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Show Them the Money: the Highest Paid Accountants in the USA

Updated on March 28, 2012

© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin

Accountants manage the money of companies or individuals by keeping records of finances, following government regulations and paying taxes on time. They can also analyze budgets, plan investments and recommend number-crunching technology. Their salaries vary according to job, location and employer. Information is from the March 27, 2012 update of the U.S. Department of Labor.


Accountant can specialize in four major fields. Public accountants handle general accounting matters for clients ranging from individuals to corporations. Management accountants analyze financial information for the companies in which they work. Their duties can include budgeting, asset management and financial reports to the stockholders. Government accountants and auditors manage the records of government agencies, and audit the financial records of businesses or individuals who fall under government regulations. Finally, internal auditors ensure that the financial controls of their companies are effective, and that all procedures and government regulations are followed.


As of 2011, over a million accountants work in the USA, earning a mean annual wage of $33.72 per hour or $70.130 per year. The lowest ten percent make $19.06 per hour or $39,640 per year, while the highest 10 percent receive $52.82 per hour or $109,870 per year.


Over a third of all accountants work for accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services, where they make slightly better than average pay of $36.09 per hour or $75,060 per year. This grouping also includes those who work for themselves. The employers paying the highest salary are dry cleaning and laundry services at $43.88 per hour or $91,260 per year but with only 310 positions. The next highest paying employers is the federal government at $43.24 per hour or $89,930 per year, but it only contains slightly over two percent of the accounting jobs.


The state with the highest employment for the profession is California, with 121,590 positions paying a mean $36.02 per hour or $74,910 per year. Following it are New York, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania. New York has the highest mean pay at $40.90 per hour or $85,070 per year for its 92,630 professionals. It leads the highest paying states, which are clustered in the Northeast and include the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts. Though not a state, the Labor Department classifies DC as such in its reports.


The city with the highest employment is New York with 64,450 accountants. It also has the highest mean pay at $43.13 per hour or $89,720 per year. Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago and Houston have the next highest levels of employment. As for the other top paying metropolitan areas, they include Newark, New Jersey, at $41.88 per hour or $87,120 per year, and Nassau-Suffolk Counties, New York, at $41.67 per hour or $86,670 per year. San Francisco, California, follows with means at $41.46 per hour or $86,230 per year.

Rural Areas

For non-metropolitan areas, Kansas has the highest level of employment at 1,930 jobs, but only has mean wages of $26.12 per hour or $54,330 per year, which is lower than the national mean pay for accountants. The other rural areas with the highest levels of employment are Eastern Texas, West Northwestern Ohio, rural North Carolina and part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The highest paying rural area belongs to Western Central Nevada at $39.61 per hour or $82,390 per year but with only 160 jobs. Southwest Massachusetts is next at $37.09 per hour or $77,150 per year, but with only 80 jobs.


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    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm afraid I don't have any data on MBA/accountant mixes, CelebrateUSA.

    • CelebrateUSA profile image

      Ken Kline 

      5 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      The accounting field is not for everyone but it is a stable field that can support yourself and your family. Very well done article.

      Any guidance on what an Accounting degree combined with an MBA will bring as an average salary?

      The world going global, I believe the next decade will offer up more standardization of the reporting.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thank you. I've been using an accountant for years as well for the exact same reason.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      7 years ago

      Interesting Hub, Alocsin, Lots of useful and iIformative Information. We've had our Accountant many years and really respect her judgement for Taxes. We could never keep up with all the new laws and regulations.


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