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

By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado was home to 33,870 accountants and auditors as of 2012. Yet by 2022, the state expects to be home to closer to 43,490 accountants and auditors. With companies having to abide by more regulations, including the Public Company Accounting Reform Investor Protection Act, they require the expertise of skilled accountants now more than ever before. Increased regulation of this kind is seen as good news for those interested in becoming accountants, as it contributes to the creation of more accounting jobs.

The United States Department of Labor is predicting a 28% increase in the number of accounting jobs in Colorado between 2012 and 2022 to satisfy the needs of new and expanding businesses located in the state. The growth rate expected in Colorado is especially striking considering the national growth rate in the field is just 13%. This remarkable rate of job growth is expected to create an average of 1,960 new accounting jobs in the state each year.

Many accountant jobs will call for state-issued CPA licensure through the Colorado State Board of Accountancy. A CPA license requires earning a bachelor’s degree, at minimum, a total of 150 semester hours of college credit, and gaining a year of practical work experience after passing the Uniform CPA Exam.

 While satisfying the experience requirement, many aspiring CPAs also begin working to earn a master’s degree in accounting to earn the full 150 semester hours required for a CPA license since most bachelor’s programs consist of just 120. All of the “Big Four” public accounting firms (KPMG, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Deloitte & Touche, and Ernst & Young) have offices in Denver, as do the international public accounting firms Grant Thornton and GHP Horwath, the latter of which has its US headquarters here.

Accounting Jobs in Colorado

Private industry is a major employer of accountants in Colorado. Fortune 200 company Arrow Electronics in Inverness manufactures electronics components and employs accountants to perform monthly reconciliations and analysis. Natural gas gathering and processing company DCP Midstream in Lodo also employs auditors and management accountants who perform internal audits and control reviews. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a regional office in Denver where they work closely with external auditors and forensic accountants who perform the work necessary to uphold federal statutes like the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002, and the soon to be enacted Dodd-Frank Act. 

Auditors with a penchant for information technology work for organizations like the Governor’s Office of Information Technology in Denver, or software company Tyler Technologies located in Lakewood. These high tech companies employ specialists with the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification conferred through the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). In these companies, IT systems auditors provide quality assurance checks and system audits to maintain secure networks. Major employers of accountants in the north central Colorado nonmetropolitan area are diverse in terms of business structure, although they often cater to Colorado’s huge tourist industry. Among these are outdoors product manufacturer and retailer Timberland in Steamboat Springs and hotel management company Terrapin Investments in Aspen.

Salary Expectations for Accountants in Colorado

In 2014, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Colorado had the second highest concentration of accounting jobs nationwide.  In fact, the Denver area had the second highest concentration of accountants of any metropolitan area in the nation, while the nonmetropolitan area of North Central Colorado had the third highest concentration of accountants of any non-metro area in the country.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment predicts particularly strong job growth in the period between 2014 and 2024.  It expects that the rate of increase will be 24%—nearly twice the national average for this field.  This agency expects some 2,044 accounting jobs to become available in Colorado during this ten-year period. 

The average salary for an accountant in Colorado was $74,023 in 2014 according to the state’s Department of Labor and Employment.  Experienced professionals earned an average of $88,824 a year in the state.

The 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide reports the salaries of accountants based on specialty area of practice.  Accountants at large financial services firms in Denver who had 3 to 5 years of experience earned salaries ranging from $60,665 to $76,738 a year.

Controllers earned substantially higher salaries.  For instance, controllers in large financial services firms in Boulder earned between $174,680 and $222,529.  

The salaries of forensic accountants in Colorado Springs ranged from $64,708 to $100,908.

The highest salaries were reserved for CFOs, who typically hold CPA licenses:

$500 million+ yearly revenue:

  • Denver: $302,026 - $482,983
  • Boulder: $335,811 - $537,010

Up to $50 million yearly revenue:

  • Denver: $109,144 - $157,365
  • Boulder: $121,353 - $174,968

Accountant and Auditor Salaries in Rural and Urban Parts of Colorado

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average salary for accountants and auditors was much higher in the Denver and Boulder areas in 2014. Top earners in the nonmetropolitan part of West Colorado earned nearly as much as their colleagues in the Denver area.

The 90th percentile in each area is representative of salaries for experienced accountants with CPA licenses.

Area name
Annual mean wage
Boulder CO
Colorado Springs CO
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield CO
Fort Collins-Loveland CO
Grand Junction CO
Greeley CO
Pueblo CO
East and South Colorado nonmetropolitan area
West Colorado nonmetropolitan area
Northcentral Colorado nonmetropolitan area
Central Colorado nonmetropolitan area

Tax Preparer Salaries in Colorado

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for tax preparers in Colorado was the highest in Boulder in 2014, closely followed by Colorado Springs:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Boulder CO
Colorado Springs CO
Estimate not released
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield CO
Estimate not released
Fort Collins-Loveland CO
Greeley CO
West Colorado nonmetropolitan area
Estimate not released

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.

Colorado Tax Laws in the News

Colorado has recently made news as the only state in the nation that has tax and spending limits requiring voters to be involved in approving all tax increases. Called the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, or TABOR, critics say that the bill has tied the hands of lawmakers and rendered the state’s economy ineffective. However, many applaud this bill as it keeps state spending in check. 

Questions on an upcoming Colorado ballot will poll voters to determine if they’re likely to allow Larimer County to expand two sales taxes to keep detention centers operational. Taxes that are currently used to improve the judicial center of the county and detention center capital expansion would be used entirely for jail operations. The present sales tax that funds the jail amounts to $7 million per year, however, it actually costs some $22 million yearly to maintain day-to-day operations. County officials hope that, if approved by voters, the expansion of these two sales taxes would meet the current deficit in operational funds.

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