Written by Accounting.com Staff Writers


Famous for the Grand Canyon and Sonoran Desert, Arizona averages only 13.6 inches of rainfall annually. Many tourists flock to see this desert state's natural wonders and enjoy its interesting southwestern cities, which include Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Sedona.

Several of these cities feature high-quality accounting degree programs. Graduates from these programs often pursue lucrative and secure accountant or auditor careers, which pay a median annual salary of $71,550. State salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also indicates that cost estimators, tax examiners, and personal financial advisors make above-average salaries in Arizona.

The following page surveys Arizona's various accounting degree options, including online accounting programs. About 60% of all Arizona students take at least some online courses, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This page also includes information like tuition costs and funding options, school selection criteria, and potential careers in Arizona.

Arizona at a Glance

Population 7,378,490
Per Capita Income $30,530
Fortune 500 Companies 19
Number of Higher Learning Institutions 86
Climate

Average Annual Temperature: 60.3 ℉

Annual Precipitation: 13.6 inches

Major Sports Teams Arizona Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns, Arizona Coyotes, Phoenix Mercury
Accountants in Arizona 22,450

Top Arizona Schools for Accounting

  • University of Arizona
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Arizona State University-Tempe

Why Go to College for Accounting in Arizona?

Arizona features several top schools, including Tucson's University of Arizona, Flagstaff's Northern Arizona University, and Phoenix's Arizona State University. In-state and out-of-state tuition rates for Arizona's two- and four-year public institutions currently resemble national averages. Meanwhile, private institution tuition, which averages $13,487 in Arizona, falls considerably below the national average of $30,731.

According to the Arizona Board of Regents' student outcomes report, educational attainment heavily influences income for Arizonans. Arizona's college graduation rates currently lag behind many other states, perhaps partly because of Arizona's relatively low per-capita income and considerable wealth gap, which make it difficult for low-income families to afford college. However, Arizona universities hope to improve graduation rates by increasing financial aid opportunities, online learning options, and community college credit transfers.

Education Statistics for Arizona

The table below highlights a few significant Arizona educational statistics. For example, NCES data indicates that online learning proves remarkably common in this state. Arizona's educational attainment rates fall 1-2% below national averages for both bachelor's and graduate degrees. State higher education finance report data indicates that Arizona allocates $5,247 to each full-time student in the state.

Higher Education Statistics in Arizona
Arizona Data National Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges 50 3,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges 36 1,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education 60.1% 34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student $5,247 $8,196
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 7% 5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree 8.6% 8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor's Degree 18% 19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher 10.9% 12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey

Accreditation for Arizona Schools

Accreditation indicates that schools meet high quality standards. To receive accreditation, schools must undergo a rigorous review by a third-party accrediting agency, which evaluates the school based on factors like academic rigor, faculty qualifications, and student learning outcomes.

Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For instance, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, may professional licenses and certifications require an accredited degree.

Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Regional accreditation typically applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions, while national accreditation applies to for-profit, vocational and technical schools. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) grants regional accreditation to Arizona schools.

Top accounting programs also may hold programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, a non-governmental accreditor that oversees business school quality.

Considerations for an Accounting Degree in Arizona

Prospective students should carefully consider several factors when choosing accounting schools and programs, such as concentration offerings, pacing, and delivery format. Tuition prices and funding options, discussed below, should also factor in to school decisions.

Accounting Degree Levels

Prospective students can find Arizona accounting degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Students interested in entry-level jobs may start with associate degrees, but those seeking more high-paying careers typically need at least a bachelor's degree. Graduate degrees qualify candidates for management positions and academic careers.

Associate Degree in Accounting
This two-year degree typically requires about 60 credits and includes introductory coursework in accounting and general education subjects. Graduates can work in accounting-related roles, such as bookkeeper.
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Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
Bachelor's degrees typically comprise around 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete. Graduates quality for most entry-level accounting positions.
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Master's Degree in Accounting
Accounting master's programs usually take two years to complete and feature advanced coursework, qualifying graduates for managerial roles.
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Ph.D. in Accounting
Usually serving aspiring academics, doctoral-level accounting programs entail considerable independent research and take several years to finish. Graduates often work in research or academia.
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Accounting Concentration Options

Many bachelor's and graduate programs offer concentration options, which allow students to specialize in a certain area of accounting, such as tax accounting, financial accounting, and management accounting.

Arizona's growing construction and manufacturing industries require many cost estimators, so concentrations in cost accounting prove advantageous for Arizona students. Given the high salaries earned by Arizona's tax examiners and collectors, taxation concentrations also lead to promising careers.

