Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Oregon

Oregon is one of only a handful of states that still licenses public accountants (PAs) as well as CPAs. In a move that sets them apart from most other jurisdictions, the Oregon State Board of Accountancy has made it a requirement for even non-certified public accountants to pass three of four sections of the Uniform CPA examination:

  1. Business Economic & Concepts (BEC)
  2. Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)
  3. Regulation (REG)

Those interested in becoming non-certified public accountants in Oregon must also have at least a year’s worth of experience under the guidance of a supervisor licensee. This experience is usually gained on the job through regular full-time employment providing tax preparation and bookkeeping services.

CPA candidates require a bachelor’s degree at minimum and 150 semester hours of college credit, passing scores on all portions of the Uniform CPA Exam, and a full year of supervised work experience. Because a bachelor’s degree results in around 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 Oregon. Would-be CPAs in Oregon must also pass a professional ethics exam administered by either the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) or the Oregon Society of Certified Public Accountants (OSCPA).

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

Careers in Oregon’s Accounting Firms

All of the “Big Four” international CPA firms; Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers; have offices in Portland. National accounting and professional services firms recognized as leading employers of Oregon CPAs include Moss Adams, LLP; which is headquartered in Washington state.

Oregon’s own Geffen Mesher & Company and PC Perkins and Company, PC; both of which were founded here, are recognized as the largest local accounting firms in the state. These locally owned firms are also among the leading employers of Portland area accountants who provide business consultation, tax, and accounting services to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals throughout Oregon. Other notable local accounting firms in Portland include Talbot, Korvola & Warwick, LLP; Wicks, Emmett, Hatfield & Chappell, LLP; and Boldt, Carlisle & Smith, LLC. Local accounting firms are located throughout the western and central part of the state. Salem is home to Fischer, Hayes & Associates, while accountants in Bend are found working for Harrigan Price Fronk & Co, LLP.

Salary and Employment Projections for Accountants in Oregon

With the technology sector booming, accountants and auditors are doing well in the established software firms and new tech start-ups in the Silicon Forrest. According to Oregon’s Employment Department, the entire state is set to experience exceptionally strong job growth for accountants over the decade between 2016 and 2026… at least 1,460 openings in the category each year, reflecting a growth rate of better than 16 percent over the ten-year period.

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Much of that growth is driven by the influx of people and technology industry jobs into the Portland/Vancouver area and as far south as Eugene, and helps account for the strong state median salary of $65,760 in the accounting field, according to a 2018 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Top earners in the group crack the six figure mark with an average of $103,940 for the upper ten percent.

Salaries for Accountants in Different Roles and Specializations

BLS data only shows the tip of the iceberg, though. Accounting is a highly specialized profession, operating in many different industries and with many different roles, each of which can command a substantially different salary range.

For that kind of detail you’d turn to the 2019 Robert Half Accounting and Finance Salary Guide. The guide provides starting salary information at the 25th, 50th, and 95th percentiles… a spread that often reflects differences in industry, qualifications, and company size that can make a big difference in pay. The numbers don’t cover bonuses or other incentives, which builds compensation even higher in certain industries such as finance sector shops, where such structures are common.

Corporate Staff Accountants in Financial Services

Financial service firms pay their line accountants well in Portland, with a midpoint starting salary of $67,580 for those with up to three years of experience, and the top end coming in at $105,185 at the largest firms. Experience continues to play a role in compensation as they climb the ladder (midpoint to 95th percentile):

  • 3 to 5 years experience: $78,752 – $123,443
  • 5+ years experience: $90,198 – $140,882

Corporate Controllers

Those same firms also place a high value on well-qualified controllers, who can pull in between $115,813 and $219,635 with starting salaries that fall within the 25th to 95th percentiles, covering all experience levels.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants in Portland are in a hot field right now, with a midpoint starting rate of $100,280 that can reach all the way up to $157,778 for those in the top five percent.

CPAs and Auditors in Accounting Firms

Public accounting is in demand all over the state, of course, but in Portland, pay tends to be higher. For the most senior positions, almost certainly requiring a CPA license, the top five percent of senior auditors, for example, can make up to $227,538.

Assurance/Audit Services (25th to 95th percentile):

  • Management – $81,205 – $155,325
  • Senior – $58,043 – $110,635
  • 1-3 years experience – $47,415 – $90,198

Tax Services (25th to 95th percentile):

  • Management – $94,012 – $179,032
  • Senior – $65,945 – $123,170
  • 1-3 years experience – $52,048 – $99,735

Accountants in Executive Roles

Accountants in the highest ranks, those with the title of Chief Financial Officer, certainly have both the experience and the credentials to rake in the big bucks. Those credentials often come in the form of a CPA license earned at some point along the way up the corporate ladder. In Portland, corporate CFOs pull down anywhere from $214,458 at the midpoint to $542,002 on the top end.

Salaries for Accountants and Auditors in Oregon’s Cities and Non-Metro Areas

The Portland and Albany areas run neck and neck for average salaries with $73,020 and $74,150 respectively as the annual pay rate for accountants and auditors. When you get into the top ten percent, Albany is the clear winner in the contest with an average of $114,690.

Area Name
Annual Mean Wage
Central Oregon nonmetropolitan area
Coast Oregon nonmetropolitan area
Eastern Oregon nonmetropolitan area
Grants Pass
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

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

Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout Oregon

Although Portland is the major market for tax preparers in Oregon, the salaries in state capital Salem blow other major urban and nonmetropolitan areas away with $76,200 as the average and $129,110 a year for the upper ten percent.

Area Name
Annual Mean Wage
Coast Oregon nonmetropolitan area
Eastern Oregon nonmetropolitan area
Grants Pass


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 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 – 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 Oregon State Employment Departmentand reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database –

All salary and job growth data accessed in May 2019.

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