By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015
Hawaii’s Board of Accountancy, under the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, licenses CPA candidates who have earned a bachelor’s degree at minimum, gained a year of practical work experience, and passed the Uniform CPA Exam. Because bachelor’s degrees result in just 120 semester hours of college credit, going on to earn a master’s in accounting provides an ideal way to earn the additional credit hours required for a CPA license in Hawaii.
Honolulu is the location of the greatest concentration of CPAs and other accounting professionals in the Islands. It continues to be the hub of business and international commerce in Hawaii, and is actually home to branch offices of three of the “Big Four” international CPA firms: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. These continue to be the world’s most respected and best recognized professional services firms employing CPAs who provide auditing and attestation services, management consultation, and financial advisory services. Financial advisory and investment strategy firm Edward Jones has personal advisors and strategists with backgrounds in accounting working on Oahu, as well as on the east side of the Big Island in Hilo.
Hawaii is home to diverse industries and businesses that create unique opportunities for accountants in everything from finance and private industry, to government and non-profit work. The HOKU Corporation, a clean energy technology company in Honolulu, retains accountants like any other company, to work as controllers and internal auditors. Interestingly; however, is the fact that they also employ environmental accountants tasked with monitoring the environmental impact of their business so as to mitigate the effects in accordance with the company’s environmentally respectful ethic. Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, Inc staffs cost estimators experienced in the construction process and knowledgeable of the supply chain involved in sourcing materials for projects located all over the Islands. They also retain managerial accountants and internal auditors who support the business off-site from their offices in Honolulu.All federal government entities with a presence in Hawaii, from the military’s Defense Logistics Agency in Pearl Harbor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture with office in Hilo, retain fund accountants involved in the management of taxpayer funds allocated to support the daily operation of the agencies and their projects. Those more interested in becoming accountants with careers that support the credo “life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness,” work as environmental accountants or manage donated funds as fund accountants for nonprofits like Castle Medical Center in Kailua and the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii.
Employment reports conducted by the United States Department of Labor show that Hawaii was home to 4,970 accountants and auditors as of 2014. Yet by 2022 this number is expected to reach 5,560. This job growth projection indicates a 12% positive growth change throughout the ten-year period between 2012 and 2022. This equates to roughly 210 annual job openings for accountants working here.
In 2014, Honolulu was home to approximately 3,680 accountants, making the state’s capital the largest area of employment in Hawaii. Another major area of employment that year was the Hawaii/Maui/Kauai nonmetropolitan area, which combined, supported almost 1,000 accounting jobs.
In 2014, the United States Department of Labor found that accountants working in Hawaii earned an average annual salary of $59,810 (average hourly wage of $28.76). An accountant’s earning potential is based largely on experience and credentials. For instance, entry-level accountants in Hawaii received an average annual salary of $35,400, while those in the 50th percentile earned an average annual salary of $55,600. The most experienced accountants, representing the top 10% in the state in terms of salaries, often held CPA licenses and earned an average annual salary of $92,300.
Accountants working in Honolulu earned an average annual salary of $61,200 as of 2014 (average hourly wage of $29.42). Meanwhile, those employed in the Hawaii/Maui/Kauai nonmetropolitan area earned an average annual salary of $54,440 that year (average hourly wage of $26.17).
The Hawaii Senate recently rejected legislation that proposed taxing pension income in Hawaii. Hawaii’s senior citizens opposed the bill, which would have taxed individuals with incomes over $100,000 or couples with incomes exceeding $200,000 annually. Given that Hawaii is a very popular place for wealthy retirees from the mainland, this came as a great relief to both Island residents and those considering Hawaii as a retirement destination. However, other tax increases are still pending in Hawaii. A proposal to increase taxes on car rentals from $3 to $7.50 per day is still in the works, as are measures that would increase taxes on tobacco, alcohol, stock options, and timeshares. It is estimated that these new tax proposals would raise about $400 million in revenue for the state each year.