Accounting Degree Overview for Washington
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
|Per Capita Income||$39,120|
|Fortune 500 Companies||16|
|Number of Higher Learning Institutions||86|
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?
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.
|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%|
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.
- Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
This four-year degree typically meets minimum education requirements for jobs as cost estimators, tax examiners, or tax collectors.
- 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.
- Ph.D. in Accounting
Studying accounting at the Ph.D. level typically leads to opportunities in teaching and research.
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.
Covering public accounting principles and technical skills, this concentration prepares graduates for CPA careers. Public accounting concentrations typically tailor curricula to meet the requirements to become a CPA by focusing on audits, tax laws, finances, and regulations.
Auditing teaches students the methods for analyzing financial statements. This concentration usually includes courses on internal auditing, applied auditing, mergers and acquisitions, and enterprise resource planning systems.
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.
|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%|
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 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|
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.
EXPLORE OUR RANKINGS FOR THE BEST ACCOUNTING PROGRAMS AT EACH LEVEL
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
- 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
- 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
Washington Employment Trends
Projected Job Growth for Accountants
Source: Projections Central
* Associate Degree Recommended ^ Bachelor's Degree Recommended ~ Master's Degree RecommendedExplore 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.
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.
- Degree Levels