CPA Salary and Job Outlook

| Accounting.com Staff Modified on June 21, 2022

CPA Salary and Job Outlook

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A 2020 LinkedIn survey placed certified public accountants (CPAs) in sixth place among the most in-demand jobs. CPAs also held the top spot for the fastest job growth. The demand for CPAs continues to grow along with the economy and the need to maintain financial records.

This page takes an in-depth look at job prospects and earning potential for CPAs based on education, location, and experience level. Keep reading to learn more about this growing career field.

How Much Does a CPA Make?

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors earn a median salary of $73,560. Education, experience, and location can all impact earning potential for CPAs.

However, this career provides an upward earning trend for professionals who stay in the field and gain more experience, making now a great time to get started in the industry.

$69,198


Source: PayScale

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Salary by Education

Although all CPAs are accountants, not all accountants hold CPA licensure. CPA requirements vary by state but to earn licensure as a CPA, candidates must complete a minimum of 150 credits prior to sitting for the exam administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Generally, bachelor's degrees require around 120 credits. CPA candidates must earn another 30 credit hours. Some aspiring CPAs complete combined bachelor's/master's programs to fulfill this requirement. Others complete this requirement through extra undergraduate credits and a few graduate courses.

Completing a master's degree may also increase your earning potential compared to just a bachelor's. The table below breaks down the average salary for accountants with different education levels. Keep in mind this table includes all accountants, not solely CPAs.

Salary by Experience

While education helps people obtain CPA licensure and higher salaries, experience also impacts earnings. According to data from PayScale, the average salary for CPAs increases steadily with more experience.

Early career (one to four years in the field) CPAs earn an average of $60,000 per year. In contrast, late career (more than 20 years experience) CPAs earn an average of $98,000 per year—a stark increase.

Additionally, some employers may offer CPAs performance-based bonuses and other monetary benefits.

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Salary by Location

Geographic location also impacts earning potential for CPAs and accountants. Some states may offer higher average salaries due to factors like increased demand, larger population, and higher costs of living.

The BLS highlights the five top-paying states for accountants and auditors. Washington, D.C. offers the highest average salary for accounting professionals at $110,140. California rounds out the top five with an average accountant salary of $88,130.

The states below feature dense populations and large, urban centers, which may contribute to an increased demand for accountants and CPAs.

Top-Paying States for Accountants and Auditors, 2020

State Number of Accountants Employed Average Annual Salary
District of Columbia 10,050 $110,140
New York 112,360 $101,440
New Jersey 39,060 $96,260
Massachusetts 34,710 $88,830
California 150,050 $88,130
Source: BLS

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Accountants and Auditors, 2020

Metropolitan Area Number of Accountants Employed Average Annual Salary
Salinas, CA 690 $111,680
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 119,910 $105,720
Midland, TX 1,610 $103,120
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 15,360 $102,920
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 24,510 $101,090
Source: BLS

Where Should I Work as a CPA?

Jobs for accountants continue to grow on a national level. However, some states and metropolitan areas offer higher average salaries and more job openings than others. Certain states may also see a higher demand or faster job growth for CPAs.

Urban centers and cities with higher populations typically offer more job opportunities for accountants in response to higher demand from businesses seeking CPA services. The tables in the following sections map out the best areas for prospective CPAs to look for jobs based on average salary, the number of jobs available, and projected job growth.

The data featured on this page includes numbers from general accounting and auditing jobs plus CPA positions.

+7%


Source: BLS

Best Areas

CPAs and general accountants will find that nearly every state offers job opportunity and growth. However, certain states—and regions within each state—may offer more job openings, faster growth, and higher earning potential than others.

CPA licensure affords professionals the credentials they need to provide accounting services in a wide variety of industries. Nearly every type of business needs the guidance of a professional accountant to balance books, ensure financial laws and policies are followed, set up and distribute payroll, and file and pay taxes.

The skills and knowledge CPAs hold makes them invaluable, dynamic employees. They can provide accounting services in various capacities, making them highly employable regardless of their geographic location.

The tables below outline the best states and metropolitan areas for prospective CPAs based on the number of job openings each year, projected job growth for each area, and average salary.

Texas features a high number of accountants employed, a generous average salary, and a high rate of projected job growth. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area employs over 37,000 accountants with an average salary of $83,850, significantly higher than the average wage for all positions in that area.

