The Rise of the Accountant Salary and 10 Top Accounting Jobs

By Robert Half September 8, 2017 at 4:00pm

Are you a manager looking to attract the best people in the accounting and finance field? Are you a candidate searching for top accounting jobs that are both in demand and lucrative? Not only can you establish a starting accountant salary, based on experience, skills and job complexity, but you can find salary ranges for nearly 200 positions.

The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide has all that information, as well as advice on the key factors driving job searches — compensation, corporate culture, career path, cost of living and commute. If you want a breakdown of local markets for an accountant salary, that's in the guide, too.

Visit the Salary Center for exclusive insights into hiring and compensation trends.

Take a look at 10 of the top accounting jobs and finance positions — in no particular order — and their projected starting salaries, as well as a description of their typical duties. Salaries at the midpoint levels are those for candidates with average experience and skills to meet job requirements, and for roles that are considered to be of average complexity or in industries where competition for talent is moderate.

Keep in mind that bonuses, incentives and benefits are not included in the salaries and that they represent national averages that can be adjusted for your city or region.

1. General accountant

Organizations are bolstering their ability to realize company-wide goals by adding analytics-savvy staff accountants to finance departments. Staff accountants with a bachelor's degree and one to three years of experience are expected to see starting midpoint salaries of $60,000, both in financial services and corporate accounting.

Typical duties: Reviewing general ledger accounts and preparing and adjusting journal entries; performing account analysis and reconciliation, including bank statements and intercompany general ledger accounts; maintaining general ledger chart of accounts; assisting with initial internal control evaluations; posting monthly, quarterly and yearly accruals.

2. Financial analyst

Financial analyst hiring is on the upswing as firms look for guidance on how to increase efficiencies, keep costs in check and maximize the benefits of new and existing information systems. The salary midpoint for financial analysts with one to three years of experience is $65,000, and for senior financial analysts, $80,000.

Typical duties: Analyzing new and existing product lines, promotion spending and service segment costs of the organization; preparing profit and loss models, balance sheets and other management reports to forecast financial outcomes; maintaining confidential financial information; performing budgeting variance and forecasting analysis for various levels of management.

3. Senior compliance analyst

With ever-changing compliance mandates and heightened enforcement, compliance professionals are highly sought professionals. Starting compensation for senior compliance analysts is forecast to be $85,000 at the 50th percentile, or midpoint, of starting salaries. The salary midpoint for chief compliance officers is $165,000.

Typical duties: Assisting the compliance officer in regulatory examinations and internal audits across the organization; conducting periodic compliance reviews of departments; preparing documentation of internal procedures; maintaining the company website as an information source for compliance; preparing compliance manuals and programs; assisting with developing compliance training modules and training of compliance team members; performing due diligence visits and risk assessments.

4. Internal auditor (manager)

Given the changing regulatory environment and the interconnectivity of business today, organizations find that strong internal audit leaders rank among their top accounting jobs. They help identify and weigh emerging risks and opportunities. The starting salary midpoint for an internal auditor manager is projected to be $110,000.

Typical duties: Managing complex audits and preparing audit reports; performing critical project management duties in the planning, scheduling, coordinating, reviewing and reporting of the work of audit teams; developing procedures, schedules, priorities and programs for achieving audit objectives and goals; undertaking comprehensive planning and risk assessments to identify potential business risks; planning, assigning and supervising the daily activities and work of the audit team; identifying and communicating to audit staff changes in professional standards, pronouncements, laws, guidelines and audit requirements; developing and maintaining productive client and staff relationships; hiring, training and supervising internal audit staff.

5. Controller

The heightened regulatory involvement is also fueling demand for controllers skilled in technology, analysis and management. In-depth knowledge of Sarbanes-Oxley provisions, SEC guidelines and all aspects of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) are critical. In 2018, controllers are expected to bring in a starting salary of $115,000 at the midpoint.

Typical duties: Planning, directing and coordinating accounting operational functions; managing the accumulation and consolidation of all financial data necessary for an accurate accounting of consolidated business results; coordinating and preparing internal and external financial statements; coordinating activities of external auditors; managing the budget process; assessing accounting operations, offering recommendations for improvement and implementing new processes; evaluating accounting and internal control systems; evaluating the effectiveness of accounting software and supporting database; developing and monitoring business performance metrics; overseeing regulatory reporting; hiring, training and retaining accounting staff.

6. AR/AP clerk

Companies can’t achieve success without accounts receivable and accounts payable jobs. The professionals with these operational support jobs make sure accurate and timely payments are made and received. They also oversee reconciliation and resolution of customer and vendor issues. The salary midpoint for AR/AP clerks is $34,250.

Typical duties: Matching, batching, coding and entering invoices; entering, posting and reconciling batches; researching and resolving accounts payable or accounts receivable issues with customers or vendors; updating and reconciling sub-ledger to the general ledger; maintaining cash applications, account reconciliations and chargebacks.

7. Senior accountant

Companies are seeking well-rounded senior-level accountants who can prepare financial statements and budgets, assess internal controls, and conduct risk assessments. In 2018, senior accountants in corporate accounting can expect to command a median accountant salary of $75,000.

Typical duties: Reconciling sub-ledger to general ledger account balances; preparing financial statements; assessing internal controls, including risk assessments and reviews of risk areas; assisting with budget preparation and preparing the monthly budget variance analyses; maintaining and reconciling fixed assets schedules; assisting with initial internal control evaluations; supervising accounting staff.

Read How a Senior Accountant Can Help Your Organization.

8. Payroll manager/supervisor

Whether it’s compliance, government reporting or policy implementation, payroll professionals have irons in many complex fires. Payroll managers/supervisors can expect to see their median salaries start at $71,000, according to the Salary Guide.

Typical duties: Ensuring compliance with current government regulations; establishing and implementing policies on such matters as garnishments and payroll advancements to employees; preparing government reporting; preparing accruals and reconciling sub-ledger to the general ledger; hiring, training, developing and supervising payroll staff.

9. Senior cost accountant

Analyzing inventory value, operational expenses and depreciation schedules are crucial to organizational success. The salary midpoint for jobs with the title of senior cost accountant is $77,000.

Typical duties: Analyzing manufacturing operations; analyzing manufacturing equipment availability and utilization; performing month-end cost accounting close; maintaining cost accounting system and cost ledger; performing life cycle cost-benefit analysis; analyzing inventory valuations.

10. Senior business analyst

Big data is a big deal. As finance departments move from a reporting-focused function to a more analytics-centric one, firms need experienced business analysts to make sense of data and offer sound strategic recommendations. The salary midpoint for senior business analysts is anticipated to be $86,000.

Typical duties: Assisting with implementation and support of business information systems across multiple departments; conducting market analysis and analyzing both product lines and the overall profitability of the business; developing and sharing reports that enable advertising, customer service, finance, sales and marketing managers to make better business decisions by understanding geography, supply chain and price; ensuring business data and reporting needs are met; developing and monitoring data quality metrics.

Whatever your accountant salary question, we have the answers for the year ahead.

See more finance and accounting jobs that are in high demand in the infographic below.

10 Finance and Accounting Jobs to Watch for in 2018 infographic

Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2015 and updated recently to reflect information from the 2018 Salary Guide.

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