To kick things off, we will start with the fact that the average Australian yearly salary is $57,000 AUD a year, and $76,000 AUD per year for full-time employees, as per the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

So how the salary of an accountant compare?

Well, it's not easy to say since the term "accountant" is rather vague and could refer to many different job titles and skill sets.

With the data we have on hand, chartered accountants in Australia earn anywhere between $53,000 AUD to $113,000 AUD a year, depending on qualifications, industry, company size and sadly also depending on gender. The median salary sits at $76,000 AUD per year. 

Of course it also depends on which kind accounting job you wish to do: public accounting, finance accounting, general accounting,  corporate accounting, auditing and so on.

Meanwhile. the accounting industry does appear to be above the national average (18.4%) when it comes to the disparity in salaries between men and women. In practice accountancy, the variation is about 19.2% or roughly. In the industry sector, the gap increases to 24.4%.

Despite women making less than their male colleagues, studies have shown that female accountants were actually more likely to hold a professional accounting qualification. It's vital to know how much the position you're interviewing for should be paid and make sure that you do not sell yourself short.

If you do manage to become a Chartered Accountant, you will almost certainly already have a few years of work experience behind you. Although, it is tempting to get an accounting job in another industry or apply to another company. Let's look at different accountant jobs and their salary range expectations.

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What is The Role of an Accountant?

Many of us hold rather simplistic views of professions we’re not familiar with.

Using accounting software to prepare reports.
Accountants often prepare reports about their clients' portfolio or business's financial health.

For instance, some people contend that, when they post a letter, their letter carrier takes it directly to its intended recipient – wherever s/he may be, with no idea of the complex systems and the technology involved in sorting and delivering mail.

The same is true for every job from banker to porter. It’s natural to assume that the publicly visible part of such jobs is all that there is to it. This attitude is reflected in the perennial question “How hard can it be?”

Thus it comes as no surprise that people are taken aback by accountants’ scope of work.

At the entry level, accountants ‘maintain the books’. In other words, they are the Bob Cratchits of the accounting world, poring over ledgers and making entries as needed.

That’s pretty much where the public vision of accounting begins and ends.

Of course, physical ledgers are quite nearly a thing of the past; these days, computer software is the overwhelming choice for accountants of all stripes.

Unlike in the Cratchit days when Scrooge was THE powerbroker of the town, virtually every business today incorporates international aspects, from buying raw goods to exporting finished products for sale.

That means that, as opposed to a limited concern easily maintained and tracked in a single ledger of credits and debits, these complex enterprises demand fiscal forecasts and projections, risk analysis and reconciliation.

Those functions require highly trained, competent people who are steeped in the economic climate of the times, who can put their strong analytical skills to use to determine how their firm can best weather any global or local financial storm.

What about calculating duties, tariffs and taxes, another aspect of modern accounting that Bob Cratchit didn’t have to deal with? That too is strictly the purview of accountants.

So, the titles and types of accountants featured in this article delve much deeper into the fiscal well-being of a company, city, country and the world than the common idea portrays.

Now we'll take a closer look at specific jobs in the accounting field, along with the education and certification required and the salaries for each.

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Accounting Technician

Accounting technicians are often entry-level positions that you can access either through the AAT Accounting Qualification or the ACCA Certified Accounting Technician qualification (CAT).

The job mainly involves traditional bookkeeper duties, processing invoices, recording payments and receipts, making sure that ledgers are balanced and submitting tax and VAT returns as well as National Insurance contributions. Accounting technician can also handle a corporation's expenses and payroll systems.

Most of the work is computerised these days, and this job is pretty much desk-bound unless you are self-employed - say, as a CPA, in which case you are more likely to travel from client to client.

A more senior Accounting Technician can also take on budgeting, reporting, tax returns preparation or become an assistant controller.

Salary-wise, you can expect your wages to fall between $65,000 for entry-level positions and up to $110,000 for a senior level position. The average salary is around $84,000 per year. 

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Chartered Accountants

One step above Accounting Technicians, the chartered certification will open many more doors and will give a bump to your paycheck.

Chartered Accountants are more focused on consultancy and auditing. As well as managing money systems and budgets, Chartered Accountants are also required to complete internal audits or work with a certified internal auditor to assess the financial health of a company. Following such inspections, they often advise clients on tax planning, potential business transactions including mergers and acquisition or dealing with a company's bankruptcy.

Chartered Accountants often specialise in management accounting and can oversee the work of an entire accounting department. They would also be in charge of every internal auditor on the payroll.

In the beginning, income remain pretty low even for Chartered Accountant, but after two to four years, following your qualification, it will be time to renegotiate. At that point, the average Chartered Accountant can expect around $61,000 (excluding bonus).

After five years of experience, a Senior Accountant average salary goes up to $75,000 with variations depending on which accounting firm is hiring you.

You can rely on financial advisers to monitor accounts and give advice
Financial advisers monitor accounts and make recommendations Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Financial Advisers

If you prefer a more consultancy based career, accountants can also become a financial adviser. Their job is to provide clients with specialist advice on how to manage and "grow" their money.

