Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Virginia
The Virginia Board of Accountancy licenses certified public accountants in the state. Licensure requires earning 150 total semester hours of college-level education within a bachelor’s degree program or higher, one year of experience in the field, and passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam. With most bachelor’s programs consisting of just 120 semester hours of college credit, earning a master’s in accounting serves as the standard way to earn the additional credit hours in advanced accounting coursework required for a CPA license in Virginia.
CPAs in Virginia often join small local partnerships or regional firms, establish independent practices of their own, or work for large accounting and professional services firms that have a presence in that state. Among these larger organizations are “Big Four” international CPA firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has a location in Maclean, and national CPA firm Kearney & Company, which has an office in Alexandria.
The tax and payroll services that public accountants provide are essential to all organizations, from businesses to non-profits. Employment settings in Virginia are diverse and can include everything from the payroll department of Chesterfield County Public School District to the headquarters of tobacco giant General Cigar Holdings Inc. in Richmond.
Government accountants and auditors, who usually hold a bachelor’s degree and specialized credentials, work in all strata of local and federal government in Virginia. They’re found working for regional agencies like the Upper Occoquan Service Authority in Centreville, as well as federal agencies like the Defense Contract Audit Agency in Fairfax and the U.S. Attorney’s Executive Office located in Falls Church. Accounting information systems specialists work for organizations as diverse as media company BIAP through their research and development department in Dulles, and the non-profit business technology advocacy group New Virginia Corridor Technology Council, which has regional offices in Blacksburg and Roanoke.
Find out more about CPA requirements in our step-by-step guide on how to become a CPA in Virginia.
Salary and Employment Facts about Accountants in Virginia
The Virginia Employment Commission expects the number of jobs for accountants in the state to increase by 7.3% between 2018 and 2028. Through a combination of new job growth, retirements, and natural job turnover, the state expects to see about 4,730 annual job openings for accountants and auditors during this ten-year period leading to 2028.
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Virginia is ranked fifth in the nation for its concentration of accounting jobs.
The BLS also reports that Virginia accountants earn a median salary of $79,670.
But this top-level salary stat doesn’t do much to really examine the earning power of accountants and auditors in Virginia when factors like experience, industry, specialization, and role/title are considered.
Salaries for Accountants in Different Specialized Roles
The good news is that the BLS also provides plenty of insight into salaries for accountants and auditors in different roles, with different levels of experience and education, and more.
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 are a major part of any business, as well as the broader accounting community. In Virginia, you’ll earn about $33,470 as a corporate accountant with just a year or two of experience. Get a few more years of experience on your resume and you’ll earn a salary that’s closer to the median range, which is $43,320.
The most experienced corporate accountants and those in management/senior-level roles earn salaries that reflect the 75th – 90th percentile in Virginia: $54,360 – $65,670.
Forensic accountants bring a unique skillset to the profession that makes them experts in the examination of financial records in criminal or civil proceedings. As a result, they enjoy strong salaries among Virginia’s accountants. As of May 2020, forensic accountants in Virginia earned about $104,950, which represents the 75thpercentile among all accountants and auditors in the state.
In Richmond, they earn about $99,330, while in Roanoke, it’s about $85,730.
Controllers and Other Financial Managers
Controllers oversee internal controls, ensuring regulatory compliance is always met. The top-level controller role comes with the lofty paycheck you’d imagine. According to the BLS, these professionals earn $153,730 at the median level in Virginia. The top earners in this role – likely those with larger corporations and those with significant experience and industry certification – earn anywhere from $198,150 to well beyond $208,000.
CPAs and Auditors
Public accountants assume roles with companies of nearly every size, from the Big Four consultancies down to a specialist corner shop handling tax services for small businesses. The highest earners, of course, earn the esteemed CPA designation and go on to assume director-level positions.
In Virginia, these pros earn about $135,700, which represents the 90th percentile among all accountants and auditors in the state. CPAs in Richmond earn about $10,000 less than the state average, at $127,740, while those in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area earn far less, at $106,740.
Accountants in Executive Roles
The upper echelon of any corporation is staffed with some of the most prestigious executive roles, including the CFO – a position reserved for those who have climbed the corporate ladder through a blend of experience, credentials, and good ‘ole fashioned hard work. In Virginia, accounting executives earn salaries that exceed $208,000 at nearly all levels of the pay scale. In Harrisonburg, the median salary for CFOs is about $184,010.
Accountant and Auditor Salaries Throughout Virginia
Whether you’re working in a metro or non-metro region in Virginia, strong salaries are commonplace, with most of these professionals earning in the mid- to upper-$60,000s at the median level.
(This broad classification includes accounting professionals in different areas of specialty, with different credentials, and with varying levels of experience.)
Tax Preparer Salaries in Virginia’s Cities and Rural Areas
Richmond’s tax preparers are among the highest paid in Virginia, earning about $41,000 at the median level and close to $80,000 at the top 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 Virginia Employment Commission and reported in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm.