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What Can I Expect to Earn as a CPA?

All CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs. In any discussion of salaries in the accounting profession, it is important to make this distinction. CPAs are certified by a regulatory board and must have a minimum of 150 hours of education, pass an examination and be licensed by the state where they practice. Employers look for the credentials when they hire and Certified Public Accountants earn comparatively high salaries.

Does Education Make a Difference in What Certified Public Accountants are Paid?

Technically, anyone who knows how to use a computer spreadsheet might call himself an accountant. Someone with that level of experience might complete taxes for his family members for a consideration of a hundred dollars or so. Employers, however, look at degrees and at certification when they hire applicants for accounting positions. Someone with a CPA as opposed to only a degree in accounting can expect to be paid 10 to 15 percent more. Associate’s degrees allow people to get jobs as accounting assistants with a starting salary of around $36,000. CPAs with a master’s degree can expect to make 37 percent more than one with a bachelor’s degree. CPAs with higher degrees can get upper level management and government jobs that could come with salaries of half a million dollars a year or more.

What Does the Average CPA With a Bachelor’s Degree Make?

The average salary for someone working in a large public accounting firm, according to “Start here Go Places” was $57, 500 with one to three years of experience. At the senior level of four to six years of experience, that salary ballooned to $71,000. Those accountants who worked in corporations earned a bit less. With one year experience, they received an average salary of $42,500, and the senior level employee earned $57,000.

Does Geography Matter?

Geographic area plays a large part in determining salaries for CPAs. The state paying the least for the profession is Hawaii. There, the starting wage for a bachelor’s level CPA was $39,000. As of April, 2013, Alaska’s entry salary for CPAs was $47,000. The highest paid CPAs were found in New York, where their starting salary was $65,000. California CPAs made $61,000 at the entry level.

Where do Most CPAs Work?

Most CPAs are employed by accounting and bookkeeping firms, from one-person offices to corporations with thousands of employees. The average salary of those people, as reported by “Chron” is about $75,000. The next largest employer of CPAs is business management. These accountants earn an average salary of $70,150. State and local government employs the third largest population of CPAs at an average salary of $56,020. The fourth largest employee of certified public accountants is the federal government, paying the most at $89,970.

Can I Earn Other Certifications to Increase my Earning Potential?

Many people who earn CPAs also earn CMAs, becoming dual certified. A CMA is a certification in management. CPAs can also specialize in other areas such as forensic accounting (investigating financial crime) and they can hold a certification in information systems audit. Specialization and dual certification increase your marketability–students entering the profession should take into account where they want to work and what professional tack they wish to take.