Accounting Schools in Illinois

Illinois is home to a number of top-ranked colleges and universities that offer many different programs of study for students interested in pursuing general accounting, business with an accounting focus, taxation, financial planning, and accounting technology, in addition to other areas of accounting. Some hybrid and online master’s in accounting programs are offered for working students or those who need more flexibility in their education. The following overview of accounting schools in Illinois will provide you with valuable information on these programs so that you can compare schools and make the best choice to support your unique skills and career goals.

Quick Facts

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

Table of Contents

Steps to Become a CPA in Illinois

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

  1. Complete 150 semester hours of college-level education in accounting or business.
  2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
  3. Complete the AICPA Ethics Examination.
  4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
  5. Apply for a license.
  6. Receive a CPA License.

1. Complete 150 semester hours of college-level education in accounting or business.

CPA candidates in Illinois must complete at least 150 semester hours of college-level education. This can be fulfilled with an accredited graduate degree in accounting or business, or with an undergraduate or graduate degree in any concentration, as long as 150 hours have been obtained and certain accounting and business coursework have been completed. Unique from other states, in Illinois, the 150-semester hour requirement must be fulfilled before a candidate is approved to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam. Once the educational requirement has been fulfilled, candidates must submit the online Domestic Credential Evaluation application in order to be approved to take the Uniform CPA Exam.

2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.

Illinois CPA candidates must complete one year of full-time experience with at least 20 workdays per month totaling at least 1,500 hours. The candidate may also qualify by working part-time for between one and four years and obtaining at least 2,000 hours of work experience. Experience may be gained in accounting, audit, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, consulting, or related attestation. This experience can be earned in public, private, government, or academic practice. The experience may only be received after the candidate has completed 120 hours of undergraduate education and a baccalaureate degree with an accounting concentration or equivalent.

3. Complete the AICPA Ethics Examination.

Prospective Illinois CPAs must take and complete the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) ethics course and exam. The course, entitled Professional Ethics: The AICPA’s Comprehensive Course, is a self-study course that concludes with the exam. The course and exam may be taken before or after the Uniform CPA Exam. The AICPA exam requires a score of at least 90% and exam results do not expire.

4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.

Illinois CPA Exam candidates must apply to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) exam through the IBOE online portal. Candidates must create an online account and submit the exam application and necessary credentials. Once a candidate’s credentials have been reviewed the candidate will receive an approval letter via email and the application for the Uniform CPA Exam will be submitted to the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). The exam will consist of four parts that must be taken and passed with a score of 75 or higher within a rolling 18-month period.

5. Apply for a license.

Once the Uniform CPA and AICPA Ethics Exams have been passed, candidates will receive a certificate of completion for meeting the education and exam requirements to become a CPA in Illinois. After receiving their CPA certificate candidates must submit the licensure application online along with any associated fees on the IDFPR website.

6. Receive a CPA License

After applying on the IDFPR website applicants will be able to check the status of their license through the Department’s online portal. Applications usually take six to eight weeks to process. Once the application is processed applicants will receive an email verifying approval and with a link to print out their license.

CPA License Renewal and Continuing Education Information

After the CPA license has been issued, candidates must complete 120 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) during each three-year license renewal period, at least four hours of which must be in professional ethics. You can find additional information on the IDFPR website.

Illinois CPA Salary and Job Outlook

The number of accounting firms in Illinois makes this state one of the top five for accountants to seek employment; according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 51,740 accountants and auditors are currently working within the state, with an average salary of $77,640.10,11 Although accountants find employment throughout the state, the Chicago metro area has the third-highest employment level of accountants and auditors in the country.10 In the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro corridor alone, 43,820 accountants and auditors are currently working, with an average salary of $79,370, higher than average for Illinois.11 Accounting positions in Illinois are projected to grow by 4.9% between 2018 and 2028, a rate of growth slightly slower than the national average of 6.4%.12

Illinois CPA Salary by Metro Area

Metro AreaNumber Employed11Average Annual Salary11
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island1,050$70,830

Top-Ranked Schools with Master’s in Accounting Programs in Illinois

Forbes’ Best Business Schools* 2019

  • University of Chicago (#1)
  • Northwestern University (#3)

*With master’s in accounting programs.

