Salary Raise after passing CPA exams. Please Help!

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    Hello everyone!
    Just a week ago i found out that i passed all 4 exams. it took me 6 months and i hoped that once i pass i'd have a raise in my salary pretty fast. However, after i talked to my employer I found out that evaluation will be only in the end of November, at best! I am currently at $50K salary, i have over 2.5 years experience (under CPA supervisor), i am taking my last two classes for license requirements.
    I do have options to interview for positions with a $65-75K salary. While i feel like i want to see what my employer can offer to me before i move somewhere else, i feel very disappointed that i have to wait at least till the end of November (knowing my office i think it will take longer). Also, i think my boss, as CPA herself, does realize that i expect raise and that i do have some other opportunities.
    In addition, i have more responsibilities now!
    So i guess my question is whether i am jumping the gun and it's normal waiting window of two months or i should do something and maybe move on.


    First off, congrats on passing. However, if I were your employer, I would wait until you were licensed. Just because you passed does not make you a CPA yet. When is your performance evaluation period? If it's in November or December, it could be your supervisor will use that time to evaluate your work and give you a raise then. If you feel you want to jump and start interviewing, certainly go for it. I would wait until you are licensed to jump ship if your raise doesn't meet your expectations. You stated you still have some classes to finish and leaving could jeopardize your boss signing off on your year of experience to get licensed.


    I would want to obtain your license first or have them sign the experience first (saying that you want to apply for licensure the moment you can before the end of the year whatnot). Just in case, you end up LEAVING for a better position and they might not sign off (I know in some states they're required to, but you never know).

    I have a similar problem. The real question is, how much of a raise would your company give in regards to that CPA license? How much of your role would grow after obtaining this raise you're requesting? While I know once I get my CPA, I can move for greener pastures, how much greener will the other company be? Would it have similar or BETTER advancement opportunities?

    This is how I feel for my current situation is that I'll obtain my CPA license first and see how much of change in responsibilities and salary I'll receive, then I'll consider applying for something else. However, if you're seeking a 15k+ pay bump, maybe it is better to move. Since that's a huge raise.

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    atabiaka, Congratulations! I agree with dankpsu. I was in your shoes as well. I passed the exams but got nothing. My evaluation won't happen until early next year. So I was disappointed and thought about leaving. But I also need more classes to take plus signing off before applying for the license. I work in industry. Due to fluctuation in industry, I am just wishing that I could get sign-off. My company just lay off more than 10% of workforce including one accountant. Also, I've been thinking about my future in terms of career. I will probably switch my field and start over. Until it happens, I need to keep my current job. Since you don't need to study hard any more, please take your time and think about what you want to do in your accounting career. Then, you will know what you want to do. I won't jump the gun right away. Good luck!

    CPA/ MST/ Roger CPA Review

    Thanks to all of you! The fact that i am still taking these two classes makes a difference of course. I do also understand that a raise in $15K+ should be reflected in the role assumed so i thought of waiting till November and see what is happening.
    Thanks again!!!


    You have to realize something that is often missed…

    In industry, your CPA means nothing to your employer.

    Ouch, hurts, doesn't it? But, a Staff Accountant with a CPA that does duties A, B, C, and D is the exact same as far as work output as a Staff Accountant without a CPA that does duties A, B, C, and D. Any raise that you're receiving should be related to you taking on duties E and F, and should be the value of those duties to the employer. If the CPA enabled you to do those duties, then the CPA may be the reason you were able to do those duties and therefore the catalyst for your raise, but your raise is for doing E and F, not for being a CPA.

    In industry, the CPA brings you more money by qualifying you for new positions and duties that you wouldn't have been able to obtain without it. So, the $65-75k positions that you're able to go look at, which you're more able to compete for now with the CPA – that's where the CPA earns you money. E and F might not be worth $25k to your current employer, and they might not have a $75k position available that they want to put you into. But, maybe someone else does…and if so, then you can go get that $75k job and an equivalent 50% raise.

    My salary has received a 50%+ boost in industry since getting licensed 2 years ago, but it was due to a job change. I didn't get any pay raise for getting licensed (let alone for simply passing the exams and not being licensed). I did get a raise the year I got licensed, but it was at the annual evaluation and raise time, and it was the typical annual raise based on performance. Then several months later an opportunity opened up to get a Controller job, I took it, and I got a raise that would “make sense” for being licensed…but it wasn't for being an accounting staff with a CPA, it was for being a Controller.

    So, what raise should you expect for passing your exams? None. For being licensed? Little if any. For taking on new duties, whether there or elsewhere? The raise commensurate with the duties assumed. A $15k raise at your current employer would be 30%, which would be huge; if you're looking to be in the $65-75k range, you're probably better off looking elsewhere instead of looking for a raise from within, since a 30% raise even with new duties is extremely rare.

    P. S. Since Olintos Apprentice and I posted at the same minute – just wanted to comment – Robert Half's guide is averages of people who meet the criteria in the bucket, doesn't mean they got a raise once they got the CPA designation, just means on average they make that higher figure. There's many other factors, too.

    Olintos Apprentice

    That increase isn't unreasonable if you look at Robert Half's salary guide for industry accountants with CPA plus a few years experience. You may need a tiny bit of leverage to make it happen though. Only advice: 1-2 months may seem like a while but it really isn't in the grand scheme of things. Wait it out.

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    I agree with Lilla. A certification doesn't mean squat in industry, especially if everyone else has one too. I work for a publicly traded company and the audit committee puts heat on us to get a certification. That can be CIA, CFE, CISA, etc. One guy has seven.

    Once I get my certification I won't even ask for anything, just that they pay for my dues and CPE's.

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    I agree with the others that having a CPA in industry isn't as important as in public, but where it is important are promotions that will certainly lead to higher pay. If you talk to recruiters or review requirements for accounting managers, assistant controllers and controllers, most positions require a CPA (at least the positions that pay a lot more). I would not trust Robert Half's salary guide. They are setting high benchmarks in hopes that prospective employees will use them as their recruiters. Using their guides, you should probably use a 90% factor for their salaries and reduce further for cities vs suburbs or rural areas.

    To the OP, you have to realize that 30% raises are extremely rare, even if you change companies. Getting licensed will get you about 5-10% (if your company is generous) and promotions will get you up to 10% additionally. When you move companies, they will bump you up based off your current salary of which 10% is normal with a small chance up to 20%. If you get it, kudos, but understand how hiring managers think.


    I'll echo what the others have said because I experienced it when I finished my MBA. I thought there would be a big raise and bonus check waiting for me when I graduated and came to find out that was a pipe dream. What the MBA and CPA in my case did was show my employer that I am someone that is seeking more responsibility and that led to promotions that came with a raise. It's not like I was doing balance sheet recs and then all the sudden I had my MBA and should be getting paid more to do the same balance sheet recs. I w

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    @atabiaka, I understand your frustration. I am facing the same issue and have 2 years of work experience. Our firm had a review in the summer and I only had 2% raise (I passed two exams during the review period).
    Our firm is very small and I am actually looking for jobs in bigger firms; I don't even want to wait for the raise. It really depends on what you want, if you still feel that you can grow in your firm and happy there, you probably should wait. Otherwise, searching for a new job.

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    Licensed CPA in MA, issued October 2016

    I would wait for your review and make a case that you passed the exam and if you have your license at that point, that you'd like to take on more responsibility and advance. If that doesn't line up with your company's path, then I'd say start exploring your options and try to find your best option for your own development.

    Typing on this site has become infuriating

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    In industry, the chances of getting a 30% salary increase without a significant promotion and increased responsibility is somewhere between slim and none.The best way to jump in earnings is to switch employers, but be sure you don't ever tell your current salary in an interview because even if you're the BEST person for a position, if they know you're making 50k they're only likely to offer about 20% more than you're currently making.

