By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015
More than 54,000 accountants and auditors were employed in Pennsylvania in 2015 according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor projects that in the current ten-year period ending 2022, employment opportunities for accountants in the state will increase by 8.2 percent, which translates to over 1,200 new accounting jobs.
Associate’s degree holders may apply to the Pennsylvania Board of Accountancy to become licensed as registered public accountants (PAs). Registered public accountants operate independent practices providing tax services to the public, and also often work in payroll processing companies like Payroll Professionals, Inc. in Milmont Park or Payroll Services Solution in Philadelphia.
Government accountants working at the county and state levels hold positions that include junior associate with the Accounting Department of Cumberland County and Senior Accountant for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The diversity of governmental accounting means opportunities also exist with federal agencies like the IRS, which has offices in Philadelphia.
Management accountants, cost and capital accountants, internal auditors, and financial controllers work throughout the private sector for a diverse array of organizations including federally contracted companies like Naval Sea Systems Command in Philadelphia; Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. in Allentown; and medical device manufacturer and distributor, Synthes, with headquarters in West Chester.
IT systems auditors and accounting information systems specialists knowledgeable of new and emergent accounting technology are found working throughout the state for multinationals like the global insurance giant, Ace Group, which has offices in Philadelphia, as well as for local software and IT service companies like SunGard, which is headquartered in Wayne.
Business valuation specialists and financial analysts handle litigious business matters and provide consultation services. Many are found working for companies like Trout, Ebersole & Groff, LLP in Lancaster; Financial Research Associates in Bala Cynwyd; and financial consulting and business valuation firm, Value Management, Inc., in Jamison.
Big business equates to huge responsibilities for the accountants, controllers and auditors that track billions of dollars worth of expenditures and income. As of 2013, more than 20 businesses from Pennsylvania made it onto the Fortune 500 list, including Amerisource Bergen in Chesterbrook, Chester County; Comcast in Philadelphia; RiteAid in Camp Hill; United States Steel in Pittsburgh, and more. Each of these companies brings in between $300 million and $79 billion annually, creating a strong demand for top-notch accountants.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 Pennsylvania accountants averaged $33.71 per hour, which translated to an annual salary of $70,120, and the top 10 percent of accountants in the state made close to $110,000 per year.
Generally speaking, the state’s larger metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Allentown/Bethlehem area, employ the greatest number of accountants. In fact, in 2014 the Philadelphia area was one of the top 10 metropolitan areas in the U.S. in terms of having the highest number of accountants, with over 22,000 accountants employed in that area alone. Top accounting and business services firms found here include Jefferson Wells International and business and management consulting firm, Proxygen Company.
Philadelphia is also one of the highest paying areas of Pennsylvania, with accountants making an average of $77,110 in 2014, and top accountants in that area making up to $118,570. Chief employers of accountants in this area include information technology company, CDI Corporation and consumer product packaging manufacturer, Crown Holdings.
The less populated regions of Northeastern Pennsylvania, including the towns of Bloomsburg and Lackawana employ considerably fewer. The far Western area, which includes towns like Clarion and South Union Township, employs around 1,170 accountants. Earnings for accountants in this area average $58,880 annually. Organizations employing accountants in this area include non-profit community development lenders, MetroAction in Scranton, and tax and business advisory servicer, Parente Randolph, with offices in Williamsport.
The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PIPA) is making news for suggesting ways in which the state can trim excess spending from its budget. The institute has targeted public education and proposed the idea that by capping administrative and business office expenses at 4.3% of the total budget, so as to be consistent with the most efficiently run Pennsylvania school district, the state could save some $613 million annually. Accountants who join this organization may not only find themselves presenting budget analysis proposals to the state government, but also benefiting from professional education, networking, and leadership opportunities the institute provides.
Significant changes to the tax laws in Pennsylvania that have gotten a lot of attention as of late include repeal of the estate tax for those who died in 2010 or later. Elimination of the $250 deduction for public school teachers who purchase school supplies using money from their own pockets and expiration of the $4,000 deduction previously available to students for college and tuition fees are also controversial measures that have recently taken effect.