Candidates interested in becoming certified public accountants in Tennessee must complete a minimum of 150 semester hours of college credit within a bachelor’s degree program or higher and then pass the Uniform CPA Exam before fulfilling the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy’s requirement of one year of paid, supervised experience.
Because a bachelor’s degree usually 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 for a CPA license in Tennessee.
The CPA credential lends itself to diverse, specialized tasks that include completing internal audits, assisting in the design of accounting information systems, preparing Securities and Exchange Commission reports for publicly traded companies, and providing consultation services specific to business management strategies and tax matters. CPAs often establish independent firms, join local or regional firms, or go on to work for one of the “Big Four” international CPA firms like Deloitte, which has offices in Hermitage, or KPMG, which has a Nashville location.
Find out more about CPA requirements in our step-by-step guide on how to become a CPA in Tennessee.
Industries for Accountants in Tennessee
According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, most of Tennessee’s accountants work as staff accountants and bookkeepers. Other major areas of employment for accountants in the state include private companies, hospitals, insurance providers, and architectural and engineering firms.
Managerial accountants, controllers, and internal auditors work for organizations as diverse as Warner Music Group Corporation in Nashville and security services provider Walden Security, which has its corporate headquarters in Chattanooga. These specialized roles require accountants to develop acumen in everything from financial analysis to risk control to federal regulatory compliance statutes like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Architectural, manufacturing, and engineering may not be the first industries that come to mind when thinking about accounting, but they’re among the state’s biggest employers of cost accountants, project managers with accounting backgrounds, and construction cost estimators. These highly specialized accounting professionals work for outfits like metal manufacturing plant Shiloh Industries in Dixon and the federal government owned Tennessee Valley Authority in Knoxville.
Tennessee Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts
Tennessee is experiencing a job boom in the accounting field right now, with the number of jobs forecasted to expand at more than twice the national rate for the profession. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development projects the number of accounting jobs will increase by a whopping 16.4% between 2018 and 2028. During this ten-year period leading to 2028, the state will see about 2,620 job openings in the field every year due to a combination of new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for Tennessee accountants was $64,120 as of May 2020.
Salaries for Accountants in Different Specialized Roles
But there’s far more to the salary picture than just a median wage. Fortunately, the BLS provides more detailed salary information for Tennessee’s accountants, providing a closer look at what they’re earning based on factors like experience, industry, and role/title.
Note that the following BLS numbers from May 2020 feature only base salaries and do not include salary incentives like bonuses and stock options, both of which can and do significantly increase salaries for accountants, particularly among those in specialized roles and top-level positions.
Corporate Staff Accountants, Bookkeepers, and Accounting Clerks
Corporate staff accountants in Tennessee who bring just a year or two of experience to the table earn about $32,620, which represents the 25th percentile, according to the BLS. With a handful of years of experience, salaries in this field increase to about $39,450, which represents the median level.
The most seasoned corporate staff accountants in Tennessee earn about $48,990 – $60,400, which represents the 75th – 90th percentile.
Part accountant, part investigator, forensic accountants bring a unique skillset to the companies for whom they work. As a result, they enjoy strong salaries in Tennessee. According to the BLS, these accounting professionals earn about $81,600, which represents the 75th percentile among all accountants and auditors in the state.
In many of the state’s metro areas, salaries for forensic accountants are just as strong. For example, in Memphis, they earn about $81,840.
Controllers and Other Financial Managers
Aimed at ensuring regulatory and internal standards are met, controllers enjoy strong salaries that reflect their expertise in the field. In Tennessee, they earn a median salary of $100,230, while those at the upper end of the pay scale earn about $138,030 – $193,550, which represents the 75th – 90th percentile.
In many metro areas throughout the state, salaries for controllers are even higher. For example, they earn a median salary of $109,3108 in Chattanooga, while in Nashville, it’s $105,510.
CPAs and Auditors
Public accounting is an area that covers a vast range of company sizes and levels of individual expertise, ranging from the small one-man show to major multinational consultancies with armies of CPAs on call.
In Tennessee, CPAs earn about $104,190, which represents the 90th percentile among all accountants and auditors in the state. In Memphis, the average salary for these professionals is just as strong, at $105,060.
Accountants in Executive Roles
At the very top end of the corporate hierarchy for accounting professionals are corporate CFOs: individuals with only the most impressive industry-specific experience, expertise, and credentials, including the esteemed CPA designation.
Tennessee’s accounting executives earn a median salary of $151,960, while those at the upper end of the pay scale earn salaries that exceed $208,000.
Salaries for Accountants and Auditors in Tennessee’s Cities and Rural Areas
In Tennessee, accountants and auditors throughout much of the state earn salaries that either come close to or exceed $60,000. At the top of the pay scale, it’s common to earn into the six figures in Tennessee, particularly in the major metro areas like Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis.
(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 Tennessee
The highest earners at the median level among the state’s tax preparers are found in the major metro areas of Kingsport-Bristol and Nashville, where salaries exceeded $50,000 as of May 2020.
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 Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm.