Gravy Train or Financial Strain: How Much Are You Worth as an Accountant?

A graph representing salary ranges

Not surprisingly, an accountant's salary is determined by a variety of factors, including experience, accounting certifications, job title and company size. But how do you determine where you should be on the scale – and at what point in your career?

By examining salary ranges for entry-, mid- and senior-level positions, you can begin to develop salary expectations as you climb your career ladder. There are numerous tools for salary comparison, including the 2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half and our online Salary Calculator, which provide detailed information on starting salary ranges for accounting positions.

Here's an overview of a few common accounting positions and their salary ranges at specific levels of professional experience:

Starting out: entry level
Even at the entry level, accounting professionals can earn competitive salaries.

Tax services, for example, is one sector that many accountants choose for their career. The salary range for entry-level tax accountants at a small firm (companies with up to $25 million in annual sales) is $44,500 to $55,750.

Entry-level tax accountants at midsize firms ($25 million to $250 million in sales) earn between $48,000 and $60,500, while the range jumps to $54,250 to $67,750 at large firms ($250 million or more in sales).

A few steps forward: midlevel
After working for a few years, you've begun to develop your functional and soft skills, take on more responsibilities and generally become more well-rounded. As a result, you can expect higher salary ranges.

If you were an internal auditor in corporate accounting with between one and three years of experience, for instance, you are projected to earn between $55,000 and $75,250 at a midsize company in 2014. At a large company, the range climbs to $59,000 to $80,250.

If your interest in accounting is less specified, you may want to be a general accountant. With one to three years' experience, you could earn $42,750 to $57,750 at a small company; $47,500 to $62,750 at a midsize company; and $51,500 to $67,250 at a large company.

The wisdom years: senior level
At this stage, you've climbed through the ranks to a more senior job title, and you likely manage others. Your starting salary ranges reflect all of that valuable professional experience. If you were a chief compliance officer, for example, you could earn $106,500 to $138,000 at a small firm. Move up to a large firm, and you can make between $154,500 and $229,500.

These figures can be helpful for determining salary ranges at the national level, but be sure to also examine regional and local trends while you research salary data.

For more information on starting salary ranges, download the 2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half.