    Take the opportunity to interview and when you've got a true offer in hand, you can try to negotiate with your current employer but be prepared for them to accept your resignation without a counteroffer.

    WE are all very happy for your accomplishment and you should be proud but very few employers are as committed to their employee's development as you expect. The truth of the matter is if they can find ANYBODY who can do what you do for what you're currently making or less they're not likely to compensate you for your tremendous achievement.

    Old timer,  A71'er since 2010. Licensed since 2012-non reporting MA CPA.

    Finance manager/HR manager




    @Track55, I am in California too. I work in industry (a publicly traded company). But in my company, no one (other than managers) is CPA. I will be the only one. So far the company reimbursed ethics exam. I won't ask for anything else other than dues and CPEs… Like Lilla points out, people in industry tend to fight over work. More work means more raise. All my colleagues (non-CPAs) somehow fight to get more work (although they are very nice people). Once I get my certification, I will definitely move on. BTW, I really like this discussion.

    CPA/ MST/ Roger CPA Review

    Thanks to all of you for your replies. I did get more responsibilities as I mentioned. I do a lot in my firm from day to day operations to FS and budgets, distributions and reconciliations. I have 8 partnerships I keep books for, 1 main corporations my salary gets paid from and everyone else's and I have one Non Profit we also ran. So there is a lot of work.
    I do t no what promotion they can offer (I know now they are thinking) but I think the best course is to get promotion from them and a salary raise and move on in a year.


    @ultrarunner I think the reason the audit committee puts heat on us to get certs is because we are Internal Audit not accounting. Investors sometimes ask what % of auditors have certs. They even track how many Cpe's we do each quarter. Thankfully they pay for all of that. But I will say all managers are CPA while the troops go for CIA , CFE or CISA more often. So ur right…

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    I received my certificate like a month ago but nothing happened yet…

    CPA, CMA

    I work in industry also, and I got a high 5 for passing…which begs the question, are any of y'all hiring?

    Also, the Robert Half guide makes me LOL. I can't speak for other areas, but for my city, it is way, way out there. I have no idea where they get their “averages” from, but they are way too high. A local CPA firm here in town publishes a yearly guide that is much more realistic in terms of ranges.

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    If your employer doesn't value your CPA designation then you need to find a new employer. That's like saying they don't value a college education. This is something I worked hard for, and I WILL be compensated for it. Fortunately, my employer understands that. My raise will be in the 20-30% range (we are still negotiating) but I don't really know if that's normal.

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    The Robert Half guides are way off. I have been searching for a job and finally just found another. The RH salary guides are very inflated.

    When I was in industry and my supervisor found out I was pursuing my CPA they flat out told me that I would not get more money for being certified. My raises came with job changes. The highest I got was a 20% raise after leaving a Big 4 firm for industry. For my company, the audit committee pushed for certifications because then we could do a lot more of the testwork that our external auditors needed and they could rely on our testing. This actually saved them a lot of money in the long run.

    As the person above noted, I don't think that getting the CPA means that you are entitled to a raise and if you do not get a raise then your employer does not value you. It really comes down to what Lilla mentioned, what more do you bring to the table. It's the same as being in public accounting. No one gets a raise for having their CPA. The CPA designation becomes of value when you get to manager level because a lot of firms will not promote you to manager without your CPA. Some you won't even make it to senior. When I was interviewing I had one Director tell me that seeing someone having a CPA does not mean they are going to be good at the job. He said that to him that just tells him that person is a good test taker, it does not make you a better employee as compared to someone who does not have their CPA.


    Congratulations on passing the exam. I also passed the exam this year and I got my CPA license. I'm expecting a 2-3% raise for 2017.

    I don't expect to stay very long after they pay annual bonuses at the end of Q1. 😀


    I wanted to bump this one to 2020 to see what people's thoughts are: I am told that once I pass at my firm, they do not really give any big raise. They sort of just expect people to become a CPA. The problem is, that there hasn't been a new CPA here for over 7 years.

