Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Georgia

Certified public accountants hold bachelor’s degrees to meet minimum licensing requirements, but often go on to earn graduate degrees in order to earn the full 150 semester hours required for licensure through Georgia’s Board of Accountancy. This is because most bachelor’s programs include just 120 semester hours, making a master’s program in accounting perfect for filling the gap and developing the advanced accounting skills necessary to become a CPA. They are found throughout the accounting and management teams of corporations, as well as operating independent practices of their own or working for world class CPA and business consultation firms including the “Big Four” – KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers – all of which have offices in Atlanta. Becoming a non-certified public accountant with more limited practice privileges does not require licensure from Georgia’s Board of Accountancy.

Georgia’s certified public accountants hold bachelor’s degrees to meet minimum licensing requirements, but often go on to earn graduate degrees in order to earn the full 150 semester hours required for licensure through Georgia’s Board of Accountancy. This is because most bachelor’s programs include just 120 semester hours, making a master’s program in accounting perfect for filling the gap and developing the advanced accounting skills necessary to become a CPA.

They are found throughout the accounting and management teams of corporations, as well as in independent practices of their own or working for world class CPA and business consultation firms including the “Big Four” – KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, all of which have offices in Atlanta. Becoming a non-certified public accountant with more limited practice privileges does not require licensure from Georgia’s Board of Accountancy.

Managerial accountants, financial controllers, cost and capital accountants, and more are found throughout private industry, including in the many Fortune 500 companies that call Georgia home. Household names like Home Depot, UPS, and Coca-Cola are just some of the Fortune 500 companies located in Georgia.

Corporate accountants are found working in many capacities and for many different types of businesses, whether seeking to maximize profits as part of management teams for transportation giant Gulfstream Aerospace in Savannah or specializing in performing internal compliance audits in the corporate headquarters of Sun Trust Banks in Atlanta. Insurance giant Aflac, with headquarters in Columbus, is also a leading area employer of both corporate management accountants and actuarial accountants.

Government accountants usually hold a bachelor’s degree and sometimes a state-issued CPA license. Accountants are found in the Georgia Department of Public Health Accounting Office in Fulton County and in the Georgia Department of Human Resources in Albany, among many other state and municipal government agencies.

Job Growth and Salary Expectations for Accountants in Georgia

The Georgia Department of Labor lists accounting as one of its “Hot Careers to 2026” based on the field’s high wages, fast job growth, and the high level of annual job openings expected during the ten-year period leading up to 2026. Atlanta is where much of the action is, coming in tenth place among the metro areas in the nation with the highest employment level of accountants and auditors.

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According to the Georgia Department of Labor, the number of accountants and auditors here will increase by 21% between 2018 and 2028, with 4,880 average annual job openings here (due to a combination of new job growth, retirement, and natural job turnover) expected within this ten-year period leading up to 2028.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2020, accountants and auditors in Georgia earned a median salary of $73,940, while those in the top 10% earned more than $133,410.

However, these numbers can be misleading. With nearly 40,000 accountants working in the field across the state, the median pulls in data from every corner of the industry; everything from one-man shops working down in Madison to Big Four consultancies in glitzy Atlanta skyscrapers.

Salaries for Accountants in Different Specialized Roles

The good news is that the BLS also does a great job at breaking down salaries for accountant and auditors based on experience, job title, role, and more. Note that the following base salaries don’t include bonuses and incentives that are commonplace in this profession, particularly among accountants in specialized and executive roles.

Corporate Staff Accountants, Bookkeepers, and Accounting Clerks

Financial services is a sector where there’s a lot of money floating around, and it’s not hard to get a solid starting salary even with little accounting experience. Corporate staff accountants, bookkeepers, and accounting clerks fairly new to the profession earn about $32,910 (represents the 25th percentile), while those at the median level earn $40,960 in Georgia. Seasoned professionals in these roles enjoy top pay (75th – 90th percentile) of between $51,110 and $61,730.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants are in high demand due to their expertise in parsing out any sign of fraud or malfeasance and following the money trail in litigation or other investigations. They also command some of the top salaries among accountants and auditors, earning about $98,910, which represents the 75th percentile.

Controllers and Other Financial Managers

Controllers offer companies a deep reserve of expertise, as well as years of experience in the industry. In return, they enjoy top salaries. In Georgia, they earn about $124,760 at the median level and $175,460 at the 75thpercentile.

CPAs and Auditors

Public accountants serving as external auditors and tax specialists provide their services to businesses of all shapes and sizes, in every industry and every part of the state. That can lead to a wide divergence in starting salaries, but those at the top of the profession usually hold CPA licenses command top salaries.

For example, CPAs in the Atlanta metro area (includes Sandy Springs and Roswell) earn about $141,280, while those in the Augusta metro area earn about $106,580, both of which represent accountants and auditors in the 90thpercentile.

Accountants in Executive Roles

Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) in Georgia enjoy top pay for their industry-specific expertise, business acumen, and the CPA license they maintained throughout their climb up the corporate ladder.

In Augusta, for example, these top-level professionals earn a median salary of $118,660, while those at the 75thpercentile earn more than $199,190 and those at the 90th percentile earn more than $208,000.

Salaries for Accountants and Auditors in Georgia’s Metropolitan and Non-metropolitan areas

The BLS reports that as of May 2020, accountants and auditors in Atlanta and Columbus were among the highest earners in the state:

Area Name
Employment
Annual median wage
Albany
380
63440
Athens-Clarke County
420
61840
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell
25740
77400
Augusta-Richmond County
1400
60260
Brunswick
180
74040
Columbus
640
69180
Dalton
280
80980
Gainesville
620
64110
Hinesville
60
76060
Macon
620
66000
Rome
190
69110
Savannah
1190
65710
Valdosta
260
64170
Warner Robins
360
74520

(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)

Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout Georgia

BLS stats reveal that salaries for tax preparers in Atlanta out earned their colleagues in other parts of the state and in many parts of the country, as of 2020:

Area Name
Employment
Annual median wage
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell
1070
56090
Augusta-Richmond County
100
30430

 

May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job growth data for Accountants and AuditorsFinancial ManagersBookkeeping, 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 Georgia Department of Labor and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm.