Steps to Becoming an Accountant in North Dakota

CPAs in North Dakota are regulated and licensed by the North Dakota State Board of Accountancy. Aspiring CPAs here must earn 150 semester hours of college credit (within a bachelor’s degree program or higher), achieve passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam, and complete at least one year of professional accounting experience to earn licensure.

Since most bachelor’s programs consist of approximately 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting provides the streamlined path to earning the 30 additional credit hours required for a CPA license in North Dakota. Although none of the “Big Four” international accounting firms have offices in North Dakota, other major national and regional firms do. For example, CPAs work with Eide Bailly LLP, one of the top 25 CPA firms in the nation, which has offices in Fargo and Bismarck. Software giant Microsoft has recently established an Executive Briefing Center in Fargo where the Microsoft Finance Operations team retains CPAs who work as controllers, auditors, and management accountants.

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

Salaries and Top Industries for North Dakota Accountants

The Bakken surge has boosted economic growth statewide and resulted in strong salaries and strong job prospects across North Dakota for accountants and auditors. But North Dakota is also a Big Ag state, a top producer of renewable energy, and a place where tourism generates billions in revenue each year—all industries that are recognized as top employers of accounting professionals in every specialty.

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The oil surge alone has created a boom for skilled accountants and auditors who are needed to navigate an increasingly complex corporate tax environment. This growing demand for experienced and properly credentialed managerial accountants, controllers, and auditors has resulted in higher salary offers as companies compete for top talent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors in North Dakota earned a median salary of $61,930 as of May 2020.

Job Service North Dakota predicts an 8% increase for accounting and auditor jobs in the state between 2018 and 2028. During this ten-year period ending in 2028, the state should see about 410 annual job openings in the field through a combination of new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover.

Salaries for Accountants in North Dakota Working in Different Specialized Roles

Because a number of factors can influence salaries for accountants, including the size of the company, the industry in which the company operates, and any specialized skills and credentials an accountant might hold, the BLS also breaks down what accountants are earning based on the these factors.

Note that the following BLS numbers from May 2020 feature only base salaries and not any salary incentives, such as bonuses and stock options, both of which can significantly increase an accountant’s total compensation package.

Corporate Staff Accountants, Bookkeepers, and Accounting Clerks

From entry-level staff accountants with just a year or two of experience to accounting managers who oversee entire departments and divisions, corporate accountants earn strong salaries from the start. Those at the lower end of the pay scale (25th percentile) earn a salary of about $33,030, while those with a few more years of experience earn closer to the median range, which is about $39,570.

The highest earners (75th – 90th percentile) in North Dakota earn salaries of about $48,530 – $57,850.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants come with a unique skillset that makes them a valuable member of the legal team, and their strong salaries are indicative of their value in the profession. In North Dakota, forensic accountants earn about $78,800, which reflect the 75th percentile among all accountants and auditors in the state.

In Fargo, the average salary for these accounting professionals is about $79,620, while in Grand Forks, it’s about $79,720.

Controllers and Other Financial Managers

Controllers are vital members of the corporate management team who ensure internal controls are implemented and enforced, policies are followed, and regulations are adhered to, and their salary range reflects this level of expertise.

North Dakota’s controllers earn a median salary of about $127,320, while those at the 75th percentile earn about $170,370 and more than $208,000 at the 90th percentile. In Fargo, they earn slightly more at the median level, at $131,600, while those in Bismarck earn slightly less, at $125,730.

CPAs and Auditors

As the backbone of public accounting firms, CPAs can earn well into the six figures, particularly when they serve as senior managers and directors. In North Dakota, CPAs earn about $101,060, which represents some of the highest earners (90th percentile) among the state’s accountants.

Accountants in Executive Roles

Among those who start their careers in accounting and move up the ladder to eventually fill executive roles, it’s the CFOs who often enjoy the highest salaries.

At the median level, North Dakota’s accounting executives earn about $129,040, while those at the median level earn about $206,330. In Fargo, the median salary for accounting executives comes in much higher than the state average, at $142,810, as well as in Bismarck, at $131,790.

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

North Dakota accountants and auditors at the median level enjoy salaries that fall into the mid-$60,000s, in most cases, while many of the state’s highest earning accountants bring home salaries that exceed six figures.

(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
East North Dakota nonmetropolitan area
Grand Forks
West North Dakota nonmetropolitan area

Salaries for Tax Preparers Throughout North Dakota

At nearly $60,000 at the median range, tax preparers in North Dakota’s nonmetro western region earn salaries that place them among some of the highest paid in the region.

Area Name
Annual median wage
West North Dakota 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 Job Service North Dakota and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028) database –

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