Companies, banks and government agencies rely on accountants to compute taxes, examine or produce financial statements and ensure they comply with financial laws and regulations. Accountants also assess operations in corporations to maximize cost efficiency. If you want a job as an entry-level accountant, you'll likely need a bachelor's degree. In return, you can expect to earn wages averaging more than $22 per hour.
Wages and Qualifications
The average annual salary for an entry-level accountant was $47,000 as of 2103, according to the job site Simply Hired, or $22.60 per hour. This hourly wage is based on a 40-hour workweek. These annual and hourly figures are highly commensurate with the bottom 25 percent of accountants' earnings as of May 2012, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics -- less than $49,540 annually or $23.82 per hour. To work as an entry-level accountant, you typically need a bachelor's degree in accounting. Some employers may also prefer that you have one or two years of accounting experience through an internship or as a junior accountant. Other essential requirements are an attention to detail and math, analytical, organizational and communication skills.
Wages by Region
As of 2013, average hourly wages for entry-level accountants varied the most within the South region, according to Simply Hired, where they earned the highest hourly rates of $35.58 in Washington, D.C., and lowest of $17.79 in Mississippi. Those in the Northeast made $20.10 to $27.40 per hour in Maine and Massachusetts, respectively. If you were an entry-level accountant in the Midwest, you'd earn the least in South Dakota or most in Minnesota -- $17.79 to $24.04. In the West, you'd make $18.27 in Montana or $25.48 in Alaska or California -- the lowest and highest wages in that region.
An entry-level accountant can earn more in certain industries, just as experienced accountants. For example, in 2012, all accountants earned the highest wages of $46.28 per hour working for securities and commodities broker firms, according to the BLS. They made the second highest wages of $43.54 when employed by the federal government. In this field, you'll also likely earn more in Massachusetts and California because of higher living costs in these states. If you earned $21.63 per hour in Springfield, Missouri -- which is $45,000 per year based on a 40-hour workweek -- you'd need to make $34.31 in Boston to maintain your living standard, according to CNN Money's "Cost of Living" calculator. In San Francisco, you' have to earn $39.86 to enjoy the same living standard, or approximately 84 percent more.
The BLS predicts a 16 percent increase in jobs for accountants from 2010 to 2020, which is about average compared to the 14 percent growth rate for all occupations. Increased demand for accountants because of the financial crises and corporate scandals in the 21st century should also produce more jobs for entry-level accountants. That's because the U.S. government has enacted stricter laws and regulations for corporations and banks. You may also find more job opportunities as an auditor when starting your accounting career because of tighter lending standards in the banking and financial industries.