CPA vs Non-CPA salary

Difference Between CPA and Non-CPA Salary

In the context of Certified Public Accountant (CPA) vs non-CPA salary, the key difference between the two is that CPAs almost always command a higher pay package than their non-certified counterparts. The competency, integrity, and exceptional skills of a CPA in managing finances are the primary reasons for their drawing higher salary.

The difference in the roles and responsibilities of CPAs vs non-CPAs also contribute to the disparity in salary. Apart from their scope of work, there are other factors that influence a professional’s salary. Some of these factors are industry type, experience, seniority level, company size, geographic location, etc.

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CPA vs non-CPA salary Comparison Table

Now, let’s understand the difference in CPA vs non-CPA salary by designation, location, industry, seniority level, company size, and years of experience. Please do not consider these figures as a fixed range since they vary according to the employee, employer, and the underlying scenario.

Basis of Salary Comparison CPA salary Non-CPA salary
Size of the company Small Firms $45,000 – $81,500 Small Firms $42,000 – $97,000
Medium Firms $49,250 – $90,000 Medium Firms $46,000 – $1,06,000
Large Firms $53,750 – $106,500 Large Firms $50,000 – 1,28,000
Designation Chief Financial Officer $1,05,250 – $4,65,750 Government Accountant $36,000 – $84,000
Corporate Controller $92,000 – $2,24,750 Management Accountant $45,000 – $86,000
Tax Manager $88,000 – $1,58,250 External Auditor $42,000 – $89,000
Financial Advisor $30,000 – $1,10,000 Tax AccountantTax AccountantTax accounting is the framework that considers the tax returns instead of public financial statements disclosure while recording and presenting the business transactions in the books of accounts. It complies with the rules and policies of the company's Internal Revenue more $44,000 – $90,000
Region (4 out of top 7 cities) New York $45,590 – $67,458 New York $44,000 – $97,000
Chicago $40,660 – $60,163 Chicago $44,000 – $79,000
San Diego $41,135 – $60,067 San Diego $43,000 – $85,000
Boston $41,758 – $61,788 Boston $45,000 – $85,000
Experience 0-3 years $45,000 – $83,250 0-3 years $31,000 – $66,000
4-6 years $57,000 – $1,06,500 4-6 years $59,000 – $98,000
6+ years $68,000 – $1,49,000 6+ years $72,000 – $1,52,000
Industry Public Accounting $51,500 – $106,500 Finance $40,000 – $80,000
Corporate Accounting $45,000 – $87,750 Manufacturing $52,000 – $93,000
Corporate Accounting $44,000 – $84,000
Tech Firms $36,000 – $84,000
Professionals 428K AICPA members 1.4 million (approx.)

What is a CPA?

A CPA is an accounting professional who has passed the Uniform CPA Exam and fulfilled the necessary experience and educational requirements. The American Institute for Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) coordinates with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to conduct this exam and issue the license. 

CPA exam and licensing requirement

Earning this internationally recognized and highly respected credential is a formidable goal. To attain this goal, you must pass all the four CPA exam sections within 18 months of passing the first exam section. Please note that you must score at least 75 out of 99 in every CPA exam section.

Furthermore, the educational and experience requirements include 150 credit hours of education and 1-3 years of work experience. These requirements may vary according to your state board.  To sustain the license issued, CPAs must meet the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements every 1-3 years as per their state board policies.

Duties and responsibilities of a CPA

The primary responsibility of CPAs is to offer fact-based financial insights. This helps the organizations achieve their monetary goals. Some of the duties of a CPA are as follows:


As apparent, CPAs handle almost all financial aspects of an entity. With their extensive financial knowledge and expertise, they qualify for any finance-related job. They can act as financial advisors, financial analystsFinancial AnalystsFinancial analysts analyze the financial data and other relevant information and provide valuable insights to the management for better financial decisions. In addition, they diagnose the economic conditions, company’s performance and fundamentals to forecast future performance and recommend a course of more, corporate controllers, auditors, tax consultants, or accountantsAccountantsAn accountant is a finance professional responsible for recording business transactions on behalf of a firm, reporting the firm’s performance and issuing financial statements. Thus, an accountant plays an important role whether it is a small domestic entity or a large multinational more. They are in demand in almost every organization and hence, are readily employable.

Governing body

The CPA license is an indicator of credibility and expertise in accounting practiceAccounting PracticeAccounting practice is a set of procedures and controls used by an entity's accounting department to keep track of accounting records and entries. Other reports are generated based on accounting records, such as financial statements, cash flow statements, fund flow statements, payroll, tax workings, payment and receipts statements, and so on, and they form the basis of the auditor's reliance while auditing the financial more. In the event of any malpractice, the State Board of Accountancy is authorized to revoke the license or impose a penalty. So, while hiring a CPA, you can rest assured that the CPA will discharge his duties with utmost competency following the state board’s code of ethics.

