12 US cities where accountants draw higher pay

By Ken Tysiac

In an extremely competitive hiring environment, a competitive salary isn’t the only important benefit for employers of accountants to offer.

Recently released salary guides by Robert Half International and Accounting Principals show that salary benchmarks are particularly high for accountants in California, New York City, and New Jersey.

The guides also proclaim that other factors can help employers recruit and keep the best accounting talent in this time of low unemployment. Many employers who want to attract and retain the best accounting and financial professionals are offering:

  • Benefits, bonuses, and raises.
  • Flexible work schedules.
  • Well-planned career paths for employees.
  • Training for career advancement.

Some employers also are offering perks such as employee social events; on-site amenities such as exercise facilities or child care; paid time off for volunteer activities; a compressed workweek; and telecommuting opportunities.

At the same time, the right salary offer is critical.

“For accounting and finance talent, a competitive salary remains the most attractive feature of a job offer,” Accounting Principals President David Alexander wrote in his organization’s salary guide, which is available for download on the company’s website.

Meanwhile, candidates in search of the best positions can make themselves more attractive to employers if they have the right skills. According to the Robert Half guide, which reports on starting salaries for various positions, these include soft skills such as adaptability and flexibility; commitment to continuous learning; cross-functional collaboration; leadership qualities; strong work ethic; and verbal/written communication abilities.

In-demand technology skills include Excel; enterprise resource planning systems such as Microsoft Dynamics GP, Oracle, and SAP; cloud-based systems such as NetSuite and Workday; data analytics and database management software such as SQL and VBA; QuickBooks for small and midsize businesses; artificial intelligence; and robotics process automation.

Both salary guides provide detailed salary tables plus an average salary variance that shows how the numbers in the guides should be adjusted depending on the location of the employer in various cities throughout the United States. The cities with the highest positive salary benchmark variances include:

  • San Francisco: The cities with the top three salary variances all surround San Francisco Bay, where the tech boom has had a huge impact on salaries as well as other elements of the economy. Average San Francisco salary variances are 41% according to Robert Half and 33% according to Accounting Principals.
  • San Jose/Silicon Valley: This tech hub boasts headquarters for Apple (in Cupertino) and Tesla (in Palo Alto) and variances of 39% (Robert Half) and 33% (Accounting Principals).
  • Oakland/East Bay: Famous for leading the data analytics revolution in sports with the Oakland Athletics’ baseball innovations, this area has variances of 32% (Robert Half) and 27% (Accounting Principals).
  • New York: The nation’s largest city has Wall Street, Times Square, and variances of 41% (Robert Half) and 25% (Accounting Principals).
  • Stamford, Conn.: Companies with headquarters in this city on Long Island Sound include Xerox, Pitney Bowes, and Charter Communications. The variances are 31% (Robert Half) and 24% (Accounting Principals).
  • Paramus, N.J.: This Bergen County locale boasts the highest variances in New Jersey at 30% (Robert Half) and 21% (Accounting Principals). Within the state, Edison, Parsippany, Princeton, and Woodbridge also get high marks.
  • Boston: The banking and finance hub boasts great seafood as well as variances of 34% (Robert Half) and 16% (Accounting Principals).
  • Los Angeles: Hello, Hollywood. Southern California isn’t easily outdone by its neighbors in the northern part of the state. Variances are 32% (Robert Half) and 16% (Accounting Principals).
  • Princeton, N.J.: This Northeast educational hub has variances of 25% (Robert Half) and 18% (Accounting Principals).
  • Washington, D.C.: Working for the government (or a government contractor) can be rewarding. Robert Half gives variances of 33% for Washington and 32% for Virginia suburb Tysons Corner. Accounting Principals’ variances (13% for Washington and 17% for McLean, Va.) are less substantial.
  • San Diego: The principal home port of the U.S. Pacific Naval fleet has variances of 27% (Robert Half) and 17% (Accounting Principals).
  • Seattle: The Pacific Northwest lays claim to Amazon, Starbucks, the Space Needle, and variances of 25% (Robert Half) and 16% (Accounting Principals).

Ken Tysiac (Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA’s editorial director.

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