What Is the Highest-Paying Field in Accounting?

With one of the highest job security rates in the market, accounting remains an extremely popular option for millions of people who are entering the workforce. Although it is a challenging industry that mandates a high level of education, it features outstanding salaries. Those who dedicate their entire careers to public accounting, thus, often reaching the partner status, can expect to earn six figures almost effortlessly.

Since it is a very broad industry, accountants qualify for a plethora of positions that focus on different types of work and offer varying salaries. For instance, while they both hold a bachelor’s in accounting, someone who works as a tax staff member will earn a lot more than an entry-level bookkeeper. Folks interested in reaching the highest pay, though, should generally focus on C-level jobs. For those unfamiliar, these are executive leadership positions within public corporations; hence the “C.”

Related resource: The Top 15 Best Affordable Online Master’s in Accounting Degree Programs

Job Description for a Chief Financial Officer

Accountants that manage to reach the C-level field will work as Chief Financial Officers, commonly referred to as CFOs. Other than the Chief Executive Officer, or CEO, there is nobody who exceeds the rank of a CFO. Also, these individuals commonly report to the board of directors and shareholders as well; doing so facilitates accurate reporting and transparency. So, what exactly does a CFO do?

According to Forbes, a typical CFO is responsible for overseeing financial reporting and helping the CEO develop an operational strategy. They must further facilitate profitable decision-making procedures by employing advanced research and risk analyses. Finally, the CFO constantly works with department leaders and industry partners to maintain a high level of security, sustainability, and modernization within the entity. Due to such a versatile range of duties, which come with unparalleled responsibility, CFOs usually possess advanced degrees and north of 10 years of industry-related experience.

Current Pay Level

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, has no information on specific salaries of CFOs, they report that top executives earn a median pay of $104,980. BLS further indicates that chief executives, which account for under 10% of the aforementioned group, earn an average salary of $200,140. When such data accompanies some market research, it is fair to say that the vast majority of CFOs, if not all, will start with no less than $150,000 per year. Usually, however, their income can reach two or three times higher amounts, especially when large corporations are in question.

Other Notable Fields

Outside of the C-level field, accountants who earn the most usually specialize as auditors or tax experts. The reason why they bring in much less than CFOs, however, is the fact that they only reach enormous salaries when they get promoted to a partner. Some prerequisites for achieving that rank include graduate degrees, CPA licenses, at least 10 to 15 years of practice in the public sector, and an outstanding book of business. Thus, CFOs are arguably much more profitable given their ability to, albeit rare, sidestep licenses and enormous thresholds of business acumen. For instance, unlike partners, CFOs do not have to bring million-dollar clients to the firm.

In the end, it is not uncommon for sole proprietors to start their own companies and reach income levels that make CFOs’ salaries seem low. Those are quite rare, though, as most accountants interested in the highest-paying field tend to work for existing corporations, not start their own.