More than 664,000 accounting professionals in the United States have an active Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) reported. An estimated 30 to 50 percent of American accountants are CPAs, and the credential is consistently in-demand. There are many reasons why so many accounting professionals are eager to attain their CPA license, from salary potential to leadership and senior-level job opportunities.
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Six-Figure Earning Potential
The average salary for CPAs in the United States is $119,000 dollars per year, not counting bonuses, according to the Journal of Accountancy. That’s well above the $69,350 median salary the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports for all accountants and auditors, not to mention more than three times the median wage for all occupations.
Having your CPA license doesn’t guarantee that you will start out with a six-figure salary, but it certainly makes it possible to attain such a high earning potential as you gain experience and move into senior-level roles. CPAs can expect to earn 10 to 15 percent more than their peers without a CPA license at every stage of their accounting career, the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) reported. That means that as a junior level public accountant at a small firm, your salary range can rise from $54,750 to $70,500 without a CPA license to a range of $60,225 to $81,075. Senior level CPAs at large firms may make up to $127,937 per year, while directors and senior managers with a CPA license can see wages as high as $239,200. Other sources suggest that the financial impact of having CPA certification can be even higher, with a salary increase of up to 33 percent. In any case, by the time CPAs retire, they have earned on average one million dollars more than their peers who don’t have a CPA license, according to the Accounting Institute for Success.
Salaries for CPAs continue to grow, according to the Journal of Accountancy. About 80 percent of CPAs surveyed reported a salary increase in the past year, with the average raise being four percent. More than 80 percent of respondents anticipate another pay increase in the next 12 months.
You can boost your income even further by going to graduate school. In addition to the salary increase associated with attaining your CPA license, the BLS reports that there is a wage premium for having a master’s degree in accounting.
Leadership and Senior Level Roles
If you want to be the boss, having a CPA license can be a valuable, and often essential, asset. Certainly, other factors, such as experience and level of education, contribute to your eligibility for senior-level roles in an accounting firm. However, without becoming a certified public accountant, you can only go so far. It’s not unusual for public accounting firms to have policies in place stating that they consider only those with the CPA credential for promotion to roles such as senior manager or partner.
Besides a CPA license, a degree and experience, qualities such as integrity, dedication, teamwork and strong communication skills are essential be become an accounting firm partner, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants reported.
The high salary and potential for advancement contribute to certified public accountants’ high rate of job satisfaction. Across the U.S., two-thirds of CPAs report that they are satisfied with their current salary, the Journal of Accountancy reported, even as those salaries continue increasing for the majority of CPAs. It’s not only the pay that make CPAs happy in their work, but also the prestige and the work itself. People inside and even outside the field of accounting respect the CPA certification much as they do Ph.D. or Juris Doctor credentials, the AICPA reported.
Job satisfaction is one of the top reasons why becoming a CPA is worthwhile, according to the NASBA. Today’s CPAs work in numerous and often specialized roles, allowing individuals in the field to focus on the tasks they find most interesting, such as business consulting, information technology or forensic accounting.
Some CPAs work for global corporations that offer opportunities for world travel, making a career path once stereotyped as number-crunching far more appealing to would-be globetrotters, high-tech experts and fraud exposers.