How to Find Solid Salary Information for Accounting Jobs

A road sign shows: Bad, ahead and: Worse, off to the right

Have you been offered a new job? Finding reliable accounting salary information can be integral to understanding your earning potential and successfully negotiating starting salary. The Internet is full of great sources for average salary data for accounting professionals, but there are also sites that provide outdated or inaccurate data.

Here are some examples of good, bad and ugly sources of salary information for accountants (in reverse order):

The ugly: subjective data

Stay away from question-and-answer sites, as some people who respond to those questions intentionally provide inaccurate information. Also steer clear of wiki sites, which can be edited by anyone.

Personal websites and blogs can lead you astray as well. While there are some knowledgeable accounting professionals who like to share their thoughts on salary trends online, there isn't always a credible source backing their claims. If they do cite reputable information, it's still a good idea to go to the primary source they used, such as an original report or press release.

The bad: not-so-reliable sources

For each credible source of salary information, there are others offering unreliable data. Some salary websites rely on self-reported data, for example, which means they send surveys to accounting professionals to ask what they earn. While this may seem like a good way to get direct figures, there's always a chance that some respondents are reporting inaccurately.

The good: reputable sources

A good starting place is always the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The site includes salary information for various roles within the accounting field, including regional and local data, employment statistics for accounting jobs and tools to compare similar occupations.

If you're looking for more specifics regarding projected average starting salaries for accounting professionals, check out the Salary Guide from Robert Half, which is updated and published each year. It not only contains starting salary ranges for professionals in public accounting, corporate accounting and financial services, but also information about today's hiring environment and accounting certifications.

The Salary Calculator from Robert Half enables you to narrow your search and customize starting salary information by zip code, job category, job title, level of experience and company size. Additionally, it allows you to view and compare data for other cities near your search area.

The above-referenced salary guides issued by Robert Half obtain salary data based on the full-time and interim placements made by their recruiting and staffing professionals. Consequently, this data is based on thousands of placements, not just a simple – and unavoidably subjective – poll of job candidates.

Even if you are armed with dependable salary information, it may not be as useful if you don't cross-reference various sources. Check out reputable online tools for salary comparison. Also consider asking professionals in your network whom you feel won't mind sharing personal information about what they earn and compare their responses against your salary research. In-person meetings over coffee or lunch are more professional than an email or LinkedIn message asking a colleague how much he or she earns.