How Much Should a Senior Accountant Expect to Make in San Diego?

If salaries were based on sunshine and coastline beauty, senior accountants in San Diego would be earning millions by the week. Since employers, rather than mother nature, are the ones paying the bills, here’s a look at the various salary data sources for senior accountants in “America’s Finest City.” These are the numbers that shape the rates employers around San Diego and across Southern California pay. It’s also information senior accounting professionals should consider as they plan their career moves and request raises.

Sr. Accountant Salary Data

While baseline senior accountant salaries will vary based on factors like education, years of experience, certifications and more, and its real-time data puts 2022 salaries for a San Diego-based senior accountant between $82,000 and $101,000. Those numbers reflect what Sayva has measured in 2022 so far, with average senior accounting placements earning between 75,000- 110,000. That’s an 11.6% rise over 2021 salaries and a 15.6% rise over 2020.

Sayva Senior Accountant Salary Data

Sayva 2020 Sr. Accountant Base Salary Avg.Sayva 2021 Sr. Accountant Base Salary Avg.Sayva 2022 Sr. Accountant Base Salary Avg.
  $83,000  $86,000  $96,000

How Do Sr. Accountant Salaries in San Diego Compare across California?

Compared to other regions in California, San Diego salaries for senior accountants are hitting right in the middle. Pay rises in cities like Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and other high-income zip codes like Stanford and Palo Alto. Because San Diego is a young, sought-after, diverse city with a widely celebrated outdoor lifestyle, professionals are often willing to compromise on salary to live in such a desirable area.

How Do Sr. Accountant Salaries in California Compare across the U.S.?

California, as a state, pays senior accountants well. U.S. News and World report ranks it as fourth highest paying state for accountants:

Source: US News and World Report: How Much Does an Accountant Make?

When looking at senior accountant salary data for sought-after U.S. cities, San Diego is well positioned. New York and Boston, situated in the expensive Northeast, offer high salaries while Chicago, Austin, Atlanta, Miami, and Phoenix are attractive cities with salaries well under the pay rates in San Diego.

10 U.S. Cities Ranked by from High to Low for Senior Accounting Pay

  • San Francisco, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Washington, DC
  • San Diego, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Austin, TX
  • Miami, FL
  • Phoenix, AZ

(Salary comparisons analyzed using in May 2022)

How to Maximize Your Salary Potential (in San Diego or anywhere!)
A career partner to accountants of all levels, Sayva is in the business of helping talented professionals find roles and employment packages that work for them. As you look to find the best earning opportunities as a senior accountant in the San Diego area, here are factors to consider that will impact what you earn.

1. Growth Phase of the Company

The stage of growth a company is in will affect the salary offered. Bigger, global, established enterprises tend to offer accounting talent higher salaries. Small businesses, on the other hand, will have smaller resource pools and teams. In fact, many small firms and startups will outsource accounting services and teams early on to consulting and managed services providers like Sayva. When they hit a certain size, they bring the team in-house, which can be a great opportunity for senior accountants looking for leadership roles.

One thing to consider when assessing opportunities at smaller, fast-growing firms and start-up businesses is equity. While a salary offers some form of stability, equity (in the form of stock options or preferred shares) can offer a larger long-term payout. Accountants are good at analyzing financial opportunities and risk. Salary versus equity is a nice debate to have if you get the chance. Primary considerations would be where you are in your career journey, how much risk you are willing and able to take on, and how confident you are in the company, its potential, and its leadership.

2. Industry

The industry you work in will also affect your earning potential. Industries like finance, healthcare, tech, life sciences, and aerospace can afford to pay more lucrative salaries. Meanwhile, sectors like education, government, nonprofit, and agriculture, overall, pay lower salaries. In addition, an industry might be experiencing growth or recession that isn’t affecting the wider marketplace. For example, a few years ago, oil and gas experienced serious contraction at the start of the pandemic while the tech sector was surging. Today, oil and gas has rebounded while tech companies are feeling the supply chain pinch. These market factors will impact pay.

The good news is accounting is a field where professionals can move from industry to industry as opportunities and interests arise. Changing industries is one way for senior accountants to accelerate their earning power.

3. Education

In accounting, and in most every profession, the amount of education you bring to the job will impact your base salary rate. Senior accountants with advanced degrees will see that educational advantage reflected in their pay. Even the school itself can impact salary offers. Certain industries put a premium on degrees from specific schools, such as Ivy League or international universities. Accounting professionals with those sought-after educational credentials and elite internships often do earn more. However, as businesses expand their idea of educational excellence and seek more diverse routes into their organizations, these institution-based pay bumps may start to fade.

4. Certifications

There are numerous accounting certifications that validate expertise and increase career opportunities and earning potential. While the demand among employers for each kind of certification varies, as does the time it takes to complete certification programs, most every certification earned will result in a salary boost:

  • CPA: Certified Public Accountant
  • CFA: Certified Financial Analyst
  • CIA: Certified Internal Auditor
  • CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • CMA: Certified Management Accountant

Source: Indeed 8 Top Accounting Certifications to Enhance Your Career – 2022

5. Specialization
From GL, technical, and revenue recognition accounting to internal audit and SEC reporting, there is a world of specializations out there for accountants. Accountants who take the time and effort to hone a specialty will see gains. In addition to increasing salary potential, adding a specialization to your accounting expertise is also a way to incorporate a passion into your work. For example, specializing in biotech, pharma, life science, real estate, manufacturing, financial services, SaaS, non-profits, or government can help align your values and interests with your professional life.

6. References

A strong set of references from prior employers and colleagues is worth a lot in today’s fickle employment market. Recruiters and employers are on the hunt for hardworking, stable, reliable, and skilled professionals. Accounting professionals who have workplace fans willing to espouse their capabilities will be in high demand and may have the opportunity to demand more pay.

7. Awards and Recognition

As with references, industry awards and recognition are credentials that bring value to potential employers and add value to your pay scale. Highlighting the impact of personal contributions to company success such as driving process improvement, successfully implementing a new system, overseeing an acquisition/integration, and earning outstanding performance reviews will grab attention and could impact salary.

8. The Work (what is required of you)

Not all senior accounting jobs are created equally and the same is true for the workload. Pay rates will vary to adjust to the number of responsibilities that come with the job, as well as the number of reports. Big jobs come with big responsibilities and a bigger paycheck as one of the rewards for those willing to take on the challenge.

9. Negotiation Skills

Your accounting and finance skills are not the only factors that play into your salary. There are a myriad of skill sets to consider, such as soft skills and leadership potential. In addition to all that, there is the one skill an employer cannot assess or predict in advance: your salary negotiation skills. Senior accounting and professionals of all kinds can impact their salary strongly by knowing how, when, and what to negotiate.

10. Experience

Finally, the amount and kind of experience you bring to the job affects your salary. Perhaps you have decades of experience, but it’s in a different industry? Maybe you have only a few years of experience but it’s in a complex and high-demand area such as cryptocurrency? Employers will invest more in professionals who can bring needed intellectual capital or relevant experience to the job.

Ready to Find Senior Accounting Jobs in San Diego (or beyond)?

Solid salary insights are useful guardrails to keep in mind as you consider new opportunities, locations, and employers. To dive more specifically into the data or get an expert perspective on senior accounting salary and benefits packages, connect with an expert at Sayva. Our finance and accounting recruiters help senior accountants nationwide plan and execute the right career moves.

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