A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Washington

By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015

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Washington Workforce Explorer of the state’s Employment Security Department projects a 22 percent increase in the number of accounting jobs expected to become available in Washington during the current ten-year period ending 2022. This equates to an estimated 1,640 new accounting jobs becoming available each year through 2022.

The Washington State Board of Accountancy grants CPA licensure to qualified candidates who have met standardized education, examination, and experience requirements consistent with those outlined in the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA). Candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree earned through an accredited program and complete a total of 150 semester hours of college-level education distributed among specific accounting and business administration courses as specified by the Board. After graduation, candidates must go on to take the Uniform CPA Exam and gain at least one year of supervised experience before being eligible for CPA licensure. With traditional bachelor’s programs only including about 120 semester hours of college credit, online master’s degrees in accounting have made earning the 30 additional semester hours required for a CPA license in Washington more accessible than ever.

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.

“Big Four” international CPA and professional services firms Deloitte, KPMG, and Ernst & Young, all have offices in Seattle and are recognized as some of the area’s foremost employers of certified public accountants. The larger local, regional, and national CPA firms with a strong presence in the Emerald City include McGladrey and Pullen, Grant Thornton, Clark Nuber, and Moss Adams.

Top Industries for Washington Accountants

The technology and information systems industry has given rise to many companies that got their start in Washington, the most notable of which, of course, is software giant Microsoft. Western Washington remains one of the country’s most significant hubs of IT innovation and e-commerce. Many companies hailing from the Evergreen State with business models that are built around e-commerce are now household names. Chief among these are online travel planner and booking agency Expedia, online pharmacy Drugstore.com and Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer. These companies continue to be recognized as economic powerhouses in the state, and are the leading employers of managerial accountants who have influence over business decisions that generate many millions of dollars in online revenue.

A number of major players in the financial services industry also call Washington state home. ShareBuilder Corp, the online brokerage arm of ING Direct USA, and diversified financial services company, Symetra Financial, are both headquartered in Bellevue. Local entrepreneurial icon and philanthropist Paul Allen has a venture capital group, Vulcan, Inc, which has offices in Seattle where CPAs specialize in business valuation and investment analysis. Russell Investments, which has individual and institutional clients in 47 countries, is headquartered in Seattle and is recognized as an industry innovator that embraces the Turnkey Asset Management Program (TAMP) model, which draws on the unique expertise of certified public accountants.

Washington Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts

In a 2014 Washington State Occupational Employment publication it was reported that 27,443 accountants and auditors were employed in the state making an average annual salary of $66,400. Most of Washington’s accountants are employed within the areas of general accounting and bookkeeping; however, other popular areas of employment include enterprise management, software publishing, aerospace manufacturing, healthcare, and real estate leasing. 

Accountants and CPAs go by many titles, especially if they attain further education and certification. Purchasing managers in Washington earn the highest average annual salary of all accounting-related professionals in the state, averaging $118,497 as of 2014. Financial managers earn an average of $117,419 annually. Financial analysts make an average of $82,175 each year, while budget analysts earn an average of $75,898, and cost estimators across all industries can expect an average annual salary of $67,939.

According to data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Seattle/Bellevue metropolitan area pays accountants the highest average salary at $77,640. The Tacoma area pays the second highest salary at $76,720 Other areas of the state where accountants earn salaries higher than the state average include the Tri Cities area of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland, as well as Yakima and Vancouver.

Washington Tax Laws in the News

The State of Washington Department of Revenue will soon start charging sales tax on registration fees for sporting activities. Baseball leagues, running events, basketball leagues, golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, cycling events, and soccer leagues; all hugely popular in the state, will be subject to state sales tax. Only charity events and youth sports leagues will be exempt. Although this was written into the state tax code some 20 years ago, and is consistent with the sales tax charged on most other items and services, it has gone unenforced up to this point. 

When Washington citizens voted to legalize the sale of marijuana in the summer of 2014, a new kind of retail store industry was created. Cannabis dispensaries across the state sold over 257 million dollars worth of product. The state legislature instituted a marijuana sales tax that generated 70 million dollars of revenue in the first quarter alone. This number is expected to increase as usage becomes more common among Washington residents.