Average Accountant Salary Statistics By Industry & State (2023)

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median wage for accountants is $70,500 per year or $33.89 per hour.

Of course, how much accountants actually earn depends on experience, location, position, and industry.

Highest and Lowest Average Accountant Salary

Along with median earnings, the BLS also reports the highest and the lowest salaries for accountants, which are as follows:

  • The lowest 10% of accountants earned less than $43,650 per year
  • The highest 10% of accountants earn more than $122,840

The lower end reflects inexperienced accountants working for low-paying industries like the government while the higher end reflects experienced accountants working in higher paying industries like finance and insurance.

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Accountant Starting Salary by Degree Type

As it is with most professions, how much you earn as an accountant depends on your level of education and experience. For accounting, the more educated you are, the higher your earning potential.

NACE’s annual starting salary survey, which collects data from employers to calculate projected starting salaries for all college majors, found the following:

Accountant Starting Salary for Bachelor’s Degree Holders

Accountants fresh out of college with a bachelor’s degree earn an average starting salary of $57,511. Fifty percent of recent accounting graduates earn between $54,000 to $60,000. To maximize your earnings, consider entering the chemical (pharmaceutical) manufacturing industry or the information industry. These industries pay accountants a mean salary of $62,115 and $61,250 respectively.

Accountant Starting Salary for Master’s Degree Holders

Students who pursue their master’s degree boost their average starting salary up to $69,605, a 21% increase. Fifty percent earn between $59,500 and $73,620. Students who opt for the finance, insurance, and real estate industry can expect to earn an average salary of $94,833.

Accountant Salary by Specialty

The type of accounting you go into greatly affects your average earnings and income potential.

Average CPA Salary

CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant. Accountants who decide to become CPAs must complete 150 semester hours of college coursework, pass a national license exam, and meet other state requirements. The extra work pays off because becoming a CPA improves job prospects and earning potential. The BLS doesn’t make a distinction between accountants and CPAs, but AccountingEdu suggests that CPAs earn more than regular accountants.

PayScale also tracks salary data for CPAs and general accountants. PayScale reports the average CPA salary at $64,765 per year and average accountant salary at $50,591*. This means that CPAs earn about 28% more than a regular accountant.

Payscale’s reported average salary for accountants appears much lower than the median wage reported by the BLS. It’s important to note that PayScale collects self-reported salary information from employees while the BLS is a government organization that collects data directly from employers. Payscale’s average accountant salary figure also excludes CPA salary data while the BLS figure includes all types of accountants.

Average Tax Preparer Salary

Tax preparers earn significantly less than accountants. Data from the BLS shows that tax preparers earn an annual median wage of just $39,390. That’s a $31,110 difference in salary between a tax preparer and an accountant. The lowest 10% of tax preparers earn less than $20,550 per year while the highest 10% earn more than $81,720.

Average Forensic Accountant Salary

Forensic accountants are part detective and part accountant. They analyze financial records to see if they’re compliant, investigate fraud, and testify as expert witnesses in court. On average, forensic accountants earn $65,645 per year. The lower 10% earn less than $45,000 and the top 10% earn upwards of $106,000.

Average Management Accountant Salary

Management accountants provide financial information that business leaders need to make strategic decisions. They help with budgeting, risk management, profitability analysis, and more. To do this job, you need a bachelor’s degree in accounting and need to become a certified management accountant (CMA).

(Video) Accountant Salary (2019) - How much do accountants make

Management accountants earn an average salary of $59,282 with average additional compensation of $5,300 between bonuses and profit sharing. Eighty percent earn between $38,000 and $89,000.

Accountant Salary by Industry

Where you work makes a world of difference in the accounting world. Some industries just pay accountants a whole lot more than others.

