Accountants can earn a lucrative salary, especially if they work in the sub-sectors or cities or areas listed below.

On average, accountants and auditors earned a median annual wage of $73,560 as of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report. Actual wages might be higher or lower, depending on industry and location, but they are well above the national median average for occupations.

Why Are Accountants Always in High Demand?

The lucrative salary is based on demand and makes accounting one of the best business jobs. "Few fields are as fertile as the domain of accounting," said Robert Valli, former Dean of the LIU Post College of Management in Old Westbury, N.Y., who added that accounting is, in his opinion, recession-proof.

"Companies need an audit if the economy is growing, and companies need an audit in a recession," Valli said. "Everyone needs to do their taxes. Accounting offers great all-weather positions, and regulatory events in Washington have made this even more pronounced. The Dodd-Frank Act, for example, is still being parsed and understood, and accountants will be doing work on that for years."

In addition, accounting firms are excellent employers. "The 'Big Four' accounting firms are always listed among the top 100 companies to work for in America, which speaks to the salary and benefits that they’re able to offer, along with opportunities for growth," Valli said.

Stuart Mease, former executive director of student advancement and career services at Virginia Tech's undergraduate business program, also feels that accounting is a promising field. "Federal regulation has secured the demand for individuals with mathematical and analytical skills," he said. "They are billable, and therefore firms need these people because their clients need people with these skill sets. This is why the public accounting firms are so active on college campuses. There is a race to acquire talent because of the huge financial upside."

The Journal of Accountancy noted that hiring by public accounting firms is at an all-time high. Many students are offered jobs before they graduate, and many are also offered signing bonuses. An impressive 91% of employers plan to hire as many or even more accountants as in previous years.

But where do accountants earn the most money? According to data from the BLS, these are the highest-paying industries and locations:

Top-Paying Industries

Accountants earn the highest median annual wage in the following four industries and sub-sectors:

 
 Industry
 
Annual Mean Wage
Finance and Insurance
$78,600
 Management of Companies and Enterprises  
$76,230
Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services  
$73,180
Government  
$72,260

Top-Paying States

The states that pay the highest salaries for accountants are mostly concentrated on the East Coast:

 
 State
 
Annual Mean Wage
 
 District of Columbia

$110,140
 
 New York

$101, 440
 
 New Jersey

$96,260
 
 Massachusetts

$88,830
 
 California
 
 $88,130

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas

The top-paying metropolitan areas for accountants are as follows:

   Metropolitan Areas   Annual Mean Wage
Salinas, CA $111,680
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA   $105,720
Midland, TX $103,120
San Jose- Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $102,920
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $101,090
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV $98,030
Midland, MI $94,170
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT $93,780
Lima, OH $93,410
Santa Rosa, CA $92,220

Top-Paying Non-Metropolitan Areas

The top-paying rural areas for accountants are as follows:

 
 Area
 
Annual Mean Wage

Northwest Colorado

 $93,330
Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode Region of California $84,340
Alaska $81,460
North Georgia $78,460
West Montana $77,490

According to the Journal of Accountancy, students who earn the Certified Public Accountancy designation have a competitive edge. There's also a demand for accountants who earn a master's degree, and so some schools offer an accelerated bachelor's degree/master's degree program.

Accountants are in high demand, as reflected by their high salaries. For accountants who want to make the most money, knowing the top-paying industries or sub-sectors and locations can help them plan their career paths accordingly.