Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Florida
The Florida Board of Accountancy is responsible for licensing Florida’s CPAs and, in accordance with the Uniform Accountancy Act, requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree at minimum with a total of 150 semester hours of college credit, a year of experience, and passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam. While satisfying the experience requirement, many CPA licensure candidates also begin working to earn a master’s degree in accounting to satisfy the semester hour requirement for CPA licensure in Florida.
Major employers of CPAs in the state include public accounting firms Crowe Horwath, LLC located in Fort Lauderdale, as well as “Big Four” international CPA firms KPMG with offices in Miami and Ernst and Young with a location in Tampa.
Job Trends for Accountants in Florida
CPAs involved in investigative accounting are credited with building the body of evidence responsible for prosecuting both white-collar crimes and the illicit money laundering activities of organized crime syndicates. Forensic accounting is emerging as one of the hottest jobs in accounting, and in Florida, major accounting firms like the Sanford Barrows Group, LLC as well as Miami’s U.S. Marshals Service, retain these professionals for their unique investigative expertise.
According to the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, one of the biggest areas of employment for Florida’s accountants is in the world of big business. Corporate accountants serve as accounting managers, internal auditors, and financial control officers for the many fortune 500 companies headquartered here, including Fidelity National Financial in Jacksonville and the corporate offices of specialty retailer Office Depot located in Boca Raton. Financial advisers serve institutions like Edward Jones in Orlando or JPMorgan Chase, which has a corporate office in Tampa.
Job Growth and Salary Expectations for Accountants in Florida
The field of accounting is booming in Florida as Wall Street firms relocate their offices to business-friendly cities like Jacksonville where operational costs and tax rates are lower than almost anywhere on the east coast, and a whole lot lower than in New York where most of these firms hail from. And according to a 2018 article in Bloomberg, there are corporate defectors coming down south as well, with the state’s reputation as a tax haven pulling in former talent from Morgan Stanley and Squared Capital, along with other fund managers coming to set up shop.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 Florida was home to the fourth highest number of accountants and auditors in the country. In particular, Tallahassee had the sixth highest concentration of accounting jobs of any city in the nation.
And the number of accounting positions in Florida is increasing faster than in the US as a whole. The total number of accounting jobs in the state is expected to increase by 20% between 2016 and 2026 according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. This along with normal changes in the workforce will result in 16,720 positions for accountants opening up each year over this ten-year period.
Salaries for Accountants, CPAs and CFOs in Florida
The median salary for accountants in Florida was $62,270 a year in 2018 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experienced accountants in Florida with CPA licenses earned an average of $110,320 a year. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics only maintains a single, general category for accountants and auditors, without drilling down to specific roles or locations, or saying much about the value of specialty credentials in terms of dollars earned. That’s where the Robert Half Salary Guide comes in.
Corporate Accountants in Financial Services
According to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide, in 2019 accountants in Miami with at least five years of industry experience under their belts accepting jobs in the financial services industry were offered starting salaries of between $72,080 on average (25th percentile) and $137,005 on average for top earners in the 90th percentile.
Starting salaries for controllers at financial services firms in Tampa ranged from a 25th percentile average of $105,719 to a 90th percentile average of $200,492.
Forensic accountants in Orlando were offered between $76,760 (25th percentile average) and $146,198 (90th percentile average).
CPAs and Auditors in Accounting Firms
Certified Public Accountants in Jacksonville with high-level management or director positions in large accounting firms performing audit and assurance services were offered a median starting salary of $126,000, with those in the top ten percent commanding an average of $200,400. At the same level, those performing tax services earned a median salary of $128,640, while those in the top ten percent earned an average of $203,760.
At different levels of experience accountants and auditors working at public accounting and business services firms in Jacksonville earned (25th–95th percentile):
- Management – $71,520 – $136,800
- Senior – $51,120 – $97,440
- 1-3 years experience – $41,760 – $79,440
- Management – $82,800 – $157,680
- Senior – $58,080 – $108,480
- 1-3 years experience – $45,840 – $87,840
Accountants in Executive Roles
The highest average salaries in the field are reserved for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), who typically have many years of experience in management accounting and hold CPA licenses. CFOs at financial services firms in Miami were offered starting salaries ranging from a 25th percentile average of $167,906 to a 90th percentile average of $497,500 for the most actively headhunted talent, according to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide.
Salaries for Accountants and Auditors in Florida’s Cities and Rural Areas
Salary data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that accountants and auditors in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area had the highest average salary in the state, while accountants and auditors in Port Lucie were the second highest earners in the state.
(This is a broad classification that includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience).
Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout Florida
The average salary of Florida’s tax preparers varied dramatically depending on their location. Tax preparers in the Lakeland-Winter Haven area had by far the highest average salary in Florida in 2018.
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_fl.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 Florida Department of Economic Opportunity 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.