Average CPA Salary - What Can I Expect to Make?

Mps721's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 310

I am an accounting major and I expect to become a CPA. I do not necessarily want to be a multi million dollar hedge fund manager or anything like that, but from what I expect to do is 200k-400k yearly salary as a CPA obtainable over the course of my career? If so how long? I would be more than happy with the ultimate upper middle class lifestyle is this possible as a CPA? I do not mean like my own firm but working for a corporation or audit firm I suppose. Please also keep in mind I live in north Jersey so when I graduate I would most likely be working in the NYC/NJ area.

Thank you.

How Much Do CPA's Make in their Career?

Roger CPA Review shared detail about 2018 expected salaries for CPAs working in the industry. Please see a graphic provided by the review company below. Salaries are dependent largely on company size and experience in the industry. Larger firms are able to pay larger salaries.


Source: https://www.rogercpareview.com/cpa-exam/cpa-salary

How Much Money Do Partners Make in the Big 4?

Latrell Sprewell CFA:

Out of college 60ish, work up from there. Public accounting has a very structured pay scale, if you stick in it long enough (15ish years), you can earn 400+ as a partner.

CPA is like any professional designation, it's not a golden ticket to a guaranteed lifestyle. You need to prove yourself no matter how many letters you put behind your name.

AsianMonky:

You can make 200K if you enter Big 4 and stay ~10 years until you become a very experienced Sr. Manager. To make 400K you'd need to spend 15 to 20 years in Big 4 and become a partner, which is hard to do. Keep in mind that those years will be very long and you will work a lot of hours, probably more than a HF manager until you become a partner, then I think it's more relaxed. That's the reason why most people end up leaving for accounting gigs at F500 and probably max out their salary at 150K.

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Comments (131)

Mar 22, 2013

Most CFOs that I work(ed) with easily attain salary of that level (note: with a much lower tax bracket of 20% compared to the US) have a CPA and come from an accounting backgound.

Mar 22, 2013
thecoldburns:

Most CFOs that I work(ed) with easily attain salary of that level (note: with a much lower tax bracket of 20% compared to the US) have a CPA and come from an accounting backgound.

Besides the tax brackets, so you are saying that here in the states that is certainly obtainable correct?

Mps721

Mar 22, 2013

Out of college 60ish, work up from there. Public accounting has a very structured pay scale, if you stick in it long enough (15ish years), you can earn 400+ as a partner. Thing is, most people with any hint of social skills jump ship well before that point to go to industry. Once you are outside of public accounting pay scale can be pretty much anything, totally dependent on you.

CPA is like any professional designation, it's not a golden ticket to a guaranteed lifestyle. You need to prove yourself no matter how many letters you put behind your name.

Apr 3, 2013
Latrell Sprewell CFA:

Out of college 60ish, work up from there. Public accounting has a very structured pay scale, if you stick in it long enough (15ish years), you can earn 400+ as a partner. Thing is, most people with any hint of social skills jump ship well before that point to go to industry. Once you are outside of public accounting pay scale can be pretty much anything, totally dependent on you.

CPA is like any professional designation, it's not a golden ticket to a guaranteed lifestyle. You need to prove yourself no matter how many letters you put behind your name.

No offense Spree, but should you really be giving any financial advice at all. Didn't you just have your yacht, milwaukee's best, repossessed ;)

Mar 22, 2013

Also, any recruiter at a big 4 firm would be happy to answer these questions for you. I remember reading some of your posts in the past. Ask real life people some of these questions, you will get an answer that is much more tailored to your situation.

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Mar 22, 2013
Latrell Sprewell CFA:

Also, any recruiter at a big 4 firm would be happy to answer these questions for you. I remember reading some of your posts in the past. Ask real life people some of these questions, you will get an answer that is much more tailored to your situation.

Where would I be able to get in contact with them?

Mps721

    • 2
Mar 22, 2013

You can make 200K if you enter Big 4 and stay ~10 years until you become a very experienced Sr. Manager. To make 400K you'd need to spend 15 to 20 years in Big 4 and become a partner, which is hard to do. Keep in mind that those years will be very long and you will work a lot of hours, probably more than a HF manager until you become a partner, then I think it's more relaxed. That's the reason why most people end up leaving for accounting gigs at F500 and probably max out their salary at 150K.

Mar 22, 2013
AsianMonky:

You can make 200K if you enter Big 4 and stay ~10 years until you become a very experienced Sr. Manager. To make 400K you'd need to spend 15 to 20 years in Big 4 and become a partner, which is hard to do. Keep in mind that those years will be very long and you will work a lot of hours, probably more than a HF manager until you become a partner, then I think it's more relaxed. That's the reason why most people end up leaving for accounting gigs at F500 and probably max out their salary at 150K.

What does Big 4 typically look for from kids right out of college?

Mps721

Mar 22, 2013
Mps721:
AsianMonky:

You can make 200K if you enter Big 4 and stay ~10 years until you become a very experienced Sr. Manager. To make 400K you'd need to spend 15 to 20 years in Big 4 and become a partner, which is hard to do. Keep in mind that those years will be very long and you will work a lot of hours, probably more than a HF manager until you become a partner, then I think it's more relaxed. That's the reason why most people end up leaving for accounting gigs at F500 and probably max out their salary at 150K.

What does Big 4 typically look for from kids right out of college?

Solid GPA- above 3.5 preferably. Leadership qualities, involvement in extra curricular activities. For example, being a Vice President of Community Service of a Frat or something like that. Also, you must show a lot of energy and social skills in the interviews. They want people they wouldn't mind spending 80 hours in the office with.

Mar 22, 2013

If your university doesn't have recruitment, just go to their websites and find a contact on the careers section... Come on man, these are questions that have a really easy answer.

I was an accounting major early in school and did some research into this. Job definitely wasn't for me, but accounting is a good background to have.

Mar 22, 2013
Latrell Sprewell CFA:

If your university doesn't have recruitment, just go to their websites and find a contact on the careers section... Come on man, these are questions that have a really easy answer.

I was an accounting major early in school and did some research into this. Job definitely wasn't for me, but accounting is a good background to have.

I understand your advice on looking on their website, which I have but I just like to get other opinions.

Mps721

Mar 22, 2013

Hard to say, if you have a lot of big 4 recruiters at your school then maybe if you network enough.

Mar 22, 2013

CPAs can expect to make bout tree fiddy.

This is a ridiculous question OP. There are so many factors such as cost of living, experience, etc. that'll make a difference. Plus the fact that CPAs can do anything from being public accountants to fraud examiners with the FBI to being a CFO of a F100 company will also skew things depending on what industry he or she is in. But to answer your question as generally as possible, I'm sure that if you put in work and have a good amount of luck in that you go to the right places at the right time, you can make 200-250k in salary by the time your career is over.

Mar 22, 2013
Accrual Dictator:

CPAs can expect to make bout tree fiddy.

This is a ridiculous question OP. There are so many factors such as cost of living, experience, etc. that'll make a difference. Plus the fact that CPAs can do anything from being public accountants to fraud examiners with the FBI to being a CFO of a F100 company will also skew things depending on what industry he or she is in. But to answer your question as generally as possible, I'm sure that if you put in work and have a good amount of luck in that you go to the right places at the right time, you can make 200-250k in salary by the time your career is over.

Thank you, I understand there are so many career routes so that is why I said working for a corporation or auditing firm. I am not really interested in working for the FBI or federal government.

Thanks for your response.

Mps721

Mar 22, 2013

Assuming around 3-5 years WE at a Big 4, what kind of exit opps would a CPA have?

Mar 26, 2013

^An average person in any field, be it finance, accounting, engineering, academia, etc. will only have "meh" exit ops. The key to being successful in any industry is to make oneself valuable/irreplaceable to a firm. Being average won't lead to big bucks anywhere as far as I know. The main difference is that some fields, such as high finance, may leave you higher up on the pay scale just due to how the industry works (i.e. the 50th percentile worker in IB will be wealthier than the 50th percentile accountant).

tl;dr version: Be the best/most valuable person in your field and you'll make money.

