Salaries Flat but Looking Up for Accountants

In anticipation of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) annual conference next week in Las Vegas, we asked Jeff Thomson, CMA and president and CEO of IMA, to weigh in on some of the most significant results from the 2012 IMA annual salary survey. You can see the full results here.

Business Finance: Are accountants and finance professionals making more this year than they were last year?

Jeff Thomson: The average salary of IMA members has remained consistent over the years, despite economic instability. I'm pleased to say that more respondents reported a salary increase in 2011 than in 2010, and the average amount of the increase was greater as well.

While salaries dropped (0.2%) this year, this number remains statistically insignificant and we're pleased to share that we've noticed an increase (0.9%) in average total compensation, driven by bonuses and other incentives. This indicates a positive sign for the accounting profession.

In addition, 2011 saw 4% more IMA members with a raise: 70% vs. 66% in 2010. Also, the average amount for those receiving an increase was $6,135 -- higher than the roughly $5,700 received during each of the previous three years.

Are there geographic variances that would make someone consider relocating to a different part of the country?

Thomson: Pack your bags! Accountants in the Northeast actually reported the highest average salaries in 2011, overtaking the Mid-Atlantic region, which had been the top ranking region for the past two years. The Northeast region is also the only region where accountants' salaries increased by more than 1% -- it grew an amazing 21% in 2011.

In our survey, the Northeast includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Mid-Atlantic holds Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

Is there a gender gap when it comes to salaries?

Thomson: The difference between the earnings of men and women has appeared, unfortunately, in every IMA Salary Survey during the past 23 years. However, 70% of respondents reported receiving salary increases in 2011, with more women than men reporting them.

In addition, this is the second straight year that the salary gap has improved and in 2011, the dollar difference in total compensation also showed improvement between men and women in the profession.

Should people get certified to get a better salary?

Thomson: Consistent with previous years, IMA's Annual Salary Survey indicates that certification matters in terms of career and earning potential. The average salary for professionals holding the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) credential was 20% greater than those with no certification ($109,880 vs. $91,751). The average total certification was 26% greater ($131,093 vs. $103,960). Those without certification showed a $3,000 average decrease in compensation.

The biggest impact certification had on earning potential was for young professionals. Those in the 19-29 range earned $15,696 more in salary and $20,612 more in total compensation than their noncertified peers.

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