Accountant Salary

Here is your accounting salary guide. We provide you with detailed accountant salary information, including salary ranges for various positions, including accountants, CPAs, auditing managers, and tax managers. We also include a salary comparison for the Big 4 accounting firms, along with a breakout of accounting salaries by location.

If you're interested in getting a degree in accounting or finance, you'll be happy to know your salary outlook is good, as your accounting salary is likely to exceed those in nearly every other field except engineering and computer sciences.

Accounting Salary Guide

Click on the accounting position you are interested in:

Education Requirements

Most jobs in the accounting field require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in business, accounting, finance, or a related field. If you want to become a CPA, you'll likely need some upper level coursework, if not a master's degree, of which, an MBA with a finance emphasis is popular.

Median Annual Accounting Salaries

According to the BLS, the median annual salary of accountants and auditors was $61,690 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent in the accounting field earned less than $38,940 per year and the top 10 percent earned more than $106,880.

Bachelors in Accounting Starting Salary

You may expect to be paid less than the median annual salary when you start your career in accounting. According to the 2012 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey, 2011 graduates with accounting majors earned an average of $50,500 per year. That's not to far below the median pay!

If you want to make the most money as a graduate, you'll want to take a look at the larger accounting firms. In general, graduates make more money at these firms than they do in other industries. If you're having trouble sorting through all those firms, take a look at the best accounting firms to work for in 2012.

Masters in accounting starting salary

With the right experience to back up your degree, you may expect to make more with a masters in accounting. According to Payscale, a master's degree equates to around a $10k increase in salary when compared to a bachelors, with higher salaries going to those with more experience.


The top industries for accounting salaries continue to be in the area of financial investment, which includes securities and commodities investing. These jobs are difficult to land without connections and a great academic record.

Jobs are more plentiful in the areas of accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services, but the pay may be a little less for these industries. The good news is, depending on the company you work for, you may be able to look forward to upward mobility. Most mid- to large-sized companies have a promotional path which rewards experience and performance.

According to the BLS, top paying industries for accountants and auditors include (with associated mean salary):

  • Securities and Commodity Exchanges $96,260
  • Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation) $90,560
  • Securities and Commodity Contracts Intermediation and Brokerage $89,290
  • Other Financial Investment Activities $87,680
  • OTher Investment Pools and Funds $82,590


Salaries for Different Accounting Careers

Accountant Salary Range

Based on the research presented on this page, general accountant salaries range from $33,500 to $60,048. Earn more than this usually requires additional education or specialization, at which point, your job title changes. In addition to this salary range, the BLS presents a slightly different accountatn salary range which includes both accountants and auditors, ranging from $38,940 to more than $106,880.

Entry Level Accountant Salaries

According to SimplyHired, the average entry-level accountant salary as of April 2013 was $33,000 per year.

Accountant Salaries

According the Payscale, the median accountant salary is $44,500. BLS data incorporates auditors and has it a little higher median salary at $63,550. Accountants have the opportunity for upward mobility. For example, you can move from an assistant to an accountant, to a senior account.

Job Title Median Annual Salary
Accountant Assistant $33,500
Staff Accountant $43,840
Accountant $44,500
Senior Accountant $60,048

Forensic Accountant Salaries

According to SimplyHired 2013 salary data, the average salary for forensic accountants was $73,000 per year. Keep in mind that forensic accountant salaries can vary depending on the company you work for, your location, choice of industry, years of experience and benefits offered.

Certified Public Accountant Salary

According the Payscale, the median CPA salary is $58,589. Salaries range from $48,396 to $79,024 based on the number of years of experience the CPA has.

The average median salary for chartered accountants was $61,073.

Accountant Manager Salary

According to Payscale, the median pay for accounting managers was $55,627 per year. Senior manager accountants made $84,265 per year.

Tax Accountant Salary

According the Payscale, the median tax accountant salary is $50,609. Tax accountants have the opportunity for upward mobility, which results in higher pay, as outlined below.