    • 1
Mar 26, 2013

It's not terribly hard to start your own accounting firm, given some decent social skills to generate business. Even better if you have a unique practice area. You can do very well if you own the equity in your firm.

Mar 26, 2013

I was considering doing this in California or even in Austin, TX. I have my CPA license but ultimately don't want to do accounting, I'd prefer to do banking.....well that's why I'm doing a Master's now....if it doesn't work out I can do accounting I guess.

Mar 26, 2013

I've met Sr. Managers that make around $150k and they've worked at the Big 4 company for over 30+. Partners can make $300k+ depending on the industry... some make millions

While the audit industry's hierarchy and promotion levels are very structured, the road to partnership is not. There are MANY people who've worked in the industry 30+ years failing to make partner...

Float like a butterfly, sting like the bee.

Mar 26, 2013

Currently interning at a big 4: salary out of college = around 52-57k. You won't be making 200k until at least director(10 years in). Partner salary is heavily skewed and can get to as high as 3m by retirement. Also a ridiculous retirement package for partners. The average of your three best years of salary every year until you die.

Mar 26, 2013

I think certain auditors at the higher levels could get this. best best would be consulting. that being said, CPA is pretty versatile and respected across industries.

Mar 26, 2013

Accounting is better than people (at least on this site) think, given that there are a number of options.

If you have the talent/ability/work ethic/luck, you can easily make more than 400k as a partner, tax director, CFO, etc.

If you're talented and want an easy 45-50 hr a week job making ~150k - 200k, that's doable too at a F500.

If you're dumb as rocks but still manage to get into the Big 4 (which isn't hard at all), you can stick around basically forever or get a job with the government or whatever.

Banking is really only for those who are crazy talented/hard working. Accounting you can make big bucks if you have what it takes, but you also have some nice cushy fallback options in case you aren't as good as you think (not that banking doesn't)

Mar 26, 2013

Audit and Corp may be challenging to break 200K. If you go into Tax, even a regional firm and become a subject matter expert(SaLT, International Tax), you can easily break 200K around 10 years.

Or you can work for a couple years, get your PHD and be sitting at 130K+ after schooling and raking in whatever you want from your side consulting/tax/book publishing deals.

Mar 26, 2013
Mps721:

I am an accounting major and I expect to become a CPA. I do not necessarily want to be a multi million dollar hedge fund manager or anything like that, but from what I expect to do is 200k-400k yearly salary as a CPA obtainable over the course of my career? If so how long? I would be more than happy with the ultimate upper middle class lifestyle is this possible as a CPA? I do not mean like my own firm but working for a corporation or audit firm I suppose. Please also keep in mind I live in north Jersey so when I graduate I would most likely be working in the NYC/NJ area.

Thank you.

I'm not an expert on CPAs, but from what I understand of general census' taken on the industry, the basic answer is "not very much" relative to the area you plan to live in (NY) and the amount of hours you will be expected to work. It's certainly not a profession (long term) for those who want to put their kids through Exeter and Harvard.

The fed Gov produces stats collected in the Occupation Outlook, which can be found here: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/

Of course, there is always a chance you might make partner or become a CFO, but I don't think that was really your question.

Mar 26, 2013
Asmith14:

IIt's certainly not a profession (long term) for those who want to put their kids through Exeter and Harvard.

I hope this doesnt seem like I'm singling you out, Asmith14, I'm just using your words to show what many people think, but this is exactly what I was trying to say in my earlier post. A lot of people on this website associate being well-off financially as having a vacation home, a new benz every two years, and paying for your kids to go to private school and Harvard. By that standard, yes CPAs don't make shit. But that kinda lifestyle is top 2.5% of the country type of living. I don't know if the students in the IB section realize that or not, maybe not because a lot of them (I'm generalizing terribly, as I know this isnt the case with MANY of them) lived this way growing up. That's big time money that only a handful of people actually see, yet there are a ton of others who are successful, work hard, and top out at $200k a year, which is a lot of money, as hard as that is for some people on this site to see.

Mar 26, 2013
Art.Vandelay:
Asmith14:

IIt's certainly not a profession (long term) for those who want to put their kids through Exeter and Harvard.

I hope this doesnt seem like I'm singling you out, Asmith14, I'm just using your words to show what many people think, but this is exactly what I was trying to say in my earlier post. A lot of people on this website associate being well-off financially as having a vacation home, a new benz every two years, and paying for your kids to go to private school and Harvard. By that standard, yes CPAs don't make shit. But that kinda lifestyle is top 2.5% of the country type of living. I don't know if the students in the IB section realize that or not, maybe not because a lot of them (I'm generalizing terribly, as I know this isnt the case with MANY of them) lived this way growing up. That's big time money that only a handful of people actually see, yet there are a ton of others who are successful, work hard, and top out at $200k a year, which is a lot of money, as hard as that is for some people on this site to see.

Alright, so here's how I break down your argument:

1. You agreed that working as a CPA would not bring the kind of income necessary to put your kids through Exeter and Harvard.
2. You pointed out that 2.5% of the country can afford to put their kids through Exeter and Harvard.
3. "Big time money" is only seen by a handful of people.
4. Those who do not make over $200k per year still work hard and are successful.

I'm not going to address the merit of statements 2-4, because they don't even apply to what I said. You conceded the point I made in your first claim; given that, what is your problem? I didn't disparage those who can't put their kids through Exeter and Harvard (my parents couldn't). You can't disagree with what I literally and actually said, because I'm right. Someone who goes into accounting long term probably won't make that kind of money.

If you took it the wrong way and thought I was speaking down to accounting professionals, I apologize. Maybe that's a reflection of your personal insecurity over your chosen industry, or you just feel obligated to champion those who make less than 200k, in which case that would be quite arrogant and hypocritical for you to think that just because they don't make $1m+ per year, they need someone to defend their work integrity and successfulness.

Or, perhaps you just need to clarify your point.

    • 1
Mar 26, 2013
Art.Vandelay:
Asmith14:

IIt's certainly not a profession (long term) for those who want to put their kids through Exeter and Harvard.

I hope this doesnt seem like I'm singling you out, Asmith14, I'm just using your words to show what many people think, but this is exactly what I was trying to say in my earlier post. A lot of people on this website associate being well-off financially as having a vacation home, a new benz every two years, and paying for your kids to go to private school and Harvard. By that standard, yes CPAs don't make shit. But that kinda lifestyle is top 2.5% of the country type of living. I don't know if the students in the IB section realize that or not, maybe not because a lot of them (I'm generalizing terribly, as I know this isnt the case with MANY of them) lived this way growing up. That's big time money that only a handful of people actually see, yet there are a ton of others who are successful, work hard, and top out at $200k a year, which is a lot of money, as hard as that is for some people on this site to see.

I would be more than happy with 200k a year.

Mps721

Mar 26, 2013
Asmith14:
Mps721:

I am an accounting major and I expect to become a CPA. I do not necessarily want to be a multi million dollar hedge fund manager or anything like that, but from what I expect to do is 200k-400k yearly salary as a CPA obtainable over the course of my career? If so how long? I would be more than happy with the ultimate upper middle class lifestyle is this possible as a CPA? I do not mean like my own firm but working for a corporation or audit firm I suppose. Please also keep in mind I live in north Jersey so when I graduate I would most likely be working in the NYC/NJ area.

Thank you.

I'm not an expert on CPAs, but from what I understand of general census' taken on the industry, the basic answer is "not very much" relative to the area you plan to live in (NY) and the amount of hours you will be expected to work. It's certainly not a profession (long term) for those who want to put their kids through Exeter and Harvard.

The fed Gov produces stats collected in the Occupation Outlook, which can be found here: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/

Of course, there is always a chance you might make partner or become a CFO, but I don't think that was really your question.

I checked BLS I personally think the numbers are skewed, I know people in my area who are CPA's and they make over 100k and according the the BLS accountants cannot really break six figures.

