A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Tennessee

By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015

Find Accounting Programs Here

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development projects an average increase of 2.3% per year in the number of accounting jobs expected to become available between 2012 and 2022. According to the Department’s 2012 report, there were 21,500 accountants working in Tennessee. By 2022, that number is expected to grow to 26,440. Accounting and auditing are listed among the state’s “Hot Jobs”, with approximately 1,130 openings expected each year.

Candidates interested in becoming certified public accountants in Tennessee earn bachelor’s degrees at minimum, complete a total of at least 150 semester hours of college credit, and then pass the Uniform CPA Exam before fulfilling the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy’s requirement of one year of paid, supervised experience. Because a bachelor’s degree usually 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 for a CPA license in Tennessee.  The CPA credential lends itself to diverse, specialized tasks that include completing internal audits, assisting in the design of accounting information systems, preparing Securities and Exchange Commission reports for publicly traded companies, and providing consultation services specific to business management strategies and tax matters. CPAs often establish independent firms, join local or regional firms, or go on to work for one of the “Big Four” international CPA firms like Deloitte, which has offices in Hermitage or KPMG, which has a Nashville location.

Featured Undergraduate Program

*Accredited accounting programs are available in a flexible online format that puts an undergraduate degree in accounting well within reach. Prepare to earn your CPA license and develop the skills employers are looking for with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Featured Graduate Program

*Qualifying for a CPA license requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum and a total of 150 semester hours of college credit to include coursework in accounting, business and ethics. Since bachelor’s programs typically result in just 120 semester hours of credit, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) maintains that earning a Master of Science in Accounting is the best way to achieve the full 150 semester hours you need to become licensed.

Industries for Accountants in Tennessee

According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, most of Tennessee’s accountants work as staff accountants and bookkeepers. Other major areas of employment for accountants in the state include by order of number of jobs: private companies, hospitals, insurance providers, and architectural and engineering firms. The state’s Department of Labor cites in excess of 1,600 potential employers of accountants from every industry across the state. 

Managerial accountants, controllers, and internal auditors work for organizations as diverse as Warner Music Group Corporation in Nashville and security services provider, Walden Security, with corporate headquarters in Chattanooga. These specialized roles require accountants to develop acumen in everything from financial analysis, to risk control, to federal regulatory compliance statutes like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. 

Architectural, manufacturing, and engineering may not be the first industries that comes to mind when thinking about accounting, but architectural firms and engineering companies are among the state’s biggest employers of cost accountants, project managers with accounting backgrounds, and construction cost estimators. These highly specialized accounting professionals work for outfits like metal manufacturing plant, Shiloh Industries in Dixon, and the federal government owned, Tennessee Valley Authority in Knoxville.

Tennessee Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts

In 2014, the Tennessee Department of Labor reported the average salary for Tennessee’s accountants to be $58,900. According to figures provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest concentration of accountants in the state (9,940) is in the Nashville/Davidson/Murfreesboro/Franklin area. Other areas with a high concentration of accountants include the Memphis area, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.

According to BLS, accountants in the Nashville/Davidson/Murfreesboro/Franklin area earn more than their counterparts in other parts of the state, bringing home an average of $68,760 annually. Accountants in the Kingsport/Bristol area rank second when comparing salaries, earning an average of $64,640 each year. Accountants in Morristown are next, earning an average of $64,080. The Knoxville area pays accountants the fourth highest average salary in the state at $62,860.

Tennessee Tax Laws in the News

In July 2015, Governor Bill Haslam proposed a gasoline tax increase in order for more road repair to take place. The current fuel tax in Tennessee is 21.4 cents per gallon – the same as it has been since 1989.  If passed, Haslam’s proposal would be the first gasoline tax increase in over 25 years. His plan has, so far, been heavily criticized. Those against it say that Governor Haslam has spent millions on things like bike trails, museums, and greenways, and should prioritize the budget more carefully before proposing tax hikes. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Transit has over fifty projects on hold until they are budgeted more money to finish them.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker wishes to take the fuel tax one step further, proposing to issue a 12 cent per gallon tax increase nationwide in order to provide better roadwork budgets for state transportation departments.