Princeton Review’s Great Schools for Accounting Majors* 2020

  • DePaul University
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

*With master’s in accounting programs.

Public Accounting Report’s Top 50 Master’s Accounting Programs 2019

  • University of Illinois (#3)
  • Northern Illinois University (#39)

US News & World Report’s Best MBA Accounting Programs 2021

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (#2)
  • University of Chicago (#5)
  • Northwestern University(#25 tie)

Illinois Master’s in Accounting Program Comparison

Below we have compiled a table including information about all not-for-profit Illinois colleges and universities offering a master’s degree in accounting. The graduation rate is for first-time undergraduates seeking a bachelor’s degree, but since it is widely considered to be an indicator of a school’s overall success, we have included it for comparison. Tuition per credit is based on in-state, on-campus tuition; per-credit rates may vary for out-of-state and online students. The reported CPA Exam Pass Rate is from the 2018 test series. In 2019, NASBA paused releasing statistical Candidate Performance reports until 2025 due to a new exam and licensing structure. Check with schools for more recent data.

School NameAccreditationCPA Exam Pass Rate6Master’s in Accounting Degree(s)Acceptance Rate13Grad Rate1Online Options?Tuition per Credit
Benedictine University27.3%MS-Accountancy;
Bradley UniversityAACSB80.0%MS-Accounting (MSA)N.Av.77%$930
Concordia University-ChicagoACBSPN.Av.MBA-AccountingN.Av.47%Yes$710
DePaul UniversityAACSB68.2%MS-Accountancy (MSA);
MS-Taxation (MSTAX)
Dominican UniversityAACSB33.3%MS-Accounting (MSA);
Eastern Illinois UniversityAACSB40.0%MBA-AccountancyN.Av.53%Yes$313
Governors State University16.7%MS-Accounting (MSA)N.Av.N.Av.$353
Illinois State UniversityAACSB72.3%MS-Accountancy;
BS/MPA-Acountancy and Information Systems*
BS/MPA-Professional Accountancy*
Lewis UniversityACBSP0.0%MBA-AccountingN.Av.67%Yes$810
Lindenwood University-BellevilleACBSPN.Av.MBA-AccountingN.Av.N.Av.$495
Loyola UniversityAACSB58.2%MS-Accountancy (MSA);
National Louis UniversityIACBEN.Av.MBA-AccountingN.Av.22%Yes$781
North Central College9.1%Master of Financial Management (MFM)N.Av.69%Yes$879
Northeastern Illinois UniversityAACSB60.0%MS-AccountingN.Av.21%$433
Northern Illinois UniversityAACSB63.0%Master of Accountancy (MAC);
Master of Accounting Science (MAS)
Northwestern UniversityAACSBN.Av.MBA-Accounting27%94%N.Av.
Roosevelt University47.4%MS-Accounting (MSA);
MS-Forensic Accounting (MSAF);
MBA-Accounting Forensics
Saint Xavier UniversityAACSBN.Av.MBA-Accounting;
MBA-Forensic and Investigative Accounting
Southern Illinois Univeristy-CarbondaleAACSB30.0%Master of Accountancy (MAcc)72.2%48%$470
Southern illinois University-EdwardsvilleAACSB63.3%MS-Accountancy (MSA)N.Av.51%$494
University of ChicagoAACSB66.7%MBA-Accounting24.2%61%N.Av.
University of Illinois at ChicagoAACSB48.5%MS-Accounting (MSA)N.Av.61%$869
University of Illinois at SpringfieldAACSB48.0%Master of Accountancy (MA)N.Av.54%$332
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignAACSB67.6%Master of Accounting Science (MAS);
Ms-Accountancy (MSA);
MS-Accountancy-Online (iMSA)
University of St. FrancisACBSPN.Av.MBA-AccountingN.Av.62%Yes$798
Western Illinois UniversityAACSB54.5%Master of Accoutancy (MAcc);

  • * indicates combined program.
  • — indicates none.
  • N.Av. indicates no data available.

Select Illinois Master’s in Accounting Programs

Traditional Programs

Bradley University

Bradley University (BU) offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA), through its Foster College of Business, 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, and 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. Graduates will have access to the Smith Career Center to help them in finding post-graduation employment and in 2016, MSA gradautes had a 100% job placement rate. Past graduates have found employment with the Big Four accounting firms, other large corporations, and smaller local firms and non-profit agencies.

