First published in 1990, the IMA® Salary Survey has enabled members in the United States to compare their compensation to that of others and assess the impact major demographic factors such as age, gender, certification, and more can have on their average salaries and total compensation.
Yet IMA is now a truly global association. After two years of separate surveys for members in the United States and around the world, this year we present the results of a single global IMA Salary Survey.
This article provides a high-level overview of the results, focusing on the mean and median salary and compensation levels for IMA members around the world as well as factors that contribute to job satisfaction, such as hours worked, opportunity for advancement, and job flexibility.
Going forward, IMA will continue to conduct this single global survey annually, making global trends easier to track and enhancing regional comparison. As this is the first year of the format change, and because it’s the first time that global results contain U.S. responses, comparing this year’s results to prior results must be done with care.
In October 2014, survey invitations were sent to 22,929 members from around the world, and we received 3,979 responses—a 17.4% response rate. Of these, 3,972 responses were usable (as they included both country and salary information). For the purposes of the salary results, we considered only respondents who indicated that they were either full-time employees or self-employed, which reduced the number of responses to 3,751. We eliminated 22 responses for low salaries reported (less than $100 total compensation per year), leaving 3,729 usable responses.
Responses to the survey were indeed global, with a total of 3,729 usable responses coming from 81 countries. Figure 1 shows the percentage of overall responses from each country that included at least 1% of survey respondents (as well as Bahrain and Germany, which historically have had a significant number of respondents), along with their median salary and total compensation. (All monetary values are in U.S. dollar equivalents as of the time of the survey.)
Table 1 presents specific demographic characteristics of respondents grouped by region: the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East/Africa. As has been the case in previous surveys—both U.S. and global—male respondents were more common in all regions. One notable change this year is that women accounted for nearly half (49%) of the respondents from Asia. This is much higher than last year’s study, when women were only 22% of Asian respondents.
Consistent with survey results for prior years, we see a high rate of respondents with at least a baccalaureate degree (98% overall), and European respondents are most likely to possess advanced degrees and the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) designation, followed by those from the Americas.
As with last year’s survey, our results show that respondents from Asia tend to be younger than respondents from other regions, and fewer possess CMA certification or hold higher-level management positions. This year, respondents from Asia and the Middle East/Africa show the lowest rate of advanced degrees (34%), though that represents a slightly higher rate than last year for both regions (30% and 32%, respectively).
U.S. respondents have been older, on average, than respondents from other regions, and they also tend to have higher-ranking managerial positions. This finding isn’t unexpected since IMA has had a longer presence in North America. But U.S. respondents are getting younger. The median age in the U.S. survey peaked in 2010 at 50 years old, and there has been a gradual decrease since then. Last year, it was 47, and this year it has gone down to 46.
Table 2 lists the annual base salary and total compensation (which combines salary with any additional compensation, such as bonuses, profit sharing, etc.) for each major region. The global mean salary is $72,298, and the median salary is $60,000. Mean total compensation is $89,082, and median total compensation is $66,000.
As expected, there is significant regional variation. Respondents from Europe and the Americas continue to report the highest compensation, with the Americas reporting higher median values and Europe reporting higher mean values for salary and total compensation.
Europe has slightly higher mean results for salary and compensation compared to last year, while the median values have declined slightly. European results continue to vary significantly by country. For example, compensation levels are much higher in Switzerland and the Netherlands than in other European countries, while compensation in Russia and Turkey tends to be significantly less than in other countries. This is consistent with the results of last year’s survey.
It’s important to recognize that some of the differences from last year’s results in average compensation levels can be attributed to differences in the mix of respondents to the survey. For example, one surprising result is that German respondents are showing a significant decrease in all compensation averages (20%-35% lower than last year). A good part of this difference may be explained by the fact that German respondents this year have 20% fewer years of experience than those in last year’s survey.
Compensation also varies tremendously in the Middle East/Africa. As with last year, the lowest levels of compensation are in Egypt, which has a median salary of $6,829 and a median total compensation of $9,379, both of which are significantly less than respondents from other countries in this region earn. Qatar has the highest median total compensation in this region, returning to the top ranking it held two years ago. The results for Lebanon declined almost 50% in both salary and total compensation, a dramatic decrease from last year’s survey when it had the highest median total compensation in the region ($50,711). This is likely a reflection of the economic impact of the ongoing conflict in the region.
