Location, Location, Location! Looking Beyond Average Salaries in a Job Search

A U.S. map has dollar signs that designate average salaries in different locations

Even before you're offered a job, it's vital to have a ballpark idea of salary ranges for accounting positions. But don't stop at national average salaries. The figures for your target region, state or city can vary greatly from the median U.S. pay range. Depending on demand for your expertise, that difference could mean more or less pay than you would expect, so it's important to note how the data compares at various levels.

Tips for Finding Regional and Local Salary Information
Getting up-to-date data requires knowing the salary resources that are available:

  • Check the 2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half, which contains detailed information on starting salary ranges for many positions in public accounting, corporate accounting and financial services. Specifically, the Salary Guide provides a salary index of more than 135 U.S. cities that you can use to calculate estimates for local salaries.
  • If you're tired of crunching numbers after working on balance sheets all day, you can use the online Salary Calculator from Robert Half. This tool provides starting salary information and allows you to narrow your search by zip code, job category, title, experience level and company size.
  • If your search area is wider than state and city level but not as broad as the entire country, you can examine regional trends to see which positions have the highest demand, thereby determining your salary potential. Senior accountants, for instance, are the most-needed accounting professionals in all regions of the U.S. except in the Mountain and East North Central areas.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics website has various tables, maps and graphs on average salaries at the national, regional, state and city levels. You can also find valuable information regarding the employment outlook for your position.
  • Another method for determining the average salaries of similar professionals in your job search area is to tap into your financial network. Not only does this give you an opportunity to get information directly from people in the know, but you will also have a chance to strengthen your professional relationships and potentially gain leads on open positions in your area.

Once you've armed yourself with salary information for various levels, you can tailor your job search to areas with the most potential – or negotiate your salary using a range of data. Here are a few examples of cities – big and small – and their average salaries for entry-level general accountants at smaller companies with up to $25 million in sales:

  • New York: $71,558 - $91,298
  • Chicago: $62,422 - $79,642
  • Lansing, Mich.: $42,630 - $54,390
  • Pueblo, Colo.: $38,570 - $49,210

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