Mps721

Mar 26, 2013
Mps721:
Asmith14:
Mps721:

I am an accounting major and I expect to become a CPA. I do not necessarily want to be a multi million dollar hedge fund manager or anything like that, but from what I expect to do is 200k-400k yearly salary as a CPA obtainable over the course of my career? If so how long? I would be more than happy with the ultimate upper middle class lifestyle is this possible as a CPA? I do not mean like my own firm but working for a corporation or audit firm I suppose. Please also keep in mind I live in north Jersey so when I graduate I would most likely be working in the NYC/NJ area.

Thank you.

I'm not an expert on CPAs, but from what I understand of general census' taken on the industry, the basic answer is "not very much" relative to the area you plan to live in (NY) and the amount of hours you will be expected to work. It's certainly not a profession (long term) for those who want to put their kids through Exeter and Harvard.

The fed Gov produces stats collected in the Occupation Outlook, which can be found here: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/

Of course, there is always a chance you might make partner or become a CFO, but I don't think that was really your question.

I checked BLS I personally think the numbers are skewed, I know people in my area who are CPA's and they make over 100k and according the the BLS accountants cannot really break six figures.

The OOH figure of $61k (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Business-and-Financial/Acco...) is three years old, and represents a median. This includes entry level and staff level accountants - i.e. the average accounting grad who never worked in public accounting. Most importantly, it does not include those who have made the logical career progression after a few years, which is OUT of the accountant/auditor role and into a finance role (equipped with extremely valuable accounting knowledge).

Mar 26, 2013

I have worked in tax for 1 year, audit for 3 years, and now work in Corporate (F500).

In general, public accounting (B4) does not pay that well, but you get some great experience. Partners make a killing ($350K+) - but you have to bust your tail for ~15 years to make partner. It's an 'up or out' culture, so people aren't really sticking around for 20 years at Sr. Manager level (as previously mentioned). You will start at around $60-$65K in NYC. Raises are roughly 10% each year.

Corporate culture is much more relaxed, but climbing the corporate ladder is not as easy/the route is not as defined as public accounting. It is very possible to make $200K in corporate after being with the company for several years. You will still need to work hard and prove yourself.

I would recommend trying to get into the Transaction Advisory Services practice if you are interested in M&A and finance. Audit can get really boring and it's easy to get burnt out due to the nature of the work and long hours. TAS also can provide some cool exit options if you play it right.

Government accountants are underpaid, but don't do much work at all. They have nice retirement benefits. These jobs are usually reserved for the bottom-of-the-barrel bean counters.

Get some extra curriculars (volunteer, clubs, sports..) on your resume. Firms like well-rounded candidates. Good luck!

    • 1
Mar 26, 2013
Drewbles:

I have worked in tax for 1 year, audit for 3 years, and now work in Corporate (F500).

In general, public accounting (B4) does not pay that well, but you get some great experience. Partners make a killing ($350K+) - but you have to bust your tail for ~15 years to make partner. It's an 'up or out' culture, so people aren't really sticking around for 20 years at Sr. Manager level (as previously mentioned). You will start at around $60-$65K in NYC. Raises are roughly 10% each year.

Corporate culture is much more relaxed, but climbing the corporate ladder is not as easy/the route is not as defined as public accounting. It is very possible to make $200K in corporate after being with the company for several years. You will still need to work hard and prove yourself.

I would recommend trying to get into the Transaction Advisory Services practice if you are interested in M&A and finance. Audit can get really boring and it's easy to get burnt out due to the nature of the work and long hours. TAS also can provide some cool exit options if you play it right.

Government accountants are underpaid, but don't do much work at all. They have nice retirement benefits. These jobs are usually reserved for the bottom-of-the-barrel bean counters.

Get some extra curriculars (volunteer, clubs, sports..) on your resume. Firms like well-rounded candidates. Good luck!

Thank you for the advice!

Mps721

Mar 26, 2013
Drewbles:

I have worked in tax for 1 year, audit for 3 years, and now work in Corporate (F500).

In general, public accounting (B4) does not pay that well, but you get some great experience. Partners make a killing ($350K+) - but you have to bust your tail for ~15 years to make partner. It's an 'up or out' culture, so people aren't really sticking around for 20 years at Sr. Manager level (as previously mentioned). You will start at around $60-$65K in NYC. Raises are roughly 10% each year.

Corporate culture is much more relaxed, but climbing the corporate ladder is not as easy/the route is not as defined as public accounting. It is very possible to make $200K in corporate after being with the company for several years. You will still need to work hard and prove yourself.

I would recommend trying to get into the Transaction Advisory Services practice if you are interested in M&A and finance. Audit can get really boring and it's easy to get burnt out due to the nature of the work and long hours. TAS also can provide some cool exit options if you play it right.

Government accountants are underpaid, but don't do much work at all. They have nice retirement benefits. These jobs are usually reserved for the bottom-of-the-barrel bean counters.

Get some extra curriculars (volunteer, clubs, sports..) on your resume. Firms like well-rounded candidates. Good luck!

Would you recommend taking a few months off when I graduate to study full time so that I can pass all four parts of my CPA exam, or should I go right into Big 4 if I get the opportunity right from college?

Mps721

Mar 26, 2013
Mps721:
Drewbles:

I have worked in tax for 1 year, audit for 3 years, and now work in Corporate (F500).

In general, public accounting (B4) does not pay that well, but you get some great experience. Partners make a killing ($350K+) - but you have to bust your tail for ~15 years to make partner. It's an 'up or out' culture, so people aren't really sticking around for 20 years at Sr. Manager level (as previously mentioned). You will start at around $60-$65K in NYC. Raises are roughly 10% each year.

Corporate culture is much more relaxed, but climbing the corporate ladder is not as easy/the route is not as defined as public accounting. It is very possible to make $200K in corporate after being with the company for several years. You will still need to work hard and prove yourself.

I would recommend trying to get into the Transaction Advisory Services practice if you are interested in M&A and finance. Audit can get really boring and it's easy to get burnt out due to the nature of the work and long hours. TAS also can provide some cool exit options if you play it right.

Government accountants are underpaid, but don't do much work at all. They have nice retirement benefits. These jobs are usually reserved for the bottom-of-the-barrel bean counters.

Get some extra curriculars (volunteer, clubs, sports..) on your resume. Firms like well-rounded candidates. Good luck!

Would you recommend taking a few months off when I graduate to study full time so that I can pass all four parts of my CPA exam, or should I go right into Big 4 if I get the opportunity right from college?

Most people won't be given the opportunity to start straight out of college. You have to 1) Ask for it 2) Impress the interviewer 3) Get lucky - the office has to have a need. Generally, you also have to graduate off cycle (i.e. not in April/May). I started straight out of college, and it was extremely difficult to pass the CPA exam. I was working 12 to 18 hour days for five months straight, and it was tough to have the mental capacity at the end of the day to study. I had to kill it during the summer to pass. Having said that, I was able to jump a year ahead in title, compensation, and responsibility by starting in January instead of October.

I would probably recommend taking a few months off (i.e. going with the normal recruiting cycle) and passing the CPA, but it's a tradeoff.

Mar 26, 2013

In an ideal world, you will intern with the firm during the summer following your junior year of college.. During your internship, you will work hard and earn an offer to start in the fall after you graduate. You'll start your career as an associate in September-October of the year you graduate. This gives you from mid-May to your starting date to knock out a couple of exams. I only finished one before my start date. I dicked around way too much though.

Studying for the exam while you are working sucks.. but the reward is worth it! I would recommend over-studying for your first exam. You want to pass that first exam so you feel confident and excited to knock out the rest. If you fail, don't get down on yourself - get back up and study, study, study. Also, I took BEC first (generally regarded as the easiest). Don't make excuses and don't procrastinate. If you work for a larger firm, they will provide you with Becker study materials. You can also access some tough questions at cpareviewforfree.com if you're curious as to what the exam will be like.

You sound pretty green at this point. B4 usually have leadership programs for students during the summer following your sophomore year. I recommend participating in this program - it gets you exposure to different service lines and facetime with recruiters and firm members. Takeaway: get involved as early as you can.

