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Accounting Degree Overview for Wisconsin

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Wisconsin is known as the United States’ leading producer of dairy products. The state also fosters successful industries in aerospace, water technology, and manufacturing. Each of these top industries requires skilled accounting professionals to ensure tax compliance, estimate costs, and handle financial reporting.

Prospective students looking to earn accounting degrees in Wisconsin can choose from 84 schools, including public and private institutions. Many of these schools offer online learning opportunities to serve the needs of remote learners and full-time workers.

Popular accounting careers in Wisconsin include accountants, auditors, bookkeepers, and personal financial advisors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin accountants earn an average annual salary of $71,260. 

The following guide explores the various education and career options available for aspiring accounting professionals in Wisconsin. Areas of discussion include degree levels, college financing options, and employment projections.

Wisconsin at a Glance

Population5,851,750
Per Capita Income$33,032
Fortune 500 Companies23
Number of Higher Learning Institutions84
ClimateAverage Annual Temperature: 43.1℉ 

Annual Precipitation: 32.6 inches
Major Sports TeamsGreen Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks
Accountants in Wisconsin22,390

Top Wisconsin Schools for Accounting

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Marquette University
  • Cardinal Stritch University
  • University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
  • Saint Norbert College
  • Wisconsin Lutheran College
  • Edgewood College
  • University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  • Carthage College
  • Marian University

Why Go to College for Accounting in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin’s colleges and universities offer excellent education options for both recent high school graduates and working professionals. The city of Milwaukee features the state’s largest concentration of schools, but students across Wisconsin can access high-quality, two- and four-year programs, either on campus or online. 

During the 2018 school year, 336,409 students enrolled in a degree-granting institution in Wisconsin, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The state boasts a graduation rate of 68% — the eighth-highest in the nation — based on the outcomes of those who enrolled in 2013. 

Compared to the national average, Wisconsin’s four-year universities offer lower tuition rates to both in-state and out-of-state students. Online learners may save additional money by avoiding campus-based costs including room, board, and facility fees. A longstanding reciprocity agreement allows qualified Minnesota residents to pay in-state tuition rates when attending public institutions in Wisconsin.

Students who plan to live and work in Wisconsin after graduation especially benefit from pursuing their degree at a Wisconsin school. Motivated Wisconsin students can access relevant networking opportunities and local internships while still enrolled, laying the groundwork for a successful job search upon graduation.

Education Statistics for Wisconsin

The following table provides a look at the higher education environment in Wisconsin by displaying and comparing state statistics to their national counterparts. Available data includes the number of colleges in operation, distance education enrollment, educational attainment of residents over 25 years of age, and allocation of state funding and taxes.

The data reveals that Wisconsin residents attend and complete college programs at a rate that matches or exceeds the national average, with the exception of graduate school.

Higher Education in Wisconsin

Wisconsin DataNational Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges663,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges181,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education28.2%34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student$6,846$8,196 
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education5.2%5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree10.7%8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor’s Degree 19.4%19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher10.1%12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau – American Community Survey

Accreditation for Wisconsin Schools

Accreditation offers a form of quality assurance, guaranteeing that an institution meets certain minimum standards of academic rigor, faculty qualifications, financial soundness, and student services. Attending an accredited school is important to ensure your education is worth the cost of tuition and accepted by future employers.

The oldest and most prestigious form of accreditation, known as regional accreditation, applies to public, state schools and nonprofit institutions. Vocational and for-profit schools often pursue national accreditation instead. The Higher Learning Commission, founded in 1895, serves as the regional accreditation body for Wisconsin and other north central U.S. states.

When evaluating on-campus or online accounting degrees in Wisconsin, look for schools with accreditation from the HLC or another accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education and/or the U.S. Department of Education. Some accounting programs hold additional programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Considerations for an Accounting Degree in Wisconsin

Most colleges and universities offer one or more programs in accounting. With so many options on the table, some students struggle to determine which school best fits their needs.

Depending on your career aspirations, attending a private, four-year university in Wisconsin — with an average tuition cost of $33,156 — may not be practical. Similarly, you may find greater value in earning an associate degree at a two-year college before transferring to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Degree level, concentration availability, program format, and financing options are among the many important factors prospective college students should take into consideration. Read more about each of these school selection criteria below.

Accounting Degree Levels

The degree level you plan to pursue may impact your school decision based on availability. For example, larger universities tend to offer more graduate options than smaller colleges.

Accounting Concentration Options

College accounting programs offer a number of concentration options to help students develop career-specific knowledge and skills. Wisconsin learners often pursue auditing and public accounting concentrations. According to the BLS, over 22,000 accountants and auditors currently work in Wisconsin. The BLS projects job growth of 5.8% for these two fields from 2019-2029.

