Accountant Salary and Job Outlook

An accountant salary can be incredibly lucrative, with consistent and well-established patterns of career growth all across the profession.

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How much do accountants make?

Accountant salary varies by region and specialty, but according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median national annual salary for accountants and auditors is $68,150.

What is my earning potential?

The BLS reports that the top 10 percent of those in the accounting profession earned over $120,000 per year. Accountants who work longer hours at certain times of the year, such as at the end of the budget year or during tax preparation season, may see an additional increase in income.

How do accountant salaries compare?

Accounting Career Median Annual Salary*
Accountants and Auditors $68,150
Management Analysts $81,330
Financial Managers $121,750

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2018-18 Edition.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.

Is there demand for this career?

Demand for accountants will increase as the globalization of business related to international trade and mergers and acquisitions grows. In the wake of recent corporate financial scandals, businesses will face more scrutiny and stricter regulations. As these tighter standards become commonplace, accountant services will be expected to increase in order to help them comply with the new laws.

Human resource consulting firm Robert Half International reports that employers are shifting their hiring focus toward core accounting positions that support business growth, and that experienced accountants who can help companies manage business expansion opportunities will be invaluable.

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What is the job growth for the field?

The BLS states that the employment of accountants is expected to grow 10 percent through 2026, which is faster than average for all occupations. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

How much competition will I face for a job?

What kinds of companies hire accountants? Accountants who have earned their master’s degree or attained professional recognition as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) should have the best job prospects, though competition will be intense for placement within prestigious accounting and business corporations. CPAs who have experience with the Big Four accounting firms (Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers) will be in particularly high demand.

What kinds of companies hire accountants?

While many accountants work in independent practice, the BLS reports the following industries employed the largest number of accountants:

  • Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping
    and Payroll Services
  • Management of Companies
  • Local and State Government
  • Management, Scientific
    and Technical Consulting Services

Accountant salary by industry

  • Finance and insurance–$72,950
  • Management of companies and enterprises–$70,790
  • Manufacturing–$69,040
  • Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services–$68,130
  • Government agencies–$65,820

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How do I advance in my accounting career?

Get certified! Robert Half International recommends certification as the primary way to advance in an accounting career, stating that the CPA designation inspires the most confidence in potential employers.

Other certifications, which are increasingly being requested by employers, include the following:

  • Certified information systems auditor (CISA)
  • Chartered financial analyst (CFA)
  • Certified management accountant (CMA)
  • Certified internal auditor (CIA)
  • Chartered global management accountant (CGMA)
  • Certified payroll professional (CPP)

Another way to advance is to earn your MBA, which will provide entry to senior financial analyst positions and administrative roles. Because technology will play a larger part in the accounting landscape, learning software applications such as QuickBooks and Microsoft Dynamics GP could increase your chances in the employment arena.

To learn more about the education required of accountants, research your options, select your program and speak with a school of your choice today.

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