Written by Accounting.com Staff Writers


Pennsylvania boasts 256 higher learning institutions, many of which offer accounting degree programs. Many of these programs also offer online formats, accommodating working students and out-of-state students.

Accounting careers often boast above-average salaries in Pennsylvania. Accountants and auditors made a median annual salary of $71,550, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Accountants, auditors, financial managers, and accounting-related clerks work in the state's major industries, including telecommunications, natural gas, and manufacturing.

The following page familiarizes prospective accounting students with the landscape of accounting education and careers in Pennsylvania. Readers can consult this page for educational statistics, economic trends, and degree program options. The data below highlights the many benefits of pursuing an accounting degree and career in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania at a Glance

Population 12,813,969
Per Capita Income $33,960
Fortune 500 Companies 44
Number of Higher Learning Institutions 256
Climate

Average Annual Temperature: 48.8 ℉

Annual Precipitation: 42.9 inches

Major Sports Teams Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers
Accountants in California 50,880

Top Pennsylvania Schools for Accounting

  • Drexel University
  • Villanova University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Saint Joseph's University
  • Lehigh University
  • Thomas Jefferson University
  • Bucknell University
  • Duquesne University
  • Muhlenberg College
  • Saint Francis University

Why Go to College for Accounting in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania boasts many high-quality accounting programs and schools, with many clustered near Philadelphia, including Temple University, Drexel University, St. Joseph's University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Further west, the University of Scranton, Penn State University, and the University of Pittsburgh also feature excellent undergraduate programs in accounting, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Students planning to work in Pennsylvania often benefit from attending an in-state school. School name recognition can help facilitate connections to the local accounting community. Many accounting programs offer networking opportunities, such as internships and conferences where students can meet other local accounting students and professionals.

The BLS projects 6% national growth in accounting jobs between 2018 and 2028, so Pennsylvania's accounting graduates may anticipate a positive job outlook. If you plan to work in Pennsylvania but are not yet a resident, consider enrolling in one of Pennsylvania's online accounting programs.

Both in-state and out-of-state students should consider program cost before choosing an institution. Average out-of-state tuition at public, four-year colleges in Pennsylvania resembles national averages, according to NCES data. Meanwhile, in-state tuition at public, four-year institutions in Pennsylvania costs about $5,000 more annually than nationwide.

Private four-year colleges in Pennsylvania cost about $10,000 more per year than similar institutions nationally. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education recently introduced reforms that will allow schools to set their own tuition rates, so pricing for Pennsylvania schools may change significantly in the coming years.

Education Statistics for Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania offers prospective accounting students a diverse array of school, degree, and program options. Over 25% of Pennsylvania's college students enroll in distance education classes, an increasingly popular and flexible means of obtaining an accounting degree. Pennsylvania's educational attainment statistics resemble national numbers. Consult the table below for more on Pennsylvania's education statistics.

Higher Education Statistics in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Data National Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges 160 3,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges 96 1,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education 25.1% 34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student $4,477 $8,196
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 2.7% 5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree 8.3% 8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor's Degree 18.6% 19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher 12.1% 12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey

Accreditation for Pennsylvania Schools

Prospective accounting students should check each school's accreditation status before applying. Accreditation, a voluntary process undergone by higher education institutions and programs, evaluates and verifies academic quality.

Students should look for schools that have received regional accreditation from an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Regionally accredited schools in Pennsylvania earn their accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Career schools and faith-based schools typically hold national accreditation. Students should prioritize regional accreditation, which ensures the institution meets rigorous standards and provides a quality education. Enrollees at regionally accredited schools can qualify for federal financial aid and can transfer their credits to other institutions.

Considerations for an Accounting Degree in Pennsylvania

Choosing the right accounting program for you requires planning and careful consideration of many factors. Designed to help you plan your education path, the sections below outline the important details relevant to earning your accounting degree in Pennsylvania.

You'll find information on available degree levels and lengths, popular accounting concentrations, and various online and on-campus attendance formats. Helpful in choosing the education path suited to your preferred career, the page below includes Pennsylvania economic trends and career data.

To help you plan to finance your education, you'll also find an overview of Pennsylvania tuition costs and funding options. Undergraduate tuition in Pennsylvania averages $14,534 annually at four-year public institutions.

Accounting Degree Levels

Depending on career goals, prospective accounting students can pursue an associate degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, or Ph.D. in accounting. Students planning to eventually pursue advanced degrees should apply to regionally accredited undergraduate programs whose credits will transfer well to future schools. See below for details on each degree level.

Associate Degree in Accounting
This degree typically takes about two years to complete. Enrollees take introductory courses in accounting and can qualify for entry-level bookkeeping and auditing clerk positions upon graduation.
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Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
Accounting bachelor's programs provide more comprehensive accounting education than do associate programs. Bachelor's degrees take four years to complete and meet the minimum education requirements for most accounting-related careers.
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Master's Degree in Accounting
Master's degree programs offer advanced accounting coursework and specialization options. Master's programs traditionally take 18-24 months. Earning a master's degree can qualify graduates for management positions and satisfy the continuing education requirements to become a certified public accountant (CPA).
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Ph.D. in Accounting
Typically serving aspiring accounting researchers or professors, accounting Ph.D. programs entail advanced coursework and original research projects.
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Accounting Concentration Options

Many accounting degree programs offer curriculum concentration options that allow students to specialize in a particular field, industry, or skill set. Accounting students have many concentration choices that can fit their interests, each of which can provide the skills necessary to succeed in the accounting profession.

