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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.