What is the Typical Salary for an Accountant?

Before starting your business degree, you may ask: what is the typical salary for an accountant? The good news is that both the demand for, and salary base, is high and forecast to go even higher. A qualified accountant has little problem finding a company that needs him or her, even with an economy that is not fully recovered.

An accounting degree is generally part of a four-year package from a university business department. This is sufficient for many employment opportunities. Some accountants go on to earn an MBA with a specialty in an accounting field. This adds one to two years more schooling.

Salary Expectations

Based on the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, this article states that the typical salary for accountants is in the low $60,000s. Those who are just starting out or who work for smaller companies generally make right at $40,000. The best-paid accountants make over $100,000 yearly. Private service chief financial or operating officers can make many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and even up to seven-figure salaries.

Accountants who work for the federal government are paid according to a scale set by Congress. See What Does a Government Accountant Do? for more information. A beginning accountant in 2013 earns about $28,000 yearly. A mid-level employee who has ten years of experience earns about $43,000. It is possible for a very senior government accountant to earn as much as $130,000. Other factors such as geographic location may increase the pay for federal government workers.

Certified Public Accountant

For many accountants, the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation is their goal coming out of college. Each state has a Board of Accountancy, which sets the rules and regulations for that state. The requirements are to complete a accepted program of study, pass the CPA Exam, and spend sufficient time on the job as determined by that state.

A CPA designation certifies that an accountant is a worthy practitioner of his or her field. According to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, a CPA typically earns ten percent or more in lifetime income over a peer that is not certified. It may be standard for a CPA to be paid between $80,000 to $110,000 yearly.

Work Environment

Typical work places for accountants tend to be in office settings. Hours can range from a standard 40 hour schedule to weeks when 80 hours seems as it if is a light workload. The normal dress is business casual. Much of the time, the work is crunching numbers and analyzing results. Often, an accountant becomes an investigator, tracking down anomalies and figures that seem off kilter. Forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement to use bookkeeping and spending patterns to catch criminals.

Expected Growth

The growth in the accounting field is expected to remain high, at about 16 percent through at least 2020. A large part of the growth is new government demands for improved accounting information from businesses. Taxes are becoming even more complicated and the Affordable Care Act has added many new requirements for financial record keeping and manipulation.

Knowing about the typical salary for an accountant makes a difference in career choice for some students, because the prospects of a steady income may be attractive, particularly in an uncertain economy. It is important though, to look wholly at a career field, not only for its expected salary, but also for its potential to be personally rewarding and intrinsically fulfilling.

For more information, see Ten Best Online Accounting Schools.

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