Mar 26, 2013

There are three common paths that ambitious CPAs typically try to take:

1) Big 4 audit staff/senior/manager (50-70k starting) for 3-7 years -> F1000 Corporate Finance Senior/Mgr (65-110k starting) for 3+ years -> F1000 Finance Director/VP/Executive (100k-400k+).

2) Big 4 or Regional Public audit staff/senior/manager (50-70k starting) for 4-7 years -> Small/Mid-cap Finance Director/VP (65-110k starting) for 3+ years -> Small/Mid-cap Finance Director/VP/Executive (80k-400k+).

3) Big 4 audit staff/senior/manager (50-70k starting) for 3-7 years -> F1000 Corporate Finance Senior/Mgr (65-110k starting) for 1+ years -> Corporate Ops (65-120k starting) -> Ops Director/VP/Executive (100k - 400k+).

4) Big 4 or Regional Public audit staff/senior (50-70k starting) for 5-6 years -> Manager (70-90k starting) for 3 years -> Senior Manager (100k - 150k starting) -> Partner/Director (Big 4 is 250-350k starting - senior partners can make several million).

Keep in mind that many, many people will get stuck somewhere in middle management making 70-100k. The mindset of the vast majority of public accountants is to stick it out in public accounting as long as you can bear it, then score a cushy middle management job in industry with an upper middle class lifestyle and maybe move up towards upper management (Director/VP) towards the end of your career. Most people value "work/life balance" more than a high salary, and don't have anything close to the drive and hustle of the average IB/consulting ->HF/PE person. Some will do something completely unrelated - anywhere from humanitarian aid to private equity/entrepreneur. To make it to the top in any of the paths I listed, you are going to have to go above and beyond - be a top performer in public accounting, stay late every day once you move to industry, etc. That being said, I will echo Mr. Vandelay in saying that the average CPA is in the top 0.5% of earners worldwide, and top 10% in the U.S. In business, if you can't make it into high finance or you're not willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary, being a CPA is the most well-worn path to the top.

    • 3
Mar 26, 2013
808:

There are three common paths that ambitious CPAs typically try to take:

1) Big 4 audit staff/senior/manager (50-70k starting) for 3-7 years -> F1000 Corporate Finance Senior/Mgr (65-110k starting) for 3+ years -> F1000 Finance Director/VP/Executive (100k-400k+).

2) Big 4 or Regional Public audit staff/senior/manager (50-70k starting) for 4-7 years -> Small/Mid-cap Finance Director/VP (65-110k starting) for 3+ years -> Small/Mid-cap Finance Director/VP/Executive (80k-400k+).

3) Big 4 audit staff/senior/manager (50-70k starting) for 3-7 years -> F1000 Corporate Finance Senior/Mgr (65-110k starting) for 1+ years -> Corporate Ops (65-120k starting) -> Ops Director/VP/Executive (100k - 400k+).

4) Big 4 or Regional Public audit staff/senior (50-70k starting) for 5-6 years -> Manager (70-90k starting) for 3 years -> Senior Manager (100k - 150k starting) -> Partner/Director (Big 4 is 250-350k starting - senior partners can make several million).

Keep in mind that many, many people will get stuck somewhere in middle management making 70-100k. The mindset of the vast majority of public accountants is to stick it out in public accounting as long as you can bear it, then score a cushy middle management job in industry with an upper middle class lifestyle and maybe move up towards upper management (Director/VP) towards the end of your career. Most people value "work/life balance" more than a high salary, and don't have anything close to the drive and hustle of the average IB/consulting ->HF/PE person. Some will do something completely unrelated - anywhere from humanitarian aid to private equity/entrepreneur. To make it to the top in any of the paths I listed, you are going to have to go above and beyond - be a top performer in public accounting, stay late every day once you move to industry, etc. That being said, I will echo Mr. Vandelay in saying that the average CPA is in the top 0.5% of earners worldwide, and top 10% in the U.S. In business, if you can't make it into high finance or you're not willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary, being a CPA is the most well-worn path to the top.

Great post by 808 as usual.

Mar 26, 2013

Before I learned about IB, I planned on doing Big 4 until I make Manager and jump to F500 as Accounting manager. However, now that I've learned so much about the interesting finance careers, dominating in stock market exchange, reading the WSJ, I don't think I can stomach going on that path. It will probably provide the most security and I will probably never be unemployed and make north of 100K, but life is about the experience. If I don't get into IBD after college I'll definitely go into F500 or something more interesting and hopefully get into a top MBA for the experience of meeting incredible and passionate people, gaining a valuable network, and having more interesting job options opened up for me.

Mar 27, 2013

glassdoor.com

Mar 27, 2013

How accurate is glassdoor.com? I've been going there for Big4 salaries and some of the variances in reported salaries are enormous, even when I specify the exact city (ex- audit senior ranged from 50k to 80k in Houston) I guess the media would the most accurate guess, but still 30k is a massive range.

Mar 27, 2013
jon1987:

How accurate is glassdoor.com? I've been going there for Big4 salaries and some of the variances in reported salaries are enormous, even when I specify the exact city (ex- audit senior ranged from 50k to 80k in Houston) I guess the media would the most accurate guess, but still 30k is a massive range.

I personally believe that all salary information sites are usually not that accurate. Some of the sites say accountatns in my area start at like 40-45k which is just completely not true at all.

Mps721

Mar 27, 2013
Mps721:
jon1987:

How accurate is glassdoor.com? I've been going there for Big4 salaries and some of the variances in reported salaries are enormous, even when I specify the exact city (ex- audit senior ranged from 50k to 80k in Houston) I guess the media would the most accurate guess, but still 30k is a massive range.

I personally believe that all salary information sites are usually not that accurate. Some of the sites say accountatns in my area start at like 40-45k which is just completely not true at all.

I wouldn't say that. If you're starting at a small operation you certainly could start that low.

If we're talking Big 4/Large regional firms, then yes that would be way off.

Mar 27, 2013
Mps721:
jon1987:

How accurate is glassdoor.com? I've been going there for Big4 salaries and some of the variances in reported salaries are enormous, even when I specify the exact city (ex- audit senior ranged from 50k to 80k in Houston) I guess the media would the most accurate guess, but still 30k is a massive range.

I personally believe that all salary information sites are usually not that accurate. Some of the sites say accountatns in my area start at like 40-45k which is just completely not true at all.

40-45k would be very standard for a non-B4 firm. Keep in mind that not every accountant goes B4. Furthermore, even fewer of those who do make the movement to f500 or partner.

Mar 28, 2013

Pay scale breakdown for my Big 4:

Years 1-3 Associate - 50-60Ks (depends on group and location)
Years 3-5 Senior Associate - 70-80K
Years 5-9 Manager 90K-120K
Years 10-15 Senior Manager/Director 125-200K

After 12-15 years depending on how much business you generate, demand, etc Partner - 250-300K starting,

So yes definitely possible to break 200K, but most of the talented people leave at senior or manager. Breaking 200K in industry is very doable.

Mar 29, 2013
BackOfficeLove:

Pay scale breakdown for my Big 4:

Years 1-3 Associate - 50-60Ks (depends on group and location)
Years 3-5 Senior Associate - 70-80K
Years 5-9 Manager 90K-120K
Years 10-15 Senior Manager/Director 125-200K

After 12-15 years depending on how much business you generate, demand, etc Partner - 250-300K starting,

So yes definitely possible to break 200K, but most of the talented people leave at senior or manager. Breaking 200K in industry is very doable.

Which firm is that?

Mps721

Mar 29, 2013
Mps721:
BackOfficeLove:

Pay scale breakdown for my Big 4:

Years 1-3 Associate - 50-60Ks (depends on group and location)
Years 3-5 Senior Associate - 70-80K
Years 5-9 Manager 90K-120K
Years 10-15 Senior Manager/Director 125-200K

After 12-15 years depending on how much business you generate, demand, etc Partner - 250-300K starting,

So yes definitely possible to break 200K, but most of the talented people leave at senior or manager. Breaking 200K in industry is very doable.

Which firm is that?

