Accounting Schools in Illinois

Illinois is home to a number of top-ranked colleges and universities. The accounting schools in Illinois offer many different programs of study for students interested in pursuing general accounting, taxation, financial planning, and accounting technology, in addition to other areas of accounting. The following overview of accounting schools in Illinois will provide you with valuable information on these accounting programs so that you can compare schools and make an educated choice in keeping with your skills and career goals.

Quick Facts

  • There are 87 not-for-profit colleges and universities with accounting degree programs in Illinois.
  • 23 not-for-profit schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in accounting.
  • Highest graduation rate*: Northwestern University, 94%
  • Highest transfer-out rate*: Hebrew Theological College, 51%
  • Highest net price per year*: Loyola University Chicago, $34,526
  • Lowest net price per year*: University of Illinois at Chicago, $11,884
  • 5 schools ranked in Businessweek’s Top Business Undergraduate Programs in 2017: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (37), Bradley University (42), Loyola University Chicago (63), Illinois State University (75), Northern Illinois University (79)
  • 1 school ranked in Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges in 2018: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (#30 in-state, #18 out-of-state)
  • 5 schools ranked in US News National Universities Rankings in 2019 (top 100): University of Chicago (3), Northwestern University (10), University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign (46), Loyola University Chicago (89), Illinois Institute of Technology (96)

*For four-year not-for-profit colleges and universities with accounting degree programs.

Below you will find more in-depth profiles of some of the most popular accounting schools in Illinois, so keep reading to find out where your educational career may take you.

Schools with Highest 2015 First-Time CPA Exam Pass Rate with an Advanced Degree

  1. Illinois Institute of Technology (88.9%)
  2. Northwestern University (81.8%)
  3. Bradley University (73.2%)
  4. University of Chicago (71.8%)
  5. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (70.8%)
  6. Western Illinois University (70.8%)
  7. Illinois State University (69.9%)

The CPA exam first-time pass rate at schools ranged from 0.0% to 88.9% for candidates with an advanced degree (out of 27 schools with candidates). For comparison, the national pass rate for all candidates was 48.4% in 2015. The first-time CPA exam pass rate can be a good factor to consider when selecting an accounting program, although some numbers may be skewed if a school has a small number of candidates. For full statistics, check out the 2015 NASBA Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Performance report provided by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

Top Master’s in Accounting Programs in Illinois

Center map
Get Directions

University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)

University of Chicago (Booth) offers a competitive Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an Accounting Concentration that can help accounting professionals prepare for management roles and career advancement. The MBA program can be completed on a traditional full-time schedule or part-time on evenings and weekends. Courses in the Accounting Concentration include Accounting and Financial Analysis, Taxes and Business Strategy, Managerial Accounting, and Financial Statement Analysis. In addition to challenging academics, students enrolled in the program benefit from experiential learning opportunities, including debate and discussion with peers and faculty. Students and graduates receive comprehensive support from the Career Services department at Chicago Booth in developing a job search strategy to pursue career goals. Located just outside of Chicago in Hyde Park, Illinois, the Booth School of Business is highly selective and is ranked as having the #7 best graduate accounting program in the nation by US News. The average base salary of its graduates is $129,442.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL)

University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign offers a Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) program that can be completed in as little as one year with full-time study. Students interested in a tax concentration may be interested in the school’s Master of Science in Taxation program on its downtown Chicago campus. Students typically take 20 credit hours of required courses and 12 credit hours of electives, at least four credits of which must be in a non-accountancy graduate course. To support University of Illinois students’ historically high pass rate on the Uniform CPA exam, the school offers in-person and online CPA exam preparation courses. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s accounting program is ranked #3 in graduate accounting programs by US News. Graduates from the school’s business college earn an average base salary of $95,295; most of its students are employed at graduation. Its Master of Accounting Science degree is highly recognized with a long history–the first such degree issued by this institution was granted in 1922.

Bradley University (Peoria, IL)

Bradley University offers both four-year and graduate degrees, including a Master of Science (MS) in Accounting through its Department of Accounting, which has accounting accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Completion of the program typically meets the 150-credit hour requirement to sit for the Uniform CPA exam. In addition to learning advanced accounting skills, students enrolled in the program develop key business knowledge. The curriculum includes courses such as Financial Accounting Theory, Fraud Examination, and Advanced Managerial Accounting. All students additionally take a two-semester course in Applied Professional Accounting Research, which includes a comprehensive exam. To complete the degree, students can explore interest areas or new specialties with 15 credit hours of electives. Bradley University is ranked #6 by US News in Regional Universities (Midwest). Nearly all classes at Bradley have fewer than 50 students, thanks to a low student-faculty ratio.

Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in Illinois

Grant Thornton is ranked as a top tax firm by Accounting Today; with headquarters in Chicago, this firm is proud to offer career advancement and growth opportunities beyond those offered by competitors, including continuing education and international opportunities. World-renowned accounting firm BDO USA also has offices in Chicago and Rosemont. Serving over 100 publicly traded companies with a network encompassing 135 countries across the world, BDO recruits recent graduates for its assurance, consulting, and tax areas on a regular basis. Prestigious Crowe maintains offices in Oakbrook Terrace, Chicago, and Springfield, IL. Serving multiple industries with its comprehensive accounting and consulting services, Crowe is consistently named one of the best places to work for its commitment to its employees.

How to Become a CPA in Illinois

The Illinois Board of Examiners and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation administer the process for becoming a Certified Public Accountant in Illinois. There are five main steps to complete in order to earn a CPA license in the state.

  1. Complete a 150 semester hour or 225 quarter hour educational program of acceptable coursework in accounting.
  2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
  3. Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.
  4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
  5. Apply for a license.

