Accountant Salary Guide

Earning your Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification is an excellent stepping stone for any accountant’s career. It can seriously increase your earning potential and it makes your resume much more impressive. This is especially important when you consider that finding qualified talent is one of the most important issues faced by major accounting firms. So if you want to convince employers that you’re the best fit for a new job or promotion, one of the best methods of doing so is to become a Certified Management Accountant!

Before you take the CMA exam, let’s discuss how much you can expect to make each year. I’ve done some research into the highest paying positions and work areas for CMAs— so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to pursue a certification, and so you can effectively engage in salary negotiation with future employers.

Read on to learn about the average base CMA salary and how to increase your earning potential as a management accountant!

Average CMA Salary

According to PayScale, the average salary for a CMA is $65k a year (or $28 an hour). Entry level or early career CMAs can expect to make around $49k each year. However, mid-career professionals will easily reach the $65k average. Your salary can get as high as $87k annually if you reach a senior position in a large organization.

As you can see, this is a certification that can give you a lot of room for growth. CMA compensation can be low to start, but what you make in the end is much higher. I highly recommend becoming a Certified Management Accountant if you plan to stay on this career path for at least 5-6 years. Ultimately, bear in mind that the best possible salaries will likely only be available to those with 10+ years of experience.

Check out this table for more info on the highest paying jobs held by professionals with the CMA credential:

Job TitleRangeSalary
Chief Financial Officer$84k – $239k$151,133
Corporate Controller$75k – $151k$105,564
Senior Financial Analyst$67k – $103k$82,169
Financial Controller$65k – $130k$90,375
Financial Analyst$49k – $90k$64,969
Finance Director$76k – $173k$126,248
Senior Accountant$57k – $90k$71,492

CMA salaryBest Paying Jobs for CMAs

There are other ways to look at your prospective income then just the base salary expected of the certification. More specialized positions can make much more money overall if you know what to look for. Luckily for you, possessing a CMA designation qualifies you for a wide range of work in management accounting.

Once again, PayScale is very helpful in showing us what the best paying positions are. Some of the highest paying positions held by Certified Management Accountants are CFO, Corporate Controller, Senior Financial Analyst, Financial Controller, and Financial Analyst.

As you can see, being a management accountant offers a lot of choice for employment. It’s worth continuing on this career path even if you don’t start out with the best possible pay.

Cities With the Highest Average CMA Salary

Now that you know the best positions for a CMA certification salary, you should also consider the highest paying locations in the country. Several cities in a handful of states pay much higher than the average, despite high demand for CMAs all over the United States. You may want to consider looking for work in these areas if you live nearby.

ZipRecruiter is an excellent source of location based data for CMA salaries. They’ve created a list of the 10 highest paying US cities for CMAs— check it out below!

CityAverage Annual Salary
Lakes, AK$79,025
San Francisco, CA$78,703
Santa Clara, CA$77,791
Washington DC$76,742
Los Angeles, CA$75,859
Fremont, CA$75,738
Jersey City, NJ$74,869
Green River, WY$74,488
San Buenaventura, CA$74,486
San Jose, CA$74,448

As you can see, most of the highest paying cities are in California. But keep in mind that the cost of living in this state is much higher than the national average, which could have a negative effect on your overall job satisfaction. The 2 notable exceptions are Lakes, AL and Green River, WY— these two cities offer a high salary in a low cost-of-living area, so they’re great for maximizing your earning potential. 

Ultimately, you may want to settle for a slightly lower salary in an area that will cost far less to live in. However, cities in California can still be worth your time if you’re okay with paying higher expenses.

CMA vs CPA Salaries

CMA certification salary

It can be tough to choose between different certifications if you don’t know what the end results will look like. Earning your CMA vs a CPA is one of the first major career decisions you’ll need to make. At first glance it can be tough to choose since both of these are in high demand.

But if you take a closer look at the base salary differences for each credential, you may find it easier to make a decision.

As I mentioned above, CMAs make an average of $65k each year. CPAs make a very similar amount with an average of $70k annual wages. However, CPAs have a much higher ceiling for wages. CPAs with 10+ years of experience can make as much as $117k each year. This is in stark contrast to the $87k annual salary a CMA with the same experience can make.

Of course, there are a few other things to keep in mind here. It’s much harder to become a Certified Public Accountant than it is to get your CMA certification. The testing process is much more involved and pass rates are far lower. And if you’re more focused on short term career goals, then there’s barely a difference between the two certifications.

CMA vs CFA Salaries

CFA is the other major designation to consider aside from CMA and CPA. It covers similar territory to the other 2 certifications and is slightly easier to earn. However, that does come with a slight downside when it comes to salary.

Payscale reports that CFAs make an average of $62k per year. This is lower than both CPAs and CMAs. Plus, their maximum earning potential maxes out at around $83k after 10 years of work experience.

It’s easy to see how earning your CMA is the better option considering the differences in salaries. Plus, both exams are fairly close in difficulty so there’s no advantage there either.

Whether you choose public accounting, management accounting, or financial analysis, I wish you luck passing your exams and finding gainful employment!

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