Though a CPA license is not required to work in accounting, accountants and auditors who earn certifications, especially the CPA, have the best job prospects, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The starting salary for Certified Public Accountants ranges from $44,750 to $104,500, depending on their industry and the type of accounting they perform. Whether you’re just beginning your accounting career or looking for a career change, knowing how much you could (and should) be making as your career grows is essential.

CPA starting salaries

A Certified Public Accountant’s salary depends on many factors, including:

  • Whether the work is in public or corporate accounting
  • Size of the company they work for
  • Type of work they perform
  • State in which they practice

We can safely make some generalities about CPA salaries. For example, corporate accounting firms tend to pay better than public accounting firms. In addition, jobs at larger firms (like the Big Four) pay more than mid-size or small accounting firms, and positions in tax and financial services tend to pay more than general accounting jobs.

Starting salaries for accounting and finance professionals

Job TitleAverage Annual Salary
Compliance Analyst$83,000
IT Auditor$82,250
Tax Accountant$76,000
Cost Accountant$67,000
Entry Level, IT Auditor$55,750
Entry-Level Budget Analyst$54,750
Entry Accounting Clerk$41,703

*(1-3 years of experience)

Highest-paying positions for accountants

Licensed CPAs can pursue various career paths. Executives and directors in top-tier accounting positions can earn upward of $200,000 annually, more than four times the average starting salary for a general accountant. The following table shows the average salary for top accounting executive positions, excluding bonuses and incentives.

Average annual salary for highest-earning accounting jobs

Job Title
Average Annual Salary
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)$214,500
Chief Compliance Officer (CCO)$181,750
Vice President of Finance$192,750
Corporate Controller$188,250
Finance Director$185,330

How to increase your accounting salary

As a budding accounting professional, there are several ways to solidify your position as top talent and increase your salary. One way is to validate your skill set with a credential. While the CPA is considered the “platinum standard” for the accounting profession, the full CPA license requires 150 credit hours and one year of work experience. In most states, you can sit for the CPA Exam after completing just 120 credit hours or a bachelor’s degree. As you are working to gain the CPA credential, employers will know that you are serious about pursuing a career in accounting.

Surgent CPA Review is always looking for new ways to help candidates on their path to CPA Exam success. That’s why our course adapts to the accounting knowledge you already have to serve you only the content you need to learn, allowing you to pass the CPA Exam in as few study hours as possible. On average, Surgent students pass after just 46 study hours.

Start studying with Surgent CPA Review and get on the path to CPA Exam success today!