By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015
The North Carolina Career Outlook Handbook lists accounting and auditing as being among the fastest growing occupations in the state between 2006 and 2016. During this ten-year period, the number of accounting jobs in North Carolina has grown by 15.88 percent, which translated to more than 9,000 new accounting jobs.
For those aspiring to become certified public accountants, a bachelor’s degree at minimum, a total of 150 semester hours of college credit, supervised experience, and passing scores on both the Uniform CPA Exam and the North Carolina Accountancy Statutes and Rules exam are all prerequisites for licensure through the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners. Because a bachelor’s degree generally results in about 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting provides the ideal way to earn the additional credit hours required to qualify for a CPA license in North Carolina. Big Four accounting firm, Deloitte, has offices in Charlotte, while Ernst & Young has locations in Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh.
The state’s Research Triangle Park area is situated between three of the state’s largest universities: Duke University in Durham, Raleigh’s North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This area is home to 170 international companies, all of which retain staff accountants, budget analysts, internal auditors, controllers, and management accountants. Among the major employers of accounting professionals in this area is information technology company, Cisco Systems; financial giant, Credit Suisse; and the pharmaceutical company, Merck BioManufacturing Network.
Various industries contribute to North Carolina’s economy, which, in recent years, has become more global and less domestic. Once based on textiles, tobacco, and the furniture industry, North Carolina’s economy is now based more on technology and its global application within these traditional industries. In 2010, Aviation and aerospace, automotive transportation, biotechnology, commercial agriculture, and financial services were some of the top industries in the state. Accountants have a similar role within all of these industries as they maintain company financial records and ensure funds are properly allocated within the organizations.
Six of the world’s top 10 aerospace and defense companies have operations in North Carolina. These operations include Cessna’s service center in Greensboro, Honeywell’s operations plant in Rocky Mount, and the headquarters of defense products company, General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, which is located in Charlotte.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce, and studies done by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, report that the state housed the second-largest financial center in the country as of 2011. It is home to the headquarters of many businesses and financial services companies. These companies, all of which employ accountants at various levels and with diverse responsibilities, include BB&T, which has corporate headquarters in Winston-Salem, and investment and mutual funds company, TIAA-CREF, with its corporate headquarters in Charlotte, Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte, and Wachovia, also headquartered in Charlotte.
According to the 2011 North Carolina Thrive report, 36 percent of North Carolina workers are 36 percent more productive than the average American worker. State residents believe this is because North Carolina provides an exceptional quality of life, producing happier, and therefore, more productive workers.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2014, there were 30,170 accountants working within the state. The average salary for an accountant working in North Carolina as of this BLS report was $71,200.
In 2014, high-paying areas in North Carolina included the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord NC/SC area, where accountants earned a mean salary of $76,390 annually; the eastern nonmetropolitan area, where accountants earned an average of $75,430; and the Wilmington area, where accounts earned an average of $71,680.
Although average salaries fall within the $70,000-$80,000 range, the top 10 percent of accountants made much more, with the top ten percent in the Charlotte area earning an average of $119,930 per year.
Most accountants in North Carolina are employed in the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord NC/SC area, which was home to over 10,000 accountants in 2014. Other popular areas of employment for accountants in the state include the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA/NC area, the Raleigh-Cary area, Durham, and the Greensboro-High Point areas.
Site Selection magazine has ranked North Carolina’s business climate as the best in the nation for nine of the past ten years. Much of this is due to tax credit programs and incentives that exist for businesses in the state. Article 3J tax credits offer incentives to businesses for creating a minimum number of new, full-time jobs, as well as making investments in real and business property. The state’s Renewable Energy Tax Credits provide businesses with a tax credit up to 35% of the cost of renewable energy property. This applies to the construction and cost of solar energy equipment, geothermal equipment, hydro, wind, and biomass applications.
The state has also established the One North Carolina Fund, designed to allocate money to local governments to recruit, expand, and retain new and existing businesses. The money can be used to make structural improvements or repairs, install or purchase equipment, and to construct or make improvements to utilities.