A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Virginia

By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015

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The Virginia Employment Commission reported in 2012 that there were 42,020 accountants and auditors employed in the state. By 2022, the Commission predicts that number will rise to 48,790, representing an increase of 16% over the current ten-year. This equates to an additional 1,920 accounting jobs created on average each year.

Qualified applicants can become certified public accountants when licensed by the Virginia Board of Accountancy. This requires a bachelor’s degree or higher, 150 total semester hours of college-level education, one year of experience in the field, and passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam. With most bachelor’s programs consisting of just 120 semester hours of college credit, earning a master’s in accounting serves as the standard way to earn the additional credit hours in advanced accounting coursework required for a CPA license in Virginia.

CPAs in Virginia often join small local partnerships or regional firms, establish independent practices of their own, or work for large accounting and professional services firms that have a presence in that state. Among these larger organizations are “Big Four” international CPA firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has a location in Maclean and national CPA firm Kearney & Company, which has an office in Alexandria.

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.

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*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.

The tax and payroll services that public accountants provide are essential to all organizations, from businesses to non-profits. Employment settings in Virginia are diverse and can include everything from the payroll department of Chesterfield County Public School District, to the headquarters of tobacco giant General Cigar Holdings Inc. in Richmond. 

Government accountants and auditors, who usually hold a bachelor’s degree and specialized credentials, work in all strata of local and federal government in Virginia. They’re found working for regional agencies like the Upper Occoquan Service Authority in Centreville, as well as Federal agencies like the Defense Contract Audit Agency in Fairfax and the US Attorney’s Executive Office located in Falls Church. 

Accounting information systems specialists work for organizations as diverse as media company BIAP, with their research and development department in Dulles, and the non-profit business technology advocacy group, New Virginia Corridor Technology Council, with regional offices in Blacksburg and Roanoke.

Salary and Employment Facts about Accountants in Virginia

According to the Virginia Employment Commission’s 2014 report, Virginia’s accountants earn some of the highest annual accounting salaries in the nation, at an average of $72,300 a year. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2014 that the Alexandria/Arlington/Washington, DC metropolitan areas have the highest concentration of accountants in the state at 33,430. These accountants also make the highest average salary in the state at $87,270. Employers of CPAs in this area are numerous and include national and international accounting and professionals services firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers in MacLean, Grant Thornton LLP in Vienna, and KPMG in Washington, D.C. 

Richmond has the second highest concentration of accountants in the state at 6,810. Here they make an average annual salary of $73,390, which represents the third-highest average salary for accountants in the state. Richmond area employers include insurance company The Markel Corporation, railway component manufacturers Amsted Rail, Inc. in Petersburg, and McKesson Medical Surgical Company, which has a location in Richmond.

Although accountants can be found working across the entire state, other selected areas of Virginia and their corresponding salaries for accountants include Winchester ($75,910), Charlottesville ($75,570), and Lynchburg ($66,120). Major employers of accountants in these areas include professional services firm The Kemp Group, which has offices in Lynchburg, and Honeywell with its offices in Hopewell.

Virginia Accountancy and Tax Laws in the News

There have been significant changes made to Virginia's tax laws recently that include the creation of the Livable Home Credit. This new tax credit allows resident taxpayers to be reimbursed up to $2,000 for making renovations to homes that include adding features that make the domicile more accessible to disabled individuals. This applies to new residences as well as older residences that have been retrofitted. 

In other news, Virginia recently made headlines when Governor McDonnell established a new financial literacy graduation requirement for high school seniors. In order to graduate, all seniors in Virginia must now take a one-credit course in economics and personal finance. This requirement was supported and advocated by the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA). VSCPA is also sponsoring free training programs for high school teachers interested in teaching these personal finance courses.