If you’re considering going to school for accounting, you will be glad to hear that this is one degree path that often pays off well. With a median salary nearly twice that of all occupations, accounting can be a lucrative occupation. Of course, as with any career path, there is a range of potential salaries that you might earn. Several factors can affect how much you will make with an accounting degree.
Salary Range for Accounting Professionals
The median salary for all accountants and auditors working in the United States is $69,350, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That salary is just below the $70,120 median wage for all financial specialists. However, it is still high enough to rank accountants above nearly two-thirds of business occupations based on median salary. Accountants also earn close to twice the $37,690 median wage that the BLS reported for all occupations.
The median salary is the wage in the middle of the salary range. Some accountants earn considerably less, while others earn far more. The worst paid 10 percent of accountants and auditors make less than $43,020, but the best paid 10 percent of accountants earn upwards of $122,220, the BLS reported.
The average starting salary for students with an undergraduate accounting degree is around $52,922.
Factors that Affect Wages in the Field of Accounting
Naturally, you would rather earn a wage near the higher end of the accounting salary range than the lower end. There are plenty of considerations that play a role in determining an individual employee’s salary potential. Fortunately, many of these aspects are under your control as you establish yourself in the field of accounting.
Of course, less experienced accountants tend to earn less money. While there is unfortunately not much you can do about this at the start of your career, you have the power to influence the amount and types of experience you attain once you get your first accounting job. While every new accountant must work their way up from the bottom, you can give your early career a boost if you took part in a summer or part-time internship experience with an accounting or business firm during your education, the BLS reported. As an entry-level accountant, you can start taking on more challenging work as you begin to prove yourself and your skills to supervisors, express your desire to advance and your willingness to work hard to achieve your goals and network with others in the field of accounting.
Experience is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to maximizing your earning potential, but it’s not the only factor that matters. Another way to boost your income is by learning new skills through a graduate degree program. Students in a Master of Accountancy, Master of Science in Accountancy, Master of Professional Accountancy or Master of Business Administration in Accounting program can develop the skills needed to work in senior-level management roles or in a specialized accounting position such as forensic accountant or tax accountant. These positions tend to offer higher wages, since they require a more advanced set of skills. Attaining a credential like the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential, the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation or the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) credential can also boost your income.
If increasing your salary potential is your top priority, then you can consider relocating to places like Washington, D.C., New York, New Jersey, Virginia or California, where accountants earn the highest wages, the BLS reported.
The Best-Paying Industries for Accountants and Auditors
A final important factor in how much you will earn with an accounting degree is your industry of employment. An accountant working in the field of finance and insurance is likely to make the most money, with a median wage of $74,140. Accounting professionals who work in management of companies and enterprises earn a median salary of $72,160, according to the BLS. For the 25 percent of accountants and auditors who work in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services, the median wage is $69,410. Government accountants earn a median wage slightly below that in the private sector, $67,100.
About seven percent of accountants are self-employed. Entrepreneurs in accounting have the freedom to determine their own pay rates but the responsibility of attaining and retaining clients, handling all of the accounting work and managing their own business.