A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s WorkNet lists accounting among the top 25 occupations in terms of projected growth between 2012 and 2022. A seven percent increase in available accounting jobs is expected during these years, or an average of 810 job openings each year.

The Wisconsin Accounting Examining Board regulates and licenses CPAs in the state. Prospective CPAs must complete 150 hours of college-level education and earn a bachelor’s degree at minimum, pass both the Uniform CPA Exam and an online ethics exam, and then go on to fulfill one year of public accounting experience. With most bachelor’s programs consisting of just 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting can provide the additional credit hours in advanced accounting coursework required for licensure in Wisconsin.  Licensed CPAs work in public accounting firms with a presence in Wisconsin including “Big Four” firms Deloitte and Ernst & Young, both with offices in Milwaukee. Other accounting and professional services firms with a strong presence in the state include Jefferson Wells in Milwaukee, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause in Madison, and AXA Equitable Life Insurance, in Madison, Wausau and Green Bay.

Wisconsin’s local government agencies also employ CPAs as fund managers who work for The Wisconsin State Department of Administration in Madison or as auditors for the Office of the Comptroller in Wisconsin’s many municipalities.

Job Trends for Accountants in Wisconsin

Many corporations have located their corporate headquarters in the state. The corporate headquarters of battery manufacturers Johnson Controls, Inc. is in Milwaukee. The Kohler Company, known for plumbing fixtures, tile, stone and furniture, is housed in Kohler. Motorcycle giant and American icon Harley-Davidson is headquartered in Milwaukee. The corporate headquarters of two of the nation’s largest retailers are also in Wisconsin: Kohl’s in Menomonee Falls, and Lands End in Dodgeville. The management center of international company Kraft Foods is in Madison. Accountants serve these major companies as auditors, financial controllers and management accountants responsible for everything from regulatory compliance to influencing management decisions.

Many financial institutions and insurers were also either founded in Wisconsin or currently keep their corporate headquarters in the state where they continue to be the largest employers of actuarial accountants. Northwestern Mutual Financial Network in Milwaukee is the nation’s largest provider of life insurance. Mutual insurance company, Sentry Insurance, is headquartered in Stevens Point. CUNA Mutual Group, with headquarters in Madison, provides financial services to credit unions worldwide. Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation, whose corporate headquarters are in Milwaukee, provides home mortgage insurance on over 1.4 million mortgages in the United States.

Wisconsin Accountants: Salary and Employment Facts

Wisconsin’s Worknet included the field of accounting on its top 25 list of occupations with the most projected openings in the state between 2012 and 2022.  The agency expects 810 accounting positions to become available each year during this time frame due to a growth rate of 7.1% over this ten-year period.

The median salary for an accountant in Wisconsin was $61,150 as of 2014, while experienced accountants earned an average of $78,810. 

Accountants with five or more years of experience at large accounting firms in Milwaukee had salaries within the range of $69,094 to $88,189 in 2015 according to the Robert Half Salary Guide from that year. 

Controllers for small financial services firms in Green Bay earned between $79,580 and $106,828.  Forensic accountants were also highly paid.  Forensic accountants in Madison had salaries within the range of $69,713 to $108,713.

CFOs for financial services firms in Milwaukee earned between $155,755 and $276,375.  Their high salaries are partly due to their likelihood of having a CPA license.

Accountant and Auditor Salaries Throughout Wisconsin

In 2014, the median salary for general accountants and auditors in the Milwaukee area was the highest of the areas presented by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 90th percentile in each area is representative of salaries for experienced accountants licensed as CPAs. General accountants and auditors in the 90th percentile of this occupational category in Wausau had the highest average salary.

Area name
Annual mean wage
Appleton WI
Eau Claire WI
Fond du Lac WI
Green Bay WI
Janesville WI
La Crosse WI-MN
Madison WI
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis WI
Oshkosh-Neenah WI
Racine WI
Sheboygan WI
Wausau WI
Eastern Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area
West Central Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area
South Central Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area
Southwestern Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area
Northern Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area

Salaries for Tax Preparers in Wisconsin’s Rural and Urban Areas

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for tax preparers in Madison was extremely high and was almost as high as that of accountants in Wisconsin in 2014:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Appleton WI
Estimate not released
Green Bay WI
Janesville WI
Estimate not released
Madison WI
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis WI
West Central Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area
South Central Wisconsin 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.

Tax Laws in the News

Wisconsin legislators are contemplating tax breaks for manufacturers and businesses in the agriculture industry in an effort to attract business to the state. Under this proposal, state tax on income from manufactured goods in Wisconsin would be reduced from its current rate of 7.9 percent to 0.4 percent by 2016. The tax break, if passed, would cost Wisconsin over $359 million in revenue the first year it was enacted and over $128 million each succeeding year.

In other state tax news, the newly proposed budget does not increase sales or income taxes for residents. Property taxes will remain flat at an anticipated increase of $50 per house over the next two years.