A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Alabama

Alabama’s Board of Public Accountancy requires CPA candidates to have a baccalaureate degree, at minimum, from a program consisting of 150 credit hours. These 150 hours must consist of 33 hours in accounting (excluding introductory courses), 27 hours in business courses (excluding accounting), and 3 hours in business law. With most bachelor’s programs consisting of just 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting can provide the 30 additional credit hours in advanced accounting coursework required for licensure in Alabama. Applicants interested in becoming accountants with CPA credentials must be U.S. citizens, but do not need to be current residents of Alabama.

Alabama is a two-tier state. This means that candidates who pass the CPA Exam receive a certificate, but will then need to document appropriate work experience before being issued a license that grants the recipient permission to practice. The amount of experience required varies based on the type of experience, but is generally the equivalent of one year of full time employment in public accounting.

Employment and Salary Trends for Alabama’s Accountants

According to the United States Department of Labor, there were roughly 15,970 accountants and auditors employed throughout Alabama in 2012. By 2022, this number is expected to reach nearly 17,670. This 11% employment growth change equates to an average of 640 annual job openings for accountants and auditors during this ten-year projection period.

As of May 2014, there were 4,610 accountants and auditors working in the Birmingham-Hoover area alone, representing the highest concentration in the state, followed by Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile, and Tuscaloosa.

The publication, Area Development, ranked Alabama as the fourth best state in the country for doing business in 2015. Both auto and aerospace companies have been growing rapidly in Alabama in recent years, creating new opportunities for managerial accountants, controllers, treasurers and financial officers. 

In fact, Business Facilities gave Alabama a number one ranking in 2015 for its support of the automotive manufacturing industry.  Recent successes included Mercedes’ mass production of its C-Class sedan along with Toyota’s $150 million expansion of an engine plant in Huntsville.

Alabama’s aerospace industry is poised for further growth thanks to the United Launch Alliance factory in Decatur and the development of the $600 million facility to produce Airbus jets. 

These substantial increases in manufacturing in Alabama bode well for the prospects of accountants in the state. In fact, the state’s Department of Labor projects that the number of positions for accountants in the state will increase by 10.5% between 2012 and 2022.  Such a high level of growth should generate an average of 600 accounting jobs on average each year in Alabama. 

The average salary for an accountant in Alabama in 2015 was $66,881 according to the state’s Department of Labor.  Experienced professionals earned an average of $78,877, while accountants who were new to the profession earned an average of $42,911.

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The salaries of accountants in Alabama varied substantially depending on how long these professionals had been in the work force according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance.  For instance, a corporate accountant in Birmingham with five or more years of experience earned between $65,313 and $83,362 while those with one to three years of experience in the same field earned between $51,063 and 66,025. 

Salaries for Accounting Specialists in Alabama

Experienced forensic accountants typically earned higher salaries than general accountants.  Those working in Alabama’s major cities earned salaries with the following ranges

  • Birmingham: $67,925 - $105,925
  • Huntsville: $66,495 - $103,695
  • Mobile: $61,490 - $95,890

The salaries of controllers varied substantially depending on the size of the firm they worked for.  For instance, controllers at large financial services firms in Huntsville earned up to $179,490, while their top-earning colleagues in smaller firms earned as much as $114,855 in 2015. 

Chief Financial Officers with CPA credentials earned the highest salaries among all accounting professionals.  Their salaries tended to vary quite a bit depending on the size of the company they worked for.  CFOs in corporate accounting firms that made more than $500 million a year earned up to $400,545 in Mobile, while top-earners in the same location who worked for firms with revenues of up to $50 million a year earned $130,505. 

(Data gathered from the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance)

Salaries for General Accountants and Auditors Throughout Alabama

The salaries for Alabama’s accountants varied a great deal depending on their location according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The median salary was highest in Decatur, while top earners in Dothan were the highest paid in the state:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Anniston-Oxford AL
180
63280
Auburn-Opelika AL
390
54270
Birmingham-Hoover AL
4610
67150
Decatur AL
310
67770
Dothan AL
300
89980
Florence-Muscle Shoals AL
360
59060
Gadsden AL
170
65820
Huntsville AL
2060
71840
Mobile AL
1260
63200
Montgomery AL
1720
62880
Tuscaloosa AL
690
66990
Northwest Alabama nonmetropolitan area
230
60970
Northeast Alabama nonmetropolitan area
590
58830
Southwest Alabama nonmetropolitan area
590
61260
Southeast Alabama nonmetropolitan area
520
61730

*Salaries are higher than $90/hour or $187,199 per year. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not publish salary data beyond these values.

Tax Preparer Salaries in Alabama

Area name
Employed
Annual mean wage
Birmingham-Hoover
Estimate Not Released
30320
Columbus
80
38950
Huntsville
50
43150
Montgomery
40
35810

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2014. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of specialty within the field of accounting and auditing

Specialty Certifications held by Alabama’s Accountants

  • CMAs (certified management accountants) are employed in many companies that are located here. These include esteemed companies like L-3 Communications Display Systems in Huntsville, ITT Technical Institute in Bessemer, and BAE Systems in Mobile.
  • CFEs (certified fraud examiners) work as forensic accountants for accounting firms like Ernst & Young with offices in Birmingham or the esteemed Robert Half Finance & Accounting U.S. in Huntsville.
  • PFSs (personal finance specialists) work as personal financial advisors at firms such as Edward Jones located in Birmingham.
  • CFPs (certified financial planners) plan long-term investments and strategies for clients and are employed with companies like First Command Financial Services in Birmingham.

Alabama Accountancy News

The Alabama Society of Certified Public Accountants’ (ASCPA) Educational Foundation recently provided scholarships to one student at each of the Alabama colleges and universities that offer accredited accounting programs. This philanthropic move was done in an effort to strengthen the connection between ASCPA and area educators. This scholarship program also promotes the professional designation by recognizing top candidates in the field as they work to satisfy the educational requirements of CPA licensure.