Written by Kathleen Swed


Known for its natural beauty, thrilling ski seasons, and thriving business environment, Colorado is an excellent choice for aspiring accountants. Students considering accounting degrees in Colorado enjoy ample options for degree concentrations, school locations, and online learning opportunities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Colorado boasts the country's second-highest concentration of accountants, with 13.88 accountants employed per 1,000 jobs in the state. Data from Projections Central indicates that the BLS projects a 20% growth in demand for Colorado accountants from 2018-2028. Consequently, prospective students can take advantage of a promising job market in the years to come. As business grows across multiple sectors, Colorado accountants can choose from a variety of promising specialties.

On this page, readers can learn more about accounting degrees in Colorado, including state educational statistics, top careers in accounting, and opportunities for degree financing.

Colorado at a Glance

Population 5,845,530
Per Capita Income $38,057
Fortune 500 Companies 23
Number of Higher Learning Institutions 87
Climate

Average Annual Temperature: 45.1 °F

Annual Precipitation: 15.9 inches

Major Sports Teams Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Chill, Colorado Avalanche
Accountants in Colorado 37,180

Top Colorado Schools for Accounting

  • University of Denver
  • Colorado State University-Pueblo
  • Western State Colorado University
  • Colorado Mesa University
  • Fort Lewis College
  • Regis University
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver

Why Go to College for Accounting in Colorado?

With a strong economy and many thriving industries, Colorado promises an inviting atmosphere for prospective students, drawing both in-person and distance learners.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, 263,788 students enrolled in public higher education programs in the state in Fall 2019, with 173,531 attending four-year institutions. While in-state tuition remains much lower than out-of-state tuition, Colorado participates in a regional exchange program that offers reduced rates to students residing in Western states. Exchange program members include North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and California. Students participating in online programs may also qualify for reduced tuition rates.

The Big Four accounting firms maintain a strong presence in Denver, as do 23 Fortune 500 companies, including DISH, Western Union, and Vail Resorts, so accounting students in Colorado benefit from a wealth of networking opportunities. Students looking to stay in Colorado should consider taking advantage of these connections to bolster their future career search.

Distance learners considering schools with in-person requirements, such as immersion events or residencies, should account for prospective institutions' proximity to Denver. The state capital houses Colorado's busiest airport, and quite a few major institutions reside in nearby or easily accessible locations.

Education Statistics for Colorado

Prospective students researching accounting degrees in Colorado may find it useful to gather data pertaining to higher education in the state. The number of institutions, percentage of online students, state budget appropriations, and percentage of adults holding certain degree levels can offer a relevant picture about education in the state as a whole. The chart below compares Colorado numbers to national data.

Higher Education Statistics in Colorado
Colorado Data National Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges 53 3,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges 34 1,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education 35.9% 34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student $4,653 $8,196
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 3.4% 5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree 8.4% 8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor's Degree 25.2% 19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher 15% 12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey

Accreditation for Colorado Schools

Accreditation is a major factor in the search for a strong accounting degree in Colorado. Students typically encounter two types of accreditation as they research schools: national and regional. Both these types of accreditation are institutional, meaning they apply to every program and degree offered by the school.

National accreditation applies mainly to for-profit institutions, including vocational and technical institutions. It may also apply to religious institutions.

However, aspiring accountants should seek out regionally accredited schools. Generally considered the more rigorous accreditation type, regional accreditation requires higher standards. Without a regionally accredited degree, accountants may struggle to pursue additional education, such as master's degrees. Additionally, those aiming to become certified public accountants (CPAs) should attend schools that hold regional accreditation.

In Colorado, the Higher Learning Commission oversees accreditation for institutions at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.

Considerations for an Accounting Degree in Colorado

Prospective students face a sometimes-overwhelming variety of choices when it comes to selecting degree programs. By comparing career goals with program offerings, students can narrow their choices considerably.

Location is a major factor in prospective learners' school search. Colorado ranks among the middle of all U.S. states for cost of living, and students should remember to factor expenses such as housing, groceries, and utilities into the overall cost of school. Major urban areas cost more, but also offer more networking and employment opportunities.

Students looking into accounting degrees in Colorado should also research concentration options relevant to popular industries in the state, consider distance learning opportunities, and compare tuition expenses.

The sections below offer details about important factors to research when considering accounting degrees in Colorado.

Accounting Degree Levels

Selecting an accounting program depends in part on students' career goals and which degree levels best match those aspirations.

Associate Degree in Accounting
With an associate degree in accounting, graduates can pursue entry-level positions as bookkeepers and payroll clerks.
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Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
Professionals with a bachelor's degree can obtain a number of entry- and mid-level careers, including budget analyst or cost estimator. The degree also qualifies students for master's-level education.
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Master's Degree in Accounting
Most states require students to obtain 150 accounting credits before applying for CPA credentials, so many learners pursue a master's degree to fulfill this requirement or qualify for advancement opportunities.
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Ph.D. in Accounting
Students interested in conducting research or teaching in postsecondary institutions may wish to pursue Ph.D. degrees.
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Accounting Concentration Options

Aspiring accountants in Colorado can find exciting careers beyond just general accounting, with popular industries in the state including tourism, agriculture, technology, and the military. By choosing relevant specializations while pursuing their degrees, students can position themselves as experts when they begin searching for jobs. Learners hoping to work in Colorado after graduation should consider pairing their concentrations with booming industries in the state.