Learn more about these two concentrations in the table below, including careers you can prepare for and typical competencies gained through coursework.

ConcentrationDescription
Auditing A concentration in auditing explores key concepts in financial management, business law, and financial analysis. Graduates can apply their skills to careers in internal or external auditing, financial analysis, corporate finance, and compliance.
Public Accounting In this concentration, students take courses focused on public accounting ethics, theory, and practice, including real-world applications of public accounting skills. Graduates may find work as CPAs, tax accountants, and personal financial advisors.

Explore More Accounting Concentrations

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

Distance learning continues to increase in popularity as colleges and universities aim to accommodate students’ diverse schedules and living situations. You may decide to study on campus, online, or through a hybrid model.

On-Campus 

Perfect for the student seeking community immersion, on-campus programs offer a traditional, residential experience where you live, learn, dine, and socialize on site. Benefits of this learning format include face-to-face interaction with instructors and peers, easy access to campus-based resources, and the opportunity to make lifelong memories in a unique setting.

Online Programs

Online accounting degrees in Wisconsin provide the same instruction as their on-campus counterparts, but students enjoy greater flexibility in scheduling and attendance.

Students can access their online courses from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, making web-based learning ideal for working professionals, students caring for family members, and those who live far from campus. Online courses may or may not require students to login at set times for virtual class meetings.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs combine elements of on-campus and online learning, allowing students to complete most of their coursework and assignments at a distance. Unlike fully online programs, hybrid models require attendance at periodic on-campus sessions. This format serves students who want additional flexibility without sacrificing all face-to-face instruction.

Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education

Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education CoursesEnrolled in Some but Not All Distance Education CoursesNot Enrolled in Any Distance Education Courses
Wisconsin Students10.3%17.9%71.8%
United States Students16.3%18.4%65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

Depending on your degree level, institution, and resident status, the best accounting schools in Wisconsin can cost anywhere from $4,337-$33,156 a year in tuition alone. Students can take advantage of several options to help cover the cost.

All students should seek out scholarship, grant, and fellowship opportunities, which provide financial support with no repayment requirements. Government and private loans require repayment; interest rates vary. 

Make sure to fill out the FAFSA, work closely with your school’s financial aid office, and check out the links below to learn more about how you can save on the cost of your education.

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in Wisconsin, 2017-2018

WisconsinNational
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$8,475$9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$23,500$25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year)$33,156$30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$4,337$3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$6,257$7,971
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Compared to in-state learners, out-of-state students in Wisconsin pay an average of $1,920 more in tuition to attend a two-year public institution and an average of $15,025 more to attend a public four-year institution.

Why does out-of-state tuition cost so much more? Public colleges operate with government funds, including state taxes paid by residents. Out-of-state tuition simply aims to make up for the lack of taxes paid by nonresident students and their families to help fund the schools’ operating costs.

Fortunately, avenues exist for nonresidents to lower their out-of-pocket costs. Residents of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Ohio may save $500-$5,000 on tuition by participating in the Midwest Student Exchange Program. Qualified Minnesota residents can pay in-state tuition rates thanks to a reciprocity agreement between the two states.

Wisconsin’s Cost of Living

The cost of higher education includes much more than just tuition and books. Students must also budget for basic expenses like housing, groceries, transportation, and utilities.

Compared to the U.S. average (represented by a score of 100) Wisconsin’s cost of living index score is 97.3. State residents save the most money on housing, which scores 91.4. Groceries cost a bit more than the national average, scoring 100.7. Wisconsin utilities and transportation score 98.9 and 98.1, respectively.

Other School Selection Criteria

Everyone brings their own unique priorities and preferences to a college search. Beyond tuition costs, program formatting, and degree level, prospective college students should consider evaluating schools and programs based on factors such as:

  • School Size

    Small and large schools tend to differ in student-to-faculty ratio and the amount of personal attention students receive from instructors. Consider whether you want a small school’s close-knit community feel or a large school’s high level of name recognition.

  • Extracurriculars

    How do you want to spend your time outside of class? Most two-year colleges offer fewer extracurricular opportunities than four-year schools. Similarly, large universities typically support more extensive athletic programs than small schools.

  • Instructor Credentials

    When researching potential schools, take some time to browse through department and faculty webpages. You want to learn from instructors with advanced degrees and plenty of real-world experience in business and accounting.

  • University Resources

    Colleges and universities offer a variety of support services to help students excel in academics and prepare for their future after graduation. Look for a school that offers what you need to succeed, whether that means one-on-one career advising, free online tutoring, or counseling services.

  • Careers for Accounting Graduates in Wisconsin

    In the state economy rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report, Wisconsin sits in the middle at number 24. Factors involved in the rankings include state GDP, new business growth, and rates of unemployment and labor force participation. Wisconsin’s overall employment scores fairly low in comparison to similarly ranked states, but it receives a boost from a growing business environment and population.

