Written by Accounting.com Staff Writers


Accounting professionals remain in high demand among businesses of all sizes. Iowa's economic profile makes it a particularly attractive destination for prospective accountants. According to the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the finance sector ranks as the state's second-leading industry.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), reports that 64 accredited higher education institutions call Iowa home -- one of the highest per-capita densities in the United States.

This guide provides comprehensive information about accounting degrees in Iowa, including degree levels and concentrations, financial aid options, and potential careers for graduates.

Iowa at a Glance

Population 3,179,850
Per Capita Income $31,559
Fortune 500 Companies 6
Number of Higher Learning Institutions 64
Climate

Average Annual Temperature: 47.8°F (8.8°C)

Annual Precipitation: 34.0 inches (864 millimeters)

Major Sports Teams Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Northern Iowa Panthers, Iowa Barnstormers, Iowa Cubs
Accountants in Iowa 10,170

Top Iowa Schools for Accounting

  • Drake University
  • University of Iowa
  • Luther College
  • Iowa State University
  • Central College
  • Wartburg College
  • Loras College
  • Coe College
  • Northwestern College
  • Mount Mercy University

Why Go to College for Accounting in Iowa?

Iowa's education system consistently ranks among the best in the United States. Its postsecondary schools posted impressive numbers in 2019, ranking 12th in the nation for its two-year college graduation rate and third for its four-year graduation rate, according to U.S. News & World Report. These rankings speak to the quality of the state's college network, which includes three public systems and 34 private nonprofit institutions, according to the NCES.

A comprehensive 2018 study by USA Today ranked Iowa as No. 15 among U.S. states for the value of a dollar. Money goes a relatively long way in the state, giving cash-strapped students an advantage and helping them graduate with less debt.

A growing number of Iowa-based schools offer partially and fully online accounting programs. Some Iowa colleges even offer in-state tuition rates to all online learners, regardless of their physical locations.

Education Statistics for Iowa

Current education statistics for Iowa demonstrate that the state features a relatively high percentage of students in online and distance education programs, indicating that Iowans have embraced emerging learning technologies. The state also boasts a high concentration of four-year colleges relative to its population, and it allocates tax revenue to higher education at rates on pace with the national average.

Higher Education Statistics in Iowa
Iowa Data National Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges 46 3,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges 2 1,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education 42.3% 34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student $6,320 $8,196
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 5.8% 5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree 11.5% 8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor's Degree 19.0% 19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher 9.2% 12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey

Accreditation for Iowa Schools

Accreditation counts among the most important considerations for prospective students. Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. National accreditation usually applies to for-profit, vocational and technical schools, while regional accreditation applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions. The Higher Learning Commission regionally accredits Iowa schools.

Considerations for an Accounting Degree in Iowa

Prospective students must consider many factors when selecting on-campus or online accounting degrees in Iowa. The information below can help applicants determine whether Iowa's offerings match their educational goals, career objectives, and learning budget.

Accounting Degree Levels

Learners can pursue four levels of accounting degrees in Iowa: associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate. This list outlines the main features of each degree level:

Associate Degree in Accounting
This two-year credential prepares students for accounting-related jobs as bookkeepers, accounting clerks, and other support-level roles.
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Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
A four-year bachelor's degree meets the minimum level of education required for learners to qualify for popular professional designations, such as certified public accountant (CPA) credential.
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Master's Degree in Accounting
Professionals seeking to differentiate themselves in the job market or pursue advanced studies in specialized areas often choose master's programs, which typically take two years to complete.
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Ph.D. in Accounting
This prestigious, terminal credential opens up additional career paths, including college-level teaching and research jobs.
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Accounting Concentration Options

Accounting students in Iowa can pursue a variety of professional concentrations and practice areas. Many accounting careers in Iowa concentrate in the state's robust finance and financial services industries. As such, specializations like financial accounting and management accounting may be particularly appealing for learners who plan to establish accounting careers in Iowa after graduation.

Accounting Concentrations

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

In Iowa, on-campus and online accounting degree programs remain readily available. Learners can also pursue hybrid programs blending the two formats.

On-Campus

Campus-based programs appeal to students who thrive in face-to-face learning situations and who fit the profile of a "traditional student." On-campus students benefit from networking opportunities and access to campus resources and activities.

Online Programs

Online programs give students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Distance learners can also attend programs around the country without relocating. However, online programs require high levels of self-discipline and independence.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs offer a balance between traditional and online learning formats. Some hybrid programs feature only one or two on-campus requirements, while others require weekly or monthly campus visits. Generally, hybrid programs work well for people who value the in-class experience but still want the flexibility of online learning.
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
Iowa Students 24.4% 17.9% 57.7%
United States Students 16.3% 18.4% 65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

In general, the costs of higher education in Iowa compare favorably to nationwide averages. Iowa's cost of living also remains relatively low. Even so, many students pursuing accounting degrees in Iowa need help paying for their schooling. Scholarships, fellowships, and grants provide funding that does not require repayment, so experts generally recommend investigating these financial aid opportunities first.

Federal and private student loans represent two other common options, but they require repayment with interest. Explore the links below to learn more about various sources of student funding.

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in Iowa, 2017-2018
Iowa National
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $8,766 $9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $26,214 $25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year) $27,991 $30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $4,923 $3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $6,581 $7,971
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Like most U.S. jurisdictions, public colleges in Iowa usually offer lower tuition rates to in-state students than out-of-state students. States implement these policies to reward those who have contributed to the local education system through their taxes.

Some states maintain reciprocity agreements that extend in-state tuition rates to residents of neighboring states. Unfortunately, no such arrangement exists in Iowa. Unless a particular institution extends lower rates to out-of-state residents as a matter of internal policy, gaining permanent residency in Iowa prior to enrollment is the only way to qualify for in-state tuition.

In Iowa, most schools adhere to similar criteria for the purposes of determining residency. Degree-seekers must usually live in Iowa for at least 12 consecutive months prior to enrollment, during which they must have been primarily engaged in pursuits other than studying.

Iowa's Cost of Living

Tuition tells only part of the story when it comes to the costs of higher education, especially for those enrolled in traditional, campus-based programs. Housing, food, and transportation also count as major school-related expenses.

Fortunately, Iowa's cost of living ranks among the lowest in the continental United States. The World Population Review gave Iowa a score of 90 on its 2020 cost of living index, which uses 100 as the national average.

Other School Selection Criteria

For many students, cost, delivery format, and concentration offerings function as the most critical criteria in their school selection process. However, many other factors can influence students' learning experience and the value of their degree on the job market, including:

Prestige

Attending a prestigious school can expand students' employment opportunities after graduation.

Average Class Sizes

Smaller class sizes typically offer students more one-on-one attention and support from faculty.

Competitiveness of Admissions

Schools with more selective admissions processes generally meet higher academic standards, which can increase degree utility.

School Resources

School resources, like career centers, can play a major role in helping graduates land their first job.

Faculty Credentials

Faculty with extensive experience often deliver more engaging and effective learning experiences than faculty without it.

Prospective learners may also consider factors such as student retention rates, degree-completion rates, and post-graduation employment rates, which can tell a lot about the quality of a school and program.

Careers for Accounting Graduates in Iowa

Iowa's economy appears poised for strong near-term expansion, with a recent U.S. News & World Report analysis ranking it No. 17 in the U.S. for economic growth potential.

Meanwhile, Projections Central projects jobs for accountants and auditors in Iowa to increase 9.8% from 2018-2028, significantly outpacing national projected growth rates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Many recent accounting graduates and established accounting professionals work for the nation's "Big 4" accounting firms: Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. All four of these firms maintain offices in Iowa, giving qualified individuals a strong, steady job base.

The following section elaborates on popular accounting career paths in Iowa, which learners may consider as part of their long-term planning.

Select Accounting Careers in Iowa

Cost Estimator

Cost estimators specialize in coming up with accurate, comprehensive projections for the costs of specific projects and enterprise initiatives. They analyze data to estimate how much labor an undertaking should require, along with requirements for money, time, and materials. These professionals usually hold bachelor's or master's degrees in cost accounting.

