An associate-level accounting degree usually takes two years to complete while preparing students for careers as payroll clerks or auditing clerks.
With 86 institutions of higher learning in the state, including the University of Washington and Western Washington University, students are able to pursue an accounting degree in Washington. Many of these schools also offer online accounting degrees, providing students greater flexibility to complete their degree as compared to attending on-campus classes.
Graduates from accounting programs in Washington state face a healthy job outlook: there are many booming industries, including aerospace, global health, and technology. Large companies like Boeing, Starbucks, and Microsoft have set up headquarters in this Pacific Northwest state.
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Because there are so many corporations in the state, accounting graduates are often easily able to find employment and secure a competitive salary. Washington employs high numbers of accountants, auditors, financial advisors, and financial managers, with over 80,000 workers and more than 900 licensed CPA firms. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors in Washington earned a median annual salary of $81,970 in 2019, more than $10,000 above the national average for the same occupation.
The guide below details economic and career trends, degree and program options, and educational statistics relevant to prospective accounting students in Washington.
|PER CAPITA INCOME||$39,120|
|FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES||16|
|NUMBER OF HIGHER LEARNING INSTITUTIONS||86|
|CLIMATE||Average Annual Temperature: 48.3 ℉|
Annual Precipitation: 38.4 inches
|MAJOR SPORTS TEAMS||Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Storm, OL Reign, Seattle Sounders FC|
|ACCOUNTANTS IN WASHINGTON||32,280|
In less densely populated areas, the universities offering accounting degrees include Washington State University in Pullman and Gonzaga University in Spokane. The state’s abundance of online accounting programs provides a great option for students who can’t attend on-campus classes — although some online programs require periodic campus visits.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), in-state tuition for a four-year college in Washington fell nearly $2,000 below the national average for the 2017-18 academic year. However, costs for out-of-state students to attend were almost $3,000 higher than the average over the same period. To address affordability issues for higher-learning institutions in the state, Washington recently passed the Workforce Education Investment Act to help make college more accessible for families earning $55,000 or less.
Students earning accounting degrees in Washington also benefit from networking opportunities in their communities, since so many corporations call the state home. Their presence provides ample opportunity to secure internships, interact with local organizations, and connect with industry professionals.
According to NCES, Washington state has a higher-than-average percentage of adults with degrees as compared to the country as a whole. However, the tax revenue per student allocated to higher education is lower in Washington than the national average. The following table covers key educational statistics that can provide students a perspective on how educational opportunities in the state compare to the rest of the country.
|WASHINGTON DATA||NATIONAL DATA|
|Number of Four-Year Colleges||60||3,004|
|Number of Two-Year Colleges||26||1,579|
|Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education||27.1%||34.7%|
|Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student||$7,424||$8,196|
|Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education||4.7%||5.8%|
|Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree||10%||8.4%|
|Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor’s Degree||22.1%||19.4%|
|Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher||13.2%||12.1%|
One important factor to consider when applying to schools is their accreditation status. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and their subsidiary bodies periodically review institutions’ academic rigor, integrity, and performance to ensure accounting degrees in Washington meet national and regional educational standards.
Accreditation can occur at regional and national levels. Regional accreditation is generally more rigorous and is reserved for nonprofit institutions. Credits obtained from a regionally accredited school are usually transferred more easily to other regionally accredited schools. Nationally accredited schools’ degrees and credits, on the other hand, typically do not transfer to regionally accredited institutions. Federal financial aid is also only available to students enrolled at accredited schools.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), is Washington’s regional accreditation body. NWCCU awards institutional accreditation to schools that foster excellent institutional effectiveness, educational quality, and improvement efforts.
Choosing from the bevy of available accounting programs and schools around the nation can prove challenging. The sections below can help students compare enrollment trends, cost of living standards, and tuition rates in the U.S. to help narrow their options. Reviewing Washington’s economic trends, major employers, employment fields, and salary data can also aid aspiring accounting professionals to identify the areas best suited for their careers.
