US Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Salary
[Updated for 2023]
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average CPA salary, without bonuses, is around $119,000 per year. CPAs with less than one year of experience earn an average of $70,000 a year, while those with more than 20 years of experience earn an average of $150,000 annually.
The two major factors that contribute to a CPA’s yearly salary are the employee’s experience and the size of the company. On average, CPAs earn 10–15% more than their uncertified counterparts.
Here are the factors that determine a CPA Salary:
A degree in accounting allows you to enter the profession immediately in a variety of fields and earn a competitive salary as an accountant. But did you know that obtaining your CPA license can open doors to more promotions, managerial opportunities, and a higher CPA salary? On average, CPAs earn 10-15% more than their uncertified counterparts.
Salaries can be higher than average in industries experiencing a lot of growth, like financial technology or software. As a CPA, you can work in auditing, taxation, quality assurance, or advisory services for the top accounting firms, like the Big Four, well-known global companies, or smaller local firms. In recent years, certain industries like Hospitality, Healthcare, and EdTech have been growing and looking to hire more accountants.
The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook states that employment of accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 4 percent from 2019 to 2029. This is faster than the average for all other occupations. BLS attributes the positive employment outlook to the continued demand for qualified professionals who can prepare and examine financial records during economic growth.
Salaries vary by geography and are greatly influenced by the state of the country's economy. The larger the city, the higher the median compensation for a CPA, as cities have greater competition, opportunity, and capital. Countries with a healthy economy have a high demand for financial specialists, and as a result, those positions are well compensated.
The cost of living in urban regions is greater, with certain areas being more expensive than others. Typically, larger cities provide greater access to a variety of employment opportunities, which can contribute to job satisfaction and higher earning potential.
Overall, accountants are often well-paid, so it is best to first identify where you’d enjoy living and align your wage expectations accordingly.
Your income will gradually rise as you gain experience. Your experience and expertise are usually the most important factors in establishing your salary. As a result, the larger the compensation, the more obligations you have. However, some applicants may have less-than-average work experience. This could mean that they have been working in a low-competition industry, or that there is a need for greater development of critical skills.
A Certified Public Accountant’s starting salary is around $64,000, but it can range anywhere from $44,000 to $84,500 depending on where you live and work. As you gain experience, your roles and skills will determine your income. Most states require at least two years of public accounting experience to be eligible to become a CPA. You may already be certified or be in the process of becoming certified as a junior accountant (1-3 years).
After 4-6 years of experience, you become a senior accountant. You should anticipate increasing responsibilities and obligations as you grow professionally. At this point in your career, you will have begun to develop areas of focus and expertise, and your employment title will most likely reflect your specialization. Salaries in this phase of your professional development might range from $74,750 to $102,000.
After a few years in a senior position, your accomplishments and areas of expertise become more important than the number of years you've worked. To advance to positions of leadership, you must stand out. The top spot on the ladder is not available to everyone. This category contains applicants with greater experience, competence, and/or certifications. Salaries for senior-level roles average about $109,750.
The first major decision for a new accountant is whether to pursue a career in public or private accounting. Accountants in both the public and private sectors are well compensated. Public accountants, on the other hand, earn slightly more than their private counterparts in similar roles.
One of the best ways to develop your accounting career is to work in public accounting, but it is also one of the most demanding jobs. An entry-level public accountant may expect to earn around $57,750 per year.
There are several ways to specialize as a public accountant. You may find, from the list of job roles, the ideal fit for your desired lifestyle. Here are four career specialties offered in public accounting:
There are various roles open to you when working for private companies. An entry-level private accountant may expect to earn around $57,250 per year. CPAs can expect to earn 10-15% more on average than non-CPAs in the private industry. For many students, starting a career in the private sector after completing college is a great choice. A career in private accounting can provide industry expertise and, in some cases, a better work-life balance than careers in public accounting.
Here are a few examples of accounting jobs in the private sector, from entry-level to senior management:
In some cases, large organizations offer more perks and amenities to their employees, like gyms, cafeterias, and daycare centers, than smaller companies. On the other hand, people have more say over the perks and benefits they get because smaller businesses can be more flexible and listen to their needs.
Some large organizations are willing and able to compensate well in order to attract better talent. The more staff, assets, or clients a company has, the more complicated certain accounting responsibilities become, and an accountant's compensation does reflect this. The Big 4 accounting firms are good examples of public accounting organizations where an entry-level CPA may expect to earn more than the average beginning pay.
CPAs can work for a variety of companies because almost every company in the world needs financial services. Therefore, the possibilities for landing your ideal career are endless. The following are just a few of the industries where you may work as a CPA:
Media and entertainment
Savings and loan
Below is a chart of average public accounting salaries based on title/experience. It’s clear to see how your CPA license will provide a significant salary boost early on in your career.
|Licensed CPA Salary|
|1 to 3 years||$49,000||$59,750||$70,500||$93,500|
|Up to 1 year||$40,500||$49,000||$57,750||$75,750|
|Audit/ Assurance Services|
|1 to 3 years||$45,000||$54,500||$64,250||$82,250|
|Up to 1 year||$40,500||$49,000||$57,750||$76,500|
The average salaries of CPA candidates in the Big 4 accounting firms are:
Over the next 3 years, openings for accountant and auditor positions are projected to increase. Here is a breakdown of the US states that are expected to see the greatest increases.
Projected Percentage Increase of Accountant and Auditor Positions
Most Projected Average Annual Openings of Accountant and Auditor Positions
*Sources: U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, Robert Half
When it comes to accountants' and auditors' annual compensation, not all positions pay the same. Some industries pay better than others. Choosing an accounting profession in a higher-paying field may yield a considerably better financial return over the course of your career.
Accountants' and auditors' employment is expected to expand by 11% between 2023 and 2024, demonstrating how in-demand accountants are across all work professions. This is wonderful news not just for people searching for work in the sector, but it also indicates that the prognosis for the US economy is improving. As a result, there would be a greater demand for accountants to produce and review financial records.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors earned a median annual pay of $77,250 as of May 2021 (the most recent data). The median pay is the wage at which half of the employees in a certain occupation earned more, and half earned less (i.e, the exact middle point). The lowest 10% made less than $47,970, while the wealthiest 10% earned more than $128,970.
If you are on your way to becoming a CPA and looking to broaden your professional options, here are some of the top industries to consider as you chart your course for a career in accounting:
We hope you found this information helpful as you think about pursuing your career as a CPA! To help you along your journey, here is an article on the top 10 accounting jobs, stating that the employment of accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.