A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Arizona

The requirements for CPA licensure as set by the Arizona State Board of Accountancy consists of four major steps:

  1. Education through a bachelor’s or graduate degree program consisting of at least 36 semester hours of accounting credits, at least 30 or which must be non-introductory course credits, as well as an additional 30 business course credits (With traditional bachelor’s programs only including 120 semester hours, online master’s degrees in accounting have made earning the full 150 semester hours required for a CPA license more accessible.)
  2. Work Experience that involves one year of full-time supervised employment within the practice of accounting
  3. CPA Exam components (financial accounting, business environments, auditing, and regulations) must be passed within a rolling 18 month period
  4. Ethics Exam must be passed with a score of 90% or better

Arizona’s CPAs work for “Big Four” international CPA firms PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG, and Ernst & Young, all of which have offices in Phoenix. National firms such as Clifton Gunderson in Phoenix also have a strong presence in the state.

Prominent CPA and consulting firms that are locally based include Semple, Marchal & Cooper in Phoenix, Nordstrom and Associates in Tempe, Shutte and Hilgendorf in Prescott, and Pinpointe Accounting Services in Tucson. Not all accountants pursue the CPA designation, and as such often work for tax and business consulting firms that provide bookkeeping services. ECL Consulting in Tucson is amongst the Arizona based accounting firms that retains non certified public accountants.

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Employment Growth Trends for Accountants in Arizona

Accountants in Arizona can expect tremendous employment growth in the coming years. In 2012, the United States Department of Labor found Arizona supporting 19,740 accountant and auditors jobs. By 2022, the federal government predicts closer to 24,270 accountants and auditors will find employment opportunities here.

This long-term occupational projection indicates a 23% employment growth change in this ten-year period, which is 10% higher than the national average for these professionals. As a result, accountants and auditors can look forward to approximately 1,040 annual job openings in Arizona. The best job prospects are most likely available in the Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale area as this region employed 14,820 accountants as of 2014- the highest number by far of any area in the state. Additional geographic employment statistics for that year include:

  • Tucson: 2,200
  • Southeast nonmetropolitan area: 440
  • North nonmetropolitan area: 410
  • Flagstaff: 300
  • Prescott: 250
  • Yuma: 180
  • Lake Havasu City-Kingman: 150

Salary Statistics for Accountants in Arizona

The number of jobs in the high paying field of accounting is growing 10% faster in Arizona than the national average.  The Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics expects a growth rate of 23% in the number of accounting jobs in Arizona between 2012 and 2022.  They project that this level of growth should generate 1,037 accounting jobs in the state on average each year during this time frame.

While most accounting is conducted with a high degree of confidentiality, the work of forensic accountants frequently ends up in the public eye.  Such was the case for the $166 million Mathon Ponzi scheme run by two men from Arizona and one from Texas.  These men preyed on members of their church—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—between 2002 and 2005 defrauding them of millions of dollars under the guise of low risk, high return investments.  The three defendants were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2013 thanks to the investigative skills of Arizona-based forensic accountants. 

The Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics reported that the median salary for an accountant was $58,261 a year in 2014.  Top earners in the 90th percentile of this occupational category earned an average salary of $98,176.

Accountants with five or more years of experience at financial services firms in Phoenix earned between $76,845 and $97,010 according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide.  Controllers at large financial services firms in Phoenix earned salaries ranging between $165,135 and $210,375 in 2015.  The salaries of forensic accountants in Phoenix ranged between $77,220 and $121,535.

CFOs are by far the highest paid accounting professionals, since they are typically licensed CPAs and have many years of managerial accounting experience to draw from.  Corporate CFOs in Tucson earned the following as of 2015:

Yearly company revenue
Minimum
$500 million +
$297075
Up to $50 million
$107355

Salaries for Accountants and Auditors in Arizona’s Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that general accountants and auditors in the Phoenix area and the nonmetropolitan area of Southeast Arizona had a higher median salary than their colleagues in other parts of the state in 2014:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Flagstaff AZ
300
50870
Lake Havasu City - Kingman AZ
150
52420
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale AZ
14820
66400
Prescott AZ
250
54750
Tucson AZ
2200
57220
Yuma AZ
180
59250
North Arizona nonmetropolitan area
410
53510
Southeast Arizona nonmetropolitan area
440
64750

Salaries for Tax Preparers Throughout Arizona

The salaries of tax preparers varied widely throughout Arizona with the average salary in the Phoenix area being by far the highest of those presented for 2014 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics):

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale AZ
1100
46410
Prescott AZ
60
26810
Tucson AZ
estimate not released
32590
Southeast Arizona nonmetropolitan area
40
32820

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.

Arizona Accountancy in the News

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made many friends in the Arizona Society of CPAs by working on Arizona budget issues as a state legislator before being elected to the U.S. Congress. In a blog post following her attack, an Arizona CPA called Giffords a “friend of the Arizona Society of CPAs...she listened to us and asked us questions about business, taxes, and financial matters”.

Everyone in Arizona recognizes the traditional and iconic Kachina doll of the Hopi Indians of Arizona. Many years ago, the Arizona Society of CPAs adopted the Accountant Kachina as its logo. In the logo the traditional doll is depicted as holding an Indian tally rope to symbolize counting, and a quill pen meant to symbolize the careful and thoughtful nature of accountants.