Job Title Median Salary
Tax Accountant Assistant $47,287
Tax Accountant $50,609
Tax Accountant Specialist $53,720
Senior Tax Accountant $65,501

Accounting Firm Salary

Beginning accountants generally earn more at large accounting firms than at smaller companies. According to the Maryland Public Accounting Salary survey for 2010, entry-level accountants at large accounting firms earned between $50,000 and $55,000, while those at midsized firms earned between $47,000 and $51,000. The smallest firms generally offered salaries of less than $40,000.

Big 4 Accounting Firm Salary

The Big Four are the four largest international professional services networks in accountancy and professional services. The include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. These accounting firms offer financial and legal services, which may include auditing, assurance, tax consulting, and actuarial services. Accounting salaries for these firms are typically above the average for the industry, with options for additional pay through bonuses.


An associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers has a salary range of $48,977 - $68,559 per year. CPAs start higher, and have more earning potential, with a salary range of $49,466 - $103,042 per year. Auditing managers make between $47,935 and $97,595 per year, while tax manager salaries range from $69,490 - $109,262 per year.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

An associate at Deloitte Touche has a salary range of $45,615 - $60,166 per year. CPAs start out a little lower, but have more earning potential, with a salary range of $42,574 - $98,823 per year. Auditing managers make between $63,861 and $103,564 per year. And tax managers salaries range from $78,785 to $133,514 per year.

Ernst & Young

An accounting associate at Ernst & Young has a salary range that is less than the previous firms, ranging from $40,685 to $63,208 per year. CPAs start higher, and have more earning potential, with a salary range of $45,570 - $107,164 per year. Auditing managers have higher earnings potential at Ernst & Young compared to the previous two firms, making between $66,550 - $108,451 per year. Tax manager salaries range from $67,698 - $125,000 per year.


An accounting associate at KPMG has a similar salary range to the previous firms, ranging from $46,813 - $62,809 per year. CPAs start higher, and have far greater earning potential, with a salary range of $48,882 - $103,353 per year. Auditing managers have equivalent earnings potential compared to the other Big 4 firms, making between $63,741 - $106,532 per year. While tax managers at KPMG have the lowest earning potential, with salaries ranging from $70,000 - $102,929 per year.

Big 4 Salary Comparison Chart

Job Title PricewaterhouseCoopers Deloitte Touche Ernst & Young KPMG
Accounting Associate $48,977 - $68,559 $45,615 - $60,166 $40,685 - $63,208 $46,813 - $62,809
CPA $49,466 - $103,042 $42,574 - $98,823 $45,570 - $107,164 $48,882 - $103,353
Auditing Manager $47,935 - $97,595 $63,861 - $103,564 $66,550 - $108,451 $63,741 - $106,532
Tax Manager $69,490 - $109,262 $78,785 - $133,514 $67,698 - $125,000 $70,000 - $102,929


In general, employee pay goes up with increased years of experience, as you can see in this chart:

Median Salary by Years Experience

Therefore, an accountant with a bachelor's degree can expect to earn a higher salary as more experience is gained. From your initial starting salary, you may expect yearly pay increases. But in addition, higher education and training can result in pay increases through job promotion. For example, at Deloitte & Touche LLP, you may start out as an staff accountant making $37,810. With a degree, you may move up to an accountant, making $43,649. Then senior accountant, which has a salary between $48,267 - $80,802. Then accounting manager, with a salary between $56,202 and $104,430.

Accounting Salaries by State

Accountant salaries vary depending on what are of the country you live in. However, keep in mind that higher salaries often correlate with higher costs of living. For example, the BLS reports that New York offers accountants one of the highest mean salaries at $84,140 per year, but the cost of living is going to be much higher there than in states like South Carolina, whose mean average salary for accountants was $58,620 per year.

States with the Highest Pay

According to 2011 data from the BLS, states with the highest salaries for accountants and auditors include:

  • District of Columbia
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • California

States with the Highest Employment

According to 2011 data from the BLS, states with the highest employment for accountants and auditors include:

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania

Additional Resources

Data Sources

Salary data was gather from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Wage Data by Area and Occupation, NACE Salary Data for Finance Occupations and Payscale Research Center data.