A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Colorado

By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015

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According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado was home to 33,870 accountants and auditors as of 2012. Yet by 2022, the state expects to be home to closer to 43,490 accountants and auditors. With companies having to abide by more regulations, including the Public Company Accounting Reform Investor Protection Act, they require the expertise of skilled accountants now more than ever before. Increased regulation of this kind is seen as good news for those interested in becoming accountants, as it contributes to the creation of more accounting jobs.

The United States Department of Labor is predicting a 28% increase in the number of accounting jobs in Colorado between 2012 and 2022 to satisfy the needs of new and expanding businesses located in the state. The growth rate expected in Colorado is especially striking considering the national growth rate in the field is just 13%. This remarkable rate of job growth is expected to create an average of 1,960 new accounting jobs in the state each year.

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*Qualifying for a CPA license requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum and a total of 150 semester hours of college credit to include coursework in accounting, business and ethics. Since bachelor’s programs typically result in just 120 semester hours of credit, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) maintains that earning a Master of Science in Accounting is the best way to achieve the full 150 semester hours you need to become licensed.

Many accountant jobs will call for state-issued CPA licensure through the Colorado State Board of Accountancy. A CPA license requires earning a bachelor’s degree, at minimum, a total of 150 semester hours of college credit, and gaining a year of practical work experience after passing the Uniform CPA Exam.

 While satisfying the experience requirement, many aspiring CPAs also begin working to earn a master’s degree in accounting to earn the full 150 semester hours required for a CPA license since most bachelor’s programs consist of just 120. All of the “Big Four” public accounting firms (KPMG, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Deloitte & Touche, and Ernst & Young) have offices in Denver, as do the international public accounting firms Grant Thornton and GHP Horwath, the latter of which has its US headquarters here.

Accounting Jobs in Colorado

Private industry is a major employer of accountants in Colorado. Fortune 200 company Arrow Electronics in Inverness manufactures electronics components and employs accountants to perform monthly reconciliations and analysis. Natural gas gathering and processing company DCP Midstream in Lodo also employs auditors and management accountants who perform internal audits and control reviews. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a regional office in Denver where they work closely with external auditors and forensic accountants who perform the work necessary to uphold federal statutes like the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002, and the soon to be enacted Dodd-Frank Act. 

Auditors with a penchant for information technology work for organizations like the Governor’s Office of Information Technology in Denver, or software company Tyler Technologies located in Lakewood. These high tech companies employ specialists with the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification conferred through the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). In these companies, IT systems auditors provide quality assurance checks and system audits to maintain secure networks. Major employers of accountants in the north central Colorado nonmetropolitan area are diverse in terms of business structure, although they often cater to Colorado’s huge tourist industry. Among these are outdoors product manufacturer and retailer Timberland in Steamboat Springs and hotel management company Terrapin Investments in Aspen.

Salary Expectations for Accountants in Colorado

According to the United States Department of Labor, as of May 2014 Colorado-based accountants earned an average annual salary of $74,020 and an average hourly wage of $35.59. Accountants should expect employers to determine starting salaries based largely on previous work experience.

For example, in 2014:

  • An inexperienced accountant placed in an entry-level position in Colorado took home an average annual salary of $40,200 (average wage of $19.32).
  • A mid-career accountant with proven aptitude earned an average annual salary of $67,500 (average hourly wage of $32.44).
  • An expert accountant (often holding a CPA license) with several years of experience earned an average annual salary of $116,100 (average hourly wage of $55.82).

Average salaries for accountants practicing in areas across Colorado (US Department of Labor, 2014):

  • Denver-Aurora-Broomfield: 76,990
  • Boulder: 76,260
  • Greeley: 71,650
  • Northcentral nonmetropolitan: 68,720
  • West nonmetropolitan: 66,880
  • Colorado Springs: 65,700
  • Pueblo: 65,310
  • Fort Collins-Loveland: 63,180
  • Grand Junction: 60,400
  • Central nonmetropolitan: 60,390
  • East and South nonmetropolitan: 58,870

Colorado Tax Laws in the News

Colorado has recently made news as the only state in the nation that has tax and spending limits requiring voters to be involved in approving all tax increases. Called the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, or TABOR, critics say that the bill has tied the hands of lawmakers and rendered the state’s economy ineffective. However, many applaud this bill as it keeps state spending in check. 

Questions on an upcoming Colorado ballot will poll voters to determine if they’re likely to allow Larimer County to expand two sales taxes to keep detention centers operational. Taxes that are currently used to improve the judicial center of the county and detention center capital expansion would be used entirely for jail operations. The present sales tax that funds the jail amounts to $7 million per year, however, it actually costs some $22 million yearly to maintain day-to-day operations. County officials hope that, if approved by voters, the expansion of these two sales taxes would meet the current deficit in operational funds.