Accounting Concentrations

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

A popular option at Arizona schools, distance learning caters to students with geographical limitations or external obligations that make commuting to campus difficult. Some distance learning programs take place entirely online, while others require occasional meetings on campus.

On-Campus

On-campus programs typically provide more opportunities for students to interact with peers and faculty. They also allow students to access campus resources and activities. Students who prefer in-person class sessions may wish to apply to traditional on-campus accounting programs at one of Arizona's beautiful campuses.

Online Programs

Ideal for busy students, online programs often allow enrollees to attend class in the evenings or asynchronously, at convenient times. Asynchronous online classes often use recorded lectures and online discussion boards that enable flexible participation. Distance learners with self-discipline and good time-management skills often excel in online programs.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs, which take place mostly online, constitute another great attendance option for busy students. These programs often feature weekly or monthly in-person sessions on campus, usually on weekends or weeknights. These in-person meetings enable collaborative learning and encourage professional networking.
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education
Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education Courses Enrolled in Some but Not All Distance Education Courses Not Enrolled in Any Distance Education Courses
Arizona Students 42.5% 17.6% 40%
United States Students 16.3% 18.4% 65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

Many students require some form of financial aid to fund their degrees. Popular financial aid options include grants, loans, and scholarships. Loans require repayment, but grants and scholarships do not. Students can determine their eligibility for federal financial aid by submitting the FAFSA.

Students can also access financial aid opportunities through various companies and organizations based on factors like identity, academic performance, and financial need. Students can learn about Arizona-specific scholarships and funding, such as the Early Graduation Scholarship Grant, by investigating the state's Pay4College site.

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in Arizona, 2017-2018
Arizona National
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $10,557 $9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $26,067 $25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year) $13,487 $30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $2,152 $3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $8,067 $7,971
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

The tuition and fees data above indicates that Arizona's in-state tuition costs much less than out-of-state tuition, so prospective Arizona students can save considerably by obtaining residency before enrolling. However, prospective students in other western states may already qualify for in-state tuition rates in Arizona due to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education's Western Undergraduate Exchange.

Arizona's in-state and out-of-state tuition rates for public colleges resemble national averages, though in-state tuition at two-year schools averages $1,000 less than the national average for this type of institution. Meanwhile, private, four-year schools in Arizona cost less than half of what they do nationally.

Arizona's Cost of Living

When weighing prospective schools, students should also consider cost of living. Arizona's World Population Review cost index score of 97 puts the state three points below the national average of 100, making Arizona the nation's 24th most-affordable state. Transportation and utility costs rank above-average in Arizona, but the state's low housing costs (91.7 out of 100) bring down the state's overall cost index.

Other School Selection Criteria

Additional key factors to consider when researching prospective schools include:

Program Length

Part-time programs allow students to balance work and school by taking fewer courses simultaneously. Part-time programs often take longer to complete, while accelerated programs can shorten graduation timelines by offering shorter, more intensive courses.

Program Culture/Composition

Larger, urban schools often feature more diverse cohorts than smaller schools and those in rural areas.

University Resources/Career Services

Some programs offer more robust career services than others, so students should research the offerings at each prospective school.

Extracurriculars

Some schools offer extracurriculars like business and accounting clubs, trips, professional development events, and student leadership opportunities.

Earning Potential

Some accounting programs gather post-graduation salary data through alumni surveys. To ensure a high return on educational investment, prospective learners should examine student outcomes data at each school.

Alumni Network

Larger schools typically boast broader alumni networks, which can prove very advantageous to job-seekers. However, some smaller schools also foster helpful and active local alumni communities.

Careers for Accounting Graduates in Arizona

Accountants tend to enjoy secure, high-paying employment nationwide. The BLS projects a steady 6% job growth for accountants and auditors from 2018-2028. The job outlook proves particularly promising for professionals with CPA licensure and/or a specialization in international trade. Accountants and auditors earned a national median annual salary of $71,550 as of 2019, according to BLS data. Arizona's accountants and auditors average $73,450 annually, according to BLS data.

Arizona's accounting graduates enjoy positive job prospects, due in part to the state's rapidly growing economy. Home to Fortune 500 companies and tech start-ups, Arizona ranks No. 5 in growth and No. 9 in business environment, according to the U.S. News & World Report's state economy rankings.

Major accounting firms, such as Deloitte LLP, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers, maintain presences in Arizona cities like Phoenix. Arizona accountants can work in diverse industries, including aerospace, electronics manufacturing, tourism, and construction. The state's current construction boom increases demand for cost estimators, who earn particularly high salaries in Arizona.

