It’s not all about base salary – total compensation matters

Total compensation or ‘total comp’ means looking beyond the base salary and considering the total monetary value of all components in your remuneration package. Graduate trainee accountant role packages are like snowflakes – no two are the same. Thinking in terms of total comp can help you make a fairer comparison between offers.

Some things you might be offered and should factor into your total comp include:

  • Base salary (obviously!);
  • Study package: the value of tuition covered, exam costs covered and – most importantly – how much study leave you will get (this last one can vary quite a bit, with accounting firms offering larger amounts of study leave and non-accounting firms – pretty much everyone else – typically offering much less);
  • Bonus potential: what percentage of base salary could be paid in a year-end bonus (if any… bonuses are not that common in graduate roles). If there is a bonus, what percentage was paid to last year’s intake? (This will confirm that it actually gets paid);
  • Canteen/facilities: often overlooked, but a subsidised lunch or free gym can save you a lot of money over a full year (€5 a day multiplied by 260 working days = €1,300… and that’s money you’ll need to pay after you pay tax!);
  • Pension contribution: it’s never too early to think about a pension (that’s not a joke!). A 5-6% employer contribution to pension would be pretty standard but it may not kick in for a while. That said, you will likely have to match the company contribution so a pension will impact your pay cheque (a double-edged sword when it comes to disposable income);
  • Healthcare: much less common for graduate roles, but definitely one to factor into total comp if offered. But beware of the benefit-in-kind (BIK) factor;
  • Holidays: 20 days per year is statutory. Anything above 20 days should be considered a bonus. Consider (A) how much you get paid per day (base salary divided by 260 working days) and (B) how many days leave you get above the norm. AxB = Value.


Let’s look at two examples that factor in total comp rather than just base salary:

  • Funky Practice Ltd.: €23,000 (base salary) plus €2,000 (exam fees) plus €2,300 (10% bonus) plus €1,300 (onsite canteen) = €28,600 total comp.
  • Silicon Software Plc: €25,000 (base salary) plus €1,000 (exam fees) plus €1,500 (5% pension) = €27,500 total comp.


The base salary with Silicon Software Plc is obviously more appealing, but a closer look reveals that the total value of the package offered by Funky Practice Ltd. is €1,100 (or 4%) higher.

Total comp is representative of the true monetary value of your offer, but is it really all about monetary value? If it is, then you have learned all you need to know about trainee accountant salaries. If it’s about more than money, you should think long and hard about some of the other things that matter to you, but you can’t put a value on.

See here for some of our thoughts at Cruncher, on the things that really matter.

Team Cruncher

Your Team in Cruncher are a group of highly qualified people with a real passion for the accounting & finance profession!

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