Negotiating a CPA Salary

Negotiations are an accepted part of the CPA hiring process. Find out how to successfully approach your next big employment negotiation.
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You’ve worked hard for years to become a CPA. The countless hours spent studying, gaining real-world experience, and passing your exam should set you up not only to secure a job, but also to be rewarded as one of the best in your field. Those rewards come in a few different ways, but perhaps the most evident is your salary.

Many professionals either aren’t aware that they can negotiate for a higher salary or are unwilling to negotiate for fear of losing a job offer or damaging the relationship with their new employer.

Those reservations, however, are misguided. Negotiations are a standard part of the hiring process, and the CPAs best prepared to make their case will earn the highest salaries and best benefits. Here’s how to approach a negotiation.

Support your case.

Simply asking for a higher salary isn’t likely to be effective and can be off-putting to potential employers. Instead, compile a list of your qualifications, accomplishments, and experience.

When negotiating, use this list to showcase your value to the company. It’s best to highlight skills and experience that aren’t included in the job description.

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Don’t forget about benefits.

When we think about negotiations, we tend to only consider salary, but benefits are part of the same discussion. If the employer is firm on salary, don’t hesitate to ask for more vacation time, a work-from-home arrangement, or work equipment such as a laptop or phone. You should be able to justify all requests with how they will benefit you and the company. 

Be realistic.

We all want the highest salary possible, but it’s important to set realistic expectations when going into a negotiation. Start by researching the average salary for your experience level in the market where you’re applying. Then consider any added value you bring to the position, whether through unique experience or qualifications.

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for more compensation if your qualifications merit an above average salary, but be aware of the limits of your leverage. A realistic request is a display of good faith that increases the chances that both sides will come to an agreement.

Negotiations are conversations, not arguments.

Negotiating can be uncomfortable, but remember that a professional negotiation isn’t combative. While you should be prepared to confidently support your case, making unwarranted or inappropriate demands certainly decreases the likelihood that those demands will be met. 

Instead, think of a negotiation as a two-way conversation, where both parties can listen, respond, and find common ground. This style of negotiation is more likely to end in a mutually beneficial compromise. The employers will respect your professional approach, and most importantly, you’ll be fairly compensated for your skills and experience.

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget that a job offer is an opportunity and a sign of respect. Handle all potential employers with humility and poise, and you will find the salary and benefits that you deserve!

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