As of February 2022, inflation in the United States has hit a 40-year high at 7.9%; the last time inflation was this bad, many of you weren’t even alive so yay, think of this like Halley’s Comet, some day in the distant future you’ll get to say “I was there!” You don’t need us to tell you your money is buying less these days of course, assuming you have visited a grocery store and/or filled your gas tank in the last, oh, several months.
With the ongoing Great Resignation across all industries and the critical pipeline problem contributing to a shortage of accountants, the profession is in a bit of trouble. Salaries have barely budged in years and it’s a well-established fact that more lucrative industries (medicine, law, and computer science to name a few) are luring potential accounting students away from the major. Whereas years ago business students saw a career in accounting as one resilient even in recessions, today’s students have perhaps heard too many stories about long hours, stress, and not nearly enough compensation and benefits to make up for it. As you’re about to see from the salary reports we’ve shared with you over the past few months those rumors are in fact true.
Big 4 compensation discussions are a few months off but in the meantime we have gathered a collection of 2022 accounting salary projections from various talent and recruiting firms and have assembled them here for you to browse at your leisure. We’ll update it should we have more information, and keep an eye out for 2022 Big 4 compensation data as the new numbers roll out later this year.
Let’s start with the salary guide to beat all salary guides: the 2022 Accounting & Finance Salary Guide from Robert Half. According to trusty ole Bob, starting pay in each of the 10 public accounting roles included in the 2022 salary guide is expected to rise by an average of between 1.4% and 2.6%. Starting salaries in Tax and Audit are up ever-so-slightly from 2021:
- Senior manager/director: 2%
- Manager: 2%
- Senior tax accountant: 1.4%
- Tax accountant, 1-3 years’ experience: 1.6%
- Entry-level tax accountant: 2.6%
Audit and assurance services
- Senior manager/director: 1.6%
- Manager: 1.4%
- Senior auditor: 1.6%
- Auditor, 1-3 years’ experience: 2.2%
- Entry-level auditor: 1.6%
In addition to general numbers, the Robert Half report has a nifty feature that lets you search by location, so if you’re in a city like San Francisco where you get paid 42% more than the national average but have nothing left in your checking account after you’ve sold a kidney to pay rent you can check the report to see if you might be able to move out of that Tenderloin studio this year. We pulled the numbers for five expensive accounting hubs – San Francisco, New York City, Washington, DC, Boston, and Seattle – to get the skinny on projected 2022 accounting salaries for HCOL cities if that’s something you’re interested in.
Often forgotten in any discussion about COL is the lower end of that but don’t worry, we looked at projected salaries for eight medium cost of living cities as well.
On the topic of cost of living locales, we also have 10 Cities Where Starting Pay In Public Accounting Will Be the Highest In 2022 and that post’s depressing cousin 10 Cities Where Starting Pay In Public Accounting Will Be the Lowest In 2022.
The entire Robert Half 2022 Accounting & Finance Salary Guide is worth a read if you have an afternoon to spare and consider salary projections a hobby given the responsibilities of your day job probably make real hobbies somewhat impractical.
Moving on, we also have the 2022 Salary Guide from Century Group. The report features projected salary ranges for nine positions—four in audit and five in tax—broken down by experience from those with little to no experience in the position to highly-experienced, well-credentialed professionals. These salary projections are also sorted based on firm size by revenue from $1 — $50 million to those with more than $1 billion in revenue. These salary projections cover the following nine positions:
- Audit partner
- Audit senior manager
- Audit manager
- Audit senior
- Tax partner
- Tax senior manager
- Tax manager
- Tax senior
- Tax staff
According to our comment section the Century Group numbers may be a bit off, let’s remember these are only projections and each of these companies have their own methods for calculating their data and if you wanted to make a career out of questioning whether numbers are accurate or not you should have been an accoun– oh, never mind.
Meanwhile we also have data from the Accounting Principals 2022 salary guide. The AP guide was released in November 2021 and estimates that accounting salaries are expected to rise 6.4% this year. At the time of the report’s debut inflation was not running quite as high as it is these few months later, now that it’s caught up accounting firms will need to offer raises higher than 7% for its professionals to break even and who knows where we’ll be in the fall when Big 4 comp updates roll out. Let’s not worry too much about that for the moment, rest assured no matter what the number is I’m sure you’ll be adequately disappointed.
Released last October, we also have the 2022 Accounting & Finance Salary Guide from Alliance Resource Group. In it you will find a 2022 salary outlook for 11 positions within public accounting (six in tax and five in audit), with a salary range for each position. The big takeaway is this quote from the report:
While pay raises are returning to pre-pandemic levels across all industries, rising prices mean higher salaries may not keep pace with inflation.
Good to know. And firms wonder why they’re having trouble recruiting and retaining talent.
The Hays US salary projections report released in November doesn’t look much better. The Hays guide covers tax and audit roles in the following seven states plus the Washington, DC metro (I almost typed DMV here but then I remembered people who don’t live in the DMV think you’re talking about something completely different when you mention it):
- Washington, DC; Maryland; and Virginia
- New York
Some roles in the Hays report are exactly the same as the year prior while tax directors in New York can rejoice as they top the increases with an eye-watering 44.7% salary increase over 2021.
Still recovering from the layoffs and pay cuts of the early days of the pandemic, firms are finding themselves increasingly battered by the talent problem. Looking at some of these projections, I think we can see why people are fleeing public accounting at the rate they are.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio