Illinois is home to many of the nation's largest and best-known companies, including McDonald's, Walgreens, American Airlines, and State Farm, along with notable financial institutions such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Industrial products and crops are also large contributors to the state's economy, which ranks fifth in the nation for GDP. More than 51,000 accounting specialists are licensed in the state and work in diverse capacities for the public and private sectors that make up this massive economy. Job seeking accountants have dozens of major firms to choose from in Illinois. All four of the major international CPA firms have offices located throughout the state (Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young), and Chicago is also home to major local firms like FGMK and ORBA.

Illinois at a glance

Population 12,802,023
Per Capita Income $30,417
Unemployment Rate 4.1%
Fortune 500 Companies 33
Licensed CPA Firms 2,550

Accounting Programs in Illinois

Search our comprehensive school directory to explore the accounting programs in Illinois, including campus-based, online and hybrid programs.

Accounting Salaries and Employment

Employment for accountants and auditors in Illinois is expected to increase by 11.7% in the next seven years, resulting in nearly 54,000 individuals out of Illinois' 12.88 million people working as accountants. The average annual wage in Illinois for accountants is higher than the national average in most instances, ranging from $38,740 to $99,460.

Profitable cities for accountants in Illinois include Peoria, the Kenosha and Lake Counties, Decatur and Chicago. Chicago happens to be home to two of the larger firms in the state, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, which made $301.30 million in revenue for 2014, and ORBA, which generated $21.80 million.

Projected Job Growth for Accountants

51,250 Employees2016
60,430 Employees2026
Illinois 15.2% increase
1,397,700 Employees2016
1,537,600 Employees2026
United States 9.1% increase
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics OES - State Employment Survey

Accounting Salaries by Specialty

Illinois Avg. Annual Wage United States Avg. Annual Wage

Associate Degree Recommended

Bookkeeping and Auditing Clerks

\ $40,860

Payroll Clerks

\ $45,470

Credit Counselors

\ $46,720

Bachelor's Degree Recommended

Cost Estimators

\ $69,480

Tax Examiners and Collectors

\ $79,850

Master's Degree Recommended

Accountants and Auditors

\ $77,920

Budget Analysts

\ $75,490

Personal Financial Advisors

\ $121,750

Financial Managers

\ $134,370
Source: BLS OES - Industry Profile

Top-paying cities for accountants

  1. Lake County-Kenosha County Metropolitan Division
  2. Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metropolitan Division
  3. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin
  4. Springfield
  5. Peoria
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics OES - State Employment Survey

Major firms headquartered in Illinois

Count Firm Location 2014 Revenue (in millions)
1 Sikich Naperville, IL $115
2 FGMK Chicago, IL $91
3 ORBA Chicago, IL $24
4 Porte Brown Elk Grove Village, IL $21

Accounting Today named these firms among the highest performing in a multi-state region. Rankings as based upon reported net revenues from 2014. Source: Accounting Today, "Top 100 Firms and Regional Leaders"

Becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) in Illinois

The Uniform CPA Exam for the state of Illinois is administered by the Illinois Board of Examiners. Anyone who has passed this exam in another state or jurisdiction, but is not eligible to receive certification, in that state may transfer their exam credit as long as they meet Illinois' own educational and ethics requirements.

Reciprocity certification is also available for those individuals who hold an equivalent, valid license or certificate by directly applying to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Eligibility for CPA Licensure in Illinois

Individuals can obtain Illinois CPA certification by sitting for and passing the Uniform CPA Exam. Potential candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Fulfill the ethics requirements by taking and pass the Professional Ethics: The AICPA's Comprehensive Course
  • Meet the educational requirements (150 credit hours) and have their academic credentials evaluated and approved by the Illinois Board of Examiners before taking the exam
  • All four sections of the exam must be passed with a score of 75 or higher

Candidates do not need a graduate degree in order to qualify to sit for the CPA exam in Illinois. However, first-time exam candidates must have completed at least 150 credit hours of acceptable coursework, which includes a baccalaureate degree or higher. Acceptable credit hours must include the equivalent of a concentration in accounting.

Age Requirement N/A
Citizenship Requirement No
Residency Requirement No
Social Security # Requirement N
Education Requirement for Licensure Bachelor's degree (150 hours)
International Programs Yes
Hours in Accounting 24 semester hours
Exam Sitting Requirements 150 hours
Experience Requirements 1 year of accounting experience
Ethics Exam AICPA Ethics Exam

Source: The American Institute of CPAs

CPA exam fees in Illinois

  • Application Fee $120
  • Auditing & Attestation $208
  • Financial Accounting & Reporting $208
  • Regulation $208
  • Business Environment & Concepts $208

Special Fees: First time candidates must put forward an academic credential evaluation fee to ensure their transcripts meet the educational requirements to sit for the exam. The domestic credential evaluation fee is $175; the foreign or foreign and domestic credential evaluation fee is $250.

Certifying and Professional Organizations

The Illinois Board of Examiners is the body that approves CPA certification, but not the license to practice. Licenses, and requirements for continuing professional education, are done by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which regulates the majority of professional and financial institutions in the state. Conversely, the Illinois CPA Society provides consumers with the ability to search for a CPA and provides CPAs a networking base to promote employment opportunities.

Illinois Board of Examiners


100 Trade Centre Drive; Suite 403
Champaign, IL 61820

Phone Number

(217) 531-0950

Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation


320 W. Washington St. 3rd Floor
Springfield, IL 62786

Phone Number

(217) 785-0820

Illinois CPA Society


550 W. Jackson; Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60661

Phone Number

(800) 993-0407 ext. 216