Aspiring certified public accountants in North Carolina must complete a total of 150 semester hours of college credit within a bachelor’s degree program or higher, satisfy supervised experience requirements, and achieve passing scores on both the Uniform CPA Exam and the North Carolina Accountancy Statutes and Rules exam to become licensed 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 and to the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute, both of which are located within Research Triangle Park.
Find out more about CPA requirements in our step-by-step guide on how to become a CPA in North Carolina.
Employment Industries for Accountants in North Carolina
North Carolina’s economy is driven by a combination of both the traditional agricultural, industrial, and advanced manufacturing bases it has always been known for and the high-tech companies that now call the Tar Heel state home. Aviation and aerospace, automotive transportation, biotechnology, commercial agriculture, and financial services are all making a mark here while serving as the leading employment sectors for accounting professionals.
Six of the world’s top-ten aerospace and defense companies have operations in North Carolina, including 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 in Charlotte. Together, these corporations form a sector that offers unique opportunities for cost and capital accountants, budget analysts, and even government accountants who play a vital role in tracking the allocation of public funds sent to the Department of Defense contractors in advanced weapons systems and hardware.
North Carolina is also among the top financial centers in the nation, home to headquarters of many banking and financial services firms. Among them are the state’s top employers of controllers, forensic accountants, auditors, and corporate staff accountants, including BB&T headquartered in Winston-Salem, Bank of America with headquarters in Charlotte, and investment firms TIAA-CREF and Wachovia, both also headquartered in Charlotte.
North Carolina Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts
According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the number of accounting jobs in the state will grow by 8.6% between 2018 and 2028. During this ten-year period leading to 2028, North Carolina will see about 4,020 job openings in the field of accounting every year due to a combination of new job growth, natural job turnover, and retirements.
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median salary of $72,900 for accountants and auditors in North Carolina.
Salaries for Accountants in North Carolina Working in Different Specialized Roles
The BLS also dives deeper into the earning power of North Carolina’s accountants by examining what they’re earning based on factors like experience, role/title, and industry.
Keep in mind that the following May 2020 BLS numbers do not include salary incentives, such as bonuses and stock options, which are commonplace among many accounting professionals, particularly those in leadership and executive roles.
Corporate Staff Accountants, Bookkeepers, and Accounting Clerks
The corporate arena is home to a wide array of accounting professionals of nearly every skill and experience level, from entry-level staff accountants to managers of entire accounting departments. With just a year or two of experience you can expect to earn about $32,580 in North Carolina as a corporate staff accountant, which represents the 25th percentile. Once you’ve established yourself in the profession, you’ll earn closer to the median range, which is $40,170 in North Carolina.
Senior-level corporate staff accountants here earn closer to the 75th – 90th percentile, or $48,950 – $58,030.
The investigation of accounting records for the purposes of criminal or civil investigations is one of the major job duties of forensic accountants, so it’s no surprise that these specialized accounting professionals enjoy a salary range the rises above corporate accountants.
In North Carolina, forensic accountants earn a median salary of $95,800, which represents the 75th percentile among all accountants and auditors in the state. In the state’s metro areas, higher salaries are commonplace. For example, those in Charlotte earn an average salary of about $105,340.
Controllers and Other Financial Managers
The oversight of a company’s checks and balances and internal controls requires accountants with a specific and highly specialized skillset, which is why controllers enjoy some of the highest salaries among accountants in North Carolina. As of May 2020, the BLS reports that controllers earn a median salary of $140,000, while those in the 75thpercentile earn about $191,110. The top earners (90th percentile) earn salaries that exceed $208,000.
In Durham-Chapel Hill’s metro area, controllers earn a median salary of $149,460, while those in Charlotte earn $156,980.
CPAs and Auditors
The stars of the show in public accounting are the CPAs who perform tax and audit/assurance services. CPAs and auditors enjoy some of the highest salaries among accountants in the state, and those who rise to the director earn even more.
The BLS reports that CPAs and auditors earn about $126,000, which represent the highest earners (90thpercentile) among all accountants and auditors in the state.
Accountants in Executive Roles
The highest earners in the executive accounting team are usually CFOs with accounting credentials that include the esteemed CPA licensure. In North Carolina, accounting executives earn more than $208,000, even at the median level. In metro areas like Charlotte and Durham-Chapel Hill, the salary story is the same, with most salaries for these professionals topping $208,000.
Accounting Salaries in North Carolina’s Major Cities and Non-Metro Areas
North Carolina’s Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metro area is home to both the largest number of accountants and auditors in the state and the highest salaries for these professionals.
(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)
Tax Preparer Salaries in North Carolina’s Major Cities and Non-Metro Areas
The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area comes out on top for its pay of tax preparers in North Carolina, both at the low and high end of the pay scale.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job growth data for Accountants and Auditors, Financial Managers, Bookkeeping, 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 North Carolina Department of Commerce and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm.