Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Michigan

The Michigan Board of Accountancy issues licenses to candidates with the dedication and discipline needed to become certified public accountants. CPA candidates need a bachelor’s degree at minimum with 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, a master’s in accounting provides the ideal way to earn the additional credit hours required for a CPA license in Indiana.

All of the “Big Four” international CPA firms have a strong presence in Michigan. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and Deloitte have offices in Grand Rapids, while Ernst & Young and KPMG have Detroit-based offices. The Troy office of CPA professional services and advisory firm, Doeren Mayhew, is also recognized to be a major employer of CPAs in Michigan.

Find out more about CPA requirements in our step-by-step guide on how to become a CPA in Michigan.

Employment Industries for Michigan’s Accountants

Detroit’s economic woes are largely part of a story that can now be relegated to the past. Well into the 21st century now, Michigan continues to be a major contributor to the U.S. economy and a significant player in international commerce. As the hub of U.S. auto manufacturing and one of the biggest players in the Big Ag industry, it’s no surprise that the three biggest money-making industries in the Great Lakes State are still the automobile industry, advanced manufacturing, food and agriculture, and freshwater technology for irrigation and industrial applications.

As home to iconic American companies like General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford, Detroit-based accountants often serve as financial controllers, management accountants, and auditors within the state’s automotive industry.

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The combined revenue of these and other manufacturing giants like the Dow Chemical Co. has made the manufacturing industry one of the biggest employers of corporate managerial accountants, internal auditors, and financial controllers in the state.

Private sector accountants are also found working at the world headquarters of electronics and vehicle technology giant Delphi, which is located in Troy, and at the Dow Corning Corporation, which was originally founded in Midland and is still headquartered there. America’s largest electricity transmission company, ITC Holdings Corp, is headquartered in Novi and is recognized as one of the state’s major employers of private sector accountants and CPAs specializing in investment analysis.

Accountants are found working in some capacity in nearly all government agencies in the state, whether municipal, state, or federal. Specialized external audit experts work for the Defense Contract Audit Agency, which has offices in both Grand Rapids and Livonia, while fund accounting specialists and accounting clerks work for comptroller and county administrator offices throughout the state.

Salary and Employment Facts about Accountancy in Michigan

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB) projects the number of accountant and auditor jobs in the state to continue an impressive climb, increasing from 37,190 in 2018 to 37,460 in 2028. During this ten-year period ending in 2028, Michigan should see about 3,510 annual job openings for accountants and auditors due to a combination of new job growth, natural job turnover, and retirements.

Salaries for accountants and auditors in Michigan continue to be impressive, as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for accountants in Michigan was $68,980 as of May 2020.

Salaries for Accountants in Michigan Working in Different Specialized Roles

The BLS also provides a good deal of insight into the earning potential of Michigan’s accountants and auditors. Specialized skills, experience, industry credentials, and the industry in which they work all play a part in what accountants can expect to earn.

The following BLS numbers represent base salaries as of May 2020. Note that they don’t include incentives like stock options and bonuses, both of which can add significantly to an accountant’s yearly salary.

Corporate Staff Accountants, Bookkeepers, and Accounting Clerks

Start your career in accounting as a corporate staff accountant and you can expect to earn about $33,140 in Michigan, which represents the 25th percentile in this field. With a handful of years of experience under your belt, you’ll likely earn a salary that’s closer to the median, which is $39,630 here.

Senior-level positions and corporate accountant with significant experience, graduate degrees, and specialty credentials earn salaries that are reflective of the 75th – 90th percentile: $48,340 – $56,980.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic accounting is among the industry’s most highly specialized roles, so it comes as little surprise that starting salaries reflect that level of expertise. These professionals earn about $88,650, which represents the 75thpercentile among the state’s accountants and auditors. In larger metro areas, salaries for forensic accountants are even stronger in many cases. For example, in Ann Arbor, they earn about $91,700.

Controllers and Other Financial Managers

Protecting business assets through the enforcement of internal controls is a major duty that falls to corporate controllers, whose salaries reflect this level of expertise. Michigan’s controllers earn a median salary of $122,700, according to May 2020 BLS stats, while those in the 75th earn about $160,560 and those in the 90th percentile earn more than $208,000.

CPAs and Auditors

CPAs are the backbone of public accounting. Depending on the size of the firm they work for, its scope on the national or international stage, and the specialized industry-specific role the CPAs in their ranks fulfill, salaries for the professionals working for these firms can reach truly impressive levels.

In Michigan, CPAs and auditors earn about $115,150, which represents the 90th percentile among all accountants and auditors in the state.

Accountants in Executive Roles

Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) typically come from a background that involved earning a CPA license and climbing the corporate ladder through many years of accounting experience, largely in leadership roles. Most accounting executives in Michigan earn more than $208,000 according to May 2020 BLS stats. Even at the median level, salaries for these professionals hover at or around $200,000.

For example, in Grand Rapids, the median salary for accounting executives is $195,550.

Accountant and Auditor Salaries Throughout Michigan

Michigan’s metro areas report similar salaries for accountants and auditors at the median level which, as of May 2020, was in the mid-$60,000 range, in most cases. Midland continues to be the exception in Michigan, with accountants and auditors here enjoying salaries that soar beyond their colleagues in most other parts of the state.

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

Area Name
Annual median wage
Ann Arbor
Battle Creek
Bay City
Grand Rapids-Wyoming
Lansing-East Lansing
Niles-Benton Harbor

Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout Michigan

Tax preparers in the Grand Rapids metro area enjoy the highest median salary, while the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn metro area comes out ahead of all other metro areas in the state for its pay of tax preparers at the top of the pay scale.

Area Name
Annual median wage
Ann Arbor
Balance of Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
Grand Rapids-Wyoming
Lansing-East Lansing
Northeast Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area


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 national data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2021.

Job growth projections sourced from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028) database –

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