A State By State Accounting Guide
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Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Washington

Washington Workforce Explorer of the state’s Employment Security Department projects a 22 percent increase in the number of accounting jobs expected to become available in Washington during the current ten-year period ending 2022. This equates to an estimated 1,640 new accounting jobs becoming available each year through 2022.

The Washington State Board of Accountancy grants CPA licensure to qualified candidates who have met standardized education, examination, and experience requirements consistent with those outlined in the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA). Candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree earned through an accredited program and complete a total of 150 semester hours of college-level education distributed among specific accounting and business administration courses as specified by the Board. After graduation, candidates must go on to take the Uniform CPA Exam and gain at least one year of supervised experience before being eligible for CPA licensure. With traditional bachelor’s programs only including about 120 semester hours of college credit, online master’s degrees in accounting have made earning the 30 additional semester hours required for a CPA license in Washington more accessible than ever.

“Big Four” international CPA and professional services firms Deloitte, KPMG, and Ernst & Young, all have offices in Seattle and are recognized as some of the area’s foremost employers of certified public accountants. The larger local, regional, and national CPA firms with a strong presence in the Emerald City include McGladrey and Pullen, Grant Thornton, Clark Nuber, and Moss Adams.

Top Industries for Washington Accountants

The technology and information systems industry has given rise to many companies that got their start in Washington, the most notable of which, of course, is software giant Microsoft. Western Washington remains one of the country’s most significant hubs of IT innovation and e-commerce. Many companies hailing from the Evergreen State with business models that are built around e-commerce are now household names. Chief among these are online travel planner and booking agency Expedia, online pharmacy Drugstore.com and Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer. These companies continue to be recognized as economic powerhouses in the state, and are the leading employers of managerial accountants who have influence over business decisions that generate many millions of dollars in online revenue.

A number of major players in the financial services industry also call Washington state home. ShareBuilder Corp, the online brokerage arm of ING Direct USA, and diversified financial services company, Symetra Financial, are both headquartered in Bellevue. Local entrepreneurial icon and philanthropist Paul Allen has a venture capital group, Vulcan, Inc, which has offices in Seattle where CPAs specialize in business valuation and investment analysis. Russell Investments, which has individual and institutional clients in 47 countries, is headquartered in Seattle and is recognized as an industry innovator that embraces the Turnkey Asset Management Program (TAMP) model, which draws on the unique expertise of certified public accountants.

Washington Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts

The number of high paying jobs in the field of accounting is growing nearly twice as fast in Washington State as it is in other parts of the county.  The Washington State Employment Security Department projects a 24.9% increase in the number of jobs for accountants between 2013 and 2018.  The Department expects that this high rate of growth will lead to the creation of 1,702 new accounting jobs in the state during this time frame.

The median salary for an accountant in Washington was $1,488 higher than the national median for this occupation at $67,392 in 2014.  Accountants in the 75th percentile earned an average of $86,445.

Accountants with five or more years of experience at financial services firms in Seattle earned between $83,285 and $105,821 according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide.  Forensic accountants in Seattle earned salaries within the range of $85,014 and $132,574 in 2015.

Controllers at large financial services firms in Spokane earned salaries within the range of $124,230 and $158,260. 

Chief Financial Officers at financial services firms in Seattle, who typically hold CPA licenses and have years of public accounting and management experience, earned between $184,295 and $326,975 according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide.

Accountant and Auditor Salaries in Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas of Washington

According to the US Department of Labor, accountants and auditors in the Seattle area had the highest median salary among all accounting professionals in the state in 2014. The 90th percentile for each area is representative of salaries for experienced accountants licensed as CPAs.

Area name
Annual mean wage
Bellingham WA
Bremerton-Silverdale WA
Kennewick-Pasco-Richland WA
Longview WA
Mount Vernon-Anacortes WA
Olympia WA
estimate not released
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett WA Metropolitan Division
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue WA
Spokane WA
Tacoma WA Metropolitan Division
estimate not released
Wenatchee-East Wenatchee WA
Yakima WA
Northwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area
Southwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area
Central Washington nonmetropolitan area
Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area

Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout Washington

Tax preparers in the Bremerton-Silverdale area had the highest median salary among all accounting professionals in Washington as of 2014 according to the US Department of Labor.

Area name
Annual mean wage
Bellingham WA
Bremerton-Silverdale WA
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett WA Metropolitan Division
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue WA
Tacoma WA Metropolitan Division
Yakima WA
Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area
Estimate not released

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.

Washington Tax Laws in the News

The State of Washington Department of Revenue will soon start charging sales tax on registration fees for sporting activities. Baseball leagues, running events, basketball leagues, golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, cycling events, and soccer leagues; all hugely popular in the state, will be subject to state sales tax. Only charity events and youth sports leagues will be exempt. Although this was written into the state tax code some 20 years ago, and is consistent with the sales tax charged on most other items and services, it has gone unenforced up to this point. 

When Washington citizens voted to legalize the sale of marijuana in the summer of 2014, a new kind of retail store industry was created. Cannabis dispensaries across the state sold over 257 million dollars worth of product. The state legislature instituted a marijuana sales tax that generated 70 million dollars of revenue in the first quarter alone. This number is expected to increase as usage becomes more common among Washington residents.