Another factor to consider when looking for the best accounting schools in Washington is the level of degree to pursue. Those interested in entering the workforce quickly often earn an associate degree in accounting and pursue entry-level positions such as a bookkeeper or a payroll supervisor. For higher-paying positions and more prominent accounting roles such as a financial advisor, a bachelor’s degree can often meet employment standards.
An associate-level accounting degree usually takes two years to complete while preparing students for careers as payroll clerks or auditing clerks.
This four-year degree typically meets minimum education requirements for jobs as cost estimators, tax examiners, or tax collectors.
A master’s degree generally meets the educational requirements for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure and can lead to roles as an auditor, a budget analyst, or a financial manager.
Studying accounting at the Ph.D. level typically leads to opportunities in teaching and research.
Applicable in most industries and sectors, accounting can open numerous career paths. Many accounting programs feature various specialization options, including fields in managerial accounting, forensic accounting, government auditing, and public accounting.
The most common accounting-related jobs in Washington include public accounting, auditing, bookkeeping, and financial management, so earning a degree in these concentrations may help accounting graduates find employment in the state.
Students with family or work obligations may consider distance learning options to accommodate their busy schedules. Online learning generally saves commuting time and lowers tuition while allowing learners to pursue a degree at their convenience. Keep reading to discover the attendance choices available to accounting students in Washington.
With Pacific coastline and lush forests, the state of Washington has many beautiful college campuses. Attending on-campus classes often increases opportunities for socializing, networking, and extracurricular activities such as clubs and university-sponsored events. On-campus programs best suit students who require interactive class sessions and in-person engagement with professors to remain focused and motivated.
Online programs usually encompass the same course content and rigor as in-person programs. Online programs often feature recorded lectures and course materials available asynchronously. Learners interact with peers and professors electronically, often through discussion boards and/or collaborative projects. Many working adults who seek to continue their education without leaving their jobs enroll in online programs.
Hybrid programs often consist primarily of online classes, but feature at least a few in-person class sessions. These sessions may occur at night, on weekends, or through intensive on-campus residencies at some point in the semester. The hybrid format supports the ability to network, communicate, work as a team, and present research.
|ENROLLED EXCLUSIVELY IN DISTANCE EDUCATION COURSES||ENROLLED IN SOME BUT NOT ALL DISTANCE EDUCATION COURSES||NOT ENROLLED IN ANY DISTANCE EDUCATION COURSES|
|United States Students||16.3%||18.4%||65.3%|
Accounting students can fund their accounting degrees through various avenues, including scholarships, financial aid, and fellowships. With out-of-state tuition and fees nearly $3,000 above the national average, many Washington accounting professional organizations, such as the Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants, annually award accounting scholarships to help lessen the costs.
Enrollees at accredited schools may qualify for federal aid, often in the form of grants and loans. Prospective students fill out a FAFSA form that allows the federal government to connect students to financial aid and lenders. Fellowships, often awarded at the graduate level, may involve teaching or research duties. Follow the links below to learn more about accounting scholarships and financing options.
|Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)||$6,830||$9,040|
|Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)||$28,260||$25,660|
|Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year)||$36,810||$30,730|
|Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)||$4,080||$3,240|
|Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)||$5,980||$7,970|
Attending a four-year public university in Washington for in-state learners costs about $6,830 in tuition and fees annually. This is lower than the national in-state tuition average. However, Washington’s out-of-state tuition and fees at the same institutions average $28,260, which is nearly $3,000 higher per year than the national average. Private four-year university tuition is more than $6,000 above the national average.
To help make college more affordable for out-of-state residents, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education created the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program, which ensures eligible students pay no more than 150% of the university’s in-state tuition costs.
While accessing affordable tuition can put less strain on finances, prospective students should also consider the cost of living when considering where to enroll. A higher cost of living on groceries and off-campus housing may hamper your financial freedom.