Select Accounting Careers in Arizona

Bookkeeping and Auditing Clerk

Typically requiring some postsecondary education, these entry-level professionals produce and review financial reports, records, and transactions. Clerks need skills in organizing, reporting, and using relevant software. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $41,230, according to BLS data.

Job Outlook in Arizona: +7.9% (2016-26)

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Tax Examiner or Collector

This career path may entail various tax calculation, reporting, review, or collection activities. Tax professionals typically hold accounting-related bachelor's degrees and may work for individuals, businesses, or governments. BLS salary data indicates a $54,890 median annual salary for tax examiners and collectors.

Job Outlook in Arizona: -2.9% (2016-26)

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Cost Estimator

These professionals gather information and calculate potential expenses for projects, products, and services. Cost estimators may estimate costs in labor, time, money, and materials. This career typically requires a bachelor's degree in accounting, business, finance, or engineering.

Job Outlook in Arizona: +30.0% (2016-26)

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Arizona Employment Trends

Projected Job Growth for Accountants

20,941 Employees2016
24,957 Employees2026
Arizona 19.2% increase
1,424,000 Employees2018
1,514,700 Employees2028
National 6.4% increase

Source: Projections Central

Explore more careers here

Salaries for clerks, accountants, and financial managers (the most common accounting-related careers in Arizona) vary based on education, experience, position, and employer. Entry-level clerking jobs require an associate degree and offer an average salary of around $42,000 annually, while jobs like cost estimator and tax examiner usually require at least a bachelor's degree and garner $68,000-$78,000 annually. Candidates for top-paying jobs, such as financial manager, typically need master's degrees.

The above salary data indicates a few notable Arizona trends. Tax examiners and collectors boast higher wages than accountants and budget analysts, but they require less education. This discrepancy suggests that pursuing tax-related specializations could pay off for accounting students who do not wish to earn graduate degrees. The BLS data above also reveals that Arizona's tax examiners, personal financial advisors, and cost estimators earn above the national averages for these careers.

Arizona Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

Each state specifies its own requirements for CPA, so students should check the requirements for the state where they plan to practice. CPAs in Arizona must meet the following qualifications:

  • CPA Examination: CPA candidates must pass the official CPA examination produced by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). To sit for the CPA exam, candidates need a bachelor's degree, including 24 credits of accounting courses, including 12 upper-level credits, and 18 credits of other related courses.
  • Ethics Examination: Within two years of applying for licensure, Arizona CPAs must pass the professional ethics exam provided by the AICPA.
  • 150 Education Hours: CPAs need at least 150 college credits, including a bachelor's degree and 30 upper-level credits. Of these credits, 36 must be non-duplicative, 30 should relate to business, and 30 must derive from upper-level courses.
  • 2,000 Hours' Accounting Experience: Arizona CPA candidates need at least 2,000 hours of accounting-related professional experience.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Is accounting a good career in Arizona?
Accounting job growth typically parallels general economic growth, so Arizona's booming state economy makes it a promising place for accounting students and professionals.
How much do accountants earn in Arizona?
Arizona accountants average $73,450 annually, according to 2019 salary data from the BLS. Related careers, such as tax collector and tax preparer, average $77,530 annually.
What accounting jobs are there in Arizona?
Arizona's most common accounting-related careers include accounting and auditing clerk, accountant, and financial manager. Other growing positions include cost estimator and personal financial analyst.
Can I get an accounting degree in Arizona?
Arizona features several excellent accounting schools and programs. All of the accredited schools listed below grant accounting degrees.
Does Arizona have online accounting programs?
Yes, Arizona students can choose from a variety of online accounting degree programs in the state.

Arizona Accounting and Education Organizations

  • Arizona Association of Accounting and Tax Professionals A nonprofit professional organization serving Arizona's accounting and tax professionals, the AATP provides educational seminars, volunteer opportunities, and networking events.
  • Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants The leading professional organization for Arizona CPAs, the ASCPA provides continuing education, advocacy, and networking opportunities. This organization also maintains local chapters in Prescott, Flagstaff, Tucson, and Yuma.
  • Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance -- Phoenix Chapter Committed to empowerment, leadership, integrity, and passion, the AFWA supports women professionals in taxation, accounting, auditing, and finance. The organization offers continuing education opportunities, online discussions, chapter meetings, and regional conferences.
  • Arizona State Board of Accountancy By verifying credentials, monitoring continuing education requirements, and investigating complaints, this board ensures that Arizona CPA practice meets high standards. The board also processes and administers CPA licensure.

Accounting Programs in Arizona

The list below includes all of the accredited schools offering accounting degree programs in Arizona. Updated annually with data from the NCES Integrated Postsecondary Education Statistics Data System, this list provides accurate, current information for prospective accounting students in Arizona.