Salary and other benefits

The rigorous training, in-depth knowledge, high ethical standards, and specialized skills in managing their job responsibilities explain the high salary offered to CPAs. As per the AICPA’s 2017 salary survey of CPAs in the U.S., the national average annual CPA salary is $119,000, excluding bonus. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports $73,560 as the median pay for accountants and auditors in 2020.

The difference in the national average annual salary of CPA vs non-CPA is quite evident. While the former reports an impressive six-digit figure, the latter is way behind. Apart from a handsome salary, CPAs enjoy plenty of other benefits like career stability, global exposure, job satisfaction, and a good reputation.

What is an Accountant (Non-CPA)?

Accountants are professionals who manage a company’s financial records. They are primarily responsible for preparing, maintaining, analyzing, and interpreting a company’s financial statementsFinancial StatementsFinancial statements are written reports prepared by a company's management to present the company's financial affairs over a given period (quarter, six monthly or yearly). These statements, which include the Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Cash Flows, and Shareholders Equity Statement, must be prepared in accordance with prescribed and standardized accounting standards to ensure uniformity in reporting at all more. They present their findings in the form of a written report to its senior officials. 

Educational requirement

To be an accountant, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field like business or finance. You can specialize in forensic accountingForensic AccountingForensic accounting employs a mix of accounting, auditing, and investigative acumen by recording accounting documents, preparing reports, and performing financial analysis for use in legal proceedings. Thus, it provides an accounting analysis from a litigation more, taxation, or internal auditingInternal AuditingInternal audit refers to the inspection conducted to assess and enhance the company's risk management efficacy, evaluate the different internal controls, and ensure that the company adheres to all the regulations. It helps the management and board of directors to identify and rectify the loopholes before the external more in your undergraduate course as per your preference. Employers also hire candidates with an associate degree having relevant experience.

Duties and responsibilities

An accountant is an umbrella term comprising management accountants, tax accountants, public accountants, external auditorsExternal AuditorsExternal Audit is defined as the audit of the financial records of the company in which independent auditors perform the task of examining validity of financial records of the company carefully in order to find out if there is any misstatement in the records due to fraud, error or embezzlement and then reporting the same to the stakeholders of the more, IT auditors, etc. However, please note that the type and scope of work of each vary considerably. CPAs are a more specialized and professional version of an accountant.

The job responsibilities of an accountant include:

  • Keeping account books in order
  • Tracking your finances
  • Fulfilling tax obligations
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance
  • Creating and analyzing financial reports
  • Financial consulting

Scope of work

As evident, the duties of an accountant are very similar to that of a CPA. However, accountants have a narrow scope of work. Unlike a CPA, an accountant cannot represent you before the IRS or file a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This privilege is available to only a CPA by virtue of holding a license.

With their rigorous training and expertise, CPAs have an upper hand in handling accounting functions and offering financial advice. However, with the advent of technology, accountants can also easily maintain accounts and provide better advice through Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Salary and job prospects

In the debate of CPA vs non-CPA salary, the accountants linger behind at present with a BLS reported median pay of $73,560. As per human resource consulting firm Robert Half’s Accounting and Finance Salary Guide, the CPAs earn 5-15% higher remuneration than the non-CPAs. The AICPA offers a Salary Comparison Tool that helps professionals compare their salaries to CPAs.

Please note that accountants can skyrocket their career with a CPA certification. They can enter the league of certified professionals and enjoy high salary and professional stature. With the CPA certification, they can work for the ‘Big Four’'Big Four'Big Four refers to the top four accounting firms in the world that audit more than 80% of the US public companies. These firms are Deloitte, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, KPMG, and Ernst & Young. These firms have earned this title because of their huge size, good reputation and the worldwide reach in the more public accounting firms, namely Deloitte, Ernst and Young, KPMG, and PwC, and earn a higher salary than others.

According to the BLS, accountants and auditors’ expected job growth rate is 4% (2019-2029). Globalization, economic growth, and tax reformsTax ReformsTax reform refers to the changes and amendments made in the nation's tax structure or system to fix the loopholes and make it more efficient. It even ensures that there are fewer chances of tax evasion and avoidance by the more also affect the demand for accountants.

This has been a guide to CPA vs Non CPA Salary. Here we discuss the difference between CPA and Non CPA Salary along with a comparison table. You may also have a look at the following articles –

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