Accountants are business professionals who track and record financial transactions for businesses, individuals, organizations and governmental entities. They may analyze and verify financial documents, prepare tax returns or assist with financial planning. Accountants in the United States who complete a rigorous course of study and pass the prescribed examination may be licensed as Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs, by their State Board of Accountancy. A number of countries outside the U.S., particularly those associated with the British Crown, designate accountants who have demonstrated mastery of the trade as Chartered Accountants or CAs.
United States-based accountants who hold the professional designation of Chartered Accountant tend to earn significantly higher wages than accountants who do not hold these credentials. The median annual income for all U.S.-based accountants was $61,690 as of May 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of U.S.-based accountants earned in excess of $106,880 per year. The average annual income for Chartered Accountants working in the United States was $106,000 as of July 2011, according to the Indeed website.
There were approximately 1,072,490 accountants and auditors working in the United States as of May 2010. Approximately 11 percent of these individuals worked in the state of California. California-based accountants earned mean annual wages of $74,360 as of May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for Chartered Accountants working in California was $113,000 as of July 2011, according to the Indeed website. Accountants who worked in New York state earned the highest state-wide average annual wages in the country at $85,230, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chartered Accountants who worked in New York earned average annual salaries of $123,000.
An accountant's income can be significantly impacted by local economies and can vary widely even within state boundaries. Accountants who worked in major metropolitan areas tended to earn higher wages than those who practiced in smaller communities. Accountants who worked in the New York-White Plains-Wayne, New York-New Jersey metropolitan division earned the highest mean annual wages in the country for their occupation, at $89,220. Their counterparts in Elmira, New York earned mean annual wages of $59,360 as of May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chartered accountants who worked in White Plains, New York earned average annual salaries of $133,000. Those who worked in Elmira earned average wages of $101,000 as of July 2011, according to the Indeed website.
There is no governing body in the United States that grants the designation of Chartered Accountant. The Association of Chartered Accountants in the United States notes that membership in the organization is only available to Chartered Accountants who live and work in the United States and who are already members in good standing of the Home Institutes of England & Wales, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Canada or South Africa. The U.S. designation of Certified Public Accountant is a close approximation of the Chartered Accountant designation.
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