Accounting Concentrations

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

Prospective accounting students enjoy abundant choices in program structure. Some learners may prefer to study on campus, while others seek out distance learning opportunities. The sections below outline some pros and cons of these choices.

On-Campus

In traditional on-campus programs, students reside in Colorado and attend classes in person. Some learners thrive in environments in which they can physically meet with their peers and instructors. As distance learning requires a self-starting attitude, those who struggle with time management may prefer a more guided, on-campus approach.

Online Programs

Fully online programs require no on-campus attendance. Instead, professors share course materials and assignments through online learning platforms. In asynchronous setups, students log in at their convenience to access these materials. Some programs require synchronous participation, where students engage in real time through web cameras.

Students with full-time jobs or personal obligations may gravitate toward the flexible structure of distance learning. Online programs require strong individual motivation, as the materials presented maintain the rigor of in-person classes but with a less strict structure.

Hybrid Programs

In hybrid programs, students attend some classes on campus and others online. Some courses split between in-person meetings and online assignments, while others pair fully online courses with those run entirely on campus. Students may also encounter programs that require in-person residencies or immersion weekends, mandating periodic travel to campus between online sessions.
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
Colorado Students 23% 12.9% 64.2%
United States Students 16.3% 18.4% 65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

Accounting students in Colorado can finance their degrees through a variety of options. Students should seek out scholarships, grants, and loans when considering how to pay for their degrees.

The FAFSA presents students with the most options, and some schools require it for scholarship consideration. By filling out the FAFSA, learners may qualify for federal grants. The government also offers federally distributed loans at low interest rates.

Students can seek out scholarships and grants through professional and local organizations. Area of study and student demographics may also determine scholarship eligibility.

In Colorado, students can take advantage of resources available through the Colorado Department of Education and the College Opportunity Fund.

The links below offer further information about financial aid options for accounting students.

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in Colorado, 2017-2018
Colorado National
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $9,540 $9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $29,846 $25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year) $22,873 $30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $3,638 $3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $10,354 $7,971
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

When researching the cost of accounting degrees in Colorado, students can expect to encounter variable tuition rates between in-state residents and out-of-state students. In-state students typically pay lower tuition rates than those coming from beyond state borders. Public institutions typically differentiate, while private institutions typically charge the same tuition rates to in-state and out-of-state learners.

Some schools offer tuition breaks for distance learners, allowing them to pay in-state tuition or take advantage of otherwise reduced rates.

In partnership with the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, Colorado offers reduced tuition rates to students who attend from states in the West. Eligible states include bordering neighbors such as New Mexico and Utah, extending to the Pacific Northwest and beyond to Hawaii and Alaska.

Colorado's Cost of Living

According to World Population Review, Colorado merits a 105.6 cost-of-living score, weighed against the overall U.S. score of 100. This indicates that cost of living in Colorado sits only slightly above the national average. Ranked No. 33 out of 51, including Washington, D.C., Colorado's cost of living is among the middle of all states.

Specifically, Colorado housing costs rank at 119 compared against the national index, while utilities compare favorably with the rest of the country at 88.4.

Other School Selection Criteria

Even after evaluating school location, structure, and cost, prospective students should prioritize the issues that matter most as they seek out the right accounting degree in Colorado. Students may consider these factors depending on their personal preferences, situation, and career goals.

Program Culture

Some students prefer a competitive atmosphere, for example, while others like the camaraderie of a close cohort. Those with a strong preference can request to speak with current students or alumni for a straightforward view on program culture.

Diversity

Students who prioritize program diversity can look up numbers for the program, department, and school as a whole. Staff diversity may also count as an important factor.

University Resources

Particularly for distance learners, a robust suite of university resources can be a strong draw to a program. Online students may ask whether a prospective school connects them with offerings such as tutoring services, library resources, and career centers.

Alumni Network

Aspiring accountants aiming for particular industries or companies may wish to research each school's alumni network before committing to a program. A strong alumni network, when bolstered by school-sponsored events, can help students make strong connections for their future career goals.

Careers for Accounting Graduates in Colorado

According to U.S. News and World Report, Colorado boasts the country's strongest state economy. With a strong business environment, employment, and growth potential, Colorado merits strong consideration for accounting graduates. All of the Big Four accounting firms -- Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst and Young, and KPMG -- keep offices in Denver.

Students looking to broaden their horizons to other industries can take advantage of the presence of 23 Fortune 500 companies in areas such as retail, media, banking, construction, and tourism. Known for its outdoor thrills, such as skiing and hiking, Colorado draws flocks of tourists every year. U.S. News and World Report also emphasizes a growing tech industry, plus a tradition of agriculture and a military presence.