PwC, Deloitte, and EY would be around that, but KPMG might be a little less

Mar 29, 2013

I'm biased because that' where I work, but corporate is the way to go. At my firm, you can make plant controller by age 30 ($100k+), division controller by 32 ($130k+), director by 36 ($200k+), and VP by 40 ($500k+). And if you're good enough to get to the CFO level, you can see from a google search that they clear well over $1M per year all in. Oh, and you won't work much more than 40 hours a week and can choose to live anywhere in the country that has a F500 headquarters.

Don't listen to the bankers saying you cap out at $150k because they don't have a clue. And in the "prestigous" banking jobs, you start out making more but you work up to 100 hrs a week while paying over $2k a month in rent...not to mention having to worry about your job each time there's a drop in the market. It's all relative.

Mar 29, 2013
Industry84:

I'm biased because that' where I work, but corporate is the way to go. At my firm, you can make plant controller by age 30 ($100k+), division controller by 32 ($130k+), director by 36 ($200k+), and VP by 40 ($500k+). And if you're good enough to get to the CFO level, you can see from a google search that they clear well over $1M per year all in. Oh, and you won't work much more than 40 hours a week and can choose to live anywhere in the country that has a F500 headquarters.

Well of course this all CAAANN happen, but what gets us (as prospective CPAs) in "trouble" is saying things like this as if they're certainties. The fact of the matter is that $150k++ salaries are rare for ANYONE, and it takes a combination of timing, luck, and hardwork to get to the VP level at all, let alone by 40.

It's rare for people to end up as HF managers as well, it just seems so easy on this site because there is a concentration of it. But the reality is, for each step in the process (getting into a target, getting into BB IBD, getting into HF, manager at HF, etc etc), fewer and fewer people actually make it. The same can be said about the CPA route, i.e. a certain number make it to Big 4, less make it to manager in F500/Senior Manager at Big 4, and even less than that make it to VP of Finance at F500/Partner at Big 4.

To answer the question in its most simplest terms, assuming someone on this site would be a Big 4 or bust type of person, I'd venture to say any given CPA can EXPECT to make $100k, with a possibility of reaching the $200k+ level with luck, hard work, etc. But again, this is a simplification to a complex question.

    • 1
Mar 29, 2013
Art.Vandelay:
Industry84:

I'm biased because that' where I work, but corporate is the way to go. At my firm, you can make plant controller by age 30 ($100k+), division controller by 32 ($130k+), director by 36 ($200k+), and VP by 40 ($500k+). And if you're good enough to get to the CFO level, you can see from a google search that they clear well over $1M per year all in. Oh, and you won't work much more than 40 hours a week and can choose to live anywhere in the country that has a F500 headquarters.

Well of course this all CAAANN happen, but what gets us (as prospective CPAs) in "trouble" is saying things like this as if they're certainties. The fact of the matter is that $150k++ salaries are rare for ANYONE, and it takes a combination of timing, luck, and hardwork to get to the VP level at all, let alone by 40.

It's rare for people to end up as HF managers as well, it just seems so easy on this site because there is a concentration of it. But the reality is, for each step in the process (getting into a target, getting into BB IBD, getting into HF, manager at HF, etc etc), fewer and fewer people actually make it. The same can be said about the CPA route, i.e. a certain number make it to Big 4, less make it to manager in F500/Senior Manager at Big 4, and even less than that make it to VP of Finance at F500/Partner at Big 4.

To answer the question in its most simplest terms, assuming someone on this site would be a Big 4 or bust type of person, I'd venture to say any given CPA can EXPECT to make $100k, with a possibility of reaching the $200k+ level with luck, hard work, etc. But again, this is a simplification to a complex question.

I basically agree with this. I'm by no means trying to discredit industry84 because he's actually working and would know better but I don't think the probabilities of this are necessarily very high. The divisional controller part seems very doable, but director/VP level is when one typically has to wait longer and can be much more difficult to attain IMO. Still, it's good to know that we can still make a lot of money in accounting (I don't care what anyone here says but 200k+ is a lot of money, especially in a city with lower cost of living like my hometown) and that I won't have to kill myself working 80 hours a week to do so.

Mar 30, 2013
Art.Vandelay:
Industry84:

I'm biased because that' where I work, but corporate is the way to go. At my firm, you can make plant controller by age 30 ($100k+), division controller by 32 ($130k+), director by 36 ($200k+), and VP by 40 ($500k+). And if you're good enough to get to the CFO level, you can see from a google search that they clear well over $1M per year all in. Oh, and you won't work much more than 40 hours a week and can choose to live anywhere in the country that has a F500 headquarters.

Well of course this all CAAANN happen, but what gets us (as prospective CPAs) in "trouble" is saying things like this as if they're certainties. The fact of the matter is that $150k++ salaries are rare for ANYONE, and it takes a combination of timing, luck, and hardwork to get to the VP level at all, let alone by 40.

It's rare for people to end up as HF managers as well, it just seems so easy on this site because there is a concentration of it. But the reality is, for each step in the process (getting into a target, getting into BB IBD, getting into HF, manager at HF, etc etc), fewer and fewer people actually make it. The same can be said about the CPA route, i.e. a certain number make it to Big 4, less make it to manager in F500/Senior Manager at Big 4, and even less than that make it to VP of Finance at F500/Partner at Big 4.

To answer the question in its most simplest terms, assuming someone on this site would be a Big 4 or bust type of person, I'd venture to say any given CPA can EXPECT to make $100k, with a possibility of reaching the $200k+ level with luck, hard work, etc. But again, this is a simplification to a complex question.

I agree with this but I'm also assuming we're not talking about the "accountants" who have no desire to advance and take roles in AP/AR or payroll and are content in those jobs, who would definitely skew the pay average down. I'm talking more the ones who complete rotational programs at F500's or CPA's who switch from public to private, who have high advancement and income potential.

It is by no means easy but if you are smart, work hard, and people like you, you have a great shot of getting to the VP level, although it could require switching companies a couple times. Also, if you polled the F500 CEO's and asked "where did you start your career?", the most common response would be "accounting". I just think the accounting field doesn't get enough credit but it is a great place to start and is very valuable. You'd be amazed how many non-accounting managers struggle to get promoted because they can't read an income statement.

Mar 31, 2013

I can't tell if some of you are just young or have not worked in public accounting. IMO, you are focusing on the wrong things. It might be easy to boil down a profession into a dollar amount, time spent, and "hard work," but you need to consider what you will be doing on a daily basis. After all you will be employed there for many years. You will be labeled as an accountant which can be hard to shake off if you decide you don't like it. You will know accounting (likely auditing). The knowledge you gain is not as transferable. The part that is transferable is showing you can slave it out for many hours for low pay relative to what your peers in other financial services positions are making. In absolute terms, the money is great but when do you ever measure your salary in absolute terms. Ie. if there was a new field making 10 million entry out of college with raises similar to banking, I'm sure IB would be upon as poverty jobs.

If you plan to stay in the field great. If not, there were probably better ways to spend your time in other fields. You can try to switch out of accounting but it is rare. Even top performers at these firms (at least in audit) only move to middle office positions at F500.

Let me add that the work itself is easy but the difficult part is dealing with people who do not want to talk to you and have managers in your face all the time.

Mar 31, 2013

I agree with most of the responses here, but I don't think coming up in the accounting field and surpassing the $120k mark is as rare as most people are making it out to be. The CEO of the firm I'm at started as an entry level cost accountant and made well over $10M last year. In my division alone, our VP is 40 years old, director is under 40, and there is a high level sales director who started in accounting and clears well over $200k. I also have several contacts in their low 30's who are already above the $120k mark, and some of them only have bachelor's degrees (no CPA or MBA). I highly doubt they will go the next 30+ years of their careers without another pay increase so you can do the math on where they might end up.

I'm speaking soley from my experience, but I'm either surrounded by the luckiest accountants in the world, or the average skilled/intelligent person who gets in with a good F500 can make some great money coming up in the accounting field.