This job can vary and is often divided into two categories:

  • Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs), who research and consider all retail investment products and supplier available to meet their clients' needs. They must remain unbiased and offer unrestricted advice.
  • Restricted Advisers are limited to a particular niche or range of product or providers.

In both cases, as a Financial Adviser, you will have to manage a client list and set up meetings. Your role will also include reviewing your client's financial situation and advise them according to the risk analysis that you would have completed.

You will also have to design financial strategies according to the results of your market research and adapt in function of a client change of circumstance or need.

Salary wise, at entry-level, expect to earn between $55,000 and $60,000 a year. With a degree qualification,  and after years of experience and a promotion to a Senior Financial Adviser position, you could make around $95,000+ per year. If you work as a Wealth Manager for a private bank or major retail division, it is pretty standard to rake in above $130,000.

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The Crucial Role of Accountants in Society

Despite what you’ve read so far, it’s possible that you still believe accounting is fundamentally adding to the credits column of a balance sheet and subtracting from the debits column.

In the most basic sense, that is true. Accounting is simply a matter of arithmetic but that misses the greater point.

Reading business newspapers will become an habit.
If you work as a financial accountant you will have to stay on top of business new and follow market trend very closely.

Let’s talk about the role that accountants play in local, corporate, national and international economics.

These days in Australia, many people buy on credit, paying later for something purchased today, effectively making the monetary transaction happen after long the exchange of goods and often with interest.

If you’ve ever handled such an exchange, you might easily believe that that is how accounting works: that accountants manage the fiscal results of the previously-conducted, actual trade.

That is an exceedingly limited view of accounting, to say the least.

Picture yourself at the bank, seated in front of a loan officer who has just told you that the bank cannot advance you any money based on certain criteria.

In effect, that official is acting as your private accountant at that moment, counselling you against a  move that may badly affect you because of other factors in your life such as income and future earning potential; even the economic profile of city or town you live in.

In business, accountants fulfil the same role, advising a concern’s department heads and leaders of corporations which expenditures and risks they can afford to make/take based on current conditions and projections. They also forecast how a transaction will affect the corporation’s bottom line over time, sometimes years into the future.

The same thing happens at the government level, locally, nationally and between nations.

That aspect of the accountant’s work lies in direct contrast to the stereotype of accountants all being boring, pencil-pushing, number-crunching bean counters that seems to persist still today, doesn’t it?

Indeed, with the explosion of global trade and finance, accounting is more exciting than ever. Now, add technology into that mix and you have the makings of a role in finance to rival Indiana Jones!

Do you think we’re kidding?

Further in this article, we talk about the role forensic accountants play in cybercrime and international economics. Read on!

Investment Analysts

In the banking industry, an Investment Analyst is crucial to help traders, wealth managers and stockbrokers to make the right decisions about possible investments.

Their work with banks, corporations, hedge funds, life insurance companies or pension funds as well as wealthy individuals consists in providing insight into economic trends and evaluate the potential returns of various investments.

This job primarily consists of analysing data from different sources and identifying trends to make informed recommendations to your clients or managers.

It will require you to assess performance results including profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow statements and you will have to keep up to date with market developments, new products and movements in relevant country's economy.

It also requires you to stay on top of world news, as war, natural disasters or political tensions can affect the fluctuations of a corporation's stock.

Most Australian investment analysts are based in Sydney and Melbourne, where they usually earn between $60,000 and $70,000 a year to start with. During their first three years on the job, Investment Analysts can expect to get a yearly bonus ranging from 10% to 100% of their actual salary.

With five to eight years experience you could expect to earn between $95,000 and $100,000 a year as a Senior Financial Analyst with a bonus between 40% and 150% of your salary.

At Senior level, salary reach over $100,000 and typical bonus are up to 200% of your salary.

In spite of their heavy workload, accountancy tutors in Australia still make time to give lessons in accounting!

Financial Trader

Working directly with Investment Advisers, a Financial Trader is in charge of selling or buying shares, bonds and assets for investors.

Responsibilities for such a position includes executing trades according to client's orders, informing your clients of market movements and possible investment opportunities or gathering information about companies' valuation.

Most Traders work long hours to be able to follow the market or their niche product, and this kind of work is usually demanding as trading on international market can be hectic, and the stress of managing large amounts of money can somehow be stressful.

However, the strains of this career are largely compensated by the salary a Financial Trader can expect to earn.

At the beginning of your career, you could be earning around $79,000, not including commissions (which can add up quickly).

Experience traders can make between $80,000 and $180,000 a year depending on your employer or the type of market your trade on. The bigger companies will offer bigger packages.

If you reach the level of Associate Trader working in a top-tier bank, you could earn around $120,000+ and if you specialise in a more lucrative niche market, traders making around $200,000 a year are the norm.

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Market trading board.
Being a Financial Trader can be frantic and staying on top of every changes and trend is a key to success.

