A State By State Accounting Guide
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Steps to Becoming an Accountant in North Carolina

The North Carolina Career Outlook Handbook lists accounting and auditing as being among the fastest growing occupations in the state between 2006 and 2016. During this ten-year period, the number of accounting jobs in North Carolina has grown by 15.88 percent, which translated to more than 9,000 new accounting jobs.

For those aspiring to become certified public accountants, a bachelor’s degree at minimum, a total of 150 semester hours of college credit, supervised experience, and passing scores on both the Uniform CPA Exam and the North Carolina Accountancy Statutes and Rules exam are all prerequisites for licensure through the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners. Because a bachelor’s degree generally results in about 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting provides the ideal way to earn the additional credit hours required to qualify for a CPA license in North Carolina. Big Four accounting firm, Deloitte, has offices in Charlotte, while Ernst & Young has locations in Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh. 

The state’s Research Triangle Park area is situated between three of the state’s largest universities: Duke University in Durham, Raleigh’s North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This area is home to 170 international companies, all of which retain staff accountants, budget analysts, internal auditors, controllers, and management accountants. Among the major employers of accounting professionals in this area is information technology company, Cisco Systems; financial giant, Credit Suisse; and the pharmaceutical company, Merck BioManufacturing Network.

Actuarial accountants and statisticians lend their expertise to the Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as to the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute, both also located within Research Triangle Park.

Employment Industries for Accountants in North Carolina

Various industries contribute to North Carolina’s economy, which, in recent years, has become more global and less domestic. Once based on textiles, tobacco, and the furniture industry, North Carolina’s economy is now based more on technology and its global application within these traditional industries. In 2010, Aviation and aerospace, automotive transportation, biotechnology, commercial agriculture, and financial services were some of the top industries in the state. Accountants have a similar role within all of these industries as they maintain company financial records and ensure funds are properly allocated within the organizations. 

Six of the world’s top 10 aerospace and defense companies have operations in North Carolina. These operations include Cessna’s service center in Greensboro, Honeywell’s operations plant in Rocky Mount, and the headquarters of defense products company, General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, which is located in Charlotte. 

The North Carolina Department of Commerce, and studies done by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, report that the state housed the second-largest financial center in the country as of 2011. It is home to the headquarters of many businesses and financial services companies. These companies, all of which employ accountants at various levels and with diverse responsibilities, include BB&T, which has corporate headquarters in Winston-Salem, and investment and mutual funds company, TIAA-CREF, with its corporate headquarters in Charlotte, Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte, and Wachovia, also headquartered in Charlotte.

According to the 2011 North Carolina Thrive report, 36 percent of North Carolina workers are 36 percent more productive than the average American worker. State residents believe this is because North Carolina provides an exceptional quality of life, producing happier, and therefore, more productive workers.

North Carolina Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts

In the ten-year period between 2012 and 2022, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a job growth rate of 13% in the field of accounting. With increased federal regulatory scrutiny on accounting practices, forensic accountants, in particular, will continue to see strong demand for the specialized services they provide.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 salary report showed that accountants and auditors in Fayetteville earned an average annual salary of $68,040. The difference in salaries for accounting professionals in North Carolina is due largely to experience, the size or the firm they work for, location, and most of all, CPA licensure.

Accounting professionals earning within the 90th percentile are typically those with years of experience, and more often than not, hold CPA licensure. The top 10 percent of Wilmington-based accountants earned an average salary of $113,860 according to the Bureau’s 2014 report.

2015 salary data from Robert Half, Inc. indicated that forensic accountants in Charlotte made up to $113,172 a year. Controllers for small firms made an average of $94,015, while those at large firms averaged $183,715.

Internal auditors for midsized Raleigh-based companies earned an average salary of $87,490. Chief financial officers with similar sized organizations in Raleigh earned an average of $267,020 according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance.

Accounting Salaries in North Carolina’s Major Cities and Non-Metro Areas

Some accountants working outside of urban areas can still make good money. Accountants and auditors in the Northeastern North Carolina nonmetropolitan area earned an average salary of $68,270 in 2014 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The following BLS table outlines 2014 salary and employment data for North Carolina-based accountants across metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas of the state.

Area name
Annual mean wage
Asheville NC
Burlington NC
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill NC-SC
Durham-Chapel Hill NC
Fayetteville NC
Goldsboro NC
Greensboro-High Point NC
Greenville NC
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton NC
Jacksonville NC
Raleigh-Cary NC
Rocky Mount NC
Wilmington NC
Winston-Salem NC
Northeastern North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Other North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western Central North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western North Carolina nonmetropolitan area

Tax Preparer Salaries in North Carolina’s Major Cities and Non-Metro Areas

As of 2014, the average annual salary for tax preparers in North Carolina was $44,210 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. At $87,080 a year, those in the top ten percent earned more than many general accountants nationwide.

Salaries for tax preparers in urban areas tend to be higher than for their counterparts in nonmetropolitan areas. The average salary for tax preparers in Western North Carolina was $26,080 in 2014, while those in Charlotte earned $54,460 on average.

The table below shows 2014 tax preparer salary data for professionals working in North Carolina’s metropolitan and non-metro areas (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Area name
Annual mean wage
Asheville NC
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill NC-SC
Greensboro-High Point NC
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton NC
Jacksonville NC
Raleigh-Cary NC
Wilmington NC
Estimate not released
Northeastern North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Other North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western Central North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western North Carolina 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

North Carolina Tax Laws in the News

Site Selection magazine has ranked North Carolina’s business climate as the best in the nation for nine of the past ten years. Much of this is due to tax credit programs and incentives that exist for businesses in the state. Article 3J tax credits offer incentives to businesses for creating a minimum number of new, full-time jobs, as well as making investments in real and business property. The state’s Renewable Energy Tax Credits provide businesses with a tax credit up to 35% of the cost of renewable energy property. This applies to the construction and cost of solar energy equipment, geothermal equipment, hydro, wind, and biomass applications. 

The state has also established the One North Carolina Fund, designed to allocate money to local governments to recruit, expand, and retain new and existing businesses. The money can be used to make structural improvements or repairs, install or purchase equipment, and to construct or make improvements to utilities.

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