A State By State Accounting Guide
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Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Illinois

According to Occupational Employment Projections provided by the Illinois Department of Employment Security Economic Information & Analysis Division in 2014, employment of accountants is expected to grow by 12 percent in the state between 2012 and 2022. This strong growth is spurred on by an increase in the number of businesses operating in Illinois, changes in laws that affect the financial services industry, as well as the increased attention being given to organizational accounting integrity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, rapid growth will occur in the specialized areas of international business and information systems auditing.

Big four accounting firms Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG all have sizeable offices in Chicago. Although some accountants start as bookkeepers, tax preparers, or enrolled agents and have minimal formal education, positions within corporations and accounting firms are held by those with bachelor’s or grad degrees in accounting, or business degrees that include an accounting concentration. Those with their sites set on CPA licensure will very often earn a master’s degree in accounting as a way to gain advanced accounting skills and earn the 150 total semester hours required to be eligible for licensure through the Illinois Board of Examiners.

Becoming an accountant in Illinois with either the Licensed Certified Public Accountant (LCPA) or Registered Certified Public Accountant (RCPA) designation requires a bachelor’s degree, the successful completion of the Uniform CPA Exam, and one year of accounting experience. The Illinois Board of Examiners (IBOE) assesses the educational credentials of candidates to determine eligibility to sit for the CPA exam, while the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations (IDFPR) is responsible for granting licensure and practice privileges.

Illinois Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts

Illinois is home to some of the most well compensated managerial accountants, financial controllers, treasurers and CFOs in the nation, hosting operations and corporate offices for such world-class companies as Archer Daniels Midland, Boeing, Walgreens and more.  In fact, 31 Fortune 500 companies were headquartered in Chicago as of 2015 according to World Business Chicago.  It is no surprise that the Chicago area had the third highest level of employment for accountants of any metropolitan area in the country in 2014 according to the US Department of Labor. 

The field of accounting is growing throughout Illinois with the state’s Department of Employment Security estimating an increase of 11.7% in the number of accounting jobs in the state between 2012 and 2022.  The agency expects that such a high level of growth will generate an average of 1,983 accounting positions on average each year during the ten-year period of their analysis.

Salaries for Accountants in a Variety of Positions in Illinois

According to the US Department of Labor, the median salary of an accountant in Illinois was $66,000 in 2014.  Experienced professionals in the top 10% of their occupational category earned an average of $114,900. 

In 2015, corporate accountants in large firms in Chicago with more than five years of experience earned salaries ranging from $84,563 to $107,933 according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide.

Forensic accountants in Chicago earned even more with salaries that ranged between $87,945 and $137,145.  Controllers at large financial services firms in Rockford earned salaries ranging between $121,200 and $154,400 a year.

The highest salaries are reserved for Chief Financial Officers who are often licensed CPAs with years of managerial accounting experience.  CFOs in extremely large corporate accounting firms in Chicago earned salaries that ranged between $358,238 and $572,873 a year. 

Salaries for Accountants and Auditors Throughout Illinois

The US Department of Labor indicated that general accountants and auditors in the Lake County-Kenosha County area of the state earned salaries that were significantly higher than their colleagues in other parts of Illinois:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Bloomington-Normal IL
Estimate not released
Champaign-Urbana IL
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL Metropolitan Division
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL-IN-WI
Danville IL
Decatur IL
Kankakee-Bradley IL
Lake County-Kenosha County IL-WI Metropolitan Division
Peoria IL
Rockford IL
Springfield IL
Northwest Illinois nonmetropolitan area
West Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area
East Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area
South Illinois nonmetropolitan area

Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout Illinois

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, tax preparers in Peoria had the highest average salary for their occupational classification statewide in 2014.  In addition, tax preparers in Peoria who were in the 90th percentile of this occupational category earned an average salary that was more than $26,000 higher than tax preparers in other parts of Illinois:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL Metropolitan Division
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL-IN-WI
Lake County-Kenosha County IL-WI Metropolitan Division
Peoria IL
Rockford IL
Northwest Illinois nonmetropolitan area
Estimate not released
East Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area
South Illinois nonmetropolitan area

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.

Illinois Tax Laws in the News

One of the most controversial tax laws to be passed in the state of Illinois recently has to do with sales tax for online purchases. The law requires that online retailers with in-state affiliates collect sales tax on purchases made in Illinois. The reason given by lawmakers was that the law would help small businesses compete with online stores by creating a “level playing field” and would also generate $150 million in tax revenue each year.

Critics fear the plan will backfire as online retailers such as Amazon.com and Overstock.com will terminate their in-state affiliates in order to avoid charging the sales tax, creating a worse situation for these small business affiliates. According to FTC Beat, a blog written by the Washington, D.C.-based Ifrah Law Firm, other states that have enacted similar laws, thereby causing Amazon.com and other online retailers to pull their in-state affiliates, have actually generated very little in the way of sales tax revenue through online purchases.