Experienced corporate accountants who don't already have their CPA will get a slightly higher pay rate than accountant right out of college, but they often find themselves making less than accountants who've been working in the field for the same amount of time, but have a CPA and some public accounting experience. That's because your credentials make a difference.
If you're thinking about making that leap, you do have to remember that you have to go in at a salary that's equivalent to that earned by the people already working at your prospective firm. That means that if you currently have a salary lower than the firm's members are making, you'll get a pay raise, but if you make more than they do, they're under no obligation to match your current pay. After all, the amount of relevant experience you bring with you is an important point, and most corporate accountants don't have a lot. However, if you've worked in public accounting before and want to come back, capitalizing on your experience can help.
What if you don't have your CPA but want the advantages that come with it? Find out if you have the education required to be a CPA in your state and try to sit for the exam, then get the required experience. Passing that exam could help you have a better chance of convincing a public firm you're the person they want to hire. After all, they want someone who's going to stick with them after they put in the effort of training you, rather than someone who's going to run back to the corporate world as soon as something better comes along.
They're going to want to know why you want to take what could be perceived as a step back or sideways, rather than a step forward. If it's because you didn't realize what a public accounting background could do for you, or you got bored in your old job and want more diverse clients, or because you want to specialize in a field that requires shifting into public accounting, they'll be happier to hear those responses than they will answer that you can't find a job in the corporate world. If you don't have a CPA or the education to get one, or you aren't sure public accounting is for you, think before you leap. However, it can be a really rewarding switch.