In general, employers seek accountants with a bachelor’s degree in accounting for most positions. Undergraduate degrees usually provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the industry, but a master’s degree can open many more doors, and some employers even prefer to hire candidates with this level of education. Though students spend an additional two years in school, the time is well spent, as a graduate degree often improves salary.
As of 2012, the average accountant brought home $71,040 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but this figure is regardless of degree. Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a national financial recruiter, explains that graduate degrees improve salaries by as much as 5 to 10 percent, and salaries vary by level of experience, size of company and specialty.
General Accounting Salaries
At midsized companies, entry-level general accountants with a master’s degree made anywhere from $40,425 to $54,175. Starting salaries for those with one to three years of experience ranged from $47,250 to $66,825, while starting salaries for senior-level accountants were between $59,063 and $81,675. By comparison, salaries for senior-level general accountants at large companies started at $65,363 to $91,025.
Specialized Accounting Salaries
Accountants specializing in a certain area of accounting often make more. For example, senior-level cost accountants with a master’s degree earned $61,163 to $83,325 a year at a midsize company. Salaries for senior-level tax accountants ranged from $61,688 to $88,000 with a master’s degree. Hedge fund accountants earned $62,213 to $84,700 with a master’s degree, while mutual fund accountants earned $55,913 to $74,525 with this level of education.
Until 2020, accountants in general should experience a job growth of 16 percent, reports the BLS. This is just faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations, a projected 14 percent. Accountants with professional certifications and advanced degrees should see the greatest prospects.