A State By State Accounting Guide
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Steps to Becoming an Accountant in the District of Columbia

Since non-certified public accountants don’t need to be licensed in the District, they can immediately enter into practice after graduation from associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs. Among the businesses that employ public accountants to perform corporate payroll and tax preparation services is the Washington based public accounting firm Ayala & Associates.

With certification, which requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum, a total of 150 semester hours of college credit, passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam and a year of relevant work experience in D.C., candidates interested in becoming public accountants can hold the distinction that comes with earning CPA credentials. Since most bachelor’s degree programs consist of just 120 semester hours, aspiring CPAs very often go on to earn a master’s in accounting to acquire the additional credit hours required for a CPA license in the District. CPAs work for some of the world’s largest and most respected professional services and management consultation firms including “Big Four” international CPA firms KPMG, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst and Young, all of which have offices in Washington.

Areas of Employment for Accountants in the District of Columbia

For all the obvious reasons, government accounting continues to be an important area of specialization in Washington. Employers of government accountants in the D.C. area are extremely diverse and include federal agencies like the Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Non-profit accountancy can be quite similar to government accounting, as it involves the practice of fund accountancy with respect to the use of tax revenue and donated monies.

Those interested in becoming accountants focused on the unique needs of non-profit organizations work for the international think tank The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which has its U.S. headquarters in Washington or the community development organization NeighborWorks America.

Managerial accountants, financial controllers, internal auditors, cost and capital accountants are also found everywhere in the District, from the large privately held job placement and recruiting firm The Mergis Group; to

 government contract consultants Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP in Washington; to strategic technological consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton headquartered in McLean, VA.

IT auditors and accounting information systems specialists in the D.C. area work for NASDAQ OMX in Rockville, MD; data company Keane, Inc. in D.C.; and the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association in Arlington, VA. 

Forensic accountants trained in fraud investigation are found in both government and private industry where they work for the congressionally established Public Company Accounting Oversight Board or for financial services giant Kearney & Company in Alexandria, VA.

Job Growth and Salary Expectations for Accountants in Washington, DC

A high concentration of public accounting firms combined with a high concentration of personal and corporate wealth in and around the DC metropolitan area, has contributed to  the District of Columbia being among the best-paying areas in the country for accountants and auditors.

The Dc.gov Department of Employment Services listed accounting and tax preparation as one of the fastest growing industries in the District.  This agency predicts job growth of 6.13% over the ten-year period preceding 2022.  This level of growth should generate an additional 430 accounting positions on average each year during this period. 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average salary for an accountant in DC was $90,220 a year in 2014.  The Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance provides a more detailed breakdown of the salaries for various types of accounting positions.

In 2015, accountants in financial services firms in Washington with more than five years of experience earned salaries ranging from $93,060 to $117,480.  Forensic accountants in DC earned even higher salaries that ranged between $94,380 and $147,180.  Controllers in small financial services firms in DC earned salaries within the range of $121,440 to $163,020, according to The Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance.

CFOs had substantially higher salaries, partly due to the fact that they were very often licensed CPAs. CFOs at financial services firms in the District of Columbia earned from $204,600 to $363,000, according to the Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance

Salaries of Accountants and Auditors in the DC and Adjoining Areas

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a detailed analysis of the salaries of general accountants and auditors in the DC area that included parts of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia (2014):

Area name
Annual mean wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

Tax Preparer Salaries in the DC Area

The salaries of tax preparers in the DC area including adjoining parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland were substantially higher than those in the rest of the country according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014):

Area name
Annual mean wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

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.

District of Columbia Accountancy and Tax Laws in the News

A recent report on CNN stated that despite the recession and unemployment rates rising across much of the United States, accounting firms are still steadily hiring formally educated professionals. Most of the “Big 4” firms, which either have offices or headquarters in the District of Columbia, are currently hiring. This is great news for anyone in the D.C. area who plans to go into the field of accountancy. 

CPAs who work in the D.C. area are encouraged to join the Greater Washington Society of CPAs. This organization provides advocacy, networking, continuing education, career boards and other professional opportunities for accountants of all types working in and around Washington, D.C.

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