Average Accountant Salary in the Top-Paying Industries

According to 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the top paying industries for accountants:

  • School and Employee Bus Transportation: $109,250 annual average wage
  • Federal Executive Branch: $100,080 annual average wage
  • Securities, Commodity Contracts, Financial Investments: $97,00 annual average wage
  • Other Investment Pools and Funds: $96,770 annual average wage
  • Other Pipeline Transportation: $93,590 annual average wage

Average Accountant Salary in the Lowest-Paying Industries

The following industries pay accountants the least:

  • State Technical and Trade Schools: $48,440 annual average wage
  • State Psychiatric & Substance Abuse Hospitals: $53,320 annual average wage
  • Casino Hotels: $54,850 annual average wage
  • Gasoline Stations: $55,020 annual average wage
  • Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities: $57,830 annual average wage

Average Accountant Salary in the Most Popular Industry

Fewer than 54,000 accountants and auditors work in the top-paying industries, so the best-paying jobs are hard to come by. The Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services industry provides the most jobs for accountants and auditors. In 2018, this industry employed 325,930 accountants and auditors with an average accountant salary of $83,710. That’s approximately 26% of the accountant and auditor workforce.

Average Self-Employed Accountant Salary

According to the BLS, 7% of accountants opt for the non-traditional route, starting their own small business or working on a contract basis. According to PayScale*, self-employed Certified Public Accountants bring in an average salary of $119,831. The lower 10% earn less than $60,000 while the top 10% earn more than $200,000. PayScale also estimates that the average self-employed accountant (not including CPAs) earns an average salary of $58,600.

The income might look enticing, but it’s not all going straight to the bank. Self-employed workers don’t have an employer to cover certain taxes, contribute to a retirement account, or sponsor a health insurance plan. They need to cover those costs themselves, which can significantly reduce their net income.

*Based on seven individuals reporting income data for this job type

Average Accountant Salary by State and City

Your earnings aren’t just affected by the industry you choose or your education. Where you work matters too. Some states pay accountants and CPAs more than others. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll have extra cash to spend—or use to pay down your student loans. It could indicate that the cost of living in those states or cities is just higher.

States with the Highest Average Accountant Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the following are the highest-paying states and territories for accountants as of May 2018:

  • District of Columbia: $98,130 annual average wage
  • New York: $96,300 annual average wage
  • New Jersey: $90,400 annual average wage
  • Virginia: $85,640 annual average wage
  • Connecticut: $84,890 annual average wage

Cities with the Highest Average Accountant Salary

If you’re looking to earn top dollar, don’t count out other states just yet. Here are the five highest-paying metropolitan areas for accountants:

  • New York/Newark/Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: $99,900 annual average wage
  • Salinas, CA: $94,710 annual average wage
  • Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk, CT: $95,390 annual average wage
  • Washington/Arlington/Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $93,180 annual average wage
  • San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward, CA: $92,630 annual average wage

States with the Lowest Average Accountant Salary

Accountants earn the least in these states:

  • Mississippi: $59,960 annual average wage
  • North Dakota: $60,550 annual average wage
  • South Carolina: $64,220 annual average wage
  • Hawaii: $64,410 annual average wage
  • Idaho: $64,640 annual average wage

Remember, lower earnings aren’t necessarily a bad thing if the cost of living in the state is low. However, don’t assume that’s the case. Accountants working in Hawaii may make less on average than accountants working in 46 other states, but Hawaii still has the highest cost of living in the United States.

(Video) Accountant Salary in the United States - Jobs and Wages in the United States

Is Becoming an Accountant Worth It?

You’ve seen how much an accountant can make, but is it enough to justify taking out loans for your undergraduate and/or graduate degree? Let’s take a look at how prepared graduates are to pay back their debt.

Job Outlook for Accountants in the United States

Job opportunities for accountants show no sign of slowing down. The demand for accountants will rise as more businesses go public, the economy improves, and the globalization of business continues. Companies will need experienced accountants that specialize in their niche needs as well as entry-level accountants fresh out of college. According to the BLS, from 2016 to 2026, employment is expected to grow by 10%, which is 3% faster than the average for all professions.

Debt-to-Income Ratio for Accountants

Paying off your student debt is a numbers game. Will you make enough after graduation to be able to pay back your loans? A study completed by Credible.com suggests that accounting puts you in a much better spot to pay back your debt than other majors.

