800 in Houston versus $42,400 in New York)
  • State location ($35,200 in Pennsylvania versus $40,600 in California)

The top five industries hiring accountants are:

  • Accounting and bookkeeping services
  • Businesses and companies
  • Local government
  • State government
  • Insurance carriers

Here is something you should note though. The federal government may not be in the top five industries hiring accountants but it pays better salaries than other industries. For example, an accountant starting out with a company would earn a median salary of $38,274. The same accountant starting salary for someone starting out with the federal government is a median salary amount of $39,989!

The city and state where the job you want is located has an impact also. Accountants in the District of Columbia are paid an hourly mean wage of $36.43 whereas in Connecticut the hourly mean wage is $35.07.  That adds up to over $2,800 additional wages on an annual basis.

There are many types of accounting jobs too. The type of job you choose has a bearing on the salary you will earn.  For example, there are staff accountants, senior accountants, internal auditors, accounting instructors, and self-employed accountants.

Your In! So Now How Do You Increase Your Salary?

So you have decided you want to be an accountant or you have your first job as an accountant. Now how do you raise your salary?  That’s easy to answer…

  • Obtain a 4-year degree or a graduate degree as opposed to an associate’s degree
  • Specialize in a particular accounting field such as budgeting, forensic accounting, nonprofit accounting, securities accounting and so on
  • Become a CPA
  • Earn other certifications such as a Certified Management Accountant, a Certified General Accountant, a Certified Internal Auditor or a Certified Internal Systems Auditor or one or more of many others
  • Become proficient in the use of technology and accounting software

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The average salary for accountants is about $54,000. Learn more about the salary of an accountant.

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