CPA Salary vs Average Accountant Salary

Average CPA Salary

The CPA license provides many advantages in the accounting profession. One of the most desirable advantages is increased salary. To determine just how much a CPA license can impact your career, we’ve compiled this at-a-glance guide to show the contributing factors of salary differences.

Average Accountant Salary

$50,129* per year (excluding bonuses)

Average CPA Salary

$119,000* per year (excluding bonuses)

Average CPA Salary by Percentile

 
$66K
$119K
 
$152K
 
10%
 
 
90%

Factors That Determine CPA Salary

In its salary guide, the finance recruitment firm Robert Half International stated that accounting professionals with a professional certification or master's degree make 5% to 15% more, on average, with a CPA being the most desired credential.

Years' Experience

Earning your accounting degree allows you to jump into the profession in a variety of industries with a solid starting salary. But did you know obtaining your CPA license can open up the door to more promotions, managerial opportunities, and a higher salary? On average, CPAs earn 5-10% more than their uncertified counterparts.

COMPANY SIZE

The size of a company can play a large role in salary potential. Given that national firms have bigger clients, and thus higher revenue, it makes sense that they are able to offer their employees higher salaries than small companies.

If salary is an important factor in your career goals, you may choose to maximize your earning potential by working at a Big 4 firm. Keep in mind though that this may mean longer work weeks! If other factors, such as work/life balance, rank higher than salary for you, you may be more satisfied at a midsize or small company.

On average, Large company starting salaries range from $49,750-$68,425; Midsize company starting salaries range from $45,750-$66,412; and Small company starting salaries range from $48,037-$66,412.

Regardless of the size of your employer, having your CPA license will always earn you significantly more than before you become certified!


CPA Salary Outlook

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, states that employment of accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. BLS attributes the positive employment outlook to the continued demand for qualified professionals who are able to prepare and examine financial records during economic growth.

Job Demand - It’s a Good Day to be a CPA

Robert Half’s 2018 Accounting & Finance Salary Guide also points to a high demand for “top talent in public accounting.” Their statement is based on data pointing to a sever shortage of skilled candidates. Because of the high demand, accounting firms are scrambling to obtain top talent. According to Robert Half, “Public accounting firms are pursuing recent college graduates with accounting degrees, and frequently offering higher pay than their competitors, as well as bonuses, perks and additional vacation time. To attract and retain in-demand accountants, many firms are prioritizing work-life balance policies, such as compressed workweeks, telecommuting and flexible work schedules.”

Public Accounting Salaries

Below is a chart of average public accounting salaries based on percentile and title/experience. See how having your CPA license gives you a major increase in salary right off the bat.


Big 4 Accounting Firm Salaries

Deloitte

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, commonly referred to as Deloitte, is a multinational professional services network.  It is the largest professional services firm in the world.

$73,000

PwC

PricewaterhouseCoopers is a multinational professional services network headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the second largest professional services firm in the world.

$74,000

EY

Ernst & Young is a multinational professional services firm headquartered in London, England, United Kingdom. EY is the third largest professional services firm in the world.

$76,000

KPMG

KPMG is a professional service company and one of the Big Four auditors. KPMG is the 4th larges professional services firm in the world.

$70,000


Top 10 Cities for Accountants

Based on research performed by Indeed.com, here are the top 10 cities where accountants can get the most bang for their buck. If you're considering making a move for your career whether by industry or state, help yourself make a more informed decision. And remember--these salaries are for accountants only. Think of how much more you could make (about 25% more, on average) when you're a CPA!