Written by Accounting.com Staff Writers


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.

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.

Washington at a Glance

Population 7,797,095
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

Top Washington Schools for Accounting

  • Gonzaga University
  • University of Washington-Seattle Campus
  • Seattle University
  • Saint Martin's University
  • University of Washington-Tacoma Campus
  • Whitworth University
  • Seattle Pacific University
  • Northwest University
  • Western Washington University
  • Central Washington University

Why Go to College for Accounting in Washington?

Home to 60 four-year and 26 two-year colleges, Washington boasts several accredited universities in major metropolitan areas like Seattle, such as the University of Washington and Seattle University.

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.

Education Statistics for Washington

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.

Higher Education Statistics in Washington
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%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey

Accreditation for Washington Schools

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.

Considerations for an Accounting Degree in Washington

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.

Accounting Degree Levels

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.

Associate Degree in Accounting
An associate-level accounting degree usually takes two years to complete while preparing students for careers as payroll clerks or auditing clerks.
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Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
This four-year degree typically meets minimum education requirements for jobs as cost estimators, tax examiners, or tax collectors.
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Master's Degree in Accounting
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.
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Ph.D. in Accounting
Studying accounting at the Ph.D. level typically leads to opportunities in teaching and research.
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Accounting Concentration Options

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.

Accounting Concentrations

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

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.

On-Campus

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

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

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.
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
Washington Students 10.7% 16.4% 72.9%
United States Students 16.3% 18.4% 65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

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 Cost of College Tuition and Fees in California, 2017-2018
California National
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
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

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.

Washington's Cost of Living

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.

Other School Selection Criteria

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.

Student-to-Teacher Ratio

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.

Program Length

At most degree levels, programs may offer accelerated tracks to allow students to graduate faster than they would when enrolled full or part time.

Program Culture

The presence of more demographically diverse students and faculty may provide a more well-rounded cultural experience.

Earning Potential

Many programs reveal post-graduation salary data for their alumni and researching these statistics can ensure the program produces a substantive return on investment.

Alumni Network

Larger programs and schools often boast more extensive alumni networks, which can prove extremely useful during the job-seeking process.

Admission Process

Some programs require submission of standardized test scores such as the SAT, GRE, or GMAT, with minimum test scores needed for entrance.

Careers for Accounting Graduates in Washington

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.

Select Accounting Careers in Washington

Accountants and Auditors

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

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Bookkeeping and Auditing Clerks

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

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Financial Managers

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

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Washington Employment Trends

Projected Job Growth for Accountants

37,841 Employees2017
44,832 Employees2027
Washington 6.4% increase
1,397,700 Employees2017
1,537,600 Employees2027
National 10% increase

Source: Projections Central

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

Explore more careers here

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.

Washington Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

Each state details specific requirements and procedures for CPA licensure. Washington CPA candidates must complete all of the following obligations.

  • Residency Requirement: Applicants must demonstrate residency status in the state.
  • Social Security Number: CPA applicants need to provide a social security number, but foreign applicants do not.
  • Education Requirement: A CPA usually needs 150 semester hours, with 24 hours in business administration classes and 24 hours in accounting courses. Fifteen of those 24 accounting hours must typically come from upper-level courses.
  • Experience Requirement: Washington CPAs generally need at least one year of accounting-related experience such as financial advising, financial reporting, tax advising, or tax consulting.
  • Successful Examination Performance: Aspiring CPAs in Washington can pass the following exams for licensure: the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination; the Washington State Ethics & Regulations course; and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' ethics course and exam.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Is accounting a good career in Washington?
Accounting program graduates work in most of Washington's major industries and typically earn more than the annual median salary for the same position. Washington also employs about 32,280 accountants and auditors and about 31,770 bookkeeping and auditing clerks.
How much do accountants earn in Washington?
Accountants and auditors in Washington earn a mean annual salary of $81,970, according to the BLS.
What accounting jobs are there in Washington?
The most popular accounting careers in Washington appear in the areas of auditing, accounting, financial management, and financial advising.
Can I get an accounting degree in Washington?
Yes. Top schools with accounting programs include University of Washington and Gonzaga University.
Does Washington have online accounting programs?
Washington boasts several high-quality online accounting programs offered at numerous universities throughout the state, including Washington State University.

Washington Accounting and Education Organizations

  • Washington Association of Accounting & Tax Professionals This professional association supports the career development of accounting and tax industry professionals. The WAATP advocates for these workers and provides continuing education opportunities, seminars, and networking events.
  • Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants The WSCPA provides advocacy seminars, volunteer opportunities, training programs, and job boards. This professional organization also offers several conferences, including a women's leadership summit, a farm tax conference, and a reception for members.
  • Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance With chapters in Bellevue, Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane, this alliance of women professionals strives to promote leadership and advance the profession. The AFWA provides scholarships, volunteer opportunities, employment resources, and monthly dinner meetings.
  • Washington State Board of Accountancy The state board provides consumer protection and awards licensure to individuals and firms. The board also establishes and publishes ethical standards for the profession.

Accounting Programs in Washington

For a comprehensive list of accredited schools, the database below features many of the accredited accounting degree providers in Washington. Each of the schools listed below meets the academic standards established by CHEA-approved accrediting agencies. The list helps compare programs to weigh the educational and financial factors within the state to identify the best accounting school and degree program fit.