Prospective students planning on working in Pennsylvania might consider two popular concentration options: auditing or forensic accounting. Pennsylvania employs 50,880 auditors and accountants. According to the BLS, these professionals earn an annual median wage of $76,720.

Accounting Concentrations

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

Distance learning, an increasingly popular educational option, allows students with job or family obligations to complete their schoolwork at flexible times and from convenient locations. Students seeking the increased networking opportunities that often accompany in-person interaction may benefit from hybrid or on-campus programs. Learn more about the benefits of each option below.

On-Campus

Learners seeking active engagement in live class discussions and structured supervision by professors often enroll in on-campus programs. Traditional on-campus accounting programs meet synchronously in classrooms, usually during daytime hours. However, programs serving working adults often offer class sessions on weekday evenings or weekends. On-campus learning offers the additional benefit of convenient networking opportunities with peers and professors.

Online Programs

Online programs typically permit asynchronous attendance, which means that students can watch recorded lectures and participate in discussion boards on their own schedule. This option allows students to continue their education while working. Without the structure of classroom learning, online students need to be independent learners skilled in time management and self-discipline.

By eliminating time constraints, online classes make many programs more accessible. In addition, online programs sometimes charge lower tuition rates than on-campus programs and save students money by eliminating commuting and on-campus housing costs. Free of commuting constraints, online students can apply to programs anywhere in the country.

Hybrid Programs

A happy blend of online convenience and in-person engagement, hybrid programs usually meet on campus one evening per week or on weekends. Students in hybrid programs enjoy many of the same benefits of the flexible schedule of entirely online programs. Hybrid programs work well for local learners seeking to continue working while also getting to network with peers and professionals.
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
Pennsylvania Students 10.1% 15% 74.9%
United States Students 16.3% 18.4% 65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

The tuition costs outlined in the table below suggest that Pennsylvania's public schools serve as an affordable option for in-state students. Many students also turn to scholarships, grants, and loans to fund their accounting degree.

Prospective students often start by filling out a FAFSA form, which identifies possible sources of financial aid. Federal grants and loans help mitigate tuition costs for qualifying enrollees at accredited schools.

Learners can also apply for scholarships, typically funded by schools, programs, professional organizations, or companies. Pennsylvania students may qualify for scholarships specific to their state. Some graduate schools offer teaching or research fellowships to competitive applicants.

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in Pennsylvania, 2017-2018
Pennsylvania National
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $14,534 $9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $27,129 $25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year) $40,068 $30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $5,173 $3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $13,679 $7,971
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

In-state tuition and fees at public, four-year Pennsylvania schools average $14,534 annually -- about half the amount that out-of-state students pay. Meanwhile, two-year college students in-state pay only $5,173, compared to the $13,679 paid by out-of-state students. Pennsylvania does not maintain reciprocity agreements with other states, so Pennsylvanians seeking in-state tuition need to establish residency to qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Pennsylvania's Cost of Living

Pennsylvania's cost of living statistics closely resemble national averages in categories such as housing. With a cost index of 101.7, living in Pennsylvania costs just 1.7% more than the national average cost of living, according to the World Population Review. It should be noted, however, that living costs will typically prove higher in metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Other School Selection Criteria

To select an accounting program aligned with your academic interests, career goals, learning style, and schedule, consider the following factors:

School Size

Larger schools often provide more specialization options, more diverse student resources, and larger alumni networks. Meanwhile, small schools typically boast smaller class sizes and more individualized attention.

Staff Credentials/Diversity

Major research universities often attract highly credentialed faculty with doctoral-level degrees in their field and/or industry leadership experience. These faculty usually provide current, specialized knowledge of the subject at hand.

Program Length

Many schools now offer part-time, full-time, and accelerated program options. Intensive, accelerated programs run courses in multiple terms across the year and can help students shorten their graduation timeline.

Extracurriculars

Programs featuring extracurriculars such as guest lectures, student organizations, and conferences can facilitate resume-building and networking opportunities.

Prestige/Reputation

Degrees from prestigious schools can impress prospective employers and often transfer well to more advanced degree programs. Such schools often cost more, however, so students should check post-graduation salary data to ensure a positive return-on-investment.

Required Admission Materials/Test Scores

Many programs require reports of standardized test scores, so allow time to take required tests such as the SAT/ACT, GRE, or GMAT. Prospective enrollees lacking these scores should apply to programs that waive these requirements.

Careers for Accounting Graduates in Pennsylvania

The BLS projects an average growth rate of 6% in accounting and auditing positions from 2018 to 2028, making accounting a promising employment prospect for students. Accounting professionals specializing in mergers and acquisitions, international trade, and financial management may enjoy higher demand in the coming decade, according to the BLS's national job outlook projections for accountants and auditors.

