Certified public accountants, also known as CPAs, complete a wide range of accounting tasks on financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose to the public, including tax returns and balance sheets.
CPAs are typically responsible for examining financial statements for accuracy and compliance with regulations, computing taxes owed, preparing tax returns, inspecting accounting systems for efficiency, organizing financial records, assessing financial operations for optimal practice, and making recommendations to reduce costs or improve profit.
How much do CPAs make? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 1,129,340 certified public accountants and other accountants employed throughout the U.S. earned a mean annual CPA salary of $71,040 in May 2012, which is equivalent to an average hourly wage of $34.15.
While the bottom ten percent in the profession earned $39,930 or less annually, the top ten percent of CPAs break the six-figure salary mark with an average of $111,510+ each year. CPAs employed by the state government make considerably less than average at $55,850, but those that work in the securities and commodity exchange industry earn the highest wages of $96,260 yearly.
The top-paying states for the field are District of Columbia and New York, where CPAs earn an average of $87,370 and $85,140 respectively.
The majority of certified public accountants, around 24 percent, are employed in the accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services industry. Other CPAs work for financing firms, insurance companies, state or local governments, manufacturing corporations, and management of companies or enterprises.
Although most accountants work in an office setting, others may work from home or travel to clients’ businesses. CPAs mostly are employed on a full-time status, but one-fifth report working more than 40 hours per week, especially during certain busy times of the budget year.
With an increased focus on accounting in response to recent corporate scandals and financial crises in America, stricter law regulations are expected to increase the demand for certified public accountants in accounting services at various organizations.
Employment for CPAs is predicted to grow as fast as the national average for other occupations at a rate of 16 percent, which will create 190,700 new jobs before 2020. Certified public accountants with a master’s degree in accounting and professional recognition will have the most promising prospects in the years to come.