What the accounting industry lacks in sex appeal, it makes up for in extreme profitability

Accounting services has the most favorable profit margins of all industries, according to financial information company Sageworks. Using an analysis of the financial statements of privately held companies, Sageworks ranked all industries by net profit margin over the past 12 months and found that accounting services had a net profit margin averaging 20.6 percent during the period ending May 31, 2015.

Also among the highly profitable industries in the top five are lessors of real estate (i.e., landlords), dentists offices, "management of companies and enterprises" (i.e., private equity firms), and automotive equipment rental and leasing. 

Six of the top 10 industries are related to health care or real estate.

Many of these industries are consistently at the top of the list because they are profitable by their very nature, says Sageworks analyst Jenna Weaver, adding that service-based businesses can attain strong profit margins because of their ability to keep costs low, while charging a premium for their specialized services.

These kinds of businesses sell services from bookkeeping to legal advice to health care and do not need to purchase as many, if any, physical goods, she says.

Below are the 10 industries with the highest net profit margins during the past 12 months.