Average Annual Salary for CPA (by City)

Updated January 26, 2023

Earning a CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant or Certified Professional Accountant) is an effective way to earn a strong salary by working in areas like auditing, tax preparation, information technology or forensic accounting. Receiving your CPA demonstrates an advanced dedication to enhancing your skill set and improving your accounting knowledge. In this article, we review what a CPA is, how to become a CPA and the potential salary a CPA can earn.

What is a CPA?

CPAs can provide certification services to investors, such as financial reporting, to assist them in determining an institution's financial health. CPAs consulting services assist businesses in moving forward with strategic money management that leads to effective business decisions. A CPA can also provide financial and tax management counselling to individuals, families and business entities. Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) is a national organization that represents certain employees who work within the accounting field.

Related: What Is the Difference Between a CPA and CA? (With FAQs)

What does a Certified Public Accountant do?

A CPA is a finance expert who assists individuals, institutions, and corporations in interpreting and managing their financial data and assets. CPAs are also financial specialists who assist organizations in budgeting, investing, completing taxes, conducting audits, planning finances and setting goals. Common job duties of a Certified Public Accountant include:

  • Organizing, sorting, and compiling financial statements

  • Completing and filing tax forms on a local, state, and federal level

  • Collaborating with clients to reduce tax liabilities

  • Representing clients during the auditing process

  • Reporting financial, accounting, and tax information

  • Auditing essential financial data and submitting official reports

  • Managing the financial activities of clients, including cash flow, planning, general accounting, and money management

  • Overseeing a group of accountants or an organization's financial team

  • Providing investment advice, guidance, support and resources to clients

  • Consulting clients on estate planning strategies by identifying concerns or hazards and assisting them in properly managing their enterprise

  • An expert testifying in legal matters such as bankruptcy, mergers and acquisitions, and divorce settlements

Related: What Does a CPA Do? (With Salary and Requirements)

How to become a CPA

You must earn the necessary qualifications to perform as a successful CPA. Follow these steps to become a CPA:

1. Obtain a bachelor's degree

Many organizations require you to obtain at least an undergraduate degree in accounting, business, communications or a relevant field to become a CPA. Taking these courses from an accredited university allows you to learn about basic accounting and financial principles. These programs typically teach subjects like economics, business law and introductory to financial accounting to prepare you for a full-time CPA role.

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2. Enrol in the CPA Professional Education program

Once you earn your bachelor's degree, you can enrol in the CPA Professional Education program. This is a graduate-level program that expands on your knowledge, skill set and abilities to help you perform more effectively in a professional environment. It typically takes around two years to complete this program. You often have the option to work part-time in a relevant accounting role while taking these courses in your spare time.

There are typically six required modules involved in this program, including financial reporting, management accounting, audit and assurance, finance, strategy and governance and taxation. You also have the option to select a specialty to focus on based on your interest and the type of career you'd like to pursue. This typically includes electives like finance, assurance, taxes and performance management.

3. Complete relevant accounting work experience

Once you've graduated from the program, you can work in an accounting role. To become an official CPA, it's required to complete thirty months in an accounting position. This allows you to gain enough experience to better understand what it's like to work in an accounting environment. You can typically work in an entry-level accounting role as you shadow other full-time accountants until gaining enough experience to work independently completing more complex financial tasks.

Related: CPA Career Paths: 12 Financial Careers and Job Descriptions

4. Pass the three-day Uniform Evaluation (UE) test

The Uniform Evaluation test is an exam designed to assess the accounting skills and knowledge you gained from both your work experience and educational courses. This test typically takes three days to complete, as it's 16 hours long and consists of sections like regulations, auditing and attestation, business environment, financial accounting and reporting and concepts. The questions on the test contain a combination of multiple-choice, essays and simulations that require you to apply your knowledge to real-life situations. Once you pass this test, you can become an official Certified Public Accountant.

What is the average CPA salary?

The average salary for a CPA is $69,905 per year, according to Indeed salaries. The salary you earn can typically depend on how much experience you've gained in your role. The type, size and location of the company you work for can also impact how much money you earn as a CPA. Most CPAs who pursue senior positions at larger corporations may have strong chances of earning higher salaries of six figures or more.

Highest paying cities in Canada for CPAs

Here are cities in Canada that typically offer higher salaries to CPAs and the amount they typically make per year:

  • Ottawa, ON: $92,776 per year

  • Mississauga, ON: $80,610 per year

  • Toronto, ON: $80,106 per year

  • Regina, SK: $79,097 per year

  • Montréal, QC: $76,884 per year

  • Lethbridge, AB: $59,644 per year

  • Vancouver, BC: $54,921 per year

  • Edmonton, AB: $41,653 per year

Related: Top 15 Highest-Paying Jobs in Canada

How to increase your certified public accountant salary

As you gain more experience in the CPA field, you may increase your opportunities to receive higher compensation. Follow these steps to boost your certified public accountant pay:

1. Receive an additional degree

While most employers require you to earn a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field and complete a CPA Professional Education program, you can also earn an additional degree in finance or accounting. Receiving a graduate degree can be a great way to stand out to hiring managers on your resume and can demonstrate your commitment to enhancing your knowledge in the accounting field. Some employers feel encouraged to compensate you for your additional education, which can lead to higher pay.

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2. Specialize in your field of choice

As you gain more accounting experience, you can better understand which area you enjoy the most and try to specialize in it. You can take additional courses or earn certifications in this area to prove you're an expert in that particular subject. Some employers may consider hiring and providing higher pay to candidates who can help them complete complex tasks or solve difficult challenges in certain areas such as taxes, auditing or reporting.

3. Register as a partner

After spending years committing to your area and delivering consistent, quality work, you can pursue a partnership role at a CPA company. Since this is a high-level role, you can earn a significantly large salary as you complete essential responsibilities and make decisions that impact the company's overall performance. Working as a partner can also allow you to create your own schedule, create policies and oversee various financial teams.

4. Gain additional certifications

Once you understand what you'd like to specialize in, you can research potential certifications to earn in that area. These certifications can help you develop the skills and abilities needed to perform effectively in the role and become a valuable source of knowledge and information for employers to hire. Following your CPA, you can pursue the following certifications:

  • Agent Certification

  • Certified Financial Analyst

  • Certified Internal Auditor

  • Certified Management Accountant

Related: The 10 Most Valuable Certifications Today

5. Join top CPA associations

There are many CPA associations available that can grant you great connections and career development opportunities. Listing a CPA association on your resume can help you stand out from other candidates and shows that you stay informed of financial trends and industry updates. With CPA associations, you can connect with professionals and mentors in and outside your area who can grant you the necessary advice, guidance and resources needed to excel in the field.

One association to consider joining is the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, which is a non-profit institution that represents Canadian accountants. You can also join The Society of Management Accountants of Canada (CMA Canada). This is the largest professional organization of accounting professionals, and it offers the most relevant accounting certification for a business career and contains around 1500 members and pupils.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

Related: 18 Finance Jobs for CPAs (With Salaries and Duties)

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