Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Alabama
Alabama’s Board of Public Accountancy requires CPA candidates to have a baccalaureate degree, at minimum, from a program consisting of 150 credit hours. These 150 hours must consist of 33 hours in accounting (excluding introductory courses), 27 hours in business courses (excluding accounting), and 3 hours in business law. With most bachelor’s programs consisting of just 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting can provide the 30 additional credit hours in advanced accounting coursework required for licensure in Alabama. Applicants interested in becoming accountants with CPA credentials must be U.S. citizens, but do not need to be current residents of Alabama.
Alabama is a two-tier state. This means that candidates who pass the CPA Exam receive a certificate, but will then need to document appropriate work experience before being issued a license that grants the recipient permission to practice. The amount of experience required varies based on the type of experience, but is generally the equivalent of one year of full time employment in public accounting.
Employment and Salary Trends for Alabama’s Accountants
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, there were roughly 17,380 accountants and auditors employed throughout Alabama in 2018. By 2026, this number is expected to reach nearly 18,920. This 8.9% employment growth change coupled with normal changes in the workforce will lead to some 1,730 annual job openings for accountants and auditors during this ten-year projection period.
As of May 2019, there were 5,330 accountants and auditors working in the Birmingham-Hoover area alone, representing the highest concentration in the state, followed by Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile, and Tuscaloosa.
In 2017, the publication Area Development ranked Alabama as the sixth best state in the country for doing business. Both auto and aerospace companies have been growing rapidly in Alabama in recent years, creating new opportunities for managerial accountants, controllers, treasurers and financial officers.
In fact, Business Facilities magazine gave Alabama a number one ranking in 2018 for its support of the automotive manufacturing industry. Recent successes include securing the building of the Toyota-Mazda joint venture automobile manufacturing plant.
Alabama’s aerospace industry is poised for further growth thanks to the United Launch Alliance factory in Decatur and the development of the $600 million facility to produce Airbus jets. These substantial increases in manufacturing in Alabama bode well for accountants in the state.
Salaries for Accounting Specialists in Alabama
The salaries for accountants in Alabama varied substantially depending on how long they have been in the work force, the credentials they hold, and their area of specialty, according to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance. (All ranges shown represent starting salary offers within the 25th– 95th percentile average. These base salaries do not include bonuses and other incentives that are common for many accountants, especially those in leadership positions.)
Corporate Staff Accountants
For instance, a corporate staff accountant in Birmingham with five or more years of experience would be offered a starting salary of between $60,562 and $110,9122, and a median of $73,862. Those with just one to three years of experience in the same field were offered between $46,550 and $92,150, with a midpoint figure of $58,900.
With their unique, niche expertise, experienced forensic accountants command higher salaries. Those working in Alabama’s major cities earned salaries with the following ranges:
- Birmingham: $72,200 – $137,512
- Huntsville: $71,440 – $136,065
- Mobile: $65,360 – $124,485
Controllers play a crucial role in corporate governance, and often hold CPA licensure from the Alabama Board of Public Accountancy, as well as other credentials from national organizations.
Corporate controllers working for firms in Birmingham commanded between $100,225 and $249,612, with a midpoint of $165,062.
CPAs and Auditors in Accounting Firms
CPAs with the experience required to fill senior positions in major audit and assurance firms in Birmingham are offered salaries of $124,688 at the 50th percentile, and as much as $198,312 at the 95th.
CPA licensing is a must at that level, and highly recommended for those working their way up the ladder in either tax or assurance public accounting.
- Management – $70,775 – $135,375
- Senior – $50,588 – $96,425
- 1-3 years experience – $41,325 – $78,612
- Management – $81,938 – $156,038
- Senior – $57,475 – $107,350
- 1-3 years experience – $45,362 – $86,925
Accountants in Executive Roles
Chief Financial Officers with CPA credentials earned the highest salaries among all accounting professionals. Their salaries tended to vary quite a bit by location. In Birmingham, for example, CFOs can command anywhere from $115,188 to $472,388 annually, with a midpoint of $186,912. In Montgomery, the range is $94,939 to $389,347, with a midpoint of $154,055.
Salaries for General Accountants and Auditors Throughout Alabama
The average salary for an accountant in Alabama in 2018 was $70,310 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experienced professionals earned an average of $78,877, while accountants who were new to the profession earned an average of $42,911.
(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)
Tax Preparer Salaries in Alabama
Tax preparation work is often a stepping stone to a career in professional accountancy. Though they earn considerably less than accountants, the familiarity they develop with tax code can translate well to higher paying careers in accounting firms and other businesses.
Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of specialty within the field of accounting and auditing – https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_al.htm#13-2011. BLS salary data represents state and MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
Salary data for specific job titles sourced from the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting & Finance Professionals –
https://www.roberthalf.com/salary-guide/accounting-and-finance. All ranges represent starting salaries at the 25th and 95th percentiles unless otherwise noted, with midpoint figures representing the 50th percentile. Experience, specialty area, credentials, and role all influence where salaries might fall within this range. These base salaries do not include bonuses or other incentives.
Job growth projections sourced from the Alabama Department of Labor and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm.
All salary and job growth data accessed in May 2019.