Accounting Degree Overview for Illinois


Updated October 25, 2023

Research the best accounting programs in Illinois with this state guide. Browse ranked lists of the state's top undergraduate and graduate accounting degrees. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Illinois features one of the most diverse economies in the country, home to enormous agriculture, energy, and business and professional services industries. For several years, the state has managed to rank as the fifth-largest contributor to the U.S. gross domestic product, despite a steady population decrease over that time frame.

Illinois continues to create new business jobs, including accounting positions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These added jobs create more opportunity for recent graduates. The state features promising landing spots for graduates at all levels of accounting degrees, including some of the nation's largest bookkeeping and accounting clerksaccountants and auditors, and financial manager workforces.

Illinois' accounting professions offer a largely positive outlook, but the sheer number of career paths can make it challenging to select a school and program. The following page provides information on the state, the degree, and potential careers for graduates with online accounting degrees in Illinois.


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Top Online Accounting Bachelor's Programs

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Top Illinois Schools for Accounting

  • Illinois Wesleyan University
  • University of St Francis
  • Lewis University
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Dominican University
  • Augustana College
  • DePaul University
  • Bradley University
  • Loyola University Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Springfield


The Illinois higher learning system offers students plenty of selection and accessibility. The state features nearly 200 colleges and universities for students to choose from. Despite declining enrollments over the last few years, Illinois' public colleges and universities still enroll more than 160,000 full-time undergraduate and graduate students.

According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, in-state students graduate at above-average rates, at 36% from community colleges, 62% from public universities, and 68% from for-profit schools. To help reduce travel and, in some cases, tuition rates, learners can access online programs at Illinois educational institutions. In fact, almost 30% of students study online in some capacity. Online learners can study anytime and anywhere, though some programs feature on-campus requirements.

For accounting students, Illinois provides an active professional landscape. The Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) represents one of the largest, oldest industry organizations in the country. For students in the state, the robust and supportive accounting environment offers promise of growth and opportunity.

Illinois accounting graduates enjoy access to some of the country's largest accounting industries, and the state features above-average salaries for many accounting-related careers, according to BLS employment data. Out-of-state students still enjoy access accounting careers in Illinois, but residents benefit from in-state programs and concentrations designed to meet local demands.

Education Statistics for Illinois

As illustrated in the following table, Illinois offers students access to education at various levels. With more than 180 two- and four-year schools in the state, and close to 30% of students taking some classes online, in-state learners enjoy program, school, and delivery options.

As a result, Illinois residents ages 25 and older obtain bachelor's and master's degrees at above-average rates, compared to national statistics.


Number of Four-Year Colleges1193,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges661,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education29.1%34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student$14,846$8,196
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education7.2%5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree8.0%8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor's Degree20.8%19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher13.3%12.1%

Sources: NCESSHEEOU.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey

Accreditation for Illinois Schools

Accreditation assures students, employers, and other institutions that a school or program meets educational standards. At the school level, accreditation comes regionally and nationally. National accreditation typically covers for-profit schools, while regional accreditation is awarded to nonprofit schools and comes from regional accreditation agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

In Illinois, schools receive accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, an organization with more than 125 years of experience improving education. Accounting students may also seek programmatic accreditation. Several organizations recognize accounting and business programs, including the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

For certified public accountant (CPA) examination eligibility, the ICPAS requires candidates to possess degrees from regionally accredited schools. They also recognize programmatic accreditation from the AACSB. Accreditation can also influence financial aid, transfer credits, and employment.


Choosing the right college or university requires lots of thought and consideration. Students should compare program details, such as concentrations, internships, and course options. They should also think about course delivery modalities: Which programs allow students to complete online classes?

Students who wish to study in Illinois should consider location-specific factors, as well. These include employment opportunities, cost of living, and tuition rates. The following sections explore many of these details, laying out what an accounting degree in Illinois might look like and how students can make effective school and program decisions.

Accounting Degree Levels

When choosing accounting programs, students should explore the various levels available and consider which careers they might pursue after graduation. The following list examines major accounting degree levels and possible career options.

Associate Degree in Accounting

Associate degrees in accounting provide students with foundational knowledge and prepare them for entry-level positions in bookkeeping, accounting, and payroll.

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Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

Bachelor's degrees in accounting allow students to focus their training in more specific fields, preparing them for CPA licensure and a wide array of accounting careers.

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Master's Degree in Accounting

Master's degrees in accounting equip learners with advanced training, often in specific accounting disciplines, and prepare them for management and leadership roles.

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Ph.D. in Accounting

A Ph.D. in accounting emphasizes independent research and prepares graduates for management positions and careers in academia.

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Accounting Concentration Options

Whatever accounting degree and program students choose, they should make sure their training matches the demand where they live or plan to live. Accounting students in Illinois can prepare themselves to pursue a variety of thriving industries and accounting professions by choosing concentrations in those areas.

The state features two of the country's largest management and financial industries, according to BLS employment data. The following table looks at two accounting concentrations that can lead graduates to these fields.

  • MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTING : Students in management accounting concentrations learn to use financial information and other data to make informed organizational decisions. These professionals may manage financial planning, performance analysis, and logistics. This career path may lead to a variety of management positions.
  • FINANCIAL ACCOUNTING: Financial accounting typically involves overseeing an organization's financial health. This may include investment planning, budgeting, and financial analysis. Graduates can manage finances from within organizations or find employment in the financial industry.


On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

Program delivery types factor into students' program choices. Whether the program runs online or on-campus can impact school location, program length, and time and financial investments.


Learners who thrive in on-campus programs prefer interacting with instructors and classmates, along with the high engagement levels that classrooms invite. On-campus students also benefit from the activities, extracurriculars, and resources that Illinois campuses offer.

Online Programs

The availability of online programs allows students to access schools at great distances with few or no on-campus visits required. Learners with the ability to choose more distant programs can also be more selective. Online programs may enable greater flexibility in how learners study, including offering more self-paced and accelerated options.Tuition rates fluctuate with online programs, as well, with many schools offering standard online rates, regardless of where students live. When considering an online program, candidates should anticipate the need for more independence and personal motivation in their studies.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs combine elements from online and on-campus programs. Some may require students to attend a certain number of classes or residencies on campus throughout the year, while others only offer part of the degree online. These programs offer a mixture of flexible online learning and collaborative classroom environments.


Illinois Students14.5%14.6%70.9%
United States Students16.3%18.4%65.3%

Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

Compared to national averages, tuition in Illinois generally runs higher. As a result, students should examine all of their financing options to reduce debt loads and stress. In addition to federal financial aid programs, Illinois learners can take on private loans. They can also work while in school, which works particularly well for online learners.

Scholarships often present one of the most attractive options for students. Illinois learners enjoy access to many scholarship and grant programs from the state government, professional organizations, and individual schools. For more information, click through the following links and learn about financial aid options and some of the scholarships available to accounting students.




Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$13,971$9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$28,618$25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year)$32,491$30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$3,891$3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$10,989$7,971

Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Across the U.S., out-of-state students pay higher tuition rates than in-state students. In Illinois, non-resident students pay more than twice as much as residents, on average. Lower tuition costs for state residents incentivize them to stay and study in Illinois. For out-of-state students, Illinois may offer tuition breaks for learners from certain states.

As a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, Illinois offers lower tuition rates for residents from other member states as part of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. Many Illinois schools also offer online tuition rates, which charge a standard rate for all students, regardless of where they live.

Illinois' Cost of Living

When financing an education, tuition costs get the bulk of students' interest, but they should also consider other expenses, including cost of living. In Illinois, tuition costs more than the national average rates, as illustrated by the table above. However, students can find savings in other areas.

According to the World Population Review, Illinois' cost of living index comes in at 94.5, which is below the national average. This means students can save money outside of school, specifically on housing and groceries, the two primary expenses that keep the state's index lower.

Other School Selection Criteria

The right school decision depends on each individual student's unique interests. In addition to the considerations above, learners should weigh many other considerations, including school size, program reputation, and student-to-teacher ratios. Students who choose on-campus programs should also consider campus facilities and resources.

All learners should find programs that match their needs. Look into the details, such as program length, course offerings, and internships. Concentration options and curricula help create career pathways for students, so prospective learners should choose a school that enables their professional success.

Prospective applicants should understand each potential school's academic requirements. Candidates can get a feel for their potential cohort based on application expectations. Those seeking more competitive or challenging atmospheres may pursue programs with higher minimum grade requirements.

Finally, learners should consider the available resources at prospective schools. Academic and student support services contribute to healthy learning environments. The resources available to graduates, like career and alumni network services, might indicate the level of continued support for students after graduation.



Illinois offers a promising job field for accounting students and professionals. Despite the state's relatively low overall economic strength, its business environment ranks in the top 15 states. Illinois also features a significant presence from the Big Four accounting firms, including two Deloitte officestwo KPMG officesfour PwC offices, and two Ernst & Young offices.

BLS employment data projects accounting jobs to increase on par with the national economy. Though the 2018-2028 projected 4.9% growth for overall employment in Illinois is actually lower than the national average, the state's many accounting and related positions still offer employment opportunities for new graduates.

For example, Illinois hosts some of the nation's largest pools of bookkeepers, accountants and auditors, and financial managers. Professionals in these fields also earn some of the highest wages compared to those in other states. Additionally, Illinois' metropolitan areas, like Chicago and Bloomington, offer some of the industry's most abundant and high-paying careers. Read on for more career information.