Rural areas offer less opportunities for CPAs than major cities. However some of the nonmetropolitan areas with the highest employment rates for accountants include Kansas, northeastern and northwestern Ohio, and northern Texas.

Top-Employing States for Accountants and Auditors, 2020

State Number of Accountants Employed Average Annual Salary
California 150,050 $88,130
New York 112,360 $101,440
Texas 109,470 $80,170
Florida 73,690 $74,960
Pennsylvania 50,240 $77,810
Source: BLS

States With the Greatest Projected Increase in Employment for Accountants and Auditors, 2018-28

State Percent Projected Change, 2018-28 Average Annual Openings
Greatest Projected Percentage Increase
Utah 31.1% 1,590
Georgia 21% 4,880
Colorado 20% 5,000
Texas 18.8% 15,480
Nevada 18.1% 1,130
Most Projected Average Annual Openings
California 7.7% 17,650
Texas 18.8% 15,480
New York 12.7% 13,550
Florida 13.9% 9,040
Pennsylvania 6% 5,870
Source: Projections Central

Top-Employing Metropolitan Areas for Accountants and Auditors, 2020

Metropolitan Area Number of Accountants and Auditors Employed Average Annual Salary
New York-Newark-Jersey City,NY-NJ-PA 119,910 $105,720
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 61,740 $83,660
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 42,080 $78,640
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 41,890 $98,030
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 37,040 $83,850
Source: BLS

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Best Industries

Regardless of the industry, companies need skilled accountants to help run their business in adherence to local financial laws and regulations. A variety of industries employ CPAs in different capacities.

The tables below detail the top-paying and top-employing industries for accountants and auditors. Some of the top paid CPAs work for the federal government, while most accounting professionals work in general accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services.

A large number of accounting professionals also serve in management roles for companies and enterprises, making that industry the second highest employing area for accountants.

The industry an accountant works in can impact salary and earning potential, day-to-day job duties, and any opportunities for upward mobility. Explore the tables below to learn more about which industries employ the most CPAs, and which sectors offer the highest average salaries.

Top-Paying Industries for Accountants and Auditors, 2020

Industry Number of Accountants and Auditors Employed Average Annual Salary
Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing 3,910 $112,680
Federal Executive Branch 22,160 $105,980
School and Employee Bus Transportation 120 $105,060
Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities 31,450 $102,020
Other Information Services 4,660 $99,810
Source: BLS

Top-Employing Industries for Accountants and Auditors, 2020

Industry Number of Accountants and Auditors Employed Average Annual Salary
Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services 339,020 $85,050
Management of Companies and Enterprises 97,250 $82,770
Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals 46,060 $71,420
State Government, excluding schools and hospitals 41,780 $68,460
Real Estate 36,180 $78,370
Source: BLS

Questions About CPA and Accountant Salary

What is a CPA starting salary?

According to data from PayScale, CPAs in their first year of working in the field earn an average salary of $54,000 as of October 2021. This average increases to $60,000 in the first four years of working in the field.

What are the highest-paying public accounting jobs?

According to BLS data, industries offering the highest-paying jobs for CPAs include computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing, the federal executive branch, and school and employee bus transportation.

Where is the best state to work as a public accountant?

According to BLS data, Texas offers some of the highest employment rates and one of the highest average salaries for accounting professionals. However, prospective accountants should consider other factors like quality of life and cost of living.

What is the best industry to work in as a public accountant?

Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services employ the largest number of accounting professionals, offering an average salary of $85,050 in 2020.

Does having a CPA guarantee a job?

No credential guarantees a job in any industry. However, earning a CPA license can help prospective accountants pursue CPA positions, boost competition in the job market, and open doors to more opportunities.

Reviewed by:

Portrait of Lizzette Matos, CPA

Lizzette Matos, CPA

Lizzette Matos is a certified public accountant in New York state. She earned a bachelor of science in finance and accounting from New York University. Matos began her career at Ernst & Young, where she audited a diverse set of companies, primarily in consumer products and media and entertainment. She has worked in the private industry as an accountant for law firms and ITOCHU Corporation, an international conglomerate that manages over 20 subsidiaries and affiliates. Matos stays up to date on changes in the accounting industry through educational courses.

Lizzette Matos is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

Page last reviewed November 4, 2021


Featured Image: Jose Luis Pelaez / Stone / Getty Images

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