A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in California

By Susan Maphis, Accountingedu contributing writer
Updated April 2013

Find Accounting Programs Here

The Employment Development Department (EED) of California expects that between 2008 and 2018 there will be a 19.2 percent increase in the number of accounting jobs in the state. This increase amounts to about 5000 openings each year between now and 2018.

The California Board of Accountancy regulates CPAs and requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree and passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam. Applicants with the standard 120 semester hours of college credit require two years of experience, while those with 150 semester hours required in accordance with the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA), only need one year of practical experience. In 2014 the California Board of Accountancy will fully integrate the protocols of the UAA and require all applicants to have 150 semester hours and one year of experience. 

All of the “Big Four” international CPA firms (Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and Ernst & Young) have offices here, as do other leading firms such as Mayer Hoffman McCann and Moss Adams.

Top Industries and Employment Trends for California Accountants

The EDD has recently published data showing that more and more accountants are working in capacities other than basic bookkeeping. Auditors, accounting managers and controllers are all found in some of America’s biggest banks and publically traded companies headquartered in California. This includes organizations as diverse as Wells Fargo in S.F. and ship building giant Northrop Grumman in L.A. 

In the wake of economic turbulence, there has been an increasing number of accountants called to the world of business to perform internal audits and management functions where they are now more frequently collaborating in Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) meetings, the findings of which are included in regular GPFFRs (general purpose federal financial reports) to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

The Employment Development Department of California has also noted an increase in the number of graduates who become highly specialized accountants involved in accounting information system design and IT network auditing for systems management companies like Symantec in Mountain View. The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor in San Francisco also employs IT auditors to draft computerized audit programs used in federal, state and municipal agencies.

California Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more accountants work in California than in any other state. Some 118,550 accountants are employed here, making an average annual salary of $74,360, which is about $6,000 higher than the national average for accountants. 

In a 2011 report, the California EDD showed that San Benito and Santa Clara Counties pay accountants the highest annual average salary in the state at $78,588. In the San Francisco Bay Area accountants also enjoy higher than average salaries, earning an average of $77,122 each year.

The EDD reported in 2008 that L.A. County employed more accountants than any other single county in the state, at 41,050. Other popular areas in which accountants work include the San Francisco Bay area with 15,330; Orange County with 14,970 and San Diego County with 11,410.

California Tax Laws in the News

California is the latest state to approve a bill that would tax online retailers such as Amazon.com. Under a recent bill authorized by the state Assembly, which currently awaits state Senate approval, online retailers with offices in California would have to collect state sales and use taxes from customers. It is estimated that unreported sales and use taxes total some $1 billion annually, and many legislators see this bill as a way to generate much-needed revenue for the state.

The California Senate also recently approved a bill that would require corporations to return tax credits to the state if they fail to actually create new jobs for Californians. Currently, the state gives $14 billion in corporate tax breaks to stimulate growth that would encourage these companies to hire new employees but many California based corporations are failing to deliver on the promise of new jobs. If passed, this law would hold California corporations accountable. Twenty other states have already held their corporations accountable through similar legislative measures.