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What are the Highest Paying Accounting Jobs?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explains that there will be new demands for accountants over the 2010-2020 decade. Job growth for accountants should rise by 16% between 2010 and 2020 because of the need for accountants to help firms follow complex financial regulations. This added need for accountants can create a competitive labor market, especially for high wage accounting jobs. If you are interested in working in accounting, you might be wondering what are the highest paying accounting jobs.

What Determines Advancement

According to the BLS, in order for an accountant to out-compete other job applicants, a certain level of professional and academic attainment is needed. The BLS states that to even be considered for the top accounting firms in the country, a candidate needs to have a master’s degree in accounting or business with a concentration in accounting, and be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Even with these high credentials, you might need to work for several years in entry-level or mid-management jobs.

Salary Trends

The BLS reports that as of May 2010, the median annual wage for accountants (and auditors) calculated to $61,690. However, the mean annual wage for accountants (and auditors) in May 2012 calculated to $71,040. The lowest ten percent of accountants earned $39,930 annually as of May 2012. The highest ten percent of accountants earned $111,510 annually in May 2012.

The BLS shows that most accountants work for accounting firms that help clients with their basic tax preparations and payroll. However, the top paying industry, according to the BLS, is the securities and commodity exchanges. Although there are only 70 accountants recorded to be working in the securities and commodity exchanges sector, the BLS found their May 2012 annual mean wage calculated to $96,260. The top paying industry sector with the most employees is the federal government. The BLS found that in May 2012, the federal government employed 23,650 accountants who earned an annual mean wage of $90,560.

In May 2012, the state of California had the most accountants working in the state, totaling 133,570 workers. However, the District of Columbia and New York are the top paying states or regions for accountants. DC accountants earned $87,370 as an annual mean wage while New York accountants earned $85,140 as an annual mean wage in May 2012. The New York City metropolitan area employs the most accountants in the country, with 65,730 accountants, and the metropolitan area has the highest pay for those accountants in the country, with the accountants earning $91,240 as an annual mean wage in May 2012.

What Firms and Positions Pay the Most

Arguably, the top firms in accounting can provide very high wages for accountants. Known as the Big Four Auditors, these four international firms hold and analyze the most financial assets in the world. The four firms are Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Entering into these firms is extremely competitive, with many applicants from around the world applying for open spots in these firms.

However, you do not need to go with the Big Four for the highest paying accounting jobs. For example, according to, an accounting manager, who leads an accounting department or firm, can earn median expected salary of $86,147. Another example includes level-4 internal auditors, who work within corporations and firms to conduct internal audits and make recommendations on more efficient business practices. reports that level-4 internal auditors can earn $86,858 as a median expected salary. These examples show how specific job titles in organizations and businesses can still help accountants earn a good income without being a member of the Big Four or other large accounting firms.