Credible’s study calculated and analyzed the student debt-to-income ratio for different degree programs. Their findings show that students who graduate with a master’s in accounting have a 7.91% student debt-to-income ratio (the fourth lowest of all degrees in the study). This is significantly lower than the average for all graduate students, which is 10.88%.

Undergraduates who studying accounting make out well too. Students with a four-year business degree, which includes accounting, have around an 8.85% student debt-to-income ratio. This is the sixth lowest of all the degrees in the study and 1.1% lower than the average for all undergraduates. It’s also higher than accountants with a master’s degree, suggesting that earning your master’s in accounting is certainly worth it too.

Return on Investment for Accountants

To get an even better idea of whether an accounting degree is worth it, use PayScale’s Best Value Colleges for Business Majors tool. It shows you the return on investment (ROI) of a business major, which includes accounting, at different schools across the country. It takes the four-year cost, typical years to graduate, average loan amount, and average alumni salaries into account, so you’re left with a good idea of which schools are worth your money. The higher your 20-year net ROI, the more worth it is to study accounting at that college.

Yes, An Accounting Degree is Usually Worth It

Thanks to the field’s high job stability and high earning potential, becoming an accountant is usually worth it. Sure, studying accounting doesn’t mean you’ll graduate debt-free, but it does mean that you’ll graduate better equipped to afford your monthly student loan payments than other graduates.

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FAQs

What industry pays accountants the most? ›

The top-paying industries for accountants include finance and insurance, management of companies and enterprises, tax preparation, and the government. The top-paying states/districts for accountants include Washington D.C., New York, New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts.

What city do accountants get paid the most? ›

What city pays accountants the most? Washington, DC pays accountants the most with an average salary of $71,991 per year.

Which states have the most accountants? ›

States with the most accountants and auditors in the U.S. 2021. As of May 2021, California was the U.S. state with the highest number of accountants and auditors (151,320) followed by New York (111,660), and Texas (104,490).

What is the highest CPA salary? ›

Salary: A CPA earns a salary of between $49,466 and $103,042 annually. The top three highest employees in PwC are: Partner- $436,097. Advisory Managing Director- $368,843.

Can accountants make 200k? ›

Yes obviously a qualified and experienced accountant doing job in a multinational may be earning $200,000 or even more. The pay rates are also dependent on your area and pay rates in your country. In short conclusion is that being an accountant is such a great profession that allows to earn a handsome sum of money.

What is the richest type of accountant? ›

1) Financial Controller

The controller is responsible for the company's financial statements, general ledger, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, budgeting and tax compliance.

Can an accountant make six figures? ›

A CPA salary usually reaches the high five figures, and senior CPAs in management can earn a six-figure salary.

Where is the best place to live for accounting? ›

Best Places to Live for Accountants Based on Cost of Living
  • Seattle, Washington. ...
  • San Francisco, California. ...
  • New York, New York. ...
  • Los Angeles, California. ...
  • San Jose, California. ...
  • Boston, Massachusetts. ...
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ...
  • Atlanta, Georgia.

Can accountants make millions? ›

A partner in a large public accounting firm will command $300,000 to over a million dollars a year depending on the market. Both types of positions will get you rich, but remember they are limited and competitive and often require 7-15 years of lower-level experience to qualify.

Is there a shortage of accountants in USA? ›

There's a shortage of CPAs. And that is why on today's show, we're going to figure out where all the CPAs have gone and what the industry is doing about it.

Where are accountants needed the most? ›

New York, NY – New York dwarfs the competition with over 140,000 people working as accountants, auditors and bookkeepers. With all four Big Four accounting firms headquartered there, as well as 43 Fortune 500 companies, it is a place to be for anyone looking to work in finance.

Is CFA Exam harder than CPA? ›

It depends on what you mean by “harder.” If CPA vs CFA difficulty is judged purely by the exam, then CFA is the harder qualification to achieve. However, if you're measuring by other requirements like application and education, particularly for candidates outside the US, CPA is more complicated.

Can accountants make 100k? ›

Yes, you can make $100,000 per year as a senior accountant.

The average annual salary is $70,681 for senior accountant jobs. For example, senior accountants in District of Columbia whose salaries are in the 90th percentile earn an average salary of $113,000.