Mar 31, 2013
Industry84:

I agree with most of the responses here, but I don't think coming up in the accounting field and surpassing the $120k mark is as rare as most people are making it out to be. The CEO of the firm I'm at started as an entry level cost accountant and made well over $10M last year. In my division alone, our VP is 40 years old, director is under 40, and there is a high level sales director who started in accounting and clears well over $200k. I also have several contacts in their low 30's who are already above the $120k mark, and some of them only have bachelor's degrees (no CPA or MBA). I highly doubt they will go the next 30+ years of their careers without another pay increase so you can do the math on where they might end up.

I'm speaking soley from my experience, but I'm either surrounded by the luckiest accountants in the world, or the average skilled/intelligent person who gets in with a good F500 can make some great money coming up in the accounting field.

For everyone person that reaches the VP level, there are tens of people with Big 4 background that is stuck in the 120K entry level managerial role. Pay increases in F500 are generally not too much higher than the inflation rate. It for sure does provide you with a nice upper-middle class lifestyle, especially if your wife works too. However, it's just unsatisfying for many of the Type-A overachievers.

Apr 1, 2013
AsianMonky:

It for sure does provide you with a nice upper-middle class lifestyle

Another problem is that this means way different things from person to person. Thats why sometimes you'll hear "CPAs can live an upper-middle class lifestyle" and others say that they're just barely cracking middle class, driving their Honda Civics till they die (which is a smart thing regardless of income), etc.

Mar 31, 2013

.

Apr 2, 2013

as someone who spent 2.5 years at a big4, here's my two cents.

salaries out of college are low for the number of hours you put in, but you get decent sized raises each year (i got 8% raises each year and i was rated average each time). bonuses are small so don't bank on those atleast until you hit the manager level (after 5-6 busy seasons depending on which firm you are at). i would say the vast majority of ppl that work in big4 for 2-3 years will break 100k by the time they hit 30. i, along with many of my friends, left audit between years 2 and 3 and received offers in F500 companies ranging from 80-95k (base + bonus). most of us expect to break 100k within a year or two. i was close with one of the managers at my big4 firm, he had been there for 7 years and took an accounting role at a bulge bracket where he is clearing 160k a year. to say that most ppl 'top off' at 120k is laughable. you will only top off if you stop caring about you're career. it's important to stay focused and hungry and you will find the right kind of opportunities.

overall i think audit is great experience to have, but just make sure that when you leave you don't just take the first shitty job thrown at you by a recruiter. have in mind the kind of work you want to do post-big4 and continue looking until you find it.

also, salaries listed up a few posts seem to be about right
Associates - 60-65k
Senior - 70-85k
Manager - 90-120k
Senior Manager/Director - 120-200k
Partner - 300k starting, the top Partners will make well into the millions

Apr 2, 2013
i hate audit:

as someone who spent 2.5 years at a big4, here's my two cents.

salaries out of college are low for the number of hours you put in, but you get decent sized raises each year (i got 8% raises each year and i was rated average each time). bonuses are small so don't bank on those atleast until you hit the manager level (after 5-6 busy seasons depending on which firm you are at). i would say the vast majority of ppl that work in big4 for 2-3 years will break 100k by the time they hit 30. i, along with many of my friends, left audit between years 2 and 3 and received offers in F500 companies ranging from 80-95k (base + bonus). most of us expect to break 100k within a year or two. i was close with one of the managers at my big4 firm, he had been there for 7 years and took an accounting role at a bulge bracket where he is clearing 160k a year. to say that most ppl 'top off' at 120k is laughable. you will only top off if you stop caring about you're career. it's important to stay focused and hungry and you will find the right kind of opportunities.

overall i think audit is great experience to have, but just make sure that when you leave you don't just take the first shitty job thrown at you by a recruiter. have in mind the kind of work you want to do post-big4 and continue looking until you find it.

also, salaries listed up a few posts seem to be about right
Associates - 60-65k
Senior - 70-85k
Manager - 90-120k
Senior Manager/Director - 120-200k
Partner - 300k starting, the top Partners will make well into the millions

Thank you for the info, in your opinion if I start at big 4 do you think staying for the long term is worth it?

Mps721

Apr 3, 2013

depends what you want out of life. you can do like my former manager did and stay for 6-7 years and take an accounting role (Internal Audit/Fin Reporting/Accounting Policy) at a F500 and live a very comfortable lifestyle. He clears 160k and works prob 45-50 hours a week. His compensation will prob top off around 200ish unless he keeps working his way up the corporate ladder, but thats not a bad deal either to be at 200k working 50 hours a week. i personally thought i could do better than that and i wanted to be involved in more interesting roles which is why i left audit. i was able to snag a role in corporate strategy at a F100 which i think will set me up better long-term whether i decide to stay here or go to bschool.

most people leave audit by their 3rd year. they do so bc A) they cant handle the hours anymore and want more money or B) they realize if they stay any longer, it will be impossible to shake the accountant/auditor tag. i was a part of the latter group. i suggest to all my friends and former colleagues to stay for 2 years and look to get out ASAP after that. 2 years is enough to give you a solid understanding of financial statements and the inner workings of whatever industry group you cover to parlay into something else (if that is what you are looking for). if you are happy staying in an accounting type of role (Internal Audit/Fin Reporting/Accounting Policy) for the long haul, then the longer you stay the higher your salary post-Big4 will be. for those ppl, they stay as long as they can bear it and then they leave. hope that was helpful.

Apr 2, 2013
i hate audit:

as someone who spent 2.5 years at a big4, here's my two cents.

salaries out of college are low for the number of hours you put in, but you get decent sized raises each year (i got 8% raises each year and i was rated average each time). bonuses are small so don't bank on those atleast until you hit the manager level (after 5-6 busy seasons depending on which firm you are at). i would say the vast majority of ppl that work in big4 for 2-3 years will break 100k by the time they hit 30. i, along with many of my friends, left audit between years 2 and 3 and received offers in F500 companies ranging from 80-95k (base + bonus). most of us expect to break 100k within a year or two. i was close with one of the managers at my big4 firm, he had been there for 7 years and took an accounting role at a bulge bracket where he is clearing 160k a year. to say that most ppl 'top off' at 120k is laughable. you will only top off if you stop caring about you're career. it's important to stay focused and hungry and you will find the right kind of opportunities.

overall i think audit is great experience to have, but just make sure that when you leave you don't just take the first shitty job thrown at you by a recruiter. have in mind the kind of work you want to do post-big4 and continue looking until you find it.

also, salaries listed up a few posts seem to be about right
Associates - 60-65k
Senior - 70-85k
Manager - 90-120k
Senior Manager/Director - 120-200k
Partner - 300k starting, the top Partners will make well into the millions

80-95K after 2 years in audit? Interesting, that sounds great. Could you tell me what location of the country these offers were mainly in? Northeast, or cheaper location like Midwest? You might have just changed my mindset on Big 4..

Apr 3, 2013

NYC. 80-95k doesn't go nearly as far here as it does elsewhere, but you can just as easily find a similar paying job in a lower COL area like NJ, CT, or NY State. not sure about other markets, but i would assume salaries wouldn't be too different in other large markets

Apr 3, 2013
i hate audit:

as someone who spent 2.5 years at a big4, here's my two cents.

salaries out of college are low for the number of hours you put in, but you get decent sized raises each year (i got 8% raises each year and i was rated average each time). bonuses are small so don't bank on those atleast until you hit the manager level (after 5-6 busy seasons depending on which firm you are at). i would say the vast majority of ppl that work in big4 for 2-3 years will break 100k by the time they hit 30. i, along with many of my friends, left audit between years 2 and 3 and received offers in F500 companies ranging from 80-95k (base + bonus). most of us expect to break 100k within a year or two. i was close with one of the managers at my big4 firm, he had been there for 7 years and took an accounting role at a bulge bracket where he is clearing 160k a year. to say that most ppl 'top off' at 120k is laughable. you will only top off if you stop caring about you're career. it's important to stay focused and hungry and you will find the right kind of opportunities.

overall i think audit is great experience to have, but just make sure that when you leave you don't just take the first shitty job thrown at you by a recruiter. have in mind the kind of work you want to do post-big4 and continue looking until you find it.

also, salaries listed up a few posts seem to be about right
Associates - 60-65k
Senior - 70-85k
Manager - 90-120k
Senior Manager/Director - 120-200k
Partner - 300k starting, the top Partners will make well into the millions

What? Base for first years is 47-57K depending on location.