Though the cost of living in the Seattle metro area continues to rise, the cost of living in other parts of the state remains reasonable. According to the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development’s Office of Performance & Strategy, which analyzes economic trends, Washington’s overall cost of living index score comes in at 112.2, just above the national average of 100. However, Washington remains considerably less expensive than other West Coast states such as California and Oregon, which respectively score 142.7 and 134.3.
Several accounting programs exist in Washington, so prospective students can afford to consider numerous factors when choosing where to apply. Criteria for identifying a good program fit include program length, location, size, and performance measures. See below for discussion of available program features.
Smaller student-to-teacher ratios often allow for more one-on-one interaction with professors. In turn, this can mean more mentorship and support for each student.
At most degree levels, programs may offer accelerated tracks to allow students to graduate faster than they would when enrolled full or part time.
The presence of more demographically diverse students and faculty may provide a more well-rounded cultural experience.
Many programs reveal post-graduation salary data for their alumni and researching these statistics can ensure the program produces a substantive return on investment.
Larger programs and schools often boast more extensive alumni networks, which can prove extremely useful during the job-seeking process.
Some programs require submission of standardized test scores such as the SAT, GRE, or GMAT, with minimum test scores needed for entrance.
According to the BLS, the U.S. employs about 1.4 million accountants and auditors. BLS job outlook data projects a 6% growth for accountants and auditors from 2018 to 2028. Economic trends like globalization and increased regulation mean that the need for these workers will continue to rise. Continued technological advancement suggests that cultivating specialized skills such as data analysis and financial advising may improve job prospects and security.
Boasting a top-ranked state economy, Washington continues to experience rapid growth of metropolitan areas in Seattle and Spokane. Many accounting professionals work in the state’s high-growth industries, which include clean technology, global health, and forestry.
The Puget Sound Business Journal indicates the well-established presence of the nation’s four largest accounting firms in Washington State. According to Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD), projected job growth for accountants and auditors in the state from 2017 to 2022 currently sits at 1.81%, which is slightly higher than the average of all occupations at 1.75%. The sections below explore further employment trends in Washington, outlining popular accounting-related careers, salaries, CPA requirements, and professional organizations.
These professionals analyze, organize, and review financial records such as tax forms. Accountants and auditors ensure efficiency, accuracy, and regulatory compliance in organizational finances and reporting. Other duties may include alerting management to opportunities for cutting costs and increasing profits. These professionals typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
Job Outlook in Washington: 1.81% projected growth from 2017 to 2022
Often providing administrative support to accountants, bookkeeping and auditing clerks update and track financial statements and transactions. These professionals often use computer software to sort, record, and process business costs and income. Clerks can also create and review financial reports. These professionals usually hold an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in accounting-related fields.
Job Outlook in Washington: 0.95% projected growth from 2017 to 2022
Tasked with overseeing organizational finances, these managers create long-term goals, make economic decisions, advise executives, and supervise financial staff. Duties also may include financial reporting, compliance checking, and market analysis. Many financial managers hold finance- or accounting-related master’s degrees, although some use a bachelor’s degree plus professional experience to qualify for management positions.
Job Outlook in Washington: 2.26% projected growth from 2017 to 2022
Source: Projections Central
By pursuing degree concentrations in financial management, consulting, public accounting, and auditing, accounting students will graduate well-equipped for employment in Washington. An associate degree can lead to clerking positions, while a bachelor’s or a master’s may provide more job prospects for aspiring accountants, auditors, and financial managers.
A credit counselor features the only accounting position in Washington that fails to exceed the national average for salary. Personal financial advisors reap the most financial gain working in Washington compared to the rest of the U.S. The state’s 3,820 personal financial advisors average nearly $25,000 more than the national average for this occupation.
Each state details specific requirements and procedures for CPA licensure. Washington CPA candidates must complete all of the following obligations.
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