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

On average, accountants as of May 2017 earned a mean annual wage of $77,920 and a median annual wage of $69,350, 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, dean of the LIU Post College of Management in Old Westbury, N.Y., who asserts that accounting is recession-proof.

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

In addition, he said, 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, executive director of Virginia Tech's undergraduate business program, also said accounting is a promising field. “Federal regulation has secured the demand for individuals with mathematical and analytical skills. They are billable, and therefore firms need these people because their clients need people with these skill sets,” he said.

“This is why the public accounting firms are so active on college campuses. There is a race to acquire the talent because of the huge financial upside,” Mease added.

The Journal of Accountancy noted that hiring at public accounting firms is at an all-time high. Many students are offered jobs before they graduate, and many are also offered signing bonuses. And 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 five industries and sub-sectors:


Annual Mean Wage

 Other Pipeline Transportation


 Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)


 Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities


 Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil


 Natural Gas Distribution


Top-Paying States

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


Annual Mean Wage

 District of Columbia


 New York


 New Jersey






Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas

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

 Metropolitan Areas

Annual Mean Wage

 San Rafael, CA 


 New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ

 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $97,910

 Fairbanks, AK


 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

 Newark, NJ-PA  $93,750
 San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA $92,190
 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA $90,850
 Morristown, TN $90,580
 Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI $89,860

Top-Paying Non-Metropolitan Areas

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


Annual Mean Wage

 Northwest Virginia


 Southeast Alaska 

 East Central New York $82,590

 Los Alamos County, New Mexico 


 West Texas Region of Texas 


According to the Journal, 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.

Bottom Line

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.