Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Colorado
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, PricewaterhouseCoopers, 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 U.S. headquarters here.
Accounting Jobs in Colorado
In May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that Colorado as a whole had the second highest concentration of accounting jobs of any state. In addition, the Denver metro area (includes Aurora and Lakewood) had the second highest concentration of accountants of any metro area in the nation, while Northwest Colorado also came in second for its concentration of accountants within non-metro areas in the country.
Even in a favorable business climate brought on by a regulatory purge and new tax codes working to the benefit of corporations, the very fact that things are in a state of flux means businesses and wealthy individuals are relying on the talented accountants in their ranks now more than ever. This is being seen in the fact that even during a time of unprecedented hiring, the many new accountants coming into the field aren’t causing starting salary offers to be watered down. In fact, corporations are forced to up the ante on starting offers as a way to compete for top talent.
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.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment predicts particularly strong job growth in the period between 2018 and 2028, projecting a rate of increase of 20%—nearly twice the national average for this field. The Colorado DOL expects average annual openings in the state (due to new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover) to number about 5,000 through 2028.
Salary Expectations for Accountants in Different Roles
According to the BLS, accountants and auditors in Colorado earned an annual median salary of $76,720 as of May 2020. Of course, this number represents an overall average for accountants at every level and with different credentials and specialized skillsets within different industries.
However, the BLS also provides a good deal of insight into the earning potential for accountants and auditors in role-specific settings and with different levels of experience.
Note that the following BLS base salaries do not include bonuses and other incentives that are often a part of total compensation.
Corporate Staff Accountants, Bookkeepers, and Accounting Clerks
Corporate staff accountants, bookkeepers, and accounting clerks in Colorado earn a median salary of $43,870. Those new to the profession with little experience can expect to earn a salary of about $34,660, while those in management/supervisory roles and considerable experience earn between $53,210 and $64,120 (75th – 90thpercentile).
Reflecting their specialized skillset within the field of accounting, forensic accountants can and do demand top salaries which, according to the BLS, is about $102,960, representing the 75th percentile among accountants and auditors in Colorado.
Controllers and Other Financial Managers
Controllers earned substantially higher salaries for their specialized experience and knowledge and the appreciable contributions they make to strategic decision making and revenue. These professionals earn a median salary of $157,090 in Colorado, while those in the upper 25th percentile earn more than $206,340.
CPAs and Auditors
CPAs with the experience required to fill director-level positions at major firms with offices command some of the highest salaries. In the Denver metro area, for example, they earn about $135,950, which represents the top 10% among accountants and auditors.
Even non-certified public accountants with less experience who landed positions with big accounting and business services firms performing tax and audit/assurance services can expect to pull down good salaries in this field.
Accountants in Executive Roles
Chief financial officers (CFOs) and other chief executives in Colorado earn $182,030 at the median level, while those in upper 25th percentile earn more than $208,000, making them among the highest paid accountants in the profession.
Accountant and Auditor Salaries in Rural and Urban Parts of Colorado
The BLS, which provides data for a broad classification of general accountants and auditors, found salaries to be much higher in the Denver and Boulder areas in 2020 than elsewhere in the state.
(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)
Tax Preparer Salaries in Colorado
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paid tax preparers were located in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area:
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job growth data for Accountants and Auditors, Financial Managers, Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks, and Chief Executives. Figures represent state data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2021.
Job growth projections sourced from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm.