A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in California

The Employment Development Department (EED) of California expects that between 2008 and 2018 there will be a 19.2 percent increase in the number of accounting jobs in the state. This increase amounts to about 5000 openings each year between now and 2018.

In 2014, the California Board of Accountancy fully integrated the protocols of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA), and now requires all applicants for CPA licensure to have 150 semester hours of college credit and one year of accounting experience. Since a bachelor’s degree consists of just 120 semester hours, aspiring CPAs often enroll in master’s degree programs in accounting to earn the 30 additional semester hours required for a CPA license while satisfying the pre-licensure experience requirements.



All of the “Big Four” international CPA firms (Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and Ernst & Young) have offices here, as do other leading firms such as Mayer Hoffman McCann and Moss Adams.

Top Industries and Employment Trends for California Accountants

The EDD has recently published data showing that more and more accountants are working in capacities other than basic bookkeeping. Auditors, accounting managers and controllers are all found in some of America’s biggest banks and publically traded companies headquartered in California. This includes organizations as diverse as Wells Fargo in S.F. and ship building giant Northrop Grumman in L.A. 



In the wake of economic turbulence, there has been an increasing number of accountants called to the world of business to perform internal audits and management functions where they are now more frequently collaborating in Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) meetings, the findings of which are included in regular GPFFRs (general purpose federal financial reports) to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 



The Employment Development Department of California has also noted an increase in the number of graduates who become highly specialized accountants involved in accounting information system design and IT network auditing for systems management companies like Symantec in Mountain View. The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor in San Francisco also employs IT auditors to draft computerized audit programs used in federal, state and municipal agencies.

California Accountants: Employment Facts

Optimistic occupational forecasts continue to attract accountants to the Golden State. According to the United States Department of Labor, there were 151,900 accountants and auditors gainfully employed throughout California in 2012. By 2022, this number is expected to climb to nearly 177,500. As a result of this 17% employment growth rate, accountants will have access to approximately 7,060 new jobs annually during this ten-year cycle.

Jobseekers that search for positions in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale metropolitan division and the Santa Rosa-Petaluma district may find exceptional opportunities, as these regions were recognized among the country’s top ten metropolitan areas with the highest levels of employment and job concentrations for accountants in 2014.

Other places in California that accommodated large numbers of accountants that year included:

  • San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana
  • San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City
  • Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara

Salary Report for California’s Accountants

Even with the highest level of employment in the country for accounting professionals as of 2014, the field is still slated for significant growth in the coming years according to the US Department of Labor (DOL).  In fact, the while the California Employment Development Department expects the number of accounting positions in California to increase at a much faster rate than is anticipated in virtually any other part of the country.

The US Department of Labor predicts a national increase of 13%, while the California Employment Development Department predicts job growth of 16.9% between 2012 and 2022 in California.  This is expected to generate an average of 7,060 accounting jobs in the state each year during this ten-year period.

Salaries for General Accounting Professionals and Specialists in California

Salaries for accountants in three of California’s metropolitan areas were particularly high in 2014 according to the US Department of Labor:

  • San Jose: 2nd highest paying in the country
  • Salinas: 3rd highest paying in the country
  • San Francisco: 6th highest paying in the country

This agency reported that the median salary for an accountant in California was $65,900, while those in the 90th percentile of this occupational category earned an average of $116,000. 

Accountants working for large companies in Los Angeles who had five years of experience earned salaries within the range of $87,713 to $111,443 according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide.  Forensic accountants in Los Angeles earned between $90,805 and $141,605 in 2015, while controllers at large financial services firms in LA earned salaries ranging between $192,405 and $245,100.

CFOs had particularly high salaries since they tend to be licensed as CPAs.  CFOs at corporate accounting firms in San Diego with extremely large levels of revenue (more than $500 million a year) earned between $345,131 and $551,914.

Accountant and Auditor Salaries in Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas of California

The US Department of Labor revealed that the median salary for general accountants and auditors was exceptionally high in the San Jose area in 2014:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Bakersfield-Delano CA
1540
65250
Chico CA
400
62400
El Centro CA
250
63780
Fresno CA
1840
70380
Hanford-Corcoran CA
270
57680
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale CA Metropolitan Division
46110
76300
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana CA
61810
76180
Madera-Chowchilla CA
120
63170
Merced CA
250
64970
Modesto CA
1010
66640
Napa CA
450
77630
Oakland-Fremont-Hayward CA Metropolitan Division
8450
82460
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura CA
1960
76770
Redding CA
340
64750
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario CA
6730
69870
Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville CA
9080
68200
Salinas CA
840
90850
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos CA
10570
78030
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont CA
23590
85910
San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City CA Metropolitan Divi
15140
87840
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara CA
13540
92950
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles CA
700
63370
Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine CA Metropolitan Division
15700
75830
Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta CA
1140
79340
Santa Cruz-Watsonville CA
580
76920
Santa Rosa-Petaluma CA
2860
71990
Stockton CA
1070
74540
Vallejo-Fairfield CA
610
69650
Visalia-Porterville CA
490
66960
Yuba City CA
160
67480
Mother Lode Region of California nonmetropolitan area
200
65490
Eastern Sierra Region of California nonmetropolitan area
50
57660
North Coast Region of California nonmetropolitan area
510
59630
North Valley Region of California nonmetropolitan area
140
59760
Northern Mountains Region of California nonmetropolitan area
300
63640

Salaries for Tax Preparers in California

The median salary for a tax preparer in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City metropolitan area was exceptionally high in 2014 according to the US Department of Labor:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Bakersfield-Delano CA
160
62730
Chico CA
40
41870
Fresno CA
120
39750
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale CA Metropolitan Division
2750
47180
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana CA
3520
48490
Modesto CA
estimate not released
38640
Oakland-Fremont-Hayward CA Metropolitan Division
400
47390
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura CA
estimate not released
46300
Redding CA
40
48450
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario CA
560
37390
Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville CA
390
43860
Salinas CA
50
53890
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos CA
580
54900
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont CA
1180
63160
San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City CA Metropolitan Divi
790
71150
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara CA
690
50220
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles CA
50
52040
Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine CA Metropolitan Division
770
53160
Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta CA
40
58170
Santa Rosa-Petaluma CA
estimate not released
58810
Stockton CA
estimate not released
42190
Vallejo-Fairfield CA
70
38090
Visalia-Porterville CA
estimate not released
29260
North Coast Region of California nonmetropolitan area
40
40350
Northern Mountains Region of California nonmetropolitan area
40
54770

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2014. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of specialty within the field of accounting and auditing

California Tax Laws in the News

California is the latest state to approve a bill that would tax online retailers such as Amazon.com. Under a recent bill authorized by the state Assembly, which currently awaits state Senate approval, online retailers with offices in California would have to collect state sales and use taxes from customers. It is estimated that unreported sales and use taxes total some $1 billion annually, and many legislators see this bill as a way to generate much-needed revenue for the state.



The California Senate also recently approved a bill that would require corporations to return tax credits to the state if they fail to actually create new jobs for Californians. Currently, the state gives $14 billion in corporate tax breaks to stimulate growth that would encourage these companies to hire new employees but many California based corporations are failing to deliver on the promise of new jobs. If passed, this law would hold California corporations accountable. Twenty other states have already held their corporations accountable through similar legislative measures.