Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy grants licensure to CPA candidates with bachelor’s degrees from accredited programs and a total of 150 semester hours of college credit, one year of experience, and passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam. Because a bachelor’s degree results in just 120 semester hours of college credit, aspiring CPAs often enroll in online master’s degree programs in accounting to earn the full 150 semester hours required for a CPA license in Massachusetts. Licensed CPAs in Massachusetts hold positions in firms like Eastern Research Group in Lexington providing economic, regulatory, and policy analysis, or in the corporate offices of locally based banks like Berkshire Bank in Pittsfield. Some of the most sought after positions are with the “Big Four” CPA firms KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, which have a very strong presence in Massachusetts. All four of these firms have offices in Boston.
Those interested in becoming accountants without pursuing the CPA designation can enter the field with an associate’s degree allowing them to provide tax services under the employ of Massachusetts based accounting firms like KAF Financial Group in Boston or as accounts payable/receivable specialists for the Winter Wyman Companies in North Andover.
Government accountants work in the state’s county, municipal, and state government offices. These bachelor or grad degreed accountants are found in the administrative offices of the Army Corps of Engineers in Concord or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Jamaica Plain.
Management accountants, cost and capital accountants, financial controllers, and internal auditors are found in Massachusetts’ private sector working in the corporate offices of multi-national corporations like Philips, which has an office in Andover. Massachusetts is home to a number of corporations, including Iron Mountain, with headquarters in Boston and One Beacon Insurance headquartered in Canton. These companies are recognized as being among the largest private employers of accountants in the state. Accountants specializing in investment advisory services are major players in investment firms like Fidelity Investments, which has offices in Boston, or Mass Mutual Financial Group based in Springfield.
Accounting information systems specialists and IT network auditors can explore career options with companies specializing in high tech products and operations. The Kronos Company headquartered in Chelmsford, Aspen Technology in Burlington, and the innovative healthcare product producer, Coviden, with U.S. headquarters in Mansfield, are some of the Massachusetts based companies that employ these technically-focused accountants.
Accountants with a greater interest in social issues than profit margins may find nonprofit organizations like Horizons for Homeless Children, or Brigham and Women’s Hospital are better suited to their calling. These organizations need accountants who work as fund specialists to manage expenditure to grant ratios.
Salary and Employment Facts About Accountancy in Massachusetts
Accounting is a lucrative profession in Massachusetts, with accountants and auditors in the state earning some of the highest salaries found anywhere in the country. It’s a relatively popular profession too. In fact, Boston alone represented the seventh largest employment area for accountants and auditors in the country in 2018 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Even with a high concentration of accounting professionals, those numbers are expected to grow in the coming years to keep up with the demand for both internal and external auditing, assurance and other general accounting and business services. Accounting jobs will expand at a rate of 8.5% in the lead up to 2026 according to the state’s Labor and Workforce Development Department. The department expects 3,690 accounting jobs to become available on average each year during this time frame.
The median salary for an accountant in Massachusetts was $74,890 in 2018, but those in the top ten percent of the profession could earn $122,930 or more. General salary figures put out by a government agency like the Bureau of Labor Statistics only give a basic idea of potential income, though, so we look to other sources for role- and industry-specific information.
Salaries for Accountants in Massachusetts Working in Different Specialized Roles
According to the 2019 Robert Half Accounting and Finance Salary Guide, accounting salaries vary widely based on experience and credentials, as well as the type of position, industry, and the size of the firm an accountant works for.
Salaries for accountants in Boston are shown here, with ranges representing starting salaries for the 25th and 95th percentile in each category. It’s important to show salary ranges because one-size-fits-all simply doesn’t apply in this field, where specialized skills, experience, the size of the company, and the city in which it’s located all influence salary potential.
It’s also important to remember that stats reflect base salaries only and that extras like bonuses and stock options can add significantly to an annual salary.
Corporate Staff Accountants
The expertise of corporate staff accountants is reflected in their salaries, with even those with as little as one year of experience earning a midpoint salary of $83,080. Senior accountants in corporate settings earn a midpoint salary of $104,185, and managers earn even more with a midpoint of $123,280.
- Manager: $102,175-$190,280
- Senior: $85,425-$156,445
- 1 to 3 years: $65,660-$129,980
Monitoring and enforcing internal controls requires a unique skillset, which is why controllers in Boston enjoy some of the highest salaries, with starting offers between $123,280-$278,385. The midpoint salary for these accounting pros is $158,455.
Forensic accountants in Boston earn salaries that are well into the six figures, with the midpoint salary at $123,280. Forensic accountants at the 25th percentile earn $101,840, while the top five percent earn nearly twice as much, at $196,965.
CPAs and Auditors in Accounting Firms
The public accounting sector is staffed with accounting professionals that hold different credentials and who perform a variety of specialized tasks for businesses and wealthy individuals. Among them are CPAs, non-certified public accountants, auditors, and tax specialists. Those that lock down positions with the bigger regional, national and international firms are widely regarded as the top experts in the field.
The top-level pros in Boston, usually those with director titles, earn anywhere from $146,730-$279,725 in the audit and assurances area and $149,410-$284,415 in the tax services area.
- Manager: $99,830-$190,950
- Senior: $71,355-$136,010
- 1-3 years’ experience: $58,290-$110,885
- Manager: $115,575-$220,095
- Senior: $81,070-$151,420
- 1-3 years’ experience: $63,985-$122,610
Accountants in Executive Roles
Top-level execs with an accounting background enjoy some of the highest salaries in accounting, with CFOs in the lead. The salary range for these financial experts is $162,475-$666,315. Even those at the midpoint are offered starting salaries of $263,645.
Salaries for Accountants and Auditors in Urban and Rural Areas of Massachusetts
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that general accountants and auditors working in the Boston area earned the highest average salary statewide in 2018. General accountants and auditors in the Leominster-Gardner area in the top 10% of this occupational category had a substantially higher average salary than their colleagues throughout the rest of Massachusetts.
(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)
Tax Preparer Salaries in the Major Metropolitan Areas of Massachusetts
Tax preparers in Boston earned an average salary comparable to that of accountants and were better paid than their colleagues in other Massachusetts cities in 2018 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).
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_ma.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 Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development Department 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.