Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Massachusetts
By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015
Find Accounting Programs Here
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Massachusetts is one of the leading employers of accountants in the nation, and is one of the best states in which to work in terms of salary expectations. The Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development Office projects a 12% increase in accounting jobs by the year 2022, which is equivalent to some 4,460 new jobs.
The Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy grants licensure to CPA candidates with bachelor’s degrees from accredited programs and a total of 150 semester hours of college credit, one year of experience, and passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam. Because a bachelor’s degree results in just 120 semester hours of college credit, aspiring CPAs often enroll in online master’s degree programs in accounting to earn the full 150 semester hours required for a CPA license in Massachusetts. Licensed CPAs in Massachusetts hold positions in firms like Eastern Research Group in Lexington providing economic, regulatory, and policy analysis, or in the corporate offices of locally based banks like Berkshire Bank in Pittsfield. Some of the most sought after positions are with the “Big Four” CPA firms KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, which have a very strong presence in Massachusetts. All four of these firms have offices in Boston.
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.
Those interested in becoming accountants without pursuing the CPA designation can enter the field with an associate’s degree allowing them to provide tax services under the employ of Massachusetts based accounting firms like KAF Financial Group in Boston or as accounts payable/receivable specialists for the Winter Wyman Companies in North Andover.
Government accountants work in the state’s county, municipal, and state government offices. These bachelor or grad degreed accountants are found in the administrative offices of the Army Corps of Engineers in Concord or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Jamaica Plain.
Management accountants, cost and capital accountants, financial controllers, and internal auditors are found in Massachusetts’ private sector working in the corporate offices of multi-national corporations like Philips, which has an office in Andover. Massachusetts is home to a number of corporations, including Iron Mountain, with headquarters in Boston and One Beacon Insurance headquartered in Canton. These companies are recognized as being among the largest private employers of accountants in the state. Accountants specializing in investment advisory services are major players in investment firms like Fidelity Investments, which has offices in Boston, or Mass Mutual Financial Group based in Springfield.
Accounting information systems specialists and IT network auditors can explore career options with companies specializing in high tech products and operations. The Kronos Company headquartered in Chelmsford, Aspen Technology in Burlington, and the innovative healthcare product producer, Coviden, with U.S. headquarters in Mansfield, are some of the Massachusetts based companies that employ these technically-focused accountants.
Accountants with a greater interest in social issues than profit margins may find nonprofit organizations like Horizons for Homeless Children, or Brigham and Women’s Hospital are better suited to their calling. These organizations need accountants who work as fund specialists to manage expenditure to grant ratios.
Salary and Employment Facts About Accountancy in Massachusetts
BLS numbers show that in May 2014 there were 36,340 accountants and auditors employed in Massachusetts making an average annual salary of $80,030. The BLS also reports that the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area employs the greatest number of accountants (31,730) while also paying one of the highest annual salaries ($80,030). Larger employers of accountants in this area include PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, and American Express Tax & Business Services.
Massachusetts’ highest-paid accountants work in the Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH area, making an average annual salary of $81,490. Major accounting employers in this area include Ameriprise Financial in Andover, Edward Jones in North Andover, and the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.
While Massachusetts’ larger cities certainly attract accountants, its smaller towns employ them as well. The Springfield area, for example, employs 1,950 accountants, who make an average salary of $74,110. A considerable number of accountants in the Springfield area are employed through Sisters of Providence Health Service in Holyoke, MassMutual Financial Group in Springfield, and SICPA Securink Corp in Springfield.
Massachusetts Accountancy and Tax Laws in the News
In a show of reverence for its rich history, the Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit was extended last year and will be available till 2017. This program allows a credit of up to $100,000 per year for expenditures associated with the rehabilitation of historic structures in the state.
The real estate tax credit for senior citizens age 65 and over, also known as the Circuit Breaker credit, was also established last year. This program is designed to reduce the tax burden on the state’s seniors with modest incomes whose real estate tax payments are greater than 10% of their total income. To be eligible for this credit, state residents must live in a home they own or rent and have an income of no more than $51,000 for a single filer or $77,000 for those filing jointly. The maximum credit allowed is $960, and the value of the property eligible for this credit may not exceed $764,000.
Public accountants in the state often join the Massachusetts Association of Public Accountants or the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. Both of these organizations provide advocacy services for accountants, as well as continuing education and networking opportunities.