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

Updated on January 19, 2019
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The author enjoys researching the job market to report on the latest salaries, opportunities, and employment trends.


© 2018 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 the U.S. Department of Labor as of May 2017.


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 2017, over 1.2 million accountants work in the USA, earning a mean annual wage of $36.89 per hour or $76,730 per year. The lowest ten percent make $20.26 per hour or $42,140 per year, while the highest 10 percent receive $58.13 per hour or $120,910 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 $39.04 per hour or $81,200 per year. This grouping also includes those who work for themselves. The employers paying the highest salary are other investment pools and funds at $49.01 per hour or $101,950 per year but with only 380 positions. The next highest paying employers are securities and commodity exchanges at $46.21 per hour or $96,120 per year, but they only have 150 jobs.


The state with the highest employment for the profession is California, with 147,320 positions paying a mean $39.72 per hour or $82,620 per year. Following it are Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania. New York has the highest mean pay at $44.85 per hour or $93,280 per year for its 108,800 professionals. It leads the highest paying states, which are clustered in the Northeast and include the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and Virginia. California ranks fifth for pay. Though not a state, the Labor Department classifies DC as such in its reports.


The city with the highest employment is New York City with 90,750 accountants. It also has the highest mean pay at $43.13 per hour or $89,720 per year. Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and Washington DC have the next highest levels of employment. As for top-paying metropolitan areas, they start at San Rafael, California, at $56.03 an hour or $116,530 annually, followed by San Jose, California, at $48.59 hourly or $101,070 yearly. New York City ranks third for wages.

Rural Areas

For non-metropolitan areas, North Northeastern Ohio has the highest level of employment at 1,640 jobs, but only has mean wages of $30.44 per hour or $63,610 per year, which is lower than the national mean pay for accountants. The other rural areas with the highest levels of employment are the Balance of Lower Peninusla of Michigan, West Northwestern Ohio, Northwest Colorado, and the Hill Country Region of Texas. The highest paying rural area belongs to Southwest Idaho at $42.10 per hour or $89,230 per year but with only 80 jobs. Nantucket Island and Martha's Vineyard are next at $31.21 per hour or $85,720 per year, but with only 50 jobs.


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