Asia continues to show the lowest average total compensation. While this in part likely reflects the lower cost of living in Asia, it also can be partially accounted for by the lower percentage of respondents in the region who possess advanced degrees, CMA certification, or higher-level positions.
Although compensation levels for Asia and the Middle East/Africa are generally lower than those for Europe and the Americas, the good news is that they are showing significant improvement. The median salary for the Middle East/Africa improved 36% compared to last year, while in Asia it increased 41%. The high rate of increase in compensation in Asia reflects the tightening labor market in China, a result of demographic and economic trends.
For the Americas, this year’s average compensation results aren’t dissimilar to those in last year’s survey. Last year, the median salary was $96,000, and median total compensation was $105,500. This year, they are $96,400 and $110,000 (or increases of 0.4% and 4.3%, respectively).
Table 3 shows the median compensation values by gender and age. As has been seen every year since the first survey was conducted, there’s a gap between the salary and compensation of women and their male counterparts. Overall, the gap, expressed as a percentage of women’s compensation in proportion to men’s compensation, is 85% in median base salary and 83% in median total compensation. In other words, on average, for $1 in salary that men earn, women earn $0.85.
Typically, the gap is smaller for those in the earlier years of their career, and that holds true this year. For respondents in the 19-29 age range, women’s median base salary and total compensation are 98% and 95%, respectively, of the amounts paid to their male counterparts. The gap in median compensation widens with age: Women over the age of 49 report median compensation values of about 80% of those of men.
Additional insight can be gained by looking at gender compensation by region and age. For respondents in the Americas ages 19-29, the median total compensation was virtually equal ($63,250 for women compared to $63,000 for men). In the Asia and Middle East/Africa regions, women in the 19-29 age bracket had a higher median salary and total compensation than their male counterparts.
But the gap still widens with increasing age. This is most apparent in Asia, where the pay gap has historically been the greatest. The median salary and total compensation gaps for women in Asia ages 19-29 are 150% and 142%, respectively. For those ages 30-39, the gap is 78% for both values. And for the 40-49 age group, the gap is 66% and 70%, respectively.
Although not as dramatic, there are similar patterns for the Middle East/Africa region. The pay gap for women in the 19-29 range is 125% for median salary and 116% for total compensation, but then it sinks to 82% and 83%, respectively, for ages 30-39 and 63% and 61% for the 40-49 group.
It’s difficult to compare this year’s results to previous surveys. Last year’s global, non-U.S. survey had several mean and median categories where women earned more than their male counterparts. But the U.S. survey, which reported the gap in mean salary and total compensation, didn’t have any. In fact, there were instances where women’s average total compensation was less than men’s average base salary. Ultimately, the results support prior conclusions that, while gender pay gaps appear to exist, the gap is narrower or nonexistent for those now entering the management accounting field. It remains to be seen if that will hold up as the younger respondents get older.
Around the world, salaries of those holding the CMA are higher than those of non-CMAs by at least 23% (see Table 4). CMAs globally earn a median salary 59% higher than non-CMAs and 63% higher total compensation. This is strong evidence indicating that employers in every region value the skills possessed by CMAs and are willing to compensate staff who have them.
The higher salaries and compensation for CMAs hold true when comparing by age as well. While younger CMAs are seeing immediate financial benefit from their CMA designation, those in their 30s are receiving an even greater premium for securing the designation. These results, along with the compensation premium and the attendant benefits received by those in all other age cohorts, indicate the value of the CMA program as a way of enhancing, validating, and promoting professional skills throughout a person’s career while also increasing salary.
The differences in pay between respondents with the CMA and those without it aren’t the only indicators of value. Recent IMA research has shown that having a diverse set of work experience can have a positive impact on career opportunities. So we asked CMAs in the survey whether the certification enhances their ability to move across areas of the business. Significantly, 83% of CMAs across all regions said yes.
In part due to this greater ability to move across areas in a business and global recognition of this professional designation, 80% of CMAs globally agree that the certification creates career opportunities. Agreement was highest in the Middle East/Africa (87%) and the Americas (82%).
Salaries and total compensation vary considerably by responsibility area. Reflecting the inclusion of U.S. respondents, the average compensation in all responsibility areas is significantly higher compared to last year. This year, the top-paying responsibility area globally, based on median total compensation, is information systems (see Table 5). This is consistent with the global results for last year. The next three highest-ranked responsibility areas are education, corporate accounting, and general management. In last year’s global, non-U.S. survey, these areas ranked seventh, sixth, and fifth, respectively. Public accounting remains the lowest-paid area.
