The average salary and total compensation for management accountants reached their highest levels last year, the Institute of Management Accountants reported, after accounting salaries saw a decline in 2011 for the first time in 23 years.

IMA members saw their average salaries increase by $3,624 in 2012, raising the average salary by 3.3 percent to $112,625. The average total compensation (base pay plus incentives) climbed $6,063 to $135,654, the first time total compensation topped $130,000 in the history of the report.

Professional certification, advanced degrees and experience helped drive the salary increases. The IMA reported that the outlook is optimistic for accountants as recovery from the recession continues.

Professionals holding the Certified Management Accountant credential continued to enjoy greater earning power. CMA holders reported an average annual salary of $115,290, or 25 percent more (compared to $92,570) than those without certification. The average annual total compensation for CMAs was $139,578, a difference of more than $34,000 (or 32 percent) compared to their noncertified peers. The certification advantage is evident at all stages of one’s career as certified professionals in all five of the survey’s age categories reported higher earnings.

“As the profession grows, accountants must find ways to differentiate themselves in order to stand out,” said IMA president and CEO Jeff Thomson in a statement. “The findings of this year’s salary survey point to the value of certification, not only in terms of earning power, but the value to employers who need highly qualified accounting talent.”

According to Thomson, the CMA’s impact is seen even at the earliest career stages (in 19 to 29 year age category). The average total compensation for CMA-certified young professionals was 44 percent higher than those not certified.

The data in the IMA's salary survey is divided into multiple sections, including management level, academic degrees earned, industry, and geography. Data was collected from a random sample of 5,117 IMA members in the U.S. in December 2012 and January 2013.