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Certified Public Accountant Career and Salary Profile

By University Alliance
Certified Public Accountant Career and Salary Profile

Accountants ensure that firms run efficiently and profitably by planning, implementing and overseeing financial policies and procedures. Certified public accountants (CPAs) have earned additional credentials attesting to their elevated level of expertise and education. Becoming a certified public accountant can begin with enrolling in an MBA program with a specialization in Accounting.

Job Outlook for Certified Public Accountants

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts much faster than average employment growth for accountants in coming years. More start-up businesses, changing financial regulations, and the growing complexity of taxes, international controls and accounting information systems will contribute to the demand for highly-skilled accountants. Those with advanced education and who have earned the CPA designation should have the best job prospects.

Job Duties

Certified public accountants perform a wide range of accounting, auditing and tax activities. These skilled professionals ensure private businesses, organizations, public firms and government agencies remain within the law by properly reporting revenue and paying taxes. One important duty of the CPA is to analyze a company’s structure and activities and advise management on the tax ramifications of business decisions.

Another duty performed by certified public accountants is acting as a consultant in areas such as compensation, employee benefits, data processing systems and asset protection. CPAs frequently participate in strategic planning, budget development, fraud prevention, contract negotiation and disputes, and tax preparation and filing.

Preparing financial statements and reports, analyzing ledgers, overseeing accounts payable and receivable, and forecasting revenue and expenses are additional duties for certified public accountants. Professional CPAs are usually also required to monitor a business’s financial activities, identify and investigate variances, and resolve issues.

Certified public accountants may work independently or for private employers, government agencies or public accounting firms. They often supervise staff; in this role they may be involved in hiring, training and mentoring. In most cases, CPAs work 40 hours per week. However, during tax reporting and filing deadlines, longer hours may be necessary. Depending on the employer, travel may be required.

Potential Salary: Certified Public Accountant

BLS reports for May 2009 indicate the average annual salary for accountants and auditors was $67,430. The middle 50% earned between $46,740 and $79,470. Salaries for the lowest 10% were around $37,690, while the highest 10% earned approximately $104,450.

National data from in January 2011 indicated that a certified public accountant’s earning potential can be significantly enhanced by earning a master’s degree. In fact, based on 75th percentile salary figures, CPAs with an MBA earned approximately $90,053 per year, while those with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting earned $76,133 per year – a differential of over 18%!

Additional experience can lead to roles with increasing responsibility, resulting in higher potential salaries. A sampling of finance executive salaries on in January 2011 showed that financial controllers and chief financial officers in the 75th percentile of earners brought in approximately $99,871 and $170,067 per year, respectively.

The data shows that the top salaries generally go to those with solid experience and the advanced education businesses need to remain competitive in a changing global business environment.

Education and Training Requirements

Most certified public accountant positions require a bachelor’s degree and the CPA designation. Many employers show preference to candidates with an MBA in accounting.

Financial professionals and accountants who wish to advance into a CPA position can qualify to take the CPA exam* and expand their career prospects by enrolling in a MBA program with a specialization in Accounting. Coursework typically includes managerial economics, financial management, organizational behavior, and international accounting and reporting.

Employers can be confident that professionals who have earned an MBA with a specialization in Accounting are able to:

  • Develop sound solutions to real-world accounting problems.
  • Create financial reporting and budgeting models for a variety of businesses, including non profit and for profit firms.
  • Apply current managerial accounting practices to financial issues.
  • Lead financial and accounting initiatives for maximum growth and profitability.
  • Leverage advanced knowledge and skills to succeed as a certified public accountant.

Is a Certified Public Accountant Career a Good Fit For You?

Becoming a CPA takes strong financial skills, as well as communication, analytical, problem-solving and leadership abilities. If you enjoy working with numbers and analyzing financial data, you could succeed as a certified public accountant. Enrolling in an MBA program with a specialization in Accounting can help you qualify to take the CPA exam, as well as launch this rewarding and respected career!

* Check with your state board of accountancy for qualifications and requirements. You can find contact information for your state board of accountancy at

Category: Accounting & Finance