Where Do Accountants Earn the Most Money?

Accountants can earn a lucrative salary, especially if they work in the sub-sectors or cities, or areas listed below. It is a job that is needed in most industries and for the most part, all businesses. Most individuals only need a bachelor's degree to get started in an accounting career.

On average, accountants and auditors earned a median annual wage of $77, 250 as of May 2022 (the most recent figures) 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.

Key Takeaways

  • Accounting is a necessity around the globe in a variety of fields, and as such, accountants are always in demand.
  • Depending on the location and job type, accountants can earn a good salary; the median annual wage as of May 2020 for an accountant was $77,259.
  • The median annual wage for an accountant is well above the national median average for occupations.
  • The top-paying industries for accountants include finance and insurance, management of companies and enterprises, tax preparation, and the government.
  • The top-paying states/districts for accountants include Washington D.C., New York, New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts.

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 public accounting firms are so active on college campuses. There is a race to acquire talent because of the huge financial upside."

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
Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing $123,210
Federal Executive Branch $107,170
Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil $123.230
Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investment and Related Activities $107,610

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 $ 110,240
New York $105,790
New Jersey $97,950
California $ 92,840
Massachusetts $ 92,310

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas

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

Metropolitan Areas Annual Mean Wage
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $ 112,830
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA   $ 109,330
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $ 107,540
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV $ 99,640
Midland, TX $ 95,380
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA $ 94,110
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH $ 93,910
Trenton, NJ $ 93,370
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC $ 92,960
Santa Rosa, CA $ 92,640

Top-Paying Non-Metropolitan Areas

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

Area Annual Mean Wage
Northwest Colorado $84,460
Alaska $82,960
Southwest, NY $82,220
Northeast, OK $80,350
Central East, NY $78,600

What Is the Average Salary of an Accountant?

The median annual salary of accountants and auditors is $77, 250, according to the BLS. The average salary varies depending on the type of accountant, where they are located, and if they work for themselves or for a large firm.

Which Accountants Get Paid the Most?

It varies on the industry an accountant works in, but accountants who work in tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services, according to the BLS, are top earners in the field.

Where Is the Best Place to Work As an Accountant?

What someone considers the "best place" to work is subjective but top paying states for accountants include New York, California, and Massachusetts.

The Bottom Line

The field of accounting is lucrative and growing. Accounting jobs pay above the national median average for all occupations, and the BLS predicts a 7% job increase for accountants and auditors in the next 10 years.

Accounting jobs are nearly always in demand because they work across many fields. If you want to pursue an accounting career, it is not difficult to find entry-level jobs requiring only a bachelor's degree. As you gain experience, including furthering your education, the more possibilities for higher-paying jobs grow. For accountants who want to make the most money, knowing the top-paying industries or sub-sectors and locations may help them plot out a rewarding career path in accounting.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Accountants and Auditors."

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021."

  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021."

  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook - Accountants and Auditors."

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