The Average Salary of an Accountant

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The Average Salary of an Accountant

The average salary of an accountant is $67,190 per year.

Accountants get a little bit of a bad rap. To some, the job of an accountant (particularly a tax accountant) sounds a little bit on the boring side. But what an accountant’s job may lack in excitement (for some) it makes up in financial security. Let’s take a closer look at the average salary of an accountant and where accountants earn the most. 

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The Average Salary of an Accountant

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of an accountant is $67,190 per year, $32.30 per hour. In 2014, there were 1,332,700 accountants in the U.S. The BLS also measures the job outlook for the various professions it studies, and the job outlook for accountants is strong. The BLS projects that the field will grow by 11% between 2014 and 2024, adding 142,400 accountants. That’s a much faster rate of increase than the average for all professions, which is 7%.

The national average salary for an accountant obscures some geographic variation. The best state to be an accountant is actually not a state – it’s Washington, D.C., where the annual mean wage for accountants is $93,000. Other high-paying states for accountants are New York ($91,630), New Jersey ($86,770), Massachusetts ($82,540) and Alaska ($80,980).

The top-paying metro area for accountants is San Rafael, CA, where the annual mean wage for accountants is $119,470. Other high-paying metro areas for accountants are: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($100,580); New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ ($96,570); Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, MD ($92,860) and Salinas, CA ($92,320).

Related Article: How to Find a Tax Accountant


Becoming an Accountant

The typical entry-level education required to become an accountant is a bachelor’s degree, though not every state requires accountants to hold undergraduate degrees. For most Americans, getting a BA means taking out student loans, so although accountants earn above-average salaries, they may have to devote some of their earnings to student debt payments.

Many accountants choose to get certified in their chosen career, becoming Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). States differ when it comes to the requirements for becoming a CPA, but all states require would-be CPAs to take a four-part exam written by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. There are other accountant credentials you can earn, but the CPA credential carries the most prestige and does the most for your earning potential. And if you want a job that will require you to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, you must have a CPA degree.

Once you become a CPA, you will need to complete continuing education requirements throughout your career in order to maintain your certification. The requirements for continuing professional education vary from state to state and are imposed by each state’s board of accountancy.

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Bottom Line

The term “accountant” covers a wide range of careers. Some accountants may not have a bachelor’s degree, choosing instead to pursue certification after putting in the hours of professional experience required in some states as an alternative to a BA. Other accountants may have PhD or MBA degrees. Accountants’ salaries vary by location, as seen above, but also by qualification level. According to the BLS, the bottom 10% of accountants earns a mean annual wage of $41,400. The top 10% earns a mean annual wage of $118,930. If you have a passion for analyzing financial records, becoming an accountant could be the career path for you.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/skynesher, ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov, ©iStock.com/andresr

Amelia Josephson
Amelia Josephson is a staff writer covering financial literacy topics at SmartAsset. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.

The Average Salary of an Accountant

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