Date posted: 18/09/2018

How much money do Chartered Accountants make on average?

Have you ever wondered how much you could earn in the first years of working as a Chartered Accountant? We do the maths for Australia and New Zealand.

In 2017, we asked 620 Australia-based and 914 New Zealand-based Chartered Accountants (CAs) with less than 5 years' experience about their remuneration in our Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) member Remuneration Survey*. The results provided insight into the earnings of the CAs surveyed, taking into account factors that can impact wages, benefits and bonuses.

How does your hometown shape up?

Survey respondents working as Chartered Accountants in the bustling city of Sydney have an edge over the rest of the country when it comes to income - the average Sydney-based CA takes home AU$121,715 including bonuses. Those in the west coast's big city aren't far behind, with Perth's number crunchers with earning an average of AUD$116,096.

Accountants working in Melbourne are earning an average of AU$109,564, while those working in the sunny city of Brisbane make an average of AU$107,040. Overall, remuneration is 21 per cent higher in Sydney than the rest of Australia - one of the main benefits of living in the city - aside from Bondi Beach, of course.

Across the Tasman, Auckland takes the cake as the city with the highest remuneration for accountants. The average CA there earns NZ$$97,789 per year - a whopping NZ$17,586 above the New Zealand average - but are also faced with a higher cost of living. Accountants working in Wellington, on the other hand, earns an average of NZ$91,847 per year, although Wellington does have cheaper housing and a lower cost of living than Auckland.

Are you in the right sector?

Our Remuneration Survey indicated that financial services and industrial manufacturing are two of the highest-earning sectors in Australia and New Zealand in 2017, with the average Australian CA earning an impressive average annual pay-cheque of AU$127,480 in the former, and AU$127,620 in the latter. Similarly, the average New Zealand-based CAs in financial services surveyed earn an average of NZ$112,415 in a year, while those in industrial and manufacturing earning an average of NZ$101,714.

You might think that not-for-profit organisations wouldn't pay very well, but in New Zealand the average salary of a CA working for a not-for-profit is NZ$95,425 - approximately NZ$10,000 higher than that of a CA working in a large public practice.

Mind the gender pay gap

The gender pay gap remains an issue across all industries, and finance and accounting is no exception. Male CAs with less than 5 years' experience working in Australia earn an average of AU$116,246, while women earn only an average of AU$106,135. Similarly in New Zealand, men are earning an average of NZ$92,458, while women earn only an average of NZ$87,202.

Analysis conducted by Colmar Brunton (who conducted the survey) identified two thirds of the gap in Australia is explained by differences in roles and years of experience. In New Zealand, the comparable figure is nearly 75 percent. Colmar Brunton said the one-third (Australia) and one-quarter (New Zealand) of the gender pay gap not explained by differences in roles and experience could be due to a range of factors, including workplace discrimination, factors not included in the survey, and/or non-remuneration choices in job choice.

The report also found that while 32 per cent of male accountants in Australia and New Zealand have 21 or more years of experience, only 17 per cent of female CAs have the same level of experience. One of the strongest explanations for this is that there were far more men entering accounting than women 20-30 years ago, and the most experienced accountants are the ones with the highest remuneration.

However, the changing gender composition of the workforce means that current trends are likely to evolve in line with future demographics.

More experience, more income

Australian CEOs report the highest earnings with a total average remuneration of AU$460,173, while partners at large accounting firms are earning AU$454,176 on average. Not bad, right?

But salaries close to the half-million mark don't come easy - reaching the executive level takes approximately 15 years of hard work and dedication. The Remuneration Survey shows that for a CA in the first five years of their career, the average remuneration is AU$117,450. However, persistence can be rewarded, as this figure has the potential to jump as high as AU$145,315 once you have more than five years' experience under your belt.

Interestingly, the Kiwis surveyed are enjoying higher incomes in their early careers compared to their Aussie counterparts. Those with five to ten years' experience are earning an average of NZ$38,272 more than those with less than five years' experience. For Australian CAs, the difference in the early stages is much lower, with just a AU$27,865 jump on average.

Money isn't everything...

Your income might pay the bills and keep the lights on, but there's more to happiness than money. The Remuneration Survey strongly indicated that aside from income, CAs also value flexible hours, professional development opportunities and promotion prospects. In fact, the highest-valued aspect of a job is flexibility, with 65 per cent of the Australian and New Zealand CAs surveyed rating it as "very important" to them.

So whether you're just starting out or you already have five years under your belt, several factors impact on what you earn. However, one promising takeaway for all current and future CAs is that average remuneration for CAs has increased in every region of both Australia and New Zealand since 2016.

* The data contained in this article has been interpreted and compiled from the responses to a survey of 4,445 Australia-based and 4,197 New Zealand-based Chartered Accountants including a sub-segment of 1,534 CAs with less than 5 years’ work experience (620 Australia-based, 914 New Zealand-based) conducted on behalf of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand in Sep/Oct 2017. Respondents were able to submit multiple answers to the survey questions. While every care is taken in the collection and compilation of data, the survey is interpretive and indicative, not conclusive. This information should be used as a guideline only.