The sections below describe a few standout careers for aspiring accountants in Colorado, including job descriptions, outlook, and salary data.

Select Accounting Careers in Colorado

Payroll Clerk

Employers across industries need payroll clerks to organize day-to-day tasks related to employee earnings. They may handle data entry, calculate tax withholdings, communicate with employees, and produce paychecks. Typically, employers expect payroll and other accounting clerks to hold an associate degree.

Job Outlook in Colorado: +8.5% (2018-28)

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Accountant

While the Big Four accounting firms maintain a strong presence in Colorado, general accountants can specialize across diverse industries. Specializing in areas like management, government, auditing, and information technology, they assess financial data and handle tax issues for a single organization, multiple clients, or individuals. CPA-credentialed accountants usually hold a master's degree.

Job Outlook in Colorado: +20% (2018-28)

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Financial Manager

With the wealth of business growing in Colorado, accounting professionals may look to advance to careers in financial management. Financial managers often boast backgrounds in accounting and oversee finances for their organizations. Handling investments, monitoring financial data, and supervising budgetary employees, they help make major decisions for their companies. Typically, financial managers hold a master's degree.

Job Outlook in Colorado: +30.1% (2018-28)

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Colorado Employment Trends

Projected Job Growth for Accountants

40,780 Employees2018
48,950 Employees2028
Colorado 20% increase
1,424,000 Employees2018
1,514,700 Employees2028
National 6.4% increase

Source: Projections Central

Explore more careers here

According to Projections Central, Colorado accounting professionals can expect to enjoy a booming job market from 2018-2028. With a 20% growth projected for accountants and auditors during that time period -- much faster than the national average of 6% for all occupations -- accounting degree-holders can take advantage of vast opportunities in the country's strongest state economy.

As the table above illustrates, mean annual salaries for accounting jobs in Colorado also rise above the national numbers. At the associate level, Colorado outpaces national wages by a few thousand dollars. As education level grows, however, the gaps increase significantly, with Colorado financial managers earning significantly above the national mean wage.

Opportunities abound in Colorado for accounting hopefuls, particularly those looking to advance into leadership positions. With business growing across the state, accounting professionals can benefit from access to a variety of industries and job opportunities.

Colorado Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

Many accounting professionals pursue CPA credentials at some point in their careers, as the certification can open a variety of career opportunities. Requirements for CPA credentials vary by state, and those considering the certification should check the details for their particular location.

Colorado requires CPA applicants to complete 150 hours of college-level credits, extending beyond the typical 120 credits earned at the bachelor's level. The state further requires those courses to include 33 credits of accounting coursework with a grade of C or higher; 27 credits of subject-specific accounting classes; six credits of auditing; and at least three credits of ethics. Applicants must complete one year of professional experience before qualifying to become a CPA.

Colorado does not enforce requirements related to citizenship, state residency, or age, though applicants must possess a Social Security number.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Is accounting a good career in Colorado?
Across job titles and industries, opportunities for accounting professionals in Colorado are on the rise. Whether seeking careers as payroll clerks, as accountants, or as managers, accountants can expect a booming job market and competitive salary potential.
How much do accountants earn in Colorado?
According to the BLS, Colorado accountants earn an annual mean wage of $82,390. Many accounting professionals in the state earn annual mean wages exceeding national numbers for the same positions.
What accounting jobs are there in Colorado?
Accountants can take advantage of a plethora of job opportunities in Colorado, with big business, Big Four accounting firms, and tech startups all seeking professionals in the field. Demand for accountants, financial managers, personal financial advisors, and payroll clerks is rising across the state.
Can I get an accounting degree in Colorado?
Yes. Colorado boasts a wealth of quality accounting programs run through regionally accredited institutions. Prospective students enjoy ample options for concentrations, degree structure, location, and other important considerations.
Does Colorado have online accounting programs?
Yes. Many of the same schools offering top accounting programs in Colorado also offer online and hybrid degrees. Out-of-state students living in Western states may want to check for reduced tuition rates.

Colorado Accounting and Education Organizations

  • Colorado Department of Education The Colorado Department of Education serves as an excellent resource for those pursuing higher education in the state. In addition to college preparation resources, the department offers funding assistance in the form of scholarships, grants, and loan forgiveness programs.
  • College Opportunity Fund Affiliated with the Department of Education, the College Opportunity Fund offers stipend assistance for students who attend participating schools, which include both two- and four-year public institutions. A handful of private schools also qualify.
  • Colorado Society of CPAs Dedicated to supporting Colorado-based CPAs through meaningful relationships and clear-cut ethical standards of practice, COCPA offers member benefits such as professional publications, discounts, continuing education, conferences, and networking opportunities.
  • Public Accountants Society of Colorado Promoting continuing education among Colorado accountants, PASC supports members through regular tax and accounting seminars, regular events for networking, and a member listserv for industry news and online connections.

Accounting Programs in Colorado

The list below provides specific information about accredited Colorado accounting degrees. An excellent resource for prospective students as they research potential accounting programs, this list of accredited schools undergoes annual updates to ensure accuracy. All accreditation information comes from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.