Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Arkansas
The Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy grants licensure to CPA candidates who have 150 semester hours of college credit, one year of experience, and passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam. Since most bachelor’s programs consist of just 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting provides the perfect path to earning the additional credit hours required for a CPA license in Arkansas. CPAs are found working throughout both government and private industry and many serve as business and risk consultants, tax specialists, and external auditors for major accounting firms with locations in the state. Three of the “Big Four” international CPA and professional services firms have a presence in Arkansas. Both Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers have offices in Little Rock, while Ernst & Young has offices in Rogers. Other top employers of CPAs in the state include the well-known Frost, PLLC and BKD, LLP; both of which have locations in Little Rock.
Employment Trends for Accountants in Arkansas
According to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, the top areas of employment for accountants span a wide array of job titles and industries, from bookkeeping services, to company management, to controllers in the state’s university and hospital systems. The private sector continues to lead as the major employer of accountants in the state, helped by the fact that Bentonville is home to the world headquarters and corporate offices of Walmart. The retail giant’s corporate offices employ more private management accountants, internal auditors, financial controllers, cost and capital accountants than any other single enterprise in the state.
Rounding out the top private employers of accountants in the state are Wingfoot Commercial Tire Systems, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of international tire and rubber company Goodyear, which has its corporate offices in Fort Smith. The corporate offices of the telecommunications company, Windstream are also located in Arkansas, as is Tyson Foods, which has corporate headquarters in Springdale with plenty of accountants on staff.
Job market research conducted by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services in 2016 revealed that Arkansas was home to roughly 7,270 accountants and auditors. By 2026, this number is expected to rise to 8,270, which shows an employment growth rate of nearly 14% during this projection period. As a result of this job expansion and normal changes taking place in the workforce, accountants can look forward to approximately 780 job openings becoming available each year during this ten-year period.
In Arkansas, where the need for accounting services can be very limited outside the major metro areas, accountants can expect the availability of jobs to vary widely throughout the state. For example, in 2018, the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway district was home to 3,170 accountants, making it the top location in the state for accounting professionals. On the other hand, the city of Hot Springs was home to just 110 accountants.
Salaries for Corporate Accountants, CPAs and Accountants in Specialty Roles
In 2018, the United States Department of Labor reported that in Arkansas, within the broad classification for accountants and auditors, the average salary was $67,700, with these professionals billing an average hourly rate of $32.55.
Without tying salaries to things like experience, specialty, credentials and industry, general figures like this leave a lot of questions unanswered. The detail necessary to understand the vast differences in what accountants and auditors can expect to earn based on these factors comes from the 2019 Robert Half Accounting and Finance Salary Guide. The starting salaries shown here represent base pay and don’t reflect bonuses and other incentives that can have a significant impact on what accountants can expect to earn.
Corporate Staff Accountants
In Little Rock, where medium to large businesses provide most of the jobs in the state for accounting staff, experience can add significantly to starting salary offers (range represents starting salaries, from the 25th to 95th percentile):
- Entry-Level (up to one year): $36,575 – $66,025
- Mid-Career (1-3 years): $46,550 – $92,150
- Senior: $60,562 – $110,912
Corporate controllers in Little Rock play a crucial role in corporate governance and the decisions corporations make, and accordingly, they earn top salaries. With a median starting salary of $165,062, and an average of $249,612 for those in the top 5 percent, corporate controllers are some of the top earners in the field. Controllers in corporate management located in Fort Smith make anywhere from $73,850 to $183,925.
Bringing specialized investigative skills to bear on cases of suspected fraud, forensic accountants hold corporate positions and also work for major accounting and business services firms In Little Rock. The median starting salary for these professionals is $87,400, with top talent commanding salaries as high as $137,512.
CPAs and Auditors in Accounting Firms
Higher salaries for accounting professionals often come after earning CPA licensure and gaining plenty of experience. CPAs performing audit and assurance services with the experience required to fill leadership positions in Little Rock firms are offered median starting salaries of $124,688, and as much as $198,312 for those commanding salaries at the 95th percentile.
Though these upper management positions often go to accountants with CPA licensure, CPAs with less experience and non-certified public accountants still earn strong salaries that differ notably based on area of expertise.
- 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
Becoming a chief financial officer might take years of experience and connections in high places, but it very often starts with an accounting background, and often CPA certification. In Little Rock, that experience and certification comes with a starting salary of $115,188 at the 25th percentile and $472,388 at the 95th, with a 50th percentile salary of $186,912. Similarly, in Fort Smith they garnered starting salaries within the range of $84,875 and $348,075.
Accountant Salaries Throughout Arkansas
Experience means a lot but it is not the only factor contributing to an accountant’s earning potential in Arkansas. Location alone can mean a $10,000 difference. The following shows how much accountants earned in several key cities, regions, and metropolitan districts across Arkansas in 2018:
(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)
Tax preparers see similar ranges of pay based on both experience and location, with differences of more than $10,000 possible.
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_ar.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 Arkansas Department of Workforce Services 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.