Job Outlook in Iowa: +11.9% (2018-2028)

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Financial Manager

Financial managers oversee organizations' financial health. They supervise money management initiatives and liaise with accounting teams to analyze financial reports, manage cash flow, optimize profit margins, and advise executives and decision-makers on strategy. These professionals typically need a related master's degree.

Job Outlook in Iowa: +21.6% (2018-2028)

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Certified Management Accountant

CMAs specialize in aspects of accounting related to budgeting, financial reporting and forecasting, and internal auditing. They also play leading roles in complying with established ethical standards, especially when they work for publicly traded companies obligated to follow federal financial disclosure regulations. CMAs must pass standardized examinations with similar eligibility requirements as the CPA exam.

Job Outlook in Iowa: +9.8% (2018-28)

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Iowa Employment Trends

Projected Job Growth for Accountants

12,010 Employees2018
13,190 Employees2028
Iowa 9.8% increase
1,424,000 Employees2018
1,514,700 Employees2028
National 6.4% increase

Source: Projections Central

Explore more careers here

The employment data above demonstrates several notable trends for students planning to launch their accounting careers in Iowa. Several accounting specializations offer above-average salaries in Iowa; budget analysts, tax examiners and collectors, and cost estimators all fall into this category.

Furthermore, multiple accounting-related professionals enjoy robust job opportunities in Iowa, including bookkeeping clerks, accountants, and financial managers. Financial managers enjoy the highest average salaries of any accounting-related profession in Iowa, according to the BLS.

Iowa Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

Many accounting students hope to become CPAs, and each state maintains its own licensure requirements for these professionals. Prospective CPAs in Iowa must meet the following general requirements:

  • Hold a bachelor's degree in accounting
  • Possess at least 150 college credits, including 24 credits of intermediate and/or advanced accounting study
  • Hold at least one year of professional accounting experience in accounting-related employment settings (internships and work-study programs count)
  • Pass the AICPA professional ethics exam
  • Pass the uniform CPA examination

Candidates who meet these standards may formally apply for Iowa CPA licensure. Learners who plan to study accounting in Iowa but practice as CPAs in other states should check the requirements for their intended destinations, which may differ from Iowa's licensing standards.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Is accounting a good career in Iowa?
Iowa's economy focuses on finance and financial services. Thus, accountants and accounting professionals enjoy high levels of demand thanks to their specialized proficiencies in financial tracking and money management.
How much do accountants earn in Iowa?
According to the BLS, accountants and auditors earn mean annual salaries of $69,480 per year in Iowa. This lags slightly behind the national mean, but Iowa's cost of living also remains significantly lower than in most parts of the United States.
What accounting jobs are there in Iowa?
Bookkeeping and auditing clerks, accountants and auditors, and financial managers make up most of the accounting-related jobs in Iowa.
Can I get an accounting degree in Iowa?
Dozens of accredited, reputable institutions offer traditional and online accounting degrees in Iowa. The state hosts one of the nation's leading higher education networks.
Does Iowa have online accounting programs?
In Iowa, online accounting degrees remain available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Iowa Accounting and Education Organizations

  • Iowa Society of CPAs This popular professional organization offers advocacy resources, networking opportunities, and career-building assets to help members achieve higher levels of professional success. It also features a members-only career center with exclusive job listings.
  • Accountants Association of Iowa The AAI offers resources and services to support accounting professionals in Iowa. The AAI also maintains a formal affiliation with the National Society of Accountants.
  • Iowa State Auditor This website maintains a current, regularly updated list of both state-based and national professional resources for accountants and accounting professionals.
  • Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance This national organization has been empowering female accounting and finance professionals since 1938. It maintains a chapter in Des Moines, Iowa's capital and largest city.

Accounting Programs in Iowa

See below for a list of accredited accounting programs in Iowa. Students who would like to pursue in-class or online accounting programs in the state can use this list to launch their search for study opportunities that meet their personal goals. The list updates annually with information sourced from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.