Pennsylvania boasts many industries, many of which require financial management and accounting-related services. The state's major industries include natural gas, agribusiness, manufacturing, and life sciences. Many Pennsylvanians also find employment in the tourism, plastics, and telecommunications industries.

The Big Four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PwC, and Deloitte, maintain local offices in major Pennsylvania cities such as Philadelphia. See below to understand some of the common careers, salaries, employment trends, and CPA requirements in Pennsylvania.

Select Accounting Careers in Pennsylvania

Bookkeeping and Auditing Clerks

Tasked with recording financial transactions and creating and reviewing financial records, these professionals work with bookkeeping software, process financial transactions, and create basic financial reports such as income statements and balance sheets.

Job Outlook in Pennsylvania: -4.3%

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Accountants and Auditors

These professionals create and examine financial records, such as tax documents, and ensure compliance with related regulations and laws. Accountants and auditors also may produce reports, present findings, assist with budgeting, and advise management on systems efficiency and proper procedure.

Job Outlook in Pennsylvania: 6% growth

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Financial Managers

Financial managers safeguard organizational finances by directing investments, setting goals, planning, and reporting. These professionals require skills in forecasting, financial statement and market analysis, leadership, and decision-making. Types of financial managers include controllers, treasurers, credit or cash managers, and risk managers.

Job Outlook in Pennsylvania: 16.1%

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Pennsylvania Employment Trends

Projected Job Growth for Accountants

57,540 Employees2019
61,020 Employees2028
Pennsylvania 6% increase
1,424,000 Employees2019
1,514,700 Employees2028
National 6.4% increase

Source: Projections Central

* Associate Degree Recommended     ^ Bachelor's Degree Recommended     ~ Master's Degree Recommended

Explore more careers here

Pennsylvania financial managers and personal financial advisors earn more than many of their counterparts in other states. Pennsylvania professionals in these careers make annual mean salaries of $153,350 and $104,330, respectively. Master's degrees in accounting typically meet or exceed educational requirements for these positions, so earning an advanced degree in Pennsylvania may help graduates secure lucrative careers.

Accounting students planning to work in Pennsylvania may consider pursuing degrees related to the state's most common accounting-related careers: financial managers and accountants. Financial managers and accountants work in various Pennsylvania industries, so students with specific industry preferences may benefit from accounting programs offering industry-related specialization.

Pennsylvania Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

State CPA requirements vary, so aspiring CPAs should check the guidelines for their desired state of employment before taking the exam. Pennsylvania CPA candidates must demonstrate residency status, provide a social security number or waiver, and complete the following experience and education prerequisites:

  • Accounting Experience: CPA candidates must boast at least one year of experience, 1,600 hours of which must involve accounting, consulting, financial advising, or compilation.
  • Accounting Education: To sit for the CPA exam, candidates require a bachelor's degree of 120 or more credits. For licensure, Pennsylvania's State Board of Accountancy requires completion of 150 total credit hours, including bachelor's degree credits. 12 of these credits must relate to accounting, auditing, or taxation, and 24 additional credits must involve accounting, auditing, business, or finance.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Is accounting a good career in Pennsylvania?
Accountants work in many Pennsylvania industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, agribusiness, and plastics. Some accountants also work in government and nonprofit spheres.
How much do accountants earn in Pennsylvania?
Accountants in Pennsylvania average $72,000 annually, according to Pennsylvania's Career Guide.
What accounting jobs are there in Pennsylvania?
Popular entry-level accounting-related jobs in Pennsylvania include bookkeeping clerk, auditing clerk, and accounting clerk. Pennsylvanians are also employed as accountants, auditors, and financial managers.
Can I get an accounting degree in Pennsylvania?
A state full of colleges, Pennsylvania houses many accounting degree programs. A list of Pennsylvania accounting schools appears below.
Does Pennsylvania have online accounting programs?
Many Pennsylvania accounting programs offer online attendance options that allow students to earn a degree while still working.

Pennsylvania Accounting and Education Organizations

  • Pennsylvania Society of Tax & Accounting Professionals Boasting over 1,900 Pennsylvania members, this member-driven professional organization offers resources such as continuing education, accounting tools, and conferences. PSTAP represents both individual accountants and small firms.
  • Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Founded in 1897 as the second CPA organization in the country, PICPA serves over 20,000 Pennsylvania accounting professionals in government, education, industry, and public accounting. PICPA maintains 11 Pennsylvania chapters and runs thousands of education programs each year.
  • Philadelphia Association for Financial Professionals Affiliated with the Association for Financial Professionals, PAFP facilitations discussion, idea exchange, and networking for Delaware Valley financial professionals. PAFP also advocates for the profession at the legislative level.
  • Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy The State Board regulates the certification, licensing, registration, and practice of Pennsylvania's public accountants. The Board also establishes continuing education requirements and professional standards for the profession.

Accounting Programs in Pennsylvania

The following list includes all of Pennsylvania's accredited accounting programs. Updated annually with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, this list provides an overview of the many accounting school options available in Pennsylvania.