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How much do accountants really earn?

CPAs are in high demand across a range of industries, and for a good reason.

Nearly every organization needs a trained professional to prepare books of accounts and provide advice on a company’s financial position. The high demand for CPAs means better salaries, career stability and steady upward growth.

As such, the salary of a CPA is hard to beat, but the lucrative package doesn’t come cheap. Accountants perform complex duties ranging from tax handling to financial reporting to auditing, among others that require high financial and accounting acumen.

But how much do accountants actually earn per year? According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for U.S accountants and auditors is $70,500 per year. Of course, the amount that accountants make depends on many factors such as education, experience, location, industry, etc. Let’s take a look at these factors to see how they affect accountants’ pay.

Education

While all CPAs are accountants, not all accountants are CPAs. To become a CPA, you’ll need a combination of education and experience, as well as to pass the Uniform CPA exam, which is quite rigorous. Most states require at least a bachelor’s degree as the minimum requirement.

However, to be granted a license, you must meet the required on-the-job work experience and ethical requirements. (For more information on how to become a CPA, visit Beat the CPA.) In a nutshell, CPAs are usually more educated than their peers (accountants). As a result, CPAs command a higher salary than accountants. Companies value the standards to which CPAs are held and are willing to pay more.

While the average salary of a CPA in the USA is around $70,000 per year, senior CPAs with over 20 years of experience could command an average of $150,000 annual salary.

CPA salary outlook by years of experience

CPA salaries vary greatly depending on the number of years of experience.

Entry-level CPAs

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a huge disparity in earnings, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $43,650, while the highest 10 percent earn more than $122,840. Below is a pictorial representation of entry-level (less than one year) CPA salaries.

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Entry-level CPAs can expect to make between $40,000 and $65,000, depending on the location and size of the company.

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As CPAs gain experience, they’re able to perform more duties with confidence. As such, junior-level CPAs with one to three years of experience can expect to earn anywhere from $52,000 to $87,000.

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With seniority comes higher earnings and perks. At this point, most public accountants have already chosen their career paths.

For example, some choose to specialize in tax matters while others in audit. Senior accountants with four to six years of experience, whether in public accounting or the corporate domain, can expect to earn from $66,000 to $110,000.

Manager and director CPA salary

Managers and directors typically have over seven years of experience. CPAs with this experience level command the highest salary, with some earning up to $150,000 or more.

CPA salary outlook by state

The average annual salary for CPAs in Washington, D.C., is the highest in the country, at $96,880, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

New York takes a close second at $95,430, followed by New Jersey at $91,400, Virginia at $84,530, and California at $83,540.

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The variations in salaries are due to the cost of living in different cities. The shortage of accountants in some states may also lead to an increase in demand in those states, causing the accountants’ salaries to be high.

CPA salary by country

Accountants with an in-depth knowledge of the U.S. GAAP and International Financial Reporting Standards can work anywhere in the world.

Below is a table of the top 10 countries and territories with the highest salaries for accountants and CPAs:

COUNTRY
SALARY ($$)
Cayman Islands
$ 89,430
Switzerland
$ 88,570
Monaco
$ 71,000
U.S.A
$ 70,500
Bermuda
$ 69,130
British Virgin Islands
$ 60,140
Luxembourg
$ 56,940
Austria
$ 56,910
Japan
$ 56,870
Iceland
$ 55,260


Accountants are key figures in any organization and their demanding roles command a higher salary than many other professions.

While the factors above greatly affect accountants’ salaries, there are other things that can also affect how much an accountant earns. For instance, the size of the organization matters, as bigger companies tend to pay more.

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