Accountants may have a number of slang-like phrases associated with their job duties -- running the numbers, getting in the black, bottom-lining it -- but the main task of the trained professionals in accounting is to study, maintain and record a company’s finances. Accountants handle information from investments, payrolls, receipts and expenses, and also may be involved with annual statements, tax matters and purchase decisions.
In 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average salary for accountants to be $67,430 nationwide. The bureau also noted several areas where accountants earned much-higher-than-average salaries. The federal executive branch of the government topped the list, with an annual salary of $88,190. The tobacco manufacturing industry also paid a higher salary of $81,560, followed by the securities and commodity contracts industry at $80,780. Accountants for the postal service also earned above the national rate at $79,600 per year.
Accountants on the East Coast earned the highest salaries in 2009. The state of New York led the country, with average salaries of $84,280 per year, followed by the District of Columbia, at $79,990. The District also topped the BLS’s list of highest per-capita employment of accountants in the country. New Jersey placed third on the highest-paying list, with annual salaries of $79,330. In fourth place was Maryland, at $76,220, followed by Massachusetts, at $73,290 per year.
The traditional minimum requirement to being hired as an accountant is a bachelor’s degree in a field such as accounting, finance, business or economics. Some employers may accept bachelor’s degrees in other fields of study and perform on-the-job training. Prospective accountants with master’s-level degrees or certifications such as Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, Certified Information Systems Auditor or Certified Internal Auditor may receive higher salaries.
The BLS expects a 22-percent growth in the employment of accountants between 2008 and 2018, adding 279,400 jobs nationwide during that time period. The bureau attributes heightened demand for accountants in part to a growing economy and to companies’ desires to maintain stricter records. The BLS notes that accountants with certifications in addition to their bachelor’s degrees will have a greater chance at securing employment.