Accountants are among the highest paid workers entering the labor market, according to a salary survey of popular undergraduate majors published in 2009. The survey, reported by AOL Jobs, found that accounting graduates nationwide earned a starting salary of about $44,600. This is relevant to the consulting world, because when graduates have a difficult time finding full-time employment, they end up in contract and consulting engagements earlier in their career, sometimes right out of college. Accounting professionals have the opportunity to earn more once they become credentialed or certified public accountants.
Consulting accountants are generally classified as contract or full-time temporary employees, and do not have access to benefits such as health insurance and vacation. As a result, they earn a higher hourly rate. Junior or staff accountants earn about $46,000 per year in their first two years of regular full-time employment, Indeed.com reported in 2011. Accountants working on a consulting basis will generally earn 25 to 35 percent more than their full-time counterparts to cover the self-employment taxes and benefits that must be purchased independently. This brings their salary to about $57,500 per year or $27 per hour.
An accountant is generally considered a senior in his third year of employment. Senior accountants earned an average salary of $67,000 in 2011, according to Indeed.com. Factoring in a 25 percent increase brings the salary of the average senior accountant level consultant up to approximately $83,500 or $40 per hour. Some industries pay more based on specialized skill sets, including oil and gas exploration and production, energy and project accounting. According to Indeed.com, an oil and gas accountant earns an average salary of $72,000, or $90,000 on a consulting basis.
Accounting managers generally earn in excess of $80,000 a year, according to Indeed.com. If the manager is consulting or is considered an independent, then that rate goes up to $100,000, or about $48 per hour. Managers generally have additional credentials, such as the certified public accountant designation. Certification is usually required for promotion to a manager level opportunity.
Senior Manager Level
This role reaches into executive-level accounting skills, titles and capabilities. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a senior accounting manager, controller or similar position is $99,000 annually, or $124,000 as a consultant. This is approximately $60 per hour. Senior accounting managers serve as project managers, program managers or lead engagements from a statistical, substantive, organizational and work-flow perspective.