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Accountant Salary and CPA Outlook by State

The salary that you earn as an accountant is largely dependent on your geographic location and level of experience. Additional factors that may determine your compensation level include negotiating skills, the size of the company, and the industry you work in (e.g. insurance or healthcare). Accountants are well compensated compared to other professions with similar education requirements. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual wage nationally was $67,190 as of May 2015.1 The top 10% of accountants and auditors earn more than $118,930.1 The projected job growth of 11% between 2014-2024 is higher than the average growth for all occupations.1

The following sortable table provides data on accounting salaries by state as well as the rate of job growth and the cost of living as it relates to the ratio of the average salary/median home list price (in other words, the percentage of the median home an average salary buys). The best states are determined by combining the average salary/median list price and job growth. This data can provide insight on whether accounting job growth and salary potential justify the costs of attending a master’s in accounting program.

Rank State 2013 Average Accountant Salary 2013 Zillow Median Property List Price % of Median Home Average Salary Buys Projected Accountant Employment in 2020 2010 Total Accountants Employed 10-year Growth Rate (2010-2020) Best States for Accountants (Avg=1)
Michigan $69,020 $129,900 53% 34070 30960 10% 1.34
Iowa $62,180 $139,500 45% 15820 13410 18% 1.32
Ohio $67,080 $129,900 52% 46310 41850 11% 1.32
Indiana $64,880 $134,900 48% 21760 19280 13% 1.29
Kansas $65,340 $140,000 47% 13110 11530 14% 1.28
Missouri $65,140 $140,000 47% 34050 29870 14% 1.28
Tennessee $63,880 $167,000 38% 24250 20320 19% 1.22
Texas $73,600 $209,500 35% 110950 90480 23% 1.22
Oklahoma $60,780 $148,490 41% 18150 15640 16% 1.21
Utah $68,830 $244,900 28% 15340 11890 29% 1.21
Arkansas $62,560 $139,900 45% 6970 6220 12% 1.20
Wisconsin $67,460 $159,500 42% 22250 19430 15% 1.20
Georgia $73,910 $179,900 41% 38380 33670 14% 1.17
Kentucky $61,810 $148,500 42% 11580 10200 14% 1.17
Nebraska $65,110 $147,500 44% 9870 8870 11% 1.17
Louisiana $63,090 $168,500 37% 15400 13230 16% 1.14
Alabama $63,910 $169,900 38% 17190 14980 15% 1.11
Illinois $72,640 $179,900 40% 51610 46130 12% 1.11
Arizona $63,030 $225,000 28% 29470 24140 22% 1.06
North Carolina $68,970 $195,000 35% 35700 31300 14% 1.05
Florida $67,450 $209,900 32% 93910 80200 17% 1.04
Idaho $63,570 $187,900 34% 4270 3700 15% 1.04
North Dakota $56,320 $210,000 27% 3540 2900 22% 1.03
Pennsylvania $70,380 $179,000 39% 59060 53980 9% 1.03
South Dakota $58,620 $172,900 34% 5390 4700 15% 1.03
Virginia $76,670 $258,000 30% 47030 39540 19% 1.03
Massachusetts $77,630 $349,900 22% 45040 35760 26% 1.02
South Carolina $58,970 $185,000 32% 16890 14540 16% 1.02
Minnesota $66,900 $194,900 34% 27310 24210 13% 1.00
Mississippi $58,890 $154,900 38% 5470 5060 8% 0.98
Oregon $64,110 $260,000 25% 13670 11230 22% 0.98
West Virginia $57,890 $149,000 39% 5310 4940 7% 0.98
Nevada $62,180 $198,000 31% 8200 7250 13% 0.94
Colorado $72,110 $299,000 24% 37950 31670 20% 0.93
Washington $72,790 $264,750 27% 29910 25800 16% 0.92
New Hampshire $68,260 $235,000 29% 4600 4030 14% 0.91
Alaska $74,500 $252,000 30% 2200 1950 13% 0.90
New Mexico $60,250 $199,900 30% 6670 5940 12% 0.90
Wyoming $61,920 $225,000 28% 1900 1660 14% 0.89
Montana $63,280 $259,900 24% 3850 3280 17% 0.88
Rhode Island $75,120 $258,000 29% 4200 3740 12% 0.88
Maine $61,910 $199,000 31% 3900 3550 10% 0.87
New Jersey $83,930 $290,000 29% 42440 37910 12% 0.87
Maryland $78,300 $270,000 29% 27980 25060 12% 0.86
New York $87,260 $328,000 27% 118430 105300 12% 0.83
Connecticut $76,570 $275,000 28% 18370 16680 10% 0.80
Vermont $68,950 $234,500 29% 3480 3210 8% 0.80
Delaware $73,750 $254,900 29% 5160 4760 8% 0.79
California $77,420 $419,000 18% 155200 134000 16% 0.73
Washington DC $88,200 $465,000 19% 13250 12300 8% 0.56
Hawaii $60,560 $515,000 12% 5660 5040 12% 0.51

CPA Salary

The BLS notes that candidates with a CPA or a master’s in accounting degree may have an advantage in the job market. A CPA certification can increase a candidate’s base salary and provide opportunities for promotion. According to the Vault College Career Bible, most public accounting firms will not promote an employee above a certain level until they pass the CPA exam. A CPA designation increases the earning potential of public accountants because they are seen as experts by potential clients.

Additional Compensation

If you able to ascend to senior accounting positions at an accounting firm, you may be eligible to earn bonuses based on personal performance and the performance of the firm. Furthermore, the Big Four and other accounting firms provide excellent perks to recruit top talent. Some examples of employee perks and benefits include 401(k), pension plan, paid holidays, gym membership subsidies, free financial planning, adoption reimbursement, paid parental leave, tuition reimbursement, mortgage assistance, wellness programs, and discounts at some hotels and retailers. The Big Four (‎KPMG, ‎Deloitte, ‎PricewaterhouseCoopers, ‎Ernst & Young) are frequently recognized among the top companies to work for by Forbes magazine.

Additional Resources

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
2. Vault Editors. The Vault College Career Bible. Vault Inc., 2006. Print.
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm
4. Zillow.com: https://www.zillow.com/home-values/ (data from April 30, 2014)
5. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm