Steps to Becoming an Accountant in South Dakota

The South Dakota Board of Accountancy licenses and regulates the practice of certified public accounting. Aspiring CPAs here must earn 150 semester hours of college credit within an approved bachelor’s degree or higher, achieve passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam, and complete at least one year of professional accounting experience. While satisfying the experience requirement, aspiring CPAs often begin working towards a master’s degree in accounting to earn the additional 30 hours required for a CPA license, as most bachelor’s programs only result in 120 semester hours.

While none of the Big Four CPA firms hold offices in South Dakota, there are plenty of opportunities in other well-known accounting and professional services firms and in private industry throughout the state. Financial advisory and investment firm AXA Advisors, LLC has offices in Sioux Falls; energy company Black Hills Corporation has its headquarters in Rapid City; and the regional branch office of international equipment trailer company Terex Load King is located in Elk Point. These companies are recognized as some of the leading private employers of accountants in the state.

There are many areas of specialty for CPAs and other accounting professionals interested in pursuing additional certification. Some work as forensic accountants where they investigate claims of fraud, while others find their niche as financial planners for companies like the multinational investment firm Edward Jones, which as an office in Rapid City.

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

South Dakota Accountants: Salary Expectations and Job Growth

With the oil industry booming again in South Dakota, the other industries it touches have also taken off, and accounting is no exception. The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation projects that accounting jobs in the state will increase by nearly 10% between 2018 and 2028. During this ten-year period leading to 2028, new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover will all contribute to about 540 annual openings for accountants.

Salaries for South Dakota’s accountants also remain strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they earned a median salary of $64,940 as of May 2020.

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Salaries for Accountants in Different Specialized Roles

But this broad statistic doesn’t reflect the diversity and breadth that are actually found in the accounting industry. Fortunately, the BLS also highlights what accountants are earning at every level and in various roles, titles, and industries.

Note that the following May 2020 numbers from the BLS highlight only base salaries and not total compensation packages that often include salary incentives like bonuses and stock options.

Corporate Accountants, Bookkeepers, and Accounting Clerks

Corporate accountants in South Dakota with just a year or two of experience earn about $29,660, which represents the 25th percentile. Once you’ve gained a few more years of experience, you’ll likely earn a salary of about $35,480, which represents the median level. The highest earners among South Dakota’s corporate accountants (likely those with extensive experience and those holding senior titles) earn about $41,320 – $48,420, which represents the 75th– 90th percentile.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants bring a specialized skillset to the profession – one that is rewarded with lofty salaries. In South Dakota, forensic accountants earn about $79,520, which represents the 75th percentile among all accountants and auditors in the state. In the Sioux Falls metro area, the average salary for forensic accountants is slightly higher, at $82,870.

Controllers and Other Financial Managers

Controllers are key figures in modern corporations, earning salaries that exceed six figures. And in South Dakota, this certainly holds true. The BLS reports that controllers in South Dakota earn a median salary of $133,920, while those in the 75th percentile earn about $167,960. If you’re among the state’s top earners (90th percentile), you’ll earn a salary that easily exceeds $208,000.

In the metro area of Rapid City, the median salary for controllers and other financial managers is $144,530—that’s about $10,000 more than the state’s median.

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 South Dakota, CPAs earn about $97,520, which represents the top 10% among all accountants and auditors in the state. In the Sioux Falls metro area, CPAs earn about $101,850.

Accountants in Executive Roles

Corporate CFOs almost always come from a background that involved earning a CPA license at some point along the way; a path that ensures they have the kind of industry-specific experience to back up the numbers with hard-won first-hand knowledge. Accounting executives in South Dakota at nearly all levels earn salaries that exceed $208,000. In metro areas like Rapid City and Sioux Falls, earning power among these accounting professionals is just as strong.

Salaries for Accountants and Auditors in South Dakota’s Cities and Rural Areas

Median salaries for South Dakota’s accountants nearly always come in close to the mid-$60,000s. At the top end of the pay scale, accountants in the Sioux Falls metro area enjoy the highest pay, topping $101,000.

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

Area Name
Annual median wage
East South Dakota nonmetropolitan area
Rapid City
Sioux Falls
West South Dakota nonmetropolitan area

Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout South Dakota

Salaries in the mid-$30,000s are commonplace throughout both the metro and non-metro areas of the state, as of May 2020.

Area Name
Annual median wage
East South Dakota nonmetropolitan area
Rapid City
Sioux Falls
West South 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 South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028) database –

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