    The establishment of new businesses indicates good news for accounting professionals. U.S. Department of Labor data projects a significant 5.8% job growth rate for Wisconsin-based accountants and auditors from 2018-2028. Personal financial advisors in the state may see a 9.2% job growth in the same time frame.

    Major Wisconsin industries including agriculture, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology need skilled accounting professionals. Accountants prepare financial reports, calculate taxes, and provide analysis to improve profit margins.

    Select Accounting Careers in Wisconsin


    • Bookkeeping/Accounting/Auditing Clerk


      Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks typically handle necessary accounting and auditing tasks for small and mid-sized businesses. Duties may include monitoring accounts, recording transactions, and checking figures for accuracy. Most of these entry-level professionals complete some postsecondary education, such as a certificate or associate degree in accounting.


    • Accountant/Auditor


      Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records for accuracy and compliance with applicable regulations. These professionals commonly specialize in an area such as public accounting, tax accounting, or internal auditing. A bachelor’s degree satisfies entry-level requirements for these occupations, though many accountants and auditors pursue certification and/or a master’s degree.


    • Personal Financial Advisor


      Personal financial advisors work with clients to help them plan and achieve short- and long-term goals. They commonly provide advice on investments and tax laws, monitor client accounts, suggest changes to improve financial performance, and educate clients on potential risks. A bachelor’s degree satisfies education requirements for some positions, but a master’s often increases promotion opportunities.


    Wisconsin Employment Trends

    Projected Job Growth for Accountants

    25,500 Employees2018
    26,990 Employees2028
    Wisconsin 5.8% increase
    1,424,000 Employees2018
    1,514,700 Employees2028
    National 6.4% increase
    Source: Projections Central

    Curious about other accounting jobs? Explore more here

    College graduates can pursue several rewarding accounting careers in Wisconsin. The state’s most popular accounting careers — ranked by number of employees — include bookkeeping and auditing clerks, accountants and auditors, financial managers, and personal financial advisors. 

    At the associate degree level, credit counselors and payroll clerks earn the most, but limited employment opportunities make these two careers potentially difficult to break into. A bachelor’s degree prepares graduates to work as non-CPA accountants, cost estimators, or tax examiners/collectors. 

    Students who plan to live and work in Wisconsin may consider earning a master’s degree. According to BLS data, Wisconsin-based personal financial advisors and financial managers can earn up to six figures in these two advanced fields. Master’s degree-holders can also pursue CPA certification in Wisconsin. The following section offers more details.

    Wisconsin Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

    In the U.S., each state governs its own requirements for CPA certification. Candidates must meet different guidelines in order to practice in different states. In Wisconsin, professionals must satisfy the following in order to sit for the CPA exam and obtain their license:

  • Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.
  • CPA candidates need a bachelor’s degree or higher, fulfilling a 150-credit requirement with coursework in financial accounting, managerial accounting, taxation, auditing, and accounting information systems.
  • Candidates need a minimum of 24 credits in accounting at the undergraduate level and a minimum of 15 credits in accounting at the graduate level.
  • To obtain certification, candidates need at least one year of public accounting experience or the equivalent.
  • Wisconsin requires all CPAs to complete an online ethics exam.
  • To maintain certification, Wisconsin CPAs must complete a minimum of 80 hours of continuing education during every two-year renewal period.

    Resources

    Frequently Asked Questions


    • Is accounting a good career in Wisconsin?

      Wisconsin offers great opportunities for career-minded accounting professionals. The field commonly provides strong job security and competitive benefits. From 2019-2029, the BLS projects employment growth of 5.8% for Wisconsin accountants.


    • How much do accountants earn in Wisconsin?

      According to the BLS, Wisconsin accountants and auditors earn a mean annual salary of $71,260. Exact earning potential varies by specialization (government accounting, public accounting, etc.), years of experience, education, and employer.


    • What accounting jobs are there in Wisconsin?

      College graduates can pursue a variety of accounting careers in Wisconsin. An associate degree offers a potential path into entry-level bookkeeping and accounting assistant careers. Additional education opens more opportunities for cost estimators, auditors, and financial advisors.


    • Can I get an accounting degree in Wisconsin?

      Absolutely! Hundreds of students work toward on-campus and online accounting degrees in Wisconsin each year. You can pursue an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s program. Currently, no universities in Wisconsin offer a Ph.D. in accounting.


    • Does Wisconsin have online accounting programs?

      Several of the best accounting schools in Wisconsin offer online learning options for students seeking additional flexibility. Online accounting degrees allow students to learn from anywhere with a reliable internet connection.


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