Focusing solely on non-U.S. respondents yields a more nuanced story, with salaries increasing in some areas while decreasing in others. An especially large increase occurred in the area of risk management, where the non-U.S. median total compensation is $40,600 compared to $19,000 last year, reflecting increased corporate awareness of the importance of this area and the resultant enhanced job opportunities.
In the current economic environment characterized by ongoing economic challenges in many regions, salaries have remained largely the same or declined in some traditional areas of responsibility, such as corporate accounting, taxation, general accounting, and internal audit. Yet the need for budgeting, planning, and cost control skills continues to be strong.
Because of the inclusion of U.S. respondents in this year’s results, a comparison of overall average compensation by responsibility area isn’t valid. But looking at the rankings of the responsibility areas provides some interesting observations. Education jumped from seventh last year to second this year, perhaps reflecting the higher compensation of U.S. faculty compared to elsewhere. Take out the U.S. respondents, however, and education falls to 11th.
Other areas are similarly impacted. Corporate accounting is third this year, moving up from sixth. Budgeting and planning, on the other hand, went from third last year to seventh, and internal auditing dropped from fourth to ninth. Remove the U.S. respondents from this year’s results, however, and all those areas rank very similarly to where they were last year. So while business has increasingly become more global, culture and region can still affect how much employers are willing to pay for the type of accounting and job responsibilities.
The survey also asks respondents about factors beyond salary and compensation to get a fuller picture of job satisfaction. This includes questions about raises, hours worked, work/life balance, and the desire to change jobs.
The good news is that more than two-thirds of respondents indicate that they have had a pay increase within the past year. In fact, very few haven’t received a raise within the past two years.
The prospects for future raises also appear bright. More than three-quarters of the survey respondents believe that they are likely to receive a raise in the coming year. This is especially true for respondents in the Americas.
Of those respondents who received raises, the median raise was 8%. Regionally, raises in the Middle East/Africa tend to be larger than raises in the Americas and Europe, but they happen less frequently. On the other hand, raises in Asia (largely reflecting China) tend to be as frequent as and larger than elsewhere, reflecting the relatively tight job market there.
Hours WorkedSurvey respondents worked an average of 46 hours per week, which is slightly higher than reported last year (45.1). Germany replaced Switzerland this year as the country with the most hours worked per week, averaging 49.6 hours. Next are the U.S. (47.6 hours) and India (47.3 hours). Respondents in Bahrain reported working the fewest hours per week (41.8). In none of the countries of the major responders (those appearing in Figure 1) did respondents average fewer than 40 hours of work per week.
When asked to choose between two different career advancement paths, 35% of respondents would prefer a flexible job with slower career advancement, while 33% want a job with a more rigid schedule but faster advancement. The remaining respondents are happy where they are.
This result is influenced by the overwhelming inclination for work flexibility over career advancement in the Americas. Other than in the Americas, more respondents around the world appear to be looking for career advancement opportunities at the sacrifice of flexibility.
In almost all regions, the preference for a flexible work environment peaks in the 40-49 age range. This makes sense: In this age range, more people are likely to be satisfied with their career progression and are looking to improve the quality of their home life. Younger respondents have a greater preference for faster career advancement.
Thirty-eight percent of respondents are looking to change jobs within the coming year. The percentage of respondents looking to change jobs is highest in the Middle East/Africa, where more than half are looking for an employment change. This isn’t surprising given the extremely low levels of compensation in some of these countries and the relative instability of the region.
In each region, the highest desire to change jobs occurs in the younger age brackets (19-29 and 30-39). Again, this would seem to make sense since those earlier in their career will likely have the most flexible lifestyle to accommodate a job change.
Last year’s U.S. salary survey reported a decline in average IMA member salary, which reflected the economic challenges in the U.S. and many other parts of the world at that time. This year’s study suggests that the situation is starting to improve. Approximately 70% of survey respondents received a raise last year, and the median increase was 8%. We will see next year if this positive trend continues.
More information and analysis, including additional tables and figures, can be found in the full IMA Salary Survey report available at www.imanet.org/salary_survey. In the next few months, country-specific reports, including the U.S., China, and more, also will be available online.
As a final note, we sincerely appreciate members’ willingness to share their time and data with us. For that, we are truly grateful. Your continued support is essential as we strive to increase the value and relevance of the Salary Survey for IMA members.