What are the highest and lowest accounting salaries that I could earn?
There is no limit to the highest accounting salary that you could possibly earn. Many accountants have become partners and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, earning millions of dollars a year. Of course, instances like these are rare, but it is not uncommon to see six-figure accounting salaries. However, since accounting is such a diverse field, the position you work in will greatly affect your accounting starting salary and income potential.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average accounting salary for corporate accountants and auditors is about $61,000, and the top 10% earned more than $106,000. However, accounting pay for government positions such as tax revenue agents topped off at about $92,000.
Your potential salary for accounting is also correlated with the level of your degree. For example, students who have completed PhD programs and decide to go into post-secondary education have the potential to earn over $130,000. An associates degree, however, would limit you to entry-level positions such as bookkeeping, with an average accounting salary of $33,000 and a maximum salary of only about $51,000.
As a general rule, the longer you stay with a company or the more experience you have, the higher the salary you receive. However, when you are offered a job, do not hesitate to negotiate for more pay. As this is a business relationship, the company will not offer you more money if you do not ask for it.
In addition to my salary, will I earn benefits?
Salaried accounting positions often carry benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, vacation leave and a retirement plan with matching contributions. In addition, because of the high demand for a highly educated work force, many employers pay for employees’ professional licensing exam fees and course review materials as well as compensate them with a higher accounting salary if they pass. Similarly, employers may offer student loan repayments or tuition reimbursement to attract recent college graduates.
Many companies offer unique benefits depending on the industry. For example, if you work as an accountant for an airline, you and your family may be allowed to fly for free. Government positions, such as at the Internal Revenue Service, can give employees access to reduced government rates for hotels.
Less advanced positions that pay hourly usually do not offer many benefits. To advance to a position that does include benefits, consider returning to school to earn a more advanced degree.
Accounting certificate programs are another way to gain specialized skills in a shorter amount of time. Moreover, you can work toward a professional license and become a certified public accountant or a certified forensic accountant. By documenting your skills with these respected licenses and degrees, you will be much more desirable to employers who are willing to compensate you for your abilities.
Will I always earn a salary in my job?
Higher level accounting jobs in corporate settings and at big public accounting firms will generally be salaried. These positions include staff accountants, accounting managers and accounting associates. As a result, there is no direct correlation between hours worked and amount paid, except that working extra may qualify you for a bonus at the end of the year. Still, the week you put in 60 hours will earn you the same amount of money as the week you put in 40 hours.
Lower level accounting jobs, such as accounting clerks and bookkeeping, usually earn an hourly wage, meaning you can work more in order to earn more. Of course, the tradeoff is that these positions do not pay nearly as much.
This does not mean that an accounting degree salary is always more money than an unsalaried income. Self-employed certified public accountants, for example, often charge clients more than $100 per hour for consulting or tax preparation. However, keep in mind that a self-employed individual is responsible for all of their own business expenses, so that can eat into their income.
Most importantly, whether you are salaried or not, as an accountant you will be paid according to your skills.