A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Illinois

By an AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015

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According to Occupational Employment Projections provided by the Illinois Department of Employment Security Economic Information & Analysis Division in 2014, employment of accountants is expected to grow by 12 percent in the state between 2012 and 2022. This strong growth is spurred on by an increase in the number of businesses operating in Illinois, changes in laws that affect the financial services industry, as well as the increased attention being given to organizational accounting integrity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, rapid growth will occur in the specialized areas of international business and information systems auditing.

Big four accounting firms Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG all have sizeable offices in Chicago. Although some accountants start as bookkeepers, tax preparers, or enrolled agents and have minimal formal education, positions within corporations and accounting firms are held by those with bachelor’s or grad degrees in accounting, or business degrees that include an accounting concentration. Those with their sites set on CPA licensure will very often earn a master’s degree in accounting as a way to gain advanced accounting skills and earn the 150 total semester hours required to be eligible for licensure through the Illinois Board of Examiners.

Featured Undergraduate Program

*Accredited accounting programs are available in a flexible online format that puts an undergraduate degree in accounting well within reach. Prepare to earn your CPA license and develop the skills employers are looking for with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Featured Graduate Program

*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.

Becoming an accountant in Illinois with either the Licensed Certified Public Accountant (LCPA) or Registered Certified Public Accountant (RCPA) designation requires a bachelor’s degree, the successful completion of the Uniform CPA Exam, and one year of accounting experience. The Illinois Board of Examiners (IBOE) assesses the educational credentials of candidates to determine eligibility to sit for the CPA exam, while the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations (IDFPR) is responsible for granting licensure and practice privileges.

Illinois Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts

The city of Chicago alone is home to hundreds of diverse businesses and Fortune 500 corporations recognized as the leading employers of management accountants, financial controllers, internal auditors, cost, and capital accountants. Among these are aerospace and defense contractor, Boeing; commercial airliner, United; electricity-generating and distribution company, Exelon and multimedia publisher, Tribune Company. Other significant companies and major employers of accountants in Illinois include U.S. Cellular; the seventh largest wireless telecommunications company in the United States, the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, Wilson Sporting Goods, and pharmaceutical company, Abbott Laboratories. State Farm Insurance and Country Financial both have corporate offices in Bloomington and construction machinery manufacturer Caterpillar is based in Peoria. Decatur is home to A.E. Staley and Archer Daniels Midland companies, which both produce agriculturally based products used worldwide. Within all these thriving businesses in the windy city and throughout Illinois are accountants and auditors working to maximize efficient business operation and maintain internal controls.

In 2014, the US Bureah of Labor Statistics named Lake County as having the highest salary for accountants at $75,000, followed by the greater Chicago area (including the city and suburbs) at $83,310. The average salary for accountants and auditors statewide was $66,000 that year, which was higher than the national average of $65,900.

According to an article in Insight, a publication of the Illinois CPA Society, a financial analyst with a strong background in cost accounting who can accurately analyze business trends and make strategic financial recommendations within the organization is highly sought after, especially in manufacturing companies which must combine and balance raw materials, labor, and consumer needs in order to make a profit.

Likewise, information systems auditors have the skills to balance complex reporting requirements and regulation compliance with a focus on the bottom-line. Accountants who specialize in information system auditing are also found in healthcare as the industry strives to move forward with the comprehensive conversion to electronic health records.
Even the general skills of corporate staff accountants who maintain general ledgers and oversee payroll, accounts payable, and accounts receivable functions will remain in demand as businesses in the state grow.

Illinois Tax Laws in the News

One of the most controversial tax laws to be passed in the state of Illinois recently has to do with sales tax for online purchases. The law requires that online retailers with in-state affiliates collect sales tax on purchases made in Illinois. The reason given by lawmakers was that the law would help small businesses compete with online stores by creating a “level playing field” and would also generate $150 million in tax revenue each year.

Critics fear the plan will backfire as online retailers such as Amazon.com and Overstock.com will terminate their in-state affiliates in order to avoid charging the sales tax, creating a worse situation for these small business affiliates. According to FTC Beat, a blog written by the Washington, D.C.-based Ifrah Law Firm, other states that have enacted similar laws, thereby causing Amazon.com and other online retailers to pull their in-state affiliates, have actually generated very little in the way of sales tax revenue through online purchases.