Montana is counted among only a handful of states that has a two-tier CPA licensing process. Once CPA candidates complete 150 semester hours of college credit, earn a bachelor’s degree at minimum, and pass the Uniform CPA Exam, they are granted a certificate, but do not have full practice rights. Becoming a fully licensed CPA with a permit to practice, which legally grants practice rights independent of oversight, comes once candidates have fulfilled the Montana Board of Public Accountants’ experience requirement of one year of public, governmental, or academic accounting. Because a bachelor’s degree will only result in about 120 semester hours of college credit, aspiring CPAs often enroll in a master’s degree program in accounting to earn the full 150 semester hours required for a CPA license at the same time they are satisfying the experience requirement.
CPAs in Montana are found working for CPA firms and in private industry in many different areas of specialty that include audit and attestation, financial control, and risk management. Big Four international CPA firm KPMG has offices in Billings and Helena, and nationally recognized public accounting firm, Moss Adams, also has a regional office located in Billings.
The corporate headquarters of payroll outsourcing company, Avitus Group, which is a leading employer of tax specialists, is located in Billings. Fortune 200 diversified energy company, Cenex Harvest State Cooperatives (CHS) with its corporate offices in Laurel, is one of the single biggest private employers of accountants in the state. CHS retains financial controllers, cost and capital accountants as part of its corporate staff as well as accountants trained in sustainability management practices responsible for helping maintain compliance with EPA regulations. The headquarters of First Interstate Bank is located in Billings, and is a major employer of managerial accountants in the state. The State of Montana’s government offices in Helena employ fund accounting specialists in all state and municipal agencies, including Health and Human Services, Labor and Industry, and Military Affairs.
According to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, between the years 2012 and 2022, an 22.3 percent increase in the number of available jobs is expected in the area of accounting and auditing. As home to Glacier and Yellowstone, two of the country’s most visited national parks, it may come as no surprise that the hospitality and tourism industry is the number one employer of accountants in the state. Montana’s Department of Labor & Industry went on to name the physical engineering/biological research industry as number two, which includes employers like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Missoula and the Montana State University Department of Animal and Range Sciences in Bozeman. Third among the most popular employers of accountants in Montana are insurance agencies and brokerage firms. The operations center of G.E. Capital in Billings, Gallagher Bassett claims company in Missoula, and CUSO Financial Services, LP in Bozeman are all major employers of accountants in the state.
Other top employers throughout Montana as of 2015 include health care services, such as Billings Clinic, Billings Clinic Lab, Billings Hospital, which each employ over 3,000 individuals.
The Montana Department of Labor and Industry expects that the field of accounting will generate a large number of high paying jobs between 2015 and 2024. Accountants ranked first and second by two different measures that examined the number of projected job openings in the state during this period:
The median salary for an accountant in Montana was $54,700 in 2014 according to the US Department of Labor. Accountants in the top 10% of this occupational category earned an average of $95,800 that year.
More than 3,000 people were employed as accountants in Montana in 2014.
Salaries for Accountants and Auditors in Montana’s Metro and Non-Metro Areas
According to the US Department of Labor, general accountants and auditors in the nonmetropolitan part of Western Montana had the highest salaries in 2014.
The 90th percentile in each area is representative of salaries for experienced accountants with CPA licenses issued through the Montana Board of Public Accountants.
Salaries for Tax Preparers in Billings and the Nonmetropolitan Area of Southwestern Montana
Tax preparers in Billings had the highest average salary in Montana in 2014 according to the US Department of Labor:
The Montana Department of Revenue is offering property tax relief to residents who experienced property damage or loss due to recent flooding in the state. Damage assessment forms for both residential and business property owners are available at the department’s website.
In other tax-related news, earlier in 2011, Montana’s legislature voted to repeal clean energy tax breaks to save the state money. Recently, however, Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed this repeal. He said that repealing these tax credits would also eliminate jobs in the state’s construction, agriculture, and energy sectors. Still, Montana’s legislature has passed many business-friendly laws in 2011. Business equipment taxes were lowered, as were the costs to businesses associated with workers compensation insurance. Montana seems to find a good balance between fiscally and environmentally responsible tax laws, as is evident in the recent passage of a bill designed to create more environmentally centered natural resource jobs in the state.