Apr 3, 2013

first year base in NYC is between 57-60, your 2nd year as an Associate you would make more than that which is where I got my range of 60-65 from.

Apr 25, 2013

As others have stated, starting your own CPA firm wouldn't put you in competition for the same clients as the BIG4, so no worries there.

Apr 25, 2013
i hate audit:

as someone who spent 2.5 years at a big4, here's my two cents.

salaries out of college are low for the number of hours you put in, but you get decent sized raises each year (i got 8% raises each year and i was rated average each time). bonuses are small so don't bank on those atleast until you hit the manager level (after 5-6 busy seasons depending on which firm you are at). i would say the vast majority of ppl that work in big4 for 2-3 years will break 100k by the time they hit 30. i, along with many of my friends, left audit between years 2 and 3 and received offers in F500 companies ranging from 80-95k (base + bonus). most of us expect to break 100k within a year or two. i was close with one of the managers at my big4 firm, he had been there for 7 years and took an accounting role at a bulge bracket where he is clearing 160k a year. to say that most ppl 'top off' at 120k is laughable. you will only top off if you stop caring about you're career. it's important to stay focused and hungry and you will find the right kind of opportunities.

overall i think audit is great experience to have, but just make sure that when you leave you don't just take the first shitty job thrown at you by a recruiter. have in mind the kind of work you want to do post-big4 and continue looking until you find it.

also, salaries listed up a few posts seem to be about right
Associates - 60-65k
Senior - 70-85k
Manager - 90-120k
Senior Manager/Director - 120-200k
Partner - 300k starting, the top Partners will make well into the millions

This is a good post... accurate and insightful. My only comment as someone who's worked BIG4 in New York for a few years is the salaries listed for Managers and Directors should be somewhat higher.

Apr 25, 2013
SuitUp7:
i hate audit:

as someone who spent 2.5 years at a big4, here's my two cents.

salaries out of college are low for the number of hours you put in, but you get decent sized raises each year (i got 8% raises each year and i was rated average each time). bonuses are small so don't bank on those atleast until you hit the manager level (after 5-6 busy seasons depending on which firm you are at). i would say the vast majority of ppl that work in big4 for 2-3 years will break 100k by the time they hit 30. i, along with many of my friends, left audit between years 2 and 3 and received offers in F500 companies ranging from 80-95k (base + bonus). most of us expect to break 100k within a year or two. i was close with one of the managers at my big4 firm, he had been there for 7 years and took an accounting role at a bulge bracket where he is clearing 160k a year. to say that most ppl 'top off' at 120k is laughable. you will only top off if you stop caring about you're career. it's important to stay focused and hungry and you will find the right kind of opportunities.

overall i think audit is great experience to have, but just make sure that when you leave you don't just take the first shitty job thrown at you by a recruiter. have in mind the kind of work you want to do post-big4 and continue looking until you find it.

also, salaries listed up a few posts seem to be about right
Associates - 60-65k
Senior - 70-85k
Manager - 90-120k
Senior Manager/Director - 120-200k
Partner - 300k starting, the top Partners will make well into the millions

This is a good post... accurate and insightful. My only comment as someone who's worked BIG4 in New York for a few years is the salaries listed for Managers and Directors should be somewhat higher.

I expect to be working near the NY area because I live in the suburbs of NJ, would you also say the associate salaries are higher as well?

Mps721

Apr 2, 2013

Where I work, a CPA in a FP&A (or similar) group can easily clear $120K, assuming they want a managerial role. You'd be surpised at how many people don't want the additional workload and responsibility and are content working 9-5pm making $100K-$110K.

After about 3 years at Big4, you would probably come in as a more experienced FA or a SFA and be making ~$80K-$95K + bonus (~5-10%, so not substantial). Within 2-3 years, probably around $95-$100K + bonus. As a Finance/Accy manager (MBA not necessairly required for finance), ~$110-$120K + bonus, working pretty easy hours.

Note: figures are for a higher COL non-NYC city.

Apr 3, 2013

sorry i dont know how to quote comments in my replies(and can't edit them for some reason either), first comment was directed towards Mps721, 2nd to Poff and 3rd to Ruskii

Apr 3, 2013

if you want something without too many surprises, pursue a position in Fund Accounting post-Big4. it is a very repetitive position with really good hours that gets paid well if you put in a few years in audit beforehand. you will never be super rich, but you will live very comfortably and have a life outside of work. having worked closely with ppl in Financial Reporting i can tell you there are a ton of surprises associated with Fin Reporting and its rarely the same quarter to quarter (at F500's atleast), so if you want something with decent hours where you wont get bored to death, go with Fin Reporting. i personally found Accounting Policy to be a really interesting group, if i didnt land my current position i most likely would have taken a role in Accounting Policy somewhere. it is a very technical role. this group is responsible for doing all the accounting research for the company. they will go through new accounting guidance and put it into laymen's terms for management to show them how these new accounting rules will affect the company. they are essentially the "accounting experts" and will be called upon any time the company is looking to enter into any sort of complex transaction.

Apr 3, 2013
i hate audit:

if you want something without too many surprises, pursue a position in Fund Accounting post-Big4. it is a very repetitive position with really good hours that gets paid well if you put in a few years in audit beforehand. you will never be super rich, but you will live very comfortably and have a life outside of work. having worked closely with ppl in Financial Reporting i can tell you there are a ton of surprises associated with Fin Reporting and its rarely the same quarter to quarter (at F500's atleast), so if you want something with decent hours where you wont get bored to death, go with Fin Reporting. i personally found Accounting Policy to be a really interesting group, if i didnt land my current position i most likely would have taken a role in Accounting Policy somewhere. it is a very technical role. this group is responsible for doing all the accounting research for the company. they will go through new accounting guidance and put it into laymen's terms for management to show them how these new accounting rules will affect the company. they are essentially the "accounting experts" and will be called upon any time the company is looking to enter into any sort of complex transaction.

When you say fund accounting you mean like PE, HF, Asset management? Those type of funds?

Mps721

Apr 4, 2013
Mps721:
i hate audit:

if you want something without too many surprises, pursue a position in Fund Accounting post-Big4. it is a very repetitive position with really good hours that gets paid well if you put in a few years in audit beforehand. you will never be super rich, but you will live very comfortably and have a life outside of work. having worked closely with ppl in Financial Reporting i can tell you there are a ton of surprises associated with Fin Reporting and its rarely the same quarter to quarter (at F500's atleast), so if you want something with decent hours where you wont get bored to death, go with Fin Reporting. i personally found Accounting Policy to be a really interesting group, if i didnt land my current position i most likely would have taken a role in Accounting Policy somewhere. it is a very technical role. this group is responsible for doing all the accounting research for the company. they will go through new accounting guidance and put it into laymen's terms for management to show them how these new accounting rules will affect the company. they are essentially the "accounting experts" and will be called upon any time the company is looking to enter into any sort of complex transaction.

When you say fund accounting you mean like PE, HF, Asset management? Those type of funds?

Yes. you can get a job at a top PE/HF after Big4 Audit, but it will always be in an Accounting role(except for that guy that posted a thread a few months back abt how he got a buyside gig from audit, that is extremely rare and you prob have a .00001% chance of making that jump). its mostly mundane stuff like monthly/quarterly closes, booking expenses, reconciliations etc. the good part is that since these funds make a fuck ton of money they dont mind throwing large bonuses at the accountants. nowhere near the level as the true deal makers at these funds make, but larger than you might find elsewhere. at the higher level accounting positions within these funds like Fund Controller, you can actually expect to make a VERY large bonus upwards of 100% base. not sure what it takes to make Fund Controller at a PE/HF, but i've seen job postings seeking ppl with 10+ years of experience in AM/PE/HF audits. not too shabby eh? ppl here shit on accounting a lot (and so do I, look at my username!), but you can do pretty well for yourself if you play your cards right and can put up with some boring work. also, if you want to go this route, try your hardest to work on PE/HF clients!! this is very important. the top funds that pay the best will want ppl that have audited similar type of funds. you can still get these kind of jobs if you worked on any sort of financial services client, but prob with smaller funds.