What Big 4 firm pays the most? ›

Advisory giant Accenture consistently pays consultants the highest starting salary compared to the big four consulting firms, with PwC and Deloitte vying for second place at different experience levels.

Is CPA exam tough? ›

Yes, CPA is a rigorous and challenging exam that requires constant effort and hard work.

Do accountants make more than doctors? ›

Doctors median wage of $208,000 is higher than Lawyers median wage of $126,930 and Accountant median of $73,569 per annum.

Is CPA underpaid? ›

The good: 49 percent of professionals surveyed by global staffing firm Robert Half feel they are paid fairly at their jobs. The bad: 46 percent think they are underpaid.
...
Are Accounting Pros Underpaid? Salary Guides Show Regional Averages.
Paid fairly49%
Underpaid46%
Overpaid5%
100%
29 Aug 2018

Is accounting stressful? ›

The work can be stressful

But that pressure and stress can have an impact on your overall mental health and deserves consideration. These negative experiences have a lot to do with where an accountant works and the specifics of their roles.

Can CPAs be millionaires? ›

Millionaire CPAs can be found at firms of all sizes, by the way, not just at the Big Four or Top 100.

What are the 4 types of accountants? ›

Though different professional accounting sources may divide accounting careers into different categories, the four types listed here reflect the accounting roles commonly available throughout the profession. These four branches include corporate, public, government, and forensic accounting.

What is the best field in accounting? ›

With this in mind, here are the top seven accounting careers for 2022 (with salary estimates from Glassdoor):
  1. Auditor. ...
  2. Information and Technology Accountant. ...
  3. Senior Financial Analyst. ...
  4. Forensic Accountant. ...
  5. Managerial Accountant. ...
  6. Controller. ...
  7. Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
16 Dec 2020

Do CPAs make a lot of money? ›

The average salary for a CPA based in the United States is $119,000. Those CPAs who have extensive experience of working in the accounting and finance fields can earn substantially more. An individual with 20 years of experience could command an average of $152,000 in annual pay.

What is the salary of CPA in USA? ›

According to AICPA's survey, the CPA fresher salary in the US is $66,000 per annum. The average salary for a CPA in the US is $119,000, with 20 years of experience, one could command more than $160,000 annual pay.

Is there a shortage of CPA? ›

Firms big and small are facing a crisis. There's not enough accountants (CPAs) : The Indicator from Planet Money We crunched the numbers (on Excel of course), and the results are in. There's not enough Certified Public Accountants right now.

What is the best accounting firm to work for? ›

Best Accounting Firms to Work For Prestige isn't everything. These are the firms accountants find the most amenable to a satisfying work experience. Survey Methodology
  1. #1. Plante Moran. SCORE 9.229. ...
  2. #2. Friedman LLP. ...
  3. #3. Schellman. ...
  4. #4. PKF O'Connor Davies. ...
  5. #5. Aprio. ...
  6. #6. PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) LLP. ...
  7. #7. Moss Adams LLP. ...
  8. #8. Rehmann.

Who is the best Accountant in the world? ›

Five highly successful accountant entrepreneurs
  • Kumar Mangalam Birla. Billionaire and chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, Birla was educated in Mumbai and London. ...
  • Tony Fernandes. ...
  • David Ross. ...
  • Bob Parsons. ...
  • John D Rockefeller.

What city has the most accounting jobs? ›

Top 50 Cities for Accountants
RankCityJobs
1Parkersburg560
2Midland1,490
3Springfield1,350
4Birmingham6,580
6 more rows
25 Apr 2022

How difficult is accounting? ›

While accounting does require a complex set of skills and abilities, as well as excellent attention to detail, it really isn't any more difficult than many of the other popular fields of study that lead to excellent lifelong career opportunities.

Are accountants smart? ›

Accountants are smart.

Accountants bring a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience to their organization. They've most likely seen numerous business types and strategies and are well-positioned to have a solid understanding of what is likely to work — and what isn't.

Is accounting prestigious? ›

Accountants are respected business professionals, and accounting is known to be one of the most trustworthy professions. You will become a trusted advisor to others where you work, and your opinion will matter in making business decisions.

