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The Average Starting Salary for a CPA

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Accounting is a growing field. As companies have increased their global sales, the need for educated accountants has grown as well. Additionally, the change made in 2008-2009 that has sought to converge Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) has created an intense need for qualified accountants.

Accounting Positions

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Accounting jobs usually have strict requirements because of the technical nature of the different positions. Many recent graduates with an accounting degree start in public accounting firms, where earning a professional license is easier than securing a position in a private company. Having a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license can greatly boost an accountant’s annual income.

Entry Level

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Entry-level accountants at public accounting firms with no experience or license earn up to $51,500, according to a July 2009 survey by PayScale. Starting pay can be as low as $40,700 for recent graduates, according to the same survey. Most states require graduates to obtain work experience supervised by a licensed CPA prior to receiving their own CPA license.

Staff Accountant

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Most staff accountants have anywhere from one to four years' experience. Accountants with a CPA license earn from $43,700 to $58,000, based on the July 2009 PayScale survey. The range of pay is based on the experience of the accountant and and if the career path is in the private or public accounting industries. Public accounting firms may pay slightly less than a private company because some accountants are not as well trained compared to others in the private firm.

Senior Accountant

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Senior accountants with a CPA license have from five to nine years' experience and may supervise other accountants. They earn from $50,000 to $70,000, based on the July 2009 PayScale survey. Many CPAs at this stage of their career enter private accounting because the compensation and benefits are better than a public accounting firm.

Accounting Manager/Controller

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Accounting managers and controllers are usually the highest positions in an accounting office. Accounting managers with 10-plus years of experience earn between $56,200 and $87,400, based on the July 2009 PayScale survey. Accountants with a CPA license and specialized experience like job costing, federal taxation or a specific industry will usually have the highest compensation.