Steps to Becoming an Accountant in New Jersey
The New Jersey State Board of Accountancy is responsible for licensing state residents interested in becoming certified public accountants. The Board requires its CPAs to have at least 150 semester hours of college education, a bachelor’s degree at minimum, a year of public accounting experience, and passing scores on both the Uniform CPA Exam and on New Jersey’s ethics, laws, and regulations exam. With bachelor’s programs only including about 120 semester hours of college credit, online master’s degrees provide the perfect avenue for earning the full 150 semester hours required for a CPA license in New Jersey.
Big Four public accounting firm, Deloitte, has local branch offices in Parsippany and East Brunswick. Ernst & Young, another Big Four firm, has offices in Iselin, Rutherford and Secaucus. In addition, there were 20 Fortune 500 companies with corporate headquarters in New Jersey. These companies were known to be among the state’s biggest employers of corporate managerial accountants. The diverse companies that call New Jersey home include household names like healthcare and pharmaceuticals company, Johnson & Johnson, which is headquartered in New Brunswick; security and energy product engineering company, Honeywell International in Morris Township; and retailer, Toys ‘R Us, with its corporate offices in Wayne.
Many banks and financial services companies, which are major employers of accounting professionals who work as auditors, controllers, and advisors, also call New Jersey home. Prudential Financial, another Fortune 500 company, is headquartered in Newark, Bloomberg Equities Group has its corporate headquarters in Princeton, and GM Financial Center is headquartered in Jersey City.
In addition, there are 21 Fortune 500 companies with corporate headquarters in New Jersey.
New Jersey Accountants: Salary and Job Trends
New Jersey comes in at #3 in the US Bureau of Labor Statistics national ranking of top paying states for accountants, largely owing to the relatively lofty salary schedules that accountants command in Newark specifically. Brushing up against the finance Mecca of New York City, the average annual salary of Newark-based accountants was $99,900 in 2018 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Newark/New York area also employs the highest number of accountants in the state with 117,620 accounting professionals located here as of May 2018.
Key industries here that support innovation and expansion are also some of the top employers for accountants in the state, and include everything from technology and biopharmaceuticals, to financial services and healthcare, to the industrial base and advanced manufacturing that is part of New Jersey’s legacy and character.
The gaming industry is still big business in Atlantic City too. Accountants here follow the AICPA’s Gaming Audit and Accounting Guide in performing routine audits for the tightly-regulated casinos that operate here. It’s interesting work for the accountants lucky enough to get it. These jobs are rare anywhere in the world, making New Jersey one of the few places where auditors can work outside the more routine realm of corporate audit and assurance services. Casinos like Borgata and Bally’s Atlantic City all employ accountants to ensure their gambling businesses run smoothly.
The video game industry is another hot industry for accountants in New Jersey. Many digital gaming companies are headquartered here, including Blackburst Media in Glen Rock, Saber Interactive in Cranford, Slingo in Hackensack, and I-play in Plainsboro.
The financial services sector alone generates tens of billions for the New Jersey economy every year, driving job growth for managerial accountants, controllers, and even forensic accounting specialists.
The job market for accountants here has seen steady growth for years, and this will continue at least through 2026, with the US Department of Labor expecting a growth rate of 10% nationwide between 2016 and 2026. In addition to this, the New Jersey Division of Labor Market and Demographic Research reported that accountants and auditors could expect 4,090 new openings annually in the state between 2016 and 2026.
Salaries for Accountants in New Jersey Working in Different Specialized Roles
For the kind of role-specific information on salary potential future accountants need as they consider their career path, we look to the Robert Half 2019 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance.
The ranges this report shows represent starting salaries in Trenton for the 25th and 95th percentiles. These are base salaries only and don’t include compensation packages that often include things like stock options and other incentives.
Corporate Staff Accountants
Accountant salaries in a corporate setting are often quite broad, as jobs in this field range from entry-level staff accountants to managerial accountants in senior-level professionals. For example, accounting managers in the 95th percentile working in corporate offices in Trenton earn nearly three times as much as early career staff accountants—$177,926 vs. $61,397.
- Manager: $95,541-$177,926
- Senior: $78,879-$146,288
- 1 to 3 years: $61,397-$121,541
Corporate controllers do more than just implement and enforce internal controls, their work ensures corporations remain in compliance with state and federal regulations. Ensuring corporations stay out of hot water is a valuable skill, and one that businesses are willing to pay handsomely for. In Trenton, their salaries reflect this, with a starting range of between $115,276 and $260,311.
Forensic accountants, charged with the examination of financial records in criminal or civil proceedings, enjoy salaries that match their expertise. The salary range for Trenton-based accountants in this field is $95,228-$181,372, with those in the 50th percentile earning $115,276.
Tax Specialists and Auditors in Public Accounting Firms
Tax specialists and external auditors are the big players in any public accounting firm, and the biggest of the big shots all hold CPA licenses issues by the New Jersey State Board of Accountancy. The salaries they command reflect their advanced certification and specialized skills. At the director level in public accounting firms in the city of Trenton, CPAs earn a median salary of $164,456 performing audit and assurance services and $167,902 for those who perform tax services.
Even at lower levels in the accounting firm hierarchy, public accountants in Trenton do well for themselves.
- Manager: $93,348-$178,552
- Senior: $66,722-$127,179
- 1-3 years’ experience: $54,505-$103,686
- Manager: $108,071-$205,805
- Senior: $75,806-$141,589
- 1-3 years’ experience: $59,831-$114,649
Accountants in Executive Roles
Most CFOs can tell the story of how they started their career in accounting, earned a CPA license, and made the move to work for a corporation where they climbed the ladder to achieve an executive title. In Trenton, CFOs of major corporations earning within the 95th percentile can expect offers of around $623,054. Even those with less experience at smaller firms, representing the 50th percentile, can expect to be offered $246,528.
Accounting Salaries in New Jersey City by City
Salary data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that accountants in the Trenton metropolitan area earned an average salary of $82,980 a year in 2018. In the Atlantic City/Hammonton area, accountants who were earning in the top 10 percent earned $112,790 that year on average.
The following table shows BLS data for accounting positions in New Jersey’s metropolitan areas (2018).
(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)
Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout New Jersey
Tax Preparers in New Jersey earned an average of $51,840 in 2018, although the BLS breakdown does not offer much insight into how various regions within the state fare.
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_nj.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 New Jersey Division of Labor Market and Demographic Research 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.