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How Much Do Accountants Make

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Rewarding Career in Financial Records

You’ve heard accountants called “number crunchers” and “bean counters,” but they do much more. Accountants organize financial information and play a key role in money management for business and individuals. Accountants generally report a high level of job satisfaction. Flexibility to work part-time and from home can make accounting a family-friendly profession.

Job Description

Accountants prepare financial records and provide day-to-day oversight of financial operations to make sure that a business is running efficiently. They may suggest ways to reduce costs, improve revenues and increase profits. They ensure taxes are paid on time and that the business records are in compliance with laws and regulations. Some accountants provide services to individuals and may assist with financial planning and tax preparation.

Education Requirements

Opportunities exist for individuals with associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees:

  • Associate’s Degree in Accounting: With a two-year degree, you’ll provide assistance to individuals with more advanced accounting degrees. You can be hired as a bookkeeper, accounts payable or receivable clerk or payroll clerk. The core courses in accounting, business and economics prepare you to undertake the additional studies necessary for the bachelor’s degree if you desire more education and greater opportunities.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting: At the bachelor’s level, you can earn either a bachelor of science in accounting (BSACC), a bachelor of business administration with a concentration in accounting (BSBA), a bachelor of business administration in accounting (BBA) or bachelor of accountancy (BAC). The degree conferred depends on the institution as well as your selection of core and elective courses. All these degrees prepare you for a wide variety of career paths in the field.
  • Master’s Degree in Accounting: A master’s in accounting degree (MAcc), also known as a master’s of professional accountancy (MPAcy), typically requires two years of study beyond the bachelor’s degree level. Earning this advanced degree opens up opportunities as an accountant or auditor with a large accounting firm, a management position in business and industry, or teaching at the college level.

A certified public accountant (CPA) is a designation earned by an individual who holds at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, as described above. The four-part CPA exam is administered according to state regulatory and licensing boards. Although variations exist from state to state, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) have worked to standardize requirements, so they are essentially the same across the U.S. Continuing education requirements vary by state but generally consist of 120 hours every three years.

An enrolled agent (EA) is a federally licensed tax practitioner with the right to prepare taxes and represent the taxpayer before the IRS. Although an exam is required for licensing, work experience may be substituted in some states. The IRS requires 72 hours of continuing education every three years to maintain licensure as an enrolled agent.

Work Environment

Most accountants work in offices, but some work from home. Accountants with small business clients may travel to their clients’ workplaces. Most accountants work full-time, and overtime hours may be required at certain times of the year, such as the end of a fiscal year and at tax time. Many accountants specialize, either in the type of accounting they do or by the type of industry they serve. The four main types of accountants are:

  • Public accountants fulfill a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax and consulting duties for clients that may include corporations, governments and individuals.
  • Management accountants, also called cost, managerial, corporate or private accountants, record and analyze clients’ financial information. The information is for internal use by managers and is not meant to be public.
  • Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies. They audit private businesses and individuals whose business activities are subject to government regulations or taxation.
  • Internal auditors monitor risk management of an organization’s funds. They look for ways to find and eliminate waste and fraud.

Certain services can only be provided legally by licensed CPAs. Chief among these is the ability to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a government agency that protects investors and oversees the fair and orderly operations of capital markets. Many public accounting firms and law offices will only hire CPAs because of their expanded practice rights and privileges.

Years of Experience

According to Salary.com, accountant salaries by degree level range from $47,287–$49,898 for an accountant with an associate’s degree, $48,023–$50,571 for a bachelor’s and $48,693–$51,316 for an accountant with a master’s. Pay also varies by geographic location, employer and job title. The breakdown of average salaries by degree and level of experience is:

With an associate’s degree:

  • 0–1 year experience: $41,722
  • 4–6 years’ experience: $46,990
  • 10–14 years’ experience: $47,307
  • 15+ years’ experience: $47,381

With a bachelor’s degree:

  • 0–1 year experience: $48,048
  • 4–6 years’ experience: $54,378
  • 10–14 years’ experience: $57,769
  • 15+ years’ experience: $58,821

With a master’s degree:

  • 0–1 year experience: $51,433
  • 5–9 years’ experience: $75,957
  • 10–19 years’ experience: $91,433
  • 20+ years’ experience: $94,634

Job Growth Trend

Opportunities in the accounting field are expected to grow faster than average over the next decade. Employment growth is generally tied to the economy. As the economy grows, more individuals will be needed to prepare and maintain financial records.