1. Complete a 150 semester hour or 225 quarter hour educational program of acceptable coursework in accounting.

CPA candidates must complete 150 semester hours of college education to qualify for a license. The 150 semester hours may be a combination of a bachelor’s degree and graduate degree or a combination of a bachelor’s degree and additional study. All qualifying programs must include at least 24 semester hours of accounting to include at least one course each in accounting, auditing, taxation, and management accounting. Students must generally also complete at least 24 semester hours in business courses, which include:

  • Economics
  • Business law
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Business and technical communication
  • Business ethics
  • International business
  • Management and organizational behavior
  • Legal and social environment of business
  • Business administration
  • Management
  • Business/management information systems
  • Business statistics

In Illinois, the 150 semester hour requirement must be fulfilled before a candidate is approved to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam.

2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.

Illinois CPA candidates must complete one year of full-time experience in accounting, audit, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, consulting, or related attestation. This experience can be earned in public, private, government, or academic practice, but must be completed after the 150 semester hour education requirement has been met to be recognized. Candidates will verify this experience on the CPA license application.

3. Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.

Prospective Illinois CPAs must take and complete the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) ethics course and exam. The course and exam, which is open book, can be ordered directly from AICPA.

4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.

Illinois CPA Exam candidates must apply to the exam through the Illinois Board of Examiners online portal. Candidates must create an online account to begin the process. Once a candidate’s credentials have been reviewed, he or she will receive an Authorization to Test to schedule and take the Uniform CPA Exam, which is a requirement for CPA licensure in all 50 states.

5. Apply for a license.

Once the Uniform CPA Exam and AICPA Ethics exam have been passed, candidates will receive a certificate of completion for meeting the education and exam requirements to become a CPA in Illinois. The next and final step is to apply for a license, which is done through the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation.

After a CPA license has been issued, candidates must complete 120 hours of continuing education during each three-year license renewal period. You can find additional information at the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation website.

Illinois Accountant Salary and Job Outlook

Projected Job Growth


Accountants and Auditors in Illinois from 2016-20262

The number of accounting firms in Illinois makes this state one of the top 10 for accountants to seek employment; according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 51,250 accountants and auditors are currently working within the state, with an average salary of $80,050.3 Although accountants find employment throughout the state, the Chicago metro area is one of the best places for new graduates to start a career, with the third-highest employment level of accountants and auditors in the country.4 In the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights metro corridor alone, 36,280 accountants and auditors are currently working; due to the strong and growing demand within this area, accountants here make a higher-than-average salary of $82,660.5

Student Reviews

Note: Student Reviews are based on the experiences of a few individuals and it is unlikely that you will have similar results. Please review the “Data, Student Reviews and Other Information” section in our Terms of Use and Disclaimers.

Illinois State University
100 N University St
Normal, IL 61761
(309) 438-2111

Student Review: “I enjoyed my time at Illinois State University. The Accounting department holds their students to very high standards and that is reflected in the coursework. It is challenging yet very rewarding. The professors are generally incredibly helpful and always have an open door if you need to talk about their class, other classes you are in, or just school in general. They genuinely care about your success as a student. The State Farm Hall of Business (business building) is a rather new and state of the art facility, which is great for students and professors alike. It is easy to tell that students are appreciated at Illinois State University.” – Student at Illinois State University

Loyola University Chicago
1032 W Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 274-3000

Student Review: “Until recently I was an accounting major within the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago. I would have to rate my experience as average. The main reason being the professors. Loyola prides themselves on their business and law schools, so when I went into the program I expected nothing but the best. However, I can only say that maybe two of my professors were really outstanding. One of these was part-time! I think what made these two professors stand out was their passion for teaching and a passion for their career. Maybe Loyola hires professors who achieve great things in the subject area they teach, but if they don’t love to teach or if they are getting too old for it, I believe it is detrimental to the students. So many of the teachers were beyond their teaching years and couldn’t communicate well with the students. On a good note, I think the teacher to student ratio within the program is great. You can get a lot of one-on-one help that other universities can’t give. The career center at this school is pretty great as well. They work hard at placing students in internships and employment opportunities.” – Student at Loyola University Chicago

Northern Illinois University
1425 Lincoln Hwy
DeKalb, IL 60115
(815) 753-1000

Student Review: “During my time at Northern Illinois University, I learned a lot about accounting. Going into my first year at NIU, I really had little to no experience in this field, but after finishing my degree there, I felt as if I was an expert in the field. I had tons of confidence in my knowledge of accounting and felt prepared to enter the field professionally. Within the next few months, I plan on landing a full-time accounting job and owe it all to Northern Illinois University. I will admit, that when I first started out there, I was a little hesitant and confused with my career choice. Accounting was scary at first, but after a while, I got comfortable with it.” – Student at Northern Illinois University

University of Illinois
108 Henry Administration Bldg
Urbana, IL 61801
(217) 333-1000

Student Review: “The University of Illinois accounting programs were a great experience for me. The curriculum in the BS and MAS programs prepared me for success on the CPA exam as well as for my future career. In addition to covering many different topics, the courses also emphasized communication skills. Countless group projects, group presentations, and memo assignments ensured that students could effectively convey their thoughts to others. The university also offers career services, which offer resume critiques and mock interviews, as well as career fairs, which offer students the opportunity to interview, intern and work with some of the best accounting firms in the nation. The only area for improvement would be with individual instructors since a good or bad instructor can make or break the experience. Overall, I would highly recommend both the BS and MAS programs for those interested in accounting. It will provide you with adequate education and opportunities to succeed in the accounting industry.” – Student at the University of Illinois

1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026): https://projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Illinois: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_il.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017, 13-2011 Accountants and Auditors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017, Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes_16974.htm