Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Hawaii

Hawaii’s Board of Accountancy, under the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, licenses CPA candidates who have earned a bachelor’s degree at minimum, gained a year of practical work experience, and passed the Uniform CPA Exam. 
 Because bachelor’s degrees result in just 120 semester hours of college credit, going on to earn a master’s in accounting provides an ideal way to earn the additional credit hours required for a CPA license in Hawaii.

Honolulu is the location of the greatest concentration of CPAs and other accounting professionals in the Islands. It continues to be the hub of business and international commerce in Hawaii, and is actually home to branch offices of three of the “Big Four” international CPA firms: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. These continue to be the world’s most respected and best recognized professional services firms employing CPAs who provide auditing and attestation services, management consultation, and financial advisory services. Financial advisory and investment strategy firm Edward Jones has personal advisors and strategists with backgrounds in accounting working on Oahu, as well as on the east side of the Big Island in Hilo.

Employment Industries for Hawaii’s Accountants

Hawaii is home to diverse industries and businesses that create unique opportunities for accountants in everything from finance and private industry, to government and non-profit work. The HOKU Corporation, a clean energy technology company in Honolulu, retains accountants like any other company, to work as controllers and internal auditors. Interestingly; however, is the fact that they also employ environmental accountants tasked with monitoring the environmental impact of their business so as to mitigate the effects in accordance with the company’s environmentally respectful ethic. Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, Inc staffs cost estimators experienced in the construction process and knowledgeable of the supply chain involved in sourcing materials for projects located all over the Islands. They also retain managerial accountants and internal auditors who support the business off-site from their offices in Honolulu.

All federal government entities with a presence in Hawaii, from the military’s Defense Logistics Agency in Pearl Harbor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture with its offices in Hilo, retain fund accountants involved in the management of taxpayer funds allocated to support the daily operation of the agencies and their projects.

Those more interested in becoming accountants with careers that support the credo “life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness,” work as environmental accountants or manage donated funds as fund accountants for nonprofits like Castle Medical Center in Kailua and the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii.

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Job Growth and Salary Expectations for Accountants in Hawaii

Workforce forecasts from the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOL) show that jobs for accountants in Hawaii are likely to increase by 8.4% between 2016 and 2026. Between job growth and normal job market changes, there will be an average of 530 accounting positions opening up statewide every year during this ten-year period just to keep pace with the growing demand in the state for accounting and audit services.

The US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median salary for an accountant in Hawaii was $61,290 in 2018. Experienced professionals in the 90th percentile earned an average annual salary of $95,550.

These are general figures for a broad classification of accounting professionals and don’t offer much in the way of insight into what types of positions, employers, industries and credentials are associated with the best earning potential. For that information we rely on data from the recruiting and job market research firm, Robert Half.

Salaries for Accountants in Different Specialized Roles

The 2019 Robert Half Accounting and Finance Salary Guide provides further detail on the salaries associated with specific types of accounting jobs. Ranges shown represent starting salaries for the 25th and 95th percentile for each category. The ranges reflect differences in specialized skills, experience and credentials, but don’t include bonuses and other incentives that can add substantially to the figures shown here:

Corporate Staff Accountants

In Honolulu, corporate accountants in small firms with one to three years of experience had starting salaries that ranged between $52,430 for the 25th percentile and $103,790 for top earners in the 95th percentile.

Corporate Controllers

Controllers who worked at financial services firms in Honolulu had starting salaries of between $113,688 in the 25th percentile and $215,605 for the most sought after accounting talent, representing the top five percent.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants in Hawaii helped to unravel a $26 million Ponzi scheme that resulted in convictions for former Maui residents and mortgage brokers Holly Hoaeae and George Lindell in 2015. When clients came to the Lindells for home refinancing, they were persuaded to invest in a fund called The Parking Lot that primarily invested in marginal real estate or junk bonds. The evidence produced in court told the story of how 166 people invested $26 million and were defrauded to the tune of $8.99 million.

Forensic accountants are well compensated for their specialized investigative skills and offered starting salaries ranging from $81,320 on the low end and $154,882 at the high end according to the 2019 Robert Half Accounting and Finance Salary Guide.

Tax Specialists and Auditors in Public Accounting Firms

Experienced CPAs in Honolulu working for accounting firms and performing audit and assurance services were offered a median starting salary of $140,438, with those in the top ten percent commanding an average of $223,362.

The full ranges for Honolulu’s public accountants serving as tax specialists and experts in external auditing and assurance services are shown here

Assurance/Audit Services:

  • Management – $79,715 – $152,475
  • Senior – $56,978 – $108,605
  • 1-3 years experience – $46,545 – $88,542

Tax Services:

  • Management – $92,288 – $175,748
  • Senior – $64,735 – $120,910
  • 1-3 years experience – $51,092 – $97,905

Accountants in Executive Roles

Salary offers for Chief Financial Officer varied by as much as three fold depending on the size of the firm they worked for. The average salary offer for a CFO can range from $129,738 (25th percentile average) and $532,058 for the top ten percent. Naturally, years of experience, CPA credentials, and the size of the employing firm had a significant impact on what kind of salary offers CFOs could expect.

Salaries for Accountants in Honolulu versus those in Hawaii’s Nonmetropolitan Region

Information provided by the US Department of Labor indicated that salaries for accountants in Hawaii in 2018 varied only slightly depending on their location.

Area Name
Annual Mean Wage
Hawaii / Kauai nonmetropolitan area
Urban Honolulu

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

Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout Hawaii

Not surprisingly, the median salary for tax preparers located in Honolulu was the highest in the state in 2018, beating out Kauai by more than $20,000.

Area Name
Annual Mean Wage
Hawaii / Kauai nonmetropolitan area
Urban Honolulu

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 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 – 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 Hawaii Department of Labor Industrial Relations and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database –

All salary and job growth data accessed in May 2019.