Select Accounting Careers in Illinois

Bookkeeping and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeepers oversee financial records and data for organizations. They follow regulations and laws and keep all information compliant and accurate. Clerks create reports for management professionals to help inform their decisions. For employment, most bookkeeping clerks need associate degrees in accounting.

Job Outlook in Illinois:-5.9% (2018-2028)

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Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors take care of the bulk of financial assignments for organizations. They maintain financial records, complete taxes, and manage investments. They also evaluate processes and operations and look for inefficiencies and areas for improvement. Accountants typically need bachelor's degrees, though some employers require master's degrees.

Job Outlook in Illinois:+4.9% (2018-2028)

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Personal Financial Advisors

These professionals seek to improve and maintain individuals' and organizations' financial health. They may assess operations and budgets and suggest solutions for savings or revenue growth. This career typically requires bachelor's degrees at minimum, but many employers look for master's graduates.

Job Outlook in Illinois:+5.9% (2018-2028)

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Illinois Employment Trends

Projected Job Growth for Accountants

58,210 Employees2018
61,040 Employees2028
Illinois 4.9% increase
1,424,000 Employees2018
1,514,700 Employees2028
National 6.4% increase

Source: Projections Central


Accounting professionals enjoy a wealth of opportunity in Illinois. In fact, Illinois hosts some of the largest workforces in the country for all of the listed careers. This means opportunity should continue, regardless of long-term growth projections.

Illinois accounting professionals enjoy diverse career opportunities. The state features positions in various industries and for graduates with many types of degrees and levels of education. This also ensures that the industry allows for career development and growth.

Salary potential represents one of the most attractive elements for students looking to study accounting and work in Illinois. The state pays annual mean wages exceeding national averages in most cases, and for many professions, it offers some of the highest wages in the country.

Illinois Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

The requirements for the CPA vary by state, so all students should closely examine what they need for the credential in the location they plan to work. The following list outlines what it takes for professionals to earn CPA designation in Illinois, according to ThisWaytoCPA.

  • Bachelor's degree
  • 150 undergraduate semester hours
  • No specific credit requirements for graduates with accredited master's degrees in accounting
  • At least 30 semester hours in accounting, including managerial accounting, financial accounting, taxation, or auditing for candidates with a master's degree in business
  • For non-business or accounting graduates, 24 additional semester hours in business training, including two semester hours of business communication and three semester hours of business ethics
  • One year of full-time experience
  • Pass the CPA exam
  • Pass the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants ethics examination

Frequently Asked Questions About Accounting in Illinois

Is accounting a good career in Illinois?

Illinois offers students lots of career options and opportunities. According to BLS employment data, the state features one of the largest workforces in the country and pays wages close to the national average.

How much do accountants earn in Illinois?

According to BLS employment data, accountants in Illinois make a mean annual wage of $77,640. Accounting can also lead to more lucrative careers, such as personal finance advisors, who make nearly $150,000 in Illinois.

What accounting jobs are there in Illinois?

Illinois employs over 50,000 accountants and auditors, the fifth-largest workforce in the country, according to BLS employment data. The state also hosts more than 55,000 bookkeeping and accounting clerks, also ranking as the fifth-largest workforce in that field.

Can I get an accounting degree in Illinois?

Students can earn accounting degrees from Illinois' many two- and four-year colleges and universities. The state offers options at various levels and lengths, along with several concentration and delivery types.

Does Illinois have online accounting programs?

Many state schools offer online program options for learners to study at a distance or with more flexible schedules. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 30% of Illinois' students take at least some online courses.

 Is accounting a good career in Illinois?Illinois offers students lots of career options and opportunities. According to BLS employment data, the state features one of the largest workforces in the country and pays wages close to the national average. How much do accountants earn in Illinois? What accounting jobs are there in Illinois? Can I get an accounting degree in Illinois? Does Illinois have online accounting programs?

Illinois Accounting and Education Organizations

  • Illinois CPA Society: Founded in 1903, the ICPAS strives to advocate for the accounting profession and its over 23,000 members. The organization provides its members with access to education and industry information, along with a large professional network and plenty of development opportunities.
  • Independent Accountants Association of Illinois: Established in 1949, the IAAI represents the state's independent accounting and tax professionals. The association makes sure its members stay aware of industry news and changes. It also provides access to education, technology, and professional opportunities.
  • NABA Chicago Chapter: Founded in 2005, the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants seeks to encourage more participation from minorities in the accounting field. Members can leverage the association's national network, vast resources, and education and development opportunities.
  • AFWA Illinois State University Chapter: The Illinois State University chapter of the Accounting and Financial Women's Alliance provides members with access to the national organization's resources, including leadership training, networking opportunities, and professional development programs.

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