A State By State Accounting Guide
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Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Arizona

The requirements for CPA licensure as set by the Arizona State Board of Accountancy consists of four major steps:

  1. Education through a bachelor’s or graduate degree program consisting of at least 36 semester hours of accounting credits, at least 30 or which must be non-introductory course credits, as well as an additional 30 business course credits (With traditional bachelor’s programs only including 120 semester hours, online master’s degrees in accounting have made earning the full 150 semester hours required for a CPA license more accessible.)
  2. Work Experience that involves one year of full-time supervised employment within the practice of accounting
  3. CPA Exam components (financial accounting, business environments, auditing, and regulations) must be passed within a rolling 18 month period
  4. Ethics Exam must be passed with a score of 90% or better

Arizona’s CPAs work for “Big Four” international CPA firms PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG, and Ernst & Young, all of which have offices in Phoenix. National firms such as Clifton Gunderson in Phoenix also have a strong presence in the state.

Prominent CPA and consulting firms that are locally based include Semple, Marchal & Cooper in Phoenix, Nordstrom and Associates in Tempe, Shutte and Hilgendorf in Prescott, and Pinpointe Accounting Services in Tucson. Not all accountants pursue the CPA designation, and as such often work for tax and business consulting firms that provide bookkeeping services. ECL Consulting in Tucson is amongst the Arizona based accounting firms that retains non certified public accountants.

Employment Growth Trends for Accountants in Arizona

Accountants in Arizona can expect tremendous employment growth in the coming years. In 2016, the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity found Arizona businesses, corporate offices for large companies with a presence in the state, along with accounting firms and government offices supporting 20,940 jobs in accounting and auditing. By 2026, the Office predicts closer to 24,960 accountants and auditors will find employment opportunities here.

This long-term occupational projection indicates a 19% employment growth change during this ten-year period, which is nearly 10% higher than the national average for these professionals. Accountants and auditors can look forward to approximately 2,400 annual job openings statewide, with the best prospects being in the Phoenix, Mesa and Glendale areas.

Salary Statistics for Accountants in Arizona

The 2019 Robert Half Accounting and Finance Salary Guide provides further detail on the starting salaries associated with specific types of accounting jobs. The ranges reflect differences in specialized skills, experience and how different employers view the role in terms of value added to the organization. These are base salaries that don’t reflect bonuses and other incentives that can add substantially to the figures shown.

Corporate Staff Accountants in Financial Services

Senior staff accountants with five or more years of experience at financial services firms in Phoenix could command between $78,200 - $148,638 according to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide. For those working with employers outside the financial services industry but with a similar level of experience, the range is only slightly lower at $73,312 - $134,262, with a midpoint of $89,412.

Controllers

Controllers at large financial services firms in Phoenix were offered starting salaries ranging between $122,187 and $231,725 in 2019. Corporate controllers were offered similar starting salaries at the bottom of the range, but top offers in the 95th percentile were as high as $302,152 as of 2019.

Forensic Accountants

Starting salaries for forensic accountants in Phoenix ranged between $87,400 and $166,462, with a midpoint offer of $105,800.

CPAs and Auditors in Accounting Firms

CPAs with the experience required to fill senior positions in major audit and assurance firms in Phoenix are offered salaries within the range of$125,925 - $240,062.

Though not all public accountants hold CPA licenses, it’s standard for those in senior management. At different levels of experience, public accountants that specialize in tax or assurance/audit services can still expect respectable salaries.

Assurance/Audit Services:

  • Management - $85,675 - $163,875
  • Senior - $61,237 - $116,725
  • 1-3 years experience - $50,025 - $95,162

Tax Services:

  • Management - $99,187 - $188,887
  • Senior - $69,575 - $129,950
  • 1-3 years experience - $54,912 - $105,225

While most accounting is conducted with a high degree of confidentiality, audits can place the work of accountants squarely in the public eye. In 2019, for example, the work of an auditor specializing in charter schools was exposed to state sanctions after his work was found to be woefully below standards. The Arizona Board of Accountancy investigative panel found that audits and disclosures were improperly made for at least two different charter schools, both using the same auditor. The Board is made up of long-time accountants, all brining years of experience to their oversight and investigative activities.

Accountants in Executive Roles

Typically licensed as CPAs and bringing many years of managerial accounting experience, CFOs and other executive with accounting expertise are by far the highest paid. Corporate CFOs in Tucson earned between $129,738 and $532,058 as of 2019. In Phoenix they earned a bit more at between $139,438 - $571,838, with a midpoint of $226,262.

Salaries for Accountants and Auditors in Arizona’s Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median salary for an accountant was $64,380 a year in 2018. Top earners in the 90th percentile earned an average salary of $103,320. General accountants and auditors in the Phoenix area and near Prescott had a higher median salary than their colleagues in other parts of the state in 2018:

Area Name
Employment
Annual Mean Wage
Arizona nonmetropolitan area
510
57120
Flagstaff
360
60600
Lake Havasu City-Kingman
290
62480
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale
15940
70400
Prescott
380
65390
Sierra Vista-Douglas
150
64210
Tucson
2140
66670
Yuma
240
67910

(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)

Salaries for Tax Preparers Throughout Arizona

The salaries of tax preparers varied only slightly throughout Arizona in 2018:

Area Name
Employment
Annual Mean Wage
Arizona nonmetropolitan area
-
34460
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale
1120
40090
Tucson
280
37030

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_az.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 Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity 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.

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