Apr 3, 2013

I gotta be honest, I didn't see this thread going anywhere, but I think it turned into a pretty good discussion. Lets keep it going.

Apr 3, 2013
Art.Vandelay:

I gotta be honest, I didn't see this thread going anywhere, but I think it turned into a pretty good discussion. Lets keep it going.

Seems like you underestimated the amount of interest in accounting on this site eyh? lol

Mps721

Apr 3, 2013
Mps721:
Art.Vandelay:

I gotta be honest, I didn't see this thread going anywhere, but I think it turned into a pretty good discussion. Lets keep it going.

Seems like you underestimated the amount of interest in accounting on this site eyh? lol

Haha, it usually ends with "Accounting sucks, you're going to be poor", so its nice to see a little change of pace, even though we've had a lot of variation in the answers.

Apr 4, 2013

Out of curiosity, how hard would it be to go from a Big4 firm to equity research?

Apr 4, 2013
jon1987:

Out of curiosity, how hard would it be to go from a Big4 firm to equity research?

I kind of thought it would be very possible because as an accountant that is pretty much all you are doing is looking at financial statements no?

Mps721

Apr 6, 2013
jon1987:

Out of curiosity, how hard would it be to go from a Big4 firm to equity research?

Bump for anymore input from someone with experience.

Apr 7, 2013
jon1987:
jon1987:

Out of curiosity, how hard would it be to go from a Big4 firm to equity research?

Bump for anymore input from someone with experience.

never personally seen it happen, but i've read on WSO that it is possible, but rare. I prob would not go in with the mindset that you are doing audit to transition to ER...you just dont obtain any modeling skills whatsoever from audit to help you make that transition. sure you may know an industry group really well, but the modeling aspect is very important for ER.

Apr 5, 2013

Why is everyone here so rigid on a CPA being a slave to someone else? How about earning the CPA and starting one's own CPA firm (taxes)? Or getting the CPA and becoming a specialist (forensics) to be able to give court testimony? What are people's thoughts on this??

Apr 5, 2013
JoeyZazza:

Why is everyone here so rigid on a CPA being a slave to someone else? How about earning the CPA and starting one's own CPA firm (taxes)?

Slightly off topic, but yes I am strongly considering this, but I don't know how well Big 4 audit would prepare someone for this type of thing. I know of one person who did Big 4 audit and has a pretty successful practice (if I had to guess he must make in the 150k ish range and works maybe 40 hours a week, and typically will take off almost all of december). I just figured working for a small firm out of college would help with preparedness much more than Big 4 audit, and that isn't something I'm interested in because I'm not sure what I want yet and Big 4 gives me better exit opps. I wonder if a MST as opposed to an MSA would be enough to have the skills for an accounting/tax practice?

By the way, every time I see your username it reminds me what a fucking abomination the Godfather Part III was. And it hurts me inside.

Apr 6, 2013

But I figure if you open up a CPA firm, the bread and butter of your practice is going to be tax, I think it's very difficult to start up a firm which does audits. And yes, I think a smaller firm would be better than to learn more aspects of the business such as billing and marketing.

LOL on the Godfather III, I agree it's an abomination but Zazza was a phenomenal character

Apr 8, 2013

Another question: Out of curiosity, what are the chances of making partner at a non-Big4 firm versus a Big4 firm? I assume it would still be difficult, but maybe slightly less competitive? Assume the firm is one like Grant Thornton, McGladrey, etc. Larger, but not as big as Deloitte or PWC, etc.

Apr 8, 2013
jon1987:

Another question: Out of curiosity, what are the chances of making partner at a non-Big4 firm versus a Big4 firm? I assume it would still be difficult, but maybe slightly less competitive? Assume the firm is one like Grant Thornton, McGladrey, etc. Larger, but not as big as Deloitte or PWC, etc.

It's easier. I've *heard* that one route for people who can't make it to partner in big4 is to jump to smaller firms either as partner or to try and make it to partner

Apr 8, 2013
D M:
jon1987:

Another question: Out of curiosity, what are the chances of making partner at a non-Big4 firm versus a Big4 firm? I assume it would still be difficult, but maybe slightly less competitive? Assume the firm is one like Grant Thornton, McGladrey, etc. Larger, but not as big as Deloitte or PWC, etc.

It's easier. I've *heard* that one route for people who can't make it to partner in big4 is to jump to smaller firms either as partner or to try and make it to partner

I'm going to make a HUGE generalization here..

I'd say its easier for mid size firms only because the type of people who gun for partner roles tend to be at Big 4's. Again huge generalization that probably ins't true in many cases. And for small firms, I'm not sure if it would be easier.

Apr 8, 2013
D M:
jon1987:

Another question: Out of curiosity, what are the chances of making partner at a non-Big4 firm versus a Big4 firm? I assume it would still be difficult, but maybe slightly less competitive? Assume the firm is one like Grant Thornton, McGladrey, etc. Larger, but not as big as Deloitte or PWC, etc.

It's easier. I've *heard* that one route for people who can't make it to partner in big4 is to jump to smaller firms either as partner or to try and make it to partner

Do you think those partners clear 300k a year?

Mps721

Apr 9, 2013

Sigh, dude, you're worrying way too much about this stuff. Yes, partners even in my hometown (which is not tiny, but isn't big enough to have all 4 major sports for example) can clear 200-250k, which IMO is the same as 300k+ in a city with higher COL. The point is, if you're good at your job, you will find a way to make money. Think about accountants who manage money/do taxes for famous celebrities. Don't you think they can afford to charge a lot to their clients and make bank? It all comes down to you and if you're good at your work and work hard, you will make your 200-400k quota or more. If you run a great practice, you could potentially clear more than a B4 partner or if you crash and burn, you'll make less than a McDonalds worker. It just depends and there isn't a hard and fast rule for these things.

Even in investment banking, to be an MD or partner of a PE firm or HF Port manager, you have to be elite and demonstrate value to your firm/clients. I didn't want to keep arguing in circles with some of the people here, but I don't think 300k is guaranteed even for people in IBD and I don't think that one can expect to move from IB => PE any more given how tough the competition has become and how much the industry has shrunk (unless you're in an elite group like GS TMT, BX R&R, etc. but how many people make it into those places?). Work hard, network with people, and get it done if you want it that bad.

Apr 9, 2013
Accrual Dictator:

Sigh, dude, you're worrying way too much about this stuff. Yes, partners even in my hometown (which is not tiny, but isn't big enough to have all 4 major sports for example) can clear 200-250k, which IMO is the same as 300k+ in a city with higher COL. The point is, if you're good at your job, you will find a way to make money. Think about accountants who manage money/do taxes for famous celebrities. Don't you think they can afford to charge a lot to their clients and make bank? It all comes down to you and if you're good at your work and work hard, you will make your 200-400k quota or more. If you run a great practice, you could potentially clear more than a B4 partner or if you crash and burn, you'll make less than a McDonalds worker. It just depends and there isn't a hard and fast rule for these things.

Even in investment banking, to be an MD or partner of a PE firm or HF Port manager, you have to be elite and demonstrate value to your firm/clients. I didn't want to keep arguing in circles with some of the people here, but I don't think 300k is guaranteed even for people in IBD and I don't think that one can expect to move from IB => PE any more given how tough the competition has become and how much the industry has shrunk (unless you're in an elite group like GS TMT, BX R&R, etc. but how many people make it into those places?). Work hard, network with people, and get it done if you want it that bad.

Never thought of it like that but that makes perfect sense! Thank you.

Mps721

Apr 9, 2013

Listen to Accrual Dictator. He's right. And what you don't seem to understand is that making partner anywhere isn't guaranteeing high compensation. You could make 300k/year starting your own firm. You could never break 150k as a partner at big4 (which would probably mean you're getting booted). Being a partner means you're bringing in business and it comes down to what you can do.

Apr 9, 2013
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Mps721

Apr 10, 2013
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Mps721

Apr 26, 2013