It is always good advice to pay the person who keeps track of your money well (and on time), whether that’s a financial advisor or an accountant.
If you’re going to trust them with large sums of money, the least you can do is pay them a decent wage for the work they’re doing.
It is not shocking, then, that accountants make a decent living, even if they’re simply entry-level accounting clerks.
However, the answer to the question, How much do accountants make? is not a simple one, but rather a complex answer with myriad facets.
Obviously, there is a difference in the salary that an accounting clerk will take home in comparison to what a certified public accountant will take home.
The certified public accountant (CPA) has at least a four-year degree in accounting from an accredited university, spent around a year (or more) working under a CPA to gain experience to take the CPA exam, and spent their time and money on the CPA exam’s four separate parts, passing all four, to attain certification.
There are many more factors that play into what an accountant makes in a given year.
Do they work for a corporation or for the general public? What is their specialty? Do they live in rural Montana, where the cost of living is very low, or in Los Angeles, California, where the cost of living is extremely high?
As complex as the question of what an accountant makes is, let’s attempt to answer it.
Obviously, every accountant is going to make different pay based on a number of factors, so all answers will show the range of what you could expect to make, rather than providing a single number.
What an Accounting Clerk Can Make
An accounting clerk is an accountant who doesn’t have government certification. In some states, they may not need any education at all, beyond whatever their employer demands of them.
They usually work under the direction of a CPA, and they cannot perform many tasks, such as auditing, that a CPA can.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for an accounting clerk is $42,410 per year. Assuming a 40-hour work week, that comes out to about $815 a week or approximately $20.39 an hour.
For a job that may require no education beyond a high school diploma or equivalent, that’s not a bad salary. Indeed, it is actually above the national average and median salary.
If you’re looking to get a job in accounting, remember that attractive salary ranges like the above will draw the interest of people with competitive resumes, and you may want to get some sort of basic accounting education under your belt to put on your resume.
Luckily, Stratford Career Institute offers a “basics of accounting” course—an introductory course into the accounting career field—at a price that’s hard to beat.
Certified Public Accountant Salaries
The main difference between an accounting clerk and a CPA is that the CPA spent at least four years in college getting an accounting degree, spent a certain number of hours (it varies by state) working under a CPA’s direction, then took the CPA exam, achieving a satisfactory score on all four portions to earn certification.
That certification allows them to do things that the accounting clerk simply can’t, like performing audits and representing clients in front of the Internal Revenue Service.
Due to the nature of this education, and the in-depth understanding of accounting law and practices they need to pass the CPA exam, certified public accountants will make more than their non-certified counterparts.
However, there are fewer jobs for CPAs, as they can direct a number of accounting clerks to do various tasks that do not require the certified public accountant’s expertise.
How much money do accountants make a year? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for an accountant is $73,560 per year ($35.37 per hour).
However, certified public accountants can generally expect the best job prospects. According to ZipRecruiter, the average entry-level pay for a CPA is $63,857 per year as of August 2021.
At the low end, a junior associate at a small firm can expect to earn about $52,000. But an entry-level associate at a large firm may earn as much as $87,000 per year. With 4-6 years of experience, you could make as much as $110,000 per year.
The numbers for CPAs who are self-employed can be even higher, with ZipRecruiter reporting an average of $80,702 per year for self-employed CPAs as of August 2021.
The numbers make it clear: if you’re working in accounting, you can work your way into a strong annual salary and a decent living. If you’re working as a CPA, you can wind up making large sums of money, enough to live la dolce vita.
Explore an Accounting Career by Enrolling in an Introductory Course
Take the first step with a program like Stratford Career Institute’s online accounting course and start down the path to a potential career.
This educational program is an introductory course designed to help students gain knowledge necessary for the vocational application of this subject. Completion of a Stratford Career Institute program does not fulfill the legal requirements of particular state licenses or certifications, which may require additional training or apprenticeships.
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