As we pointed out in this article on ‘Top CPA Fields,‘ the median annual wage for accountants was $73,560 with the lowest 10% earning less than $45,220 and the highest 10% earning more than $128,680. In contrast, the median wage for all jobs in the US $48,000. That makes the median wage of an accountant 35% higher than average. Below, we will look at the top positions and their earnings in the accounting field period, according to their annual compensation.
Eight high-paying accountancy positions
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
The Chief Financial Officer of a business advises the CEO with respect to financial reporting, stability, growth, strategy, design, and execution. They are essentially in charge of all of the company’s long-term financial planning. As such, the CFO’s position entails a lot of supervision and delegation, such as to the treasurer and internal auditing manager, among others. The CFO of a business has a lot of responsibility, and may need to maintain relationships with stockholders, investors, and financial institutions. On top of this, CFO’s are frequently members of the Board of Directors. This means that they contribute to the overall planning, policy development, and implementation of business decisions.
According to Indeed.com, the average base salary for a CFO is around $140,000 annually. This amount excludes the financial value of their company benefits, annual bonuses, profit sharing and commissions, which Indeed estimates could boost their true salaries up to around as much as $270,000 per year. Salary.com estimates that this could be as much as $506,386, if pensions plans are also taken into account. However, this amount skyrockets when we begin talking about multibillion dollar companies such as those in the S&P 500. As of 2015, the top 15 S&P 500 CFOs were receiving salaries of between $10.5-$26.4 million annually. Otherwise, the average pay for S&P 500 CFOs was around $3,432,117 for men vs. $3,134,138 for women (as of 2014).
Accounting Firm Partner
What this title signifies is dependent upon the organization. Traditionally, it signifies a legal co-ownership in an accounting firm, but nowadays, especially in larger companies, it serves as a high-status position instead. However, along with this position comes prestige, financial rewards and added respect and credibility from clients. This is why many CPAs are willing to work so hard towards it. Furthermore, it is a position that is generally only available to CPA license holders, as that title too indicates a high level of prestige and competency. Partners will usually have a say in how the company’s resources should be allocated and be privy to providing input before any decisions are made. They are also responsible for managing clients and staff members.
According to comparably.com, the median salary of a firm partner is $86,500, with the top 86$ earning around $481,665. At the Big 4, the top partners are estimated to earn salaries of Years 1-5: $300,000 – $500,000, Years 6-10, $400,000 – $1.3 Million and Years 10 and onwards, $600,000 – $3 Million. This excludes other benefits such as pension plans.
Chief Accounting Officer (CAO)
The CAO is in charge of ensuring that all of the company’s financial systems comply with all of the government regulations. They do so by overseeing all accounting functions, including the company’s financial statements, ledgers, cost control systems and other financial and auditing reports encompassing all of the day-do-day operations of the company and ensuring that the practices comply with the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), as well as tax planning and compliance. They report to the CFO and work closely with them to ensure the company’s financial health and integrity is intact. According to Salary.com, the base average salary for a CAO is $229,500 and it can go as high as $391,110 for the top 90th percentile.
Senior Director of Accounting
This is managerial role in which the employee oversees various functional areas of the company’s accounting department. They are also often responsible for establishing and overseeing financial policies, procedures, controls, and reporting systems for the company, and alongside a team of other accounting, finance and operational professionals. According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary, including benefits, for a Director of Accounting is around $164,106. However, this position can even pay up to $275,000 at the right company.
The Senior Controller, also known as the Financial Controller, is tasked with managing the lower-level controllers. They oversee the preparation of financial reports, such as income statements and balance sheets, and are responsible for preparing periodic reports and financial analyses to the management. They report to the Head of Finance and are also involved in financial and operation planning, as well as a number of other tasks. According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary of a Senior Controller is $119,494, including benefits, with the potential to earn up to $275,000.
Head of Internal Audit
The Head of Internal Audit is the lead manager of the interna l audit division of a company. They are responsible for the strategic planning of the internal audit process and ensuring that all of the auditing processes are in line with the company’s internal charter, as well as the professional standards outlined for internal auditing by the Institute of Internal Auditors. The purpose of all of this is to ensure that there is efficient risk management and effective internal control arrangements of the company’s finances. According to Comparability.com, the median salary for a Head of In ternal Audit is around $210,000, including benefits. The top 67% are estimated to earn around $257,000.
Senior Tax Manager
Senior Tax Managers are in charge of delegating work to the other tax accountants, while ensuring that their practices adhere to the state legislatures and procedures. They are also responsible fror creating and adjusting the internal policies relating to taxation so that they align with any changes that have been made to the laws. Additionally, they also provide tax advice to their clients, be they the upper management, or the company’s clients. are Indeed.com puts a typical Senior Tax Manager salary at around $112,341-$157,571 according to the state. However, at bigger companies, such as KPMG, this can go up to $246,015 and sometimes even higher.
Senior accountants are higher up on the hierarchy and usually no longer have to perform basic administrative tasks that the lower-level and interns need to. They usually report directly to a controller. They are responsible for maintaining the general ledger, preparing financial reports, delegating tasks to the lower-level accountants, as well as various other functions that allow for the smooth functioning of the financial department. They also work closely with clients and offer financial advice to senior members of the company. According to Glassdoor.com, their salary, including benefits comes to around $95,945 a year. At PwC. Comparably.com states that they can earn up to $127,000, depending on their seniority.
Do accountants make good money?
As always, this dependent on what you consider to be ‘good money.’ An accountant salary is generally somewhere between $43,000-$150,000 annually, depending on how far along they are in their career. So, although the above figures may sound appealing, you should bear in mind that these positions are few and also require many years of hard and good work to make the climb. Many accountants also prioritize work/life balance over high-ranking positions due to the time and dedication required to obtain those roles.
- Life/work balance: The grind towards a high-level position will require excessive hours of work per week. This will take away from your family time and social life, with no guarantee that you will make it. So, think and plan carefully.
- What type of accountancy you enjoy: There are many different fields of accountancy, so you might want to explore your options to discover what you most enjoy or what you most excel at before you commit to a particular route. Forensic accountancy and auditing are a couple of examples that you might like to consider.
- Getting your CPA: Most high-level positions require a CPA license to advance. Some might be accessible with a CMA, but that is not a guarantee. A CPA license will entail the commitment of acquiring the necessary work experience requirements, ethics exam requirements and passing the CPA exam, as well as meeting the CPE and renewal requirements once your license has been received.