A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Wisconsin

By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015

Find Accounting Programs Here

Wisconsin’s WorkNet lists accounting among the top 25 occupations in terms of projected growth between 2012 and 2022. A seven percent increase in available accounting jobs is expected during these years, or an average of 810 job openings each year.

The Wisconsin Accounting Examining Board regulates and licenses CPAs in the state. Prospective CPAs must complete 150 hours of college-level education and earn a bachelor’s degree at minimum, pass both the Uniform CPA Exam and an online ethics exam, and then go on to fulfill one year of public accounting experience. With most bachelor’s programs consisting of just 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting can provide the additional credit hours in advanced accounting coursework required for licensure in Wisconsin.  Licensed CPAs work in public accounting firms with a presence in Wisconsin including “Big Four” firms Deloitte and Ernst & Young, both with offices in Milwaukee. Other accounting and professional services firms with a strong presence in the state include Jefferson Wells in Milwaukee, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause in Madison, and AXA Equitable Life Insurance, in Madison, Wausau and Green Bay.

Wisconsin’s local government agencies also employ CPAs as fund managers who work for The Wisconsin State Department of Administration in Madison or as auditors for the Office of the Comptroller in Wisconsin’s many municipalities.

Job Trends for Accountants in Wisconsin

Many corporations have located their corporate headquarters in the state. The corporate headquarters of battery manufacturers Johnson Controls, Inc. is in Milwaukee. The Kohler Company, known for plumbing fixtures, tile, stone and furniture, is housed in Kohler. Motorcycle giant and American icon Harley-Davidson is headquartered in Milwaukee. The corporate headquarters of two of the nation’s largest retailers are also in Wisconsin: Kohl’s in Menomonee Falls, and Lands End in Dodgeville. The management center of international company Kraft Foods is in Madison. Accountants serve these major companies as auditors, financial controllers and management accountants responsible for everything from regulatory compliance to influencing management decisions.

Many financial institutions and insurers were also either founded in Wisconsin or currently keep their corporate headquarters in the state where they continue to be the largest employers of actuarial accountants. Northwestern Mutual Financial Network in Milwaukee is the nation’s largest provider of life insurance. Mutual insurance company, Sentry Insurance, is headquartered in Stevens Point. CUNA Mutual Group, with headquarters in Madison, provides financial services to credit unions worldwide. Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation, whose corporate headquarters are in Milwaukee, provides home mortgage insurance on over 1.4 million mortgages in the United States.

Wisconsin Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts

Wisconsin’s WorkNet states that there were 21,920 accountants and auditors working in the state in 2014, making an average annual salary of $61,200. Entry-level accountants typically start around $40,500 per year, while experienced accountants may make up to $96,900 annually. 

Accountants working in the Wausau area made the highest salary of all accountants in the state at $70,930. The Eau Claire area paid accountants the next highest salary at $70,430. The highest number accountants were employed in the Milwaukee (6,550), Madison (3,680), and Green Bay (1,190) areas.

Wisconsin Tax Laws in the News

Wisconsin legislators are contemplating tax breaks for manufacturers and businesses in the agriculture industry in an effort to attract business to the state. Under this proposal, state tax on income from manufactured goods in Wisconsin would be reduced from its current rate of 7.9 percent to 0.4 percent by 2016. The tax break, if passed, would cost Wisconsin over $359 million in revenue the first year it was enacted and over $128 million each succeeding year.

In other state tax news, the newly proposed budget does not increase sales or income taxes for residents. Property taxes will remain flat at an anticipated increase of $50 per house over the next two years.