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Find Out Which Cities Pay Accountants the Best (and the Worst)

Sep 18th 2018
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What are the best and worst cities for accountants in terms of salary and, moreover, are there other factors that play into the amount offered?

Accounting can be a well-paying profession: The mean annual wage nationwide is $77,920 and, as with any other industry, certain cities offer better salaries for these professionals than others.

Best and Worst Cities for Accountants

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes reports on employment and salaries by city.  The data I used comes from the May 2017 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. I reviewed information from about 75 metro areas across all 50 states.

Here are some of the highlights of my research:

Best Cities for Accountants (In terms of salary)

City # of Accountants Annual Mean Wage
New York City, NY 115,210 99,140
Washington, DC 10,860 96,880
Fairbanks, AK 200 94,680
Newark (Northern NJ) 11,000 93,750
San Francisco, CA 26,240 91,950
Stamford, CT 5,440 89,640
Houston, TX 34,290 89,270
Trenton (Central NJ) 2,960 84,860
Philadelphia, PA 9,090 84,840
Los Angeles, CA 42,920 84,070

Worst Cities for Accountants (In terms of salary)

City # of Accountants Annual Mean Wage
Jackson, MS 2,060 56,710
Charleston, SC 2,920 57,790
Fargo, ND 1,280 59,960
Columbia, SC 3,640 60,060
Cheyenne, WY 520 60,390
Tucson, AZ 2,060 62,600
Las Vegas, NV 5,730 63,840
Honolulu, HI 3,850 64,760
Wichita, KS 2,630 64,610
Missoula, MT 440 64,570

Are You Really an Accountant?

At first glance, these salaries might seem a bit low. There’s one possible reason for this: Depending on which services you offer, you might not technically be considered an “accountant” in your state. To reach the higher end in terms of wages, you may have to make sure you offer services that fall under the purview of a Personal Financial Advisor. But what’s the difference?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes the job category of “Accountants and Auditors” as follows:

Accountants and Auditors (13-2011): Examine, analyze and interpret accounting records to prepare financial statements, give advice or audit and evaluate statements prepared by others. Install or advise on systems of recording costs or other financial and budgetary data. Excludes tax examiners and revenue agents.

And here’s the description for “Personal Financial Advisor”:

Personal Financial Advisor (13-2052): Advises client on financial plans using knowledge of tax and investment strategies, securities, insurance, pension plans and real estate. Duties include assessing client’s assets, liabilities, cash flow, insurance coverage, tax status and financial objectives.

As you can see, it’s a financial planning role, and the Mean Annual Wage nationwide for this job is a whopping $124,140.

Best and Worst Cities for Personal Financial Advisors

Here are the best and worst cities for these professionals in terms of salary:

Best Cities for Personal Financial Advisors (In terms of salary)

City # of Personal Fin'l Advisors Annual Mean Wage
San Francisco, CA 6,550 167,380
New York City, NY 29,880 163,710
Portsmouth, NH 100 155,220
Portland, ME 260 144,050
Stamford, CT 2,720 140,690
Washington, DC 520 135,770
Miami, FL 4,710 133,900
Philadelphia, PA 1,440 133,830
San Diego, CA 1,930 133,390
Trenton (Central NJ) 360 132,210

Worst Cities for Personal Financial Advisors (In terms of salary)     

City # of Personal Fin'l Advisors Annual Mean Wage
Burlington, VT 240 71,940
Tulsa, OK 370 75,140
Honolulu, HI 490 84,160
Boise, ID 310 84,590
Oklahoma City, OK 670 84,810
St. Louis, MO 3,320 89,240
Bismarck, ND 800 89,610
Charleston, WV 130 91,520
Des Moines, IA 820 91,820
Austin, TX 1,030 91,750

Cost of Living Plays a Role

When examining the salary data for either profession, it’s also important to remember cost of living plays a big role in how far the wages go. Simply put, certain cities are expensive places to live, while others are far more affordable. Numbeo recently calculated the 2018 mid-year cost of living index numbers for many major American cities. The scale starts with New York City as the most expensive, setting the standard at 100 points. Here are some highlights.

Cities with High Cost of Living Indexes

City Index
New York City, NY 100.00
San Francisco, CA 95.88
Honolulu, HI 93.72
Washington, DC 88.50
Charleston, SC 86.87
Seattle, WA 85.51
Philadelphia, PA 79.25
Los Angeles, CA 77.66
Miami, FL 75.83
Portland, ME 74.81

Cities with Low Cost of Living Indexes

City Index
Boise, ID 59.43
Oklahoma City, OK 61.42
Houston, TX 62.16
Des Moines, IA 62.21
Wichita, KS 63.18
Tucson, AZ 63.35
Columbia, SC 66.23
Las Vegas, NV 66.98
St. Louis, MO 69.02
Austin, TX 70.49


While it’s important to be aware of how well you’ll be paid if you decide to move your practice, it’s also crucial to remember other factors affect the salary you’re offered. If the city you’re considering has a low cost of living, a lower annual wage will likely go further than it would in an expensive metropolis. Do your research carefully and weigh all the elements before making a choice.


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