Is the CPA worth it anymore? ›

You don't need a CPA license to have an excellent career for yourself these days. Over time, many companies have found that non-CPAs like CMAs can do all the same work that CPAs do - and usually better. There are things that non-CPAs can't do in the world of public accounting.

Are accountants declining? ›

Shrinking Pipeline

A shortage of new accountants is the main driver of the rapid rise in salaries, Kaiman said. The number of accounting graduates peaked in 2012 and the total number of employed accountants has dropped since 2019.

Is there a decline in accounting majors? ›

Many faculty in the United States and worldwide are concerned that accounting enrollments are dropping. The number of U.S. students completing bachelor's degrees in accounting declined from 2016 to 2020, according to the AICPA's 2021 Trends Report.

What is the most entry level accounting job? ›

TOP ENTRY LEVEL JOBS IN ACCOUNTING
  • BOOKKEEPER. Bookkeepers track and record purchases, sales, and other financial transactions for individual clients or organizations. ...
  • ACCOUNTS PAYABLE SPECIALIST. ...
  • ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE CLERK. ...
  • AUDITING CLERK. ...
  • PAYROLL ADMINISTRATOR. ...
  • ASSISTANT CONTROLLER.

What is the future outlook for accountants? ›

Summary
Quick Facts: Accountants and Auditors
On-the-job TrainingNone
Number of Jobs, 20211,449,800
Job Outlook, 2021-316% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2021-3181,800
3 more rows
8 Sept 2022

Does tax or audit pay better? ›

If you go on payscale and look at what the average wage for an auditor is it is at $53k. If you go on payscale and look at the average salary for a tax accountant it is $55k. Based on this information you can see that tax accountants earn more than auditors.

Who gets paid more CPA or CFA? ›

Both of these certifications can lead to a great salary. ZipRecuiter states that CPAs make an average of $72k each year. However, those with more experience can end up making over $110k a year down the line. By contrast, CFAs make an average of $95k a year.

What percent of CPAs are female? ›

Gender distribution of accountants and auditors in the U.S. 2020-2021. In 2021, women made up over 60 percent of accountants and auditors in the United States.

Is the CPA harder than the bar? ›

The CPA Exam. You've heard the horror stories: It's derailed the careers of promising professionals. It's definitely harder than the BAR exam and maybe even some medical board exams. And it's nearly impossible to pass once you're a working professional.

How can an accountant make extra money? ›

There are several ways that an accountant can make extra income, including freelancing, offering tax preparation services, bookkeeping, consulting, teaching/tutoring, and more.

What kind of math is used in accounting? ›

Accounting isn't hard-core math. It's basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Possibly some light, entry-level algebra, but that's it. You don't have to understand calculus.

Is an accountant a good job? ›

Accountants play an incredibly important role in every organization, making this a great career for anyone who wants to work in an important position. Salaries for trained accountants are quite high, which means this is an excellent industry for anybody looking to maximize earning potential.

Which Big 4 has the best work life balance? ›

Though the smallest of the Big 4 firms, KPMG is known to have the best work-life balance amongst its employees.

Who pays more EY or PwC? ›

Salary & Benefits

While the salary at PwC is higher than that at EY, the benefits between the companies are generally comparable. Of note, Strategy& has the highest base salary across the Big 4 competitors.

Is EY better than Deloitte? ›

Deloitte has a rating of 4.7 stars with 88 reviews. EY has a rating of 4.7 stars with 54 reviews. See side-by-side comparisons of product capabilities, customer experience, pros and cons, and reviewer demographics to find the best fit for your organization.

How many people pass all 4 CPA exams first try? ›

Of CPA candidates, what percentage pass all four parts of the CPA exam the first time? About 20%, or one in five, CPA candidates pass all four parts of the exam on the first try.

Can I pass the CPA in 6 months? ›

Passing the CPA Exam in 6 months

Students, recent graduates, and people with plenty of time to study should aim to sit for and pass all 4 sections of the CPA Exam in about 6 months. This would have you taking an exam every 6-7 weeks and studying about 22-26 hours each week.

