A Close Look at CPA Salaries

Tax season has ended. The heaviest lifting is over for America’s many CPAs, staff accountants, business owners, and average citizens. We’ve all pushed passed the April 15 deadline, filing for an extension or not. Did you get help with your taxes this year? How much did you pay for that help? It may have left you thinking that an accounting career is a smart move.


(Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver/Flickr)

You are right. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects in accounting are expected to increase by 22 percent through 2018. Most accountants have a bachelor’s degree and work in four main areas: public accounting, management accounting, government accounting, and internal auditing. Accountants help ensure that a company or organization’s finances are run efficiently, public records are prepared accurately and taxes are paid on time. In this era of greater scrutiny of company finances, the BLS expects that their estimated job growth has the potential to boost even a bit more. And, the BLS notes, those accountants who enjoy the greatest job security are the ones with additional certification or licensure, specifically CPAs.

Since CPAs are the heavy hitters in the accounting world, I decided to take a look at how an average CPA salary compares with other accountants’ salaries. It turns out that CPAs enjoy more than just better job security. For example, when I compared the salary that a CPA brings in versus a senior tax accountant I discovered a significant difference. Even though both positions sound high level, according to PayScale’s database, a senior tax accountant with over 20 years of experience earns somewhere between $60,000 – $85,000 per year. Meanwhile, a CPA with 20 or more years of experience earns between $65,000 – $110,000 per year. Thanks to the extra training and certification required, CPA salaries cross the six-figure threshold.

Interested in learning more? The National Society of Accountants website is a useful one if you’d like to find out more about working as an accountant, but not a CPA. CPAs have state associations they belong to so you can look up your local one online. On the national level, there’s the website for The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants that may answer some of your questions.The BLS notes that an accounting career can give you flexibility in your work schedule, such as working from home or on off hours, and that accounting skills can lead to other careers, such as post-secondary teacher, cost estimator, financial analyst, loan officer, personal financial advisor, tax examiner, collector, and revenue agent.

Let’s dig into PayScale’s database and see what we can learn about staring CPA salaries, benefits, typical employers and more. See the charts below of data collected by PayScale about not only CPAs, but other accounting professionals.

CPA Salaries by Years Experience

CPA Salaries by City

CPA Salaries by Employer Type

CPA Most Popular Benefits

Tax Accountant Salaries by Years Experience

Tax Accountant Most Popular Skills

Tax Accountant Gender Breakdown