A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Pennsylvania

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. 



Those willing to put forth the years of preparation needed to become certified public accountants start by earning bachelor’s degrees in accounting at minimum, then go on to gain a year of experience after taking the Uniform CPA Exam. While satisfying the experience requirement, many would-be CPAs in Pennsylvania also begin working to earn a master’s degree in accounting to earn the full 150 semester hours required for a CPA license. CPAs in Pennsylvania establish independent practices and can also be found working with some of the world’s leading accounting and professional services firms such as “Big Four” firms like Ernst & Young, which has offices in Philadelphia; KPMG, with offices in Harrisburg; or national firms like Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C., which has a location in Plymouth Meeting.




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Areas of Employment for Accountants in Pennsylvania

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.

Pennsylvania Accountancy Salary and Employment Facts

Job and career advancement opportunities for accountants, especially those with CPA licensure working in urban areas, are expected to be strong for the foreseeable future, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics expecting the number of jobs in the field to increase by 13% between 2012 and 2022.

According to 2014 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for accountants in the state was $70,120.  Those in the top 10 percent averaged $109,840 a year.

The range of salaries for accountants in Pennsylvania is quite vast, and depends largely on CPA licensure, specialty, and the location in which they work.

The Robert Half Salary Guide for 2015 indicated that internal auditors working for large corporations in Pittsburgh averaged $89,586 a year. Controllers at small firms in Philadelphia made $104,621 on average, while forensic accountants in Harrisburg earned an average of $86,925.

CPA licensure and experience are typically the largest factors in determining an accountant’s salary. At the top of the salary range in Pennsylvania were chief financial officers (CFOs) working in Philadelphia. These professionals, who typically hold CPA licenses, earned a high salary of $526,068 a year according to the Robert Half Salary Guide for 2015.

Accounting Salaries in Pennsylvania’s Metro and Non-Metro Areas

Salary data shows a tendency towards higher wages for accountants working in metropolitan areas. That is not to say one cannot make a good living outside of Pennsylvania’s cities. In fact, the state’s Far Western Nonmetropolitan area reported an average annual wage of $58,880. Experienced accountants in that area reporting in the 90th percentile earned $90,760 on average in 2014.

The table below contains 2014 salary and employment data for accountants drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2014 report for Pennsylvania’s metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ
2480
71550
Altoona PA
330
62080
Erie PA
830
58240
Harrisburg-Carlisle PA
3340
66480
Johnstown PA
380
54220
Lancaster PA
2020
64520
Lebanon PA
270
62830
Philadelphia PA Metropolitan Division
22240
77110
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington PA-NJ-DE-MD
30040
77970
Pittsburgh PA
12220
67310
Reading PA
1220
66070
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre PA
1830
60900
State College PA
430
67080
Williamsport PA
330
62340
York-Hanover PA
1490
68080
Far Western Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
1170
58880
West Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
870
52540
Northeastern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
790
56190
East Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
1330
57590

Tax Preparer Salaries in Pennsylvania’s Metro and Non-Metro Areas

The median salary for tax preparers in Pennsylvania was $33,690 in 2014, while the average was $38,020 according to BLS data. Some tax preparers earned as much as accountants, with the 90th percentile reporting $62,240.

The table below shows tax preparer employment and salary data for 2014 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ
Estimate not released
36860
Harrisburg-Carlisle PA
110
32960
Lancaster PA
110
37920
Philadelphia PA Metropolitan Division
600
43830
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington PA-NJ-DE-MD
970
40810
Pittsburgh PA
630
39460
Reading PA
70
32770
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre PA
110
25640
State College PA
40
36370
York-Hanover PA
110
32710
Far Western Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
40
35800
West Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
Estimate not released
30160
Northeastern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
50
34030
East Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
30
20380

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2014. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of specialty within the field of accounting and auditing.

Pennsylvania Accountancy and Tax Laws in the News

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.