What is the hardest part of CPA Exam? ›

Students often report that Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) is the most difficult part of the CPA Exam to pass, because it is the most comprehensive section.

Can I make six figures as an accountant? ›

A CPA salary usually reaches the high five figures, and senior CPAs in management can earn a six-figure salary.

What are the 3 major areas of accounting? ›

The 3 types of accounting include cost, managerial, and financial accounting. ​​ Although 3 methods of accounting are both vital to the healthy functioning of a business, they have different meanings and accomplish different goals. Let's dive into each of each below.

Can an accountant become a millionaire? ›

The average yearly salary for an accountant is somewhere between $100,000 and $120,000. That's more than enough for you to live a good life! But as mentioned previously may take several decades to accumulate a million dollars or have the capital to invest in other physical assets.

What is the best accounting field? ›

With this in mind, here are the top seven accounting careers for 2022 (with salary estimates from Glassdoor):
  1. Auditor. ...
  2. Information and Technology Accountant. ...
  3. Senior Financial Analyst. ...
  4. Forensic Accountant. ...
  5. Managerial Accountant. ...
  6. Controller. ...
  7. Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
16 Dec 2020

Is there a shortage of CPA? ›

Firms big and small are facing a crisis. There's not enough accountants (CPAs) : The Indicator from Planet Money We crunched the numbers (on Excel of course), and the results are in. There's not enough Certified Public Accountants right now.

Is the CPA exam hard? ›

It is considered one of the most challenging exams for obtaining standardized professional credentials. When the national pass rate is approximately 1 in 2, those who will eventually need to take the CPA exam should use every resource possible to give them an edge against a nearly 50% fail rate.

Can you make 100k as an accountant? ›

Yes, you can make $100,000 per year as a senior accountant.

The average annual salary is $70,681 for senior accountant jobs. For example, senior accountants in District of Columbia whose salaries are in the 90th percentile earn an average salary of $113,000.

What are golden rules of accounting? ›

Take a look at the three main rules of accounting: Debit the receiver and credit the giver. Debit what comes in and credit what goes out. Debit expenses and losses, credit income and gains.

What are the 4 types of accountants? ›

Though different professional accounting sources may divide accounting careers into different categories, the four types listed here reflect the accounting roles commonly available throughout the profession. These four branches include corporate, public, government, and forensic accounting.

What is the easiest branch of accounting? ›

Cash Method

The cash accounting method is the simplest method. When money comes in, revenue is recorded.

Do CPAs make a lot of money? ›

The average salary for a CPA based in the United States is $119,000. Those CPAs who have extensive experience of working in the accounting and finance fields can earn substantially more. An individual with 20 years of experience could command an average of $152,000 in annual pay.

Do only rich people have accountants? ›

Most people do not use an accountant (only wealthy individuals can justify the cost of these tax pros). Your bookkeeper will schedule regular appointments (e.g., weekly, monthly) to input data and perform the tasks you want to be done. Bookkeeping may be done in person (your home or the bookkeeper's office) or online.

What is the unemployment rate for accountants? ›

While the job market has been strong and national unemployment is creeping lower and lower, we've now remained at a 50 year low for all of 2019. Additionally, the unemployment rate for accountants floats well under the 3.5% national average, at about 2.0%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What are the 5 basic accounting? ›

Although the guidelines for accountants are extensive, there are five main principles that underpin accounting practices and the preparation of financial statements. These are the accrual principle, the matching principle, the historic cost principle, the conservatism principle and the principle of substance over form.

What is the most important skill for an accountant? ›

Top Skills of an Accountant
  • Ability to Prepare Financial Statements. ...
  • Knowledge of General Business Practices. ...
  • Ability to Analyze Data. ...
  • Critical Thinking Skills. ...
  • Accounting Organizational Skills. ...
  • Time Management Skills. ...
  • Written and Verbal Communication Skills. ...
  • Continual Learning.
13 Jul 2021

Are accountants smart? ›

Accountants are smart.

Accountants bring a wealth of knowledge and real-world experience to their organization. They've most likely seen numerous business types and strategies and are well-positioned to have a solid understanding of what is likely to work — and what isn't.

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