CPAs satisfied as average salary tops six figures

By Ken Tysiac

Two-thirds of CPAs based in the United States are satisfied with their current salary, and more than four-fifths expect to be earning more within a year, according to a new survey by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

Eighty-one percent of the more than 5,000 CPAs responding to the inaugural Compensation Survey in May and June said they expect to receive a pay increase over the next 12 months. The average increase CPAs are expecting is 5%.

The compensation trends in the survey reflect a profession that continues to be in high demand at a time when employment across the U.S. economy has bounced back following the most recent recession. But while wage growth has been slow in some other professions, four-fifths of CPAs report that they experienced a salary increase over the past 12 months, with an average increase of about 4%.

The Association’s interactive salary tool for 2017 is available online for members who wish to further investigate trends specific to their personal situation. The numbers in the tool have been separated into “CPA” and “CPA, CGMA,” so they will differ from this article, which provides aggregated statistics from both groups to include all CPAs who responded to the survey.

Accounting remains a lucrative profession for those who are qualified, as the average salary of a CPA based in the United States is $119,000 per year, excluding bonuses. Newly qualified CPAs with less than one year of experience earn an average salary of $66,000 per year, and CPAs with more than 20 years of experience average $152,000 per year in salary.

“This is a great baseline for seeing how full of opportunity this profession is,” said Mark Koziel, CPA, CGMA, the AICPA’s executive vice president–Firm Services. “But to me it only tells part of the story since bonuses can play a large part of salary increases as CPAs gain experience.”

Indeed, the survey shows that 59% of CPAs work for employers that award bonuses, with the average bonus amount at around 10% of their annual salary. In addition, the survey showed that:

  • CPAs cited financial rewards, flexibility, work/life balance, and a good working environment as main motivators in their current roles.
  • The skills that CPAs most want to learn are coaching and mentoring (29%), accounting and information systems (26%), business planning (25%), and strategy (25%).

As many employers of CPAs report difficulty finding quality people for those roles, the survey shows that it may be difficult to wrestle job candidates away from their current jobs. Four out of five CPAs said they were not planning to change job roles in the next two years, which should comfort employers who are afraid of losing the talented CPAs they have on staff.

“Careers in accounting are a marathon, not a sprint,” Koziel said. “Sometimes, I think people leave great organizations for a short-term financial benefit rather than the long-term potential. So when you compare your salary situation, be sure to do so from a holistic perspective.”

Ken Tysiac ( is a JofA editorial director.

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