Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Virginia

Qualified applicants can become certified public accountants when licensed by the Virginia Board of Accountancy. This requires a bachelor’s degree or higher, 150 total semester hours of college-level education, 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 US Attorney’s Executive Office located in Falls Church.

Accounting information systems specialists work for organizations as diverse as media company BIAP, with their research and development department in Dulles, and the non-profit business technology advocacy group, New Virginia Corridor Technology Council, with regional offices in Blacksburg and Roanoke.

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 15% in the ten-year period ending in 2022.  The agency projects that 1,921 jobs for accountants will become available during this period.

The median salary for accountants in Virginia was 8% higher than the national median for this occupation at $71,120 in 2014.  Experienced accountants in Virginia earned an average salary of $91,020.

Accountants with less than one year of experience at large corporate accounting firms in Richmond earned between $44,345 and $54,145 according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide.  In contrast, accountants with more than five years of experience at large accounting firms in this city earned salaries that ranged between $67,375 and $85,995.

The salaries of accounting professionals increases as they gain specialized experience. For example, forensic accountants in Norfolk/Hampton Roads earned between $67,568 and $105,368 according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide.  Controllers at large financial services firms in Norfolk/Hampton Roads had salaries in the range of $143,168 to $182,385.

The highest salaries were reserved for CFOs who typically have a CPA license.  CFOs for financial services firms in Tysons Corner earned between $204,600 and $363,000 a year according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide.

Accountant and Auditor Salaries Throughout Virginia

General accountants and auditors in Winchester and Charlottesville earned the highest average salaries among all accounting professionals in Virginia in 2014 according to the US Department of Labor.

The 90th percentile in each area is representative of salaries for experienced accountants with CPA licenses.

Area name
Annual mean wage
Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford VA
Charlottesville VA
Danville VA
Harrisonburg VA
Lynchburg VA
Richmond VA
Roanoke VA
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC
Winchester VA-WV
Southwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Southside Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Northeastern Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Northwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area

Tax Preparer Salaries in Virginia’s Cities and Rural Areas

According to the US Department of Labor, tax preparers in Richmond had the highest average salary in 2015:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Charlottesville VA
Estimate not released
Lynchburg VA
Richmond VA
Roanoke VA
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC
Southwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Northeastern Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Northwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area

Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2014. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of specialty within the field of accounting and auditing

Virginia Accountancy and Tax Laws in the News

There have been significant changes made to Virginia’s tax laws recently that include the creation of the Livable Home Credit. This new tax credit allows resident taxpayers to be reimbursed up to $2,000 for making renovations to homes that include adding features that make the domicile more accessible to disabled individuals. This applies to new residences as well as older residences that have been retrofitted.

In other news, Virginia recently made headlines when Governor McDonnell established a new financial literacy graduation requirement for high school seniors. In order to graduate, all seniors in Virginia must now take a one-credit course in economics and personal finance. This requirement was supported and advocated by the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA). VSCPA is also sponsoring free training programs for high school teachers interested in teaching these personal finance courses.