A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Iowa

By an AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015

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According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, the number of accounting jobs in Iowa will increase 17% between 2012 and 2022, which is slightly higher than the national rate of 13%. This rate of growth translates into 620 new jobs annually. Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, ranking 6th overall. Low unemployment and a high rate of growth in the field are very encouraging factors for those interested in becoming accountants in Iowa.

The three largest cities in Iowa; Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport, are home to locations for the world’s biggest CPA firms. In fact, three of the Big Four accounting firms have offices in Iowa. Ernst & Young and KPMG have offices in Des Moines while Deloitte has offices located in Cedar Rapids and Davenport. Other major regional and national accounting firms like McGladrey & Pullen; Clifton Gunderson and Bergan, Paulsen & Company also have offices in Iowa.

Iowa is among the few states that still licenses public accountants other than CPAs, offering the Licensed Public Accountant (LPA) designation with limited practice privileges. The Iowa Accountancy Examining Board, as part of the Professional Licensing and Regulation Division of the Iowa Department of Commerce, is the licensing body for both LPAs and CPAs and has a unique licensing process for each. Earning the esteemed CPA credential requires 150 semester hours of college credit, one year of practical experience, and passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam. Because a bachelor’s degree results in just 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting provides the ideal way to earn the additional credit hours required for a CPA license in Indiana.

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.

LPAs must fulfill at least one of the following requirements:

  1. Two years of experience in the employ of a CPA or LPA
  2. A degree in accounting from a four-year college or university accredited by the North Central Accreditation Association
  3. A degree in accounting from a business or correspondence school accredited by the Association of Independent Colleges and Schools, or the National Home Study Council

LPAs must renew their license every three years and must fulfill at least 120 hours of continuing education in that time period. The state-administered examination for becoming an LPA is offered twice a year.

Although CPAs in Iowa must fulfill some requirements similar to LPAs, there are more specific and stringent guidelines. The bachelor’s degree program must consist of at least 150 semester hours of credit with an accounting concentration. Applicants must also pass the four-part Uniform CPA Examination and gain one year of qualifying experience prior to licensure. CPAs in Iowa are also required to earn 120 hours of continuing education within each three-year licensing period.

Salary and Employment Facts

The Iowa Department of Economic Development boasts the following facts: Iowa ranks as the 2nd most livable state based on a variety of factors including median household income, crime rates and health and safety. Nine metro areas in Iowa are ranked among the best places in the United States to start a business or career. Iowans have the 7th shortest average commute time among all states, and the state has the 8th lowest housing costs in the nation.

As of 2014, the highest concentration of accountants in the region is found in the Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs metropolitan area, where more than 4,980 accountants are employed. The Des Moines/West Des Moines area has 3,240. The Cedar Rapids/Davenport area; combined with Moline, Illinois, has approximately 2,150 accountants employed in various capacities.

Accountants in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area earn the highest average annual wages in the state at $69,240. Those in the Des Moines area earn $68,660, while those in the Davenport/Rock Island/Moline areas earn $66,420.

Iowa’s Business Climate

Iowa’s Targeted Jobs Withholding Tax Credit Pilot Program began in 2006 and creates economic incentives for businesses and designated “pilot” cities to work together in the interest of creating growth and expansion opportunities for targeted businesses located within urban renewal areas.

This is just one example of the economic incentives the state is offering to new and expanding businesses. Iowa’s Department of Economic Development lists several targeted industries that are expected to expand as a result of tax incentives, advanced infrastructure and centralized locations. Top among these targeted Iowa industries are advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, biosciences, information technology, financial services and food manufacturing.