Certified public accountants prepare and review financial documents for individuals, corporations, and governments. CPAs need a broad skill set in taxation, financial reporting, and legal requirements. A career as a certified public accountant is ideal for individuals interested in the fiscal and legal fields.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for accountants and auditors to increase 6% from 2018-28. CPAs can pursue opportunities in a variety of industries. This page explores job growth projections and earning potential for certified public accounting professionals.

Learn More About a Career as a CPA

How Much Do CPAs Make?

Median Salary

According to the BLS, accountants and auditors earn a median annual salary of $70,500. However, salaries for CPAs vary by experience and specialization. A CPA's earning potential also depends on industry and type of employer. For example, CPAs who work in private practices earn different salaries than those in accounting firms.

Salary by Experience

CPAs typically earn higher salaries as they gain skills and pursue advanced roles. CPAs with 10 years of experience earn an average of $17,000 more than those with less than a year of experience. The following table shows average salaries for CPAs at various career stages.

Experience Salary
< 1 Year $52,000
1-4 Years $57,000
5-9 Years $69,000
10-19 Years $81,000

Salary by Degree

Although no degree guarantees a specific position or salary, more advanced degrees generally result in higher earning potential. Students can review each prospective school's job placement report for information about typical salaries of graduates. The table below provides details about salary expectations for CPAs with bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accounting Salaries

Bachelor's Degree

Median Salary: $69,000

Master's Degree

Median Salary: $91,000

Career Path Salaries

CPAs can follow various paths to career advancement, and industry and experience impact each CPA's career trajectory. Typically, chief financial officer (CFO) is the most advanced title for finance professionals. The table below illustrates one path to the title of CFO.

Potential Next Step Salary
Corporate Controller $96,728
Financial Controller $81,813
Chief Financial Officer $131,194

What Are the Top States for CPA Pay?

The following table lists the top states for CPAs. These states have the highest average CPA salary potential and more employed accountants than the national average. The average salary of a CPA varies within each state and is impacted by each specific area's cost of living.

  • District of Columbia

    Annual Median Wage: $98,130

  • New York

    Annual Median Wage: $96,300

  • New Jersey

    Annual Median Wage: $90,400

  • Virginia

    Annual Median Wage: $85,640

  • Connecticut

    Annual Median Wage: $84,890

What Are the Top Industries for CPA Pay?

Because all businesses require financial reporting, accountants can work in a variety of industries. The table below lists the top industries for CPAs and the average salary for accountants in each industry. The most lucrative positions require complex accounting, such as roles in investments and transportation.

Industry Annual Median Wage
School and Employee Bus Transportation $109,250
Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation) $100,080
Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities $97,000
Other Investment Pools and Funds $96,770
Other Pipeline Transportation $98,400

Are CPAs in Demand?

Historical Career Growth

Historically, accountants have enjoyed steady job growth. Companies must stay updated on frequent changes in financial reporting and taxation requirements, which drives demand for CPAs. Technology growth over the past 20 years has resulted in changes in the finance field, which leads to more opportunities for accountants.

Future Career Growth

According to the BLS, CPAs have the best career prospects among accounting professionals. The BLS projects positions for accountants and financial specialists to increase 10%, while the BLS projects roles for tax collectors and bookkeepers to decrease 1%. Many companies need professionals with strong analytical skills as accounting tasks become increasingly automated.

Top States for Job Growth

Projections Central projects employers in the following states to hire the highest number of accountants from 2016-2026. Each state sets unique educational and professional requirements for CPAs. Learners should research the requirements of the state in which they plan to pursue employment.

Utah

32.7% Change from 2016-2026

Guam

25.5% Change from 2016-2026

Colorado

24.8% Change from 2016-2026

Tennessee

24.7% Change from 2016-2026

Nevada

23.6% Change from 2016-2026

How do CPAs Compare to Other Accounting Careers?

The BLS projects a 6% job growth for accountants and auditors from 2018-28. Additionally, CPAs earn higher average salaries than other accounting professionals. For example, staff accountants earn an average of $49,797 per year, according to PayScale, and general accountants earn an average annual salary of $50,706. PayScale reports that financial analysts earn an average of $59,890 per year.

CPAs must fulfill continuing education requirements to maintain certification.

Unlike other accounting professionals, CPAs must hold certification, which can lead to higher earning potential. CPAs must fulfill continuing education requirements to maintain certification.

Take the first step in your career today

Learn More About CPA Salaries and Job Growth

  • Occupational Outlook Handbook The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes this resource, which provides information on job growth, pay, educational requirements, and responsibilities for hundreds of careers.
  • Occupational Employment Statistics This resources from the BLS provides annual employment and wage estimates, based on occupation and U.S. location.
  • O*NET Online This comprehensive database provides information on skills, activities, and interests for more than 900 occupations. Candidates can use the database to explore careers relevant to their interests and goals.
  • PayScale This website allows visitors to compare salaries based on data reported by individuals. Site visitors can research their individual job market value based on their education, location, and experience.
  • Projections Central Projections Central provides employment growth projections for hundreds of careers. Site visitors can compare job growth by state and occupation.