Earning the Certified Public Accountant designation requires that an accountant earn college credits beyond her bachelors degree in accounting, gain work experience, and pass the CPA Exam. Not all accountants are CPAs, but those who earn the CPA designation may earn higher salaries than a non-CPA. Other factors such as sex, geographic location, position within the firm, size of the employer and years of experience also affect expected salaries.
Smart Pro conducted a 2006 and 2007 survey about accountant salaries indicating that accountants with a CPA certification reported having an average salary of $91,608 per year. CPAs in corporate finance made significantly more ($106,597 per year) than CPAs in public accounting ($80,767 per year) The CPAs who report finance as within his area of responsibility earn the highest CPA salaries, which average $106,140 per year.
Male vs. Female CPA Salary Gap
One of the most surprising findings of the Smart Pro salary survey shows that male CPAs earn 34 percent more than women CPAs. The male CPAs, however, had more years experience than the female CPAs, which is one reason for this gap. In addition, the male CPAs were more often partners in a public accounting firm or held the title of President of Vice President than the female CPAs surveyed.
The same Smart Pro salary survey of accountant salaries shows that accountants without a CPA designation earned $53,402 per year on average. This shows a $40,000 difference per year when compared to accountants with a CPA credential. According to the Becker website, accountants with a CPA designation earn 10 percent more than non-CPA accountants. But, Becker acknowledges that several factors play into the variation in accountant pay scales. No evidence exists suggesting whether a similar disparity exists between male and female non-CPAs.
Earnings by Geographic Location
Accountants (CPAs and non-CPAs) living in the Pacific states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington state) earn the highest annual salaries, according to the Smart Pro salary survey. Accountants in these states averaged the highest salaries at $95,933 per year when comparing CPA and non-CPA salaries combined. Geographic location of your employer may skew your earnings potential for better or worse.
In addition to salary and bonuses, 92 percent of the accountants (including both CPAs and non-CPAs) responding to the Smart Pro salary survey stated they received health benefits. Also, retirement savings plans were in place for 88 percent of accountants responding.
Accountants (CPAs and non-CPAs) who had received bonuses made up 67 percent of accountants responding to the Smart Pro salary survey. They stated that within the prior 12 months they had received a bonus of three percent or more. Accountants may also earn overtime which is not reflected in their salaries.
- Smart Pros; Smart Pros Salary Survey Results: Accounting; 2009
- Smart Pros; Salary Survey Results: The CPA Difference; 2009
- Accounting Coach; Accounting Jobs and Opportunities, 2011
- Becker; What CPAs Earn; 2011
- Evan Carmichael; CPAs vs. Non-Certified Accountants: Clearing Up the Confusion; John Day
- Clockwork Accounting: Looking for an Accountant to Hire?