    My question to everyone is this: Once I am licensed here in the next few months (give or take if I passed my last one a few weeks back or have to retake it in April) should I leverage my new position for a pay raise which I think is competitive for a CPA? Meaning, should I get an offer from another company, and then go to my employer and ask for something similar to keep me here? It would take at least a $5,000 bump to get me to stay (They normally only give 3% a year which is ~$2,000 or so) ideally, I would like to get closer to a $10,000 bump in the next two years or so. Or should I just go straight into the market of looking for another job and not even bother trying to get a nice raise while in public accounting?

    I hate to be this way, but I have mouths to feed and we recently bought a home. While I love budgeting, I do not believe I can wait 2-3 more years for a salary bump that I could get this year by changing jobs over the private sector. I am at small/medium Tax firm in Texas and am completing my third busy season (1 as an auditor, 2nd year in tax). I actually really enjoy the outlook of my career at the current firm. I like that I can build my own clientele and that they pay overtime wages during tax season. However, they do not really do the whole “senior” or “manager” thing here. I worry that I am selling myself short by not getting leadership experience in these early years. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated! Since I know people will ask, I will say that my current salary falls somewhere in the 55-60k range. Benefits are terrible. Healthcare is expensive at the firm.

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    Based on my experience at >200 employees firm, we didn't get any major bumps for getting your CPA. They did reimburse you for all the costs & gave youa 3k bonus I think when you passed the exams (I passed before I joined this firm, so I don't have first hand knowledge).

    Only time you got a major bump is when you made manager and you couldn't make manager w/o your license, so… yeah. If you are looking for a major bump, definitely get out of public and go private. Problem w/ this route though is you don't get major bumps in private either after you make the switch, so make sure you negotiate your starting salary to the point where you think you can happily work for at least 2 more years w/o much raises.

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    Same experience as the last poster, from a large firm (big 4, and national/large regional firms from friends who told me) that passing the CPA was sort of expected during your first couple of years. Many had just finished Masters programs and took the summer to knock out all or a few sections, and that expectation was that you'd be a CPA.

    With that said, your market value DOES increase once you have a CPA license (not just exams passed, although that's a step forward too) and 1-3 years of experience to be fairly marketable to other accounting firms as well as industry positions. Smaller firms can be less structured sometimes, so you have to negotiate vs. having the path somewhat laid out for you.

    I'd frame that conversation as part of ongoing feedback/coaching/goal setting with your manager(s) and owners. Think of the goal setting both in terms of skill development, work efficiency, you progressing to have a CPA license, as well as growing your career and ask how they view compensation as a part of that. Some people get all weird talking about money, but if you put it in the right context, it's a sensible conversation, and then managers know that it's something on your mind. They'll (eventually) need to get back with you on some sort of future targets or estimates, knowing that if they blow you off then eventually you will have to look elsewhere. So long as the firm is doing reasonably well, the owners are not clueless, and you are performing at your job, they should be open to that dialogue. They won't negotiate necessarily at once, but much more likely to be willing to come and set up some mutual goals on a 3, 6 and 12 month basis.


    When I first started at my current job, I was explicitly told “Getting your CPA license will not translate into an auto increase in compensation” – My response was, “While I completely understand that “having a piece of paper” doesn't translate for me internally/here, it does increase my marketability externally.” The rest is self explanatory.

    @Mvhoover You are essentially asking for a 10% pay bump which isn't uncommon/unreasonable. Realistically you could put yourself on the market and see what other firms are offering a CPA with 2-3years of experience.

    Unfortunately, these situations really boil down to, The market says I'm worth XYZ, either you are willing to pay me that or your not. Be mindful to make apples to apples comparisons. A CPA with 2-3years of experience at a small 2 partner firm, shouldn't expect to make what a CPA with 2-3years of experience at a Big 4 firm makes, given the difference in work (hours/clients) and firm revenue

    Scores are for Pikers. NYS Licensed CPA. 12yrs in this shit and it never gets easier!
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