Chief Financial Officers

This job is one of the highest ranking positions in a business's hierarchy, and as a CFO you will be the senior assistant to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Your job is to oversee all of the enterprise's finances and operation to ensure that the treasury, economic strategy and forecasting are all respected and that your firm is on track to meet its yearly money targets.

You will also have to report to key shareholders, usually represented at the corporation's board, about what is going on regarding the overall financial position.

CFOs are crucial to the success of any concern, in maintaining its fiscal health, identifying potential threats, ensure compliance with all current regulations and finding ways to increase profits.

Salary wise, the national average for CFOs in Australia is around $155,000 a year, but given the seniority of such a position, it takes years of experience and dedication before reaching such a job.

At the higher end of the scale senior CFOs earn up to $250,000, but some famous Australian companies pay their CFOs in the millions.

Whatever the career path you choose to follow, auditor, accounting manager, public accountant, tax accountant or financial manager, a degree in accounting will open many doors.

Recent surveys indicate it is an excellent tool for entrepreneurs to make sure they succeed in their business endeavours, but it is also a prized profession in the banking industry and the consultancy sector.

It is also one of the safest jobs in the world, both in terms of job security and physical safety.

If you are a CPA or chartered accountant, it might worth looking at current vacant positions in major accounting firms such as Deloitte, Ernst Young, Robert Half International or PWC.

Those are great firms to learn the skills needed to take on more challenging positions in the world of money management.

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Forensic Accountants

Who could forget the WannaCry ransomware virus that struck Windows computer systems, locking entire civic structures like the National Health Service in the UK and government offices out of their systems until a ransom was paid?

Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, cybersecurity agencies the world over were already on high alert for such attacks; they had happened before, although admittedly not as dramatic, severe or impactful as this one.

Furthermore, and this is the really lucky part, this particular computer virus was quickly contained and ultimately defeated before a lot of ransom had been paid!

Of course, full credit goes to those on the tech side who had devised an ingenious trap into which those malicious worms fell. Other attacks have been more successful though, causing millions of dollars to be stolen or paid out.

That’s where forensic accountants come in.

A forensic accountant ‘follows the money’ of any shady transaction or dirty deed. Of course, not every case forensic accountants solve involves international intrigue; a substantial portion of them involve embezzlement and fraud at the local level – say, in a company or bank.

A critical distinction of forensic accounting is that it provides financial details suitable for testimony in a court of law. Forensic accountants are often called on to give testimony in court of the cases they’ve investigated.

To do that, these accountants must be well-versed in business and criminal law. As they are called to give testimony, they must also be able to prepare materials – charts, graphs and other documents relevant to the case.

A forensic accountant may work with insurance companies, branches of government, banks and the police. They have a keen eye for irregularity. They can spot when something is not quite right and trace that blip to find potentially criminal activity.

A forensic accounting position generally requires a chartered accountant certification. Furthermore, many forensic accountants round out their education with training in alternative dispute resolution because they work so closely with the courts and law enforcement.

Payscale.com lists the average salary for a forensic accountant in Australia as $73,000.

Growth potential means potential wealth
As you cultivate experience, your potential earnings will grow too! Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

To Conclude: Do Accountants Make a Good Salary?

Living in Australia is expensive. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in our country is more expensive than 88% of the world's countries.  The site also notes that life in Sydney is more expensive than the rest of the country, but we knew that already!

The starting level for work in the accountancy and auditing sector is already quite good. You can live comfortably in Australia even on a starting salary provided you have completed your studies and can find a full-time job.

As with every profession, experience and education matter. You can’t do much about your level of experience except to get it – most likely in a lower-wage position, but you can certainly control how much education you take in.

The more the better, obviously, but your studies should be in line with the type of accounting you wish to practise.

The Difference Between Earnings and Earning Power

Throughout this article, we’ve listed both entry-level and upper-level salaries for various types of accountants.

If you only consider the baseline salary, you would have to conclude that accountants are moderately compensated for their services, especially in light of the fact that many positions in Australia don’t pay enough to live comfortably in our country.

That is why, when considering your future as an accountant from the earnings perspective, you need to focus on the potential rather than actual earnings –  your earning power versus what you will actually take home, which stands to be substantially higher.

Another factor to consider that we touched on earlier is job security. Accountants are not likely to be let go in a sudden economic downturn or when the business they’re working for faces challenging times. Indeed, your brand of services makes you invaluable to your company!

Finally, consider the idea of starting your own firm or practice. Relatively few career fields permit the flexibility of a sufficiently experienced employee striking out on their own. As an added incentive, government loans and grants may help you get started as an independent CPA and eliminate the stress of worrying about making enough money to get your business off the ground.

All of these factors and more contribute to your potential income as an accountant and add value to the wages you earn, making a career in accounting very tantalising indeed!

All salary estimates in this article have been taken from payscale.com.

Salaries vary depending on the size of the company, your work location, and your relevant study qualifications, skill set and experience.

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Daniel

A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.