University of Chicago

The University of Chicago’s Chicago Booth School of Business offers a competitive Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an Accounting Concentration that can help accounting professionals prepare for management roles and other career advancement opportunities. The MBA program can be completed on a traditional full-time schedule or on a part-time schedule 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 their coursework, 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 consistently ranked as one of the top business schools by US News & World Report.

University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers two graduate-level accounting programs that meet the requirements for and prepare students for the Uniform CPA Exam. The Master of Accounting Science (MAS) is designed for students with a baccalaureate degree in accounting. The nine-month program allows students to design their own curriculum, specializing in either auditing or taxation and choosing a concentration based on individual career goals. The program emphasizes data analytics in accounting with most students graduating with a Data Analytics concentration. Other available concentrations are Finance, Corporate Governance and International Business, Information Technology and Control, and Supply Chain Management. The Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) is a year-long residential program developed for students without a previous degree in accounting. The MSA curriculum requires 32 semester hours to complete, with at least 20 hours in accounting and at least four hours in non-accountancy courses. Core accounting courses include Accounting Analysis, Managerial Accounting, Auditing, and Federal Taxation. Electives are offered in accounting courses as well as courses in business and finance such as Business Law, Advanced Corporate Finance, and Economics of Organizations. In addition to these on-campus programs, an online MSA (iMSA) program is available to students requiring additional flexibility.

Online and Hybrid Programs

DePaul University

Depaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business offers an AACSB-accredited Master of Science (MS) in Accountancy program that can be completed entirely online. The MSA program includes 12 courses in accountancy and focuses on foundational principles and accounting theory and methods. Classes include Principles of Accounting Information Systems, Advanced Topics in Accounting Theory, Auditing, and Tax Treatment of Corporations and Partnerships. The MSA program includes free access to online CPA exam prep resources to prepare students for all four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam. Depaul’s accounting faculty includes industry-leading professionals that have been recognized by firms such as KPMG, Deloitte, and PwC. The two-year program is structured to be completed two courses at a time and may also be accelerated by taking a heavier course load. Students do not need to have any previous coursework in accounting; however additional accounting coursework may be required for students to qualify for CPA licensure.

Dominican University

Dominican University’s Brennan School of Business offers a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) that is available entirely online. The 10-class curriculum can be completed in as little as 12 months. The MSA program focuses on the legal and ethical dimensions of the accounting profession, giving students the essential skills to pass the Uniform CPA exam and to begin a career in the accounting field. Coursework covers a wide range of topics such as forensic accounting, internal audition, business law, and taxation. Students will have access to the Brennan Career Development Program to help them secure internships and full-time positions upon graduation, with past graduates going on to work for companies such as Deloitte, PwC, and Ernst & Young. Students applying for the MSA program do not need to take the GMAT or have a background in business; however, if they have not taken a 100 level accounting course they will need to complete one before beginning the program curriculum. Dominican also offers an MBA with a concentration in Accounting for students who already have an undergraduate degree in accounting.

Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University (NIU) offers an online Master of Accountancy (MAC) degree designed for students with or without a background in accounting. Students will be able to complete the program in as little as two years by taking two courses per semester, with courses being offered on a part-time schedule. The coursework consists of 33 semester hours of accounting study split between 27 hours of required courses and six hours of electives. Students in the MAC program will gain an understanding of the principal areas of accounting, ethical issues in business and accounting, and will meet the education requirements to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam in Illinois. Since the coursework is sequential, students must start in the fall semester. Applicants with an accredited bachelor’s degree or higher do not need to submit a GMAT score, but certain foundational business courses should be taken before starting the program. NIU also offers on-campus Master of Accounting Science (MAS) and Master of Science in Taxation (MST) degrees as well as three graduate certificates in accounting.

Additional Resources

Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in Illinois

  • Grant Thornton: Chicago-based firm that is proud to offer career advancement and growth opportunities beyond those offered by competitors, including continuing education and international opportunities.
  • BDO USA: With offices in Chicago, Oak Brook, and Rosemont, BDO serves over 100 publicly traded companies with a network encompassing 135 countries across the world and recruits recent graduates for its assurance, consulting, and tax areas on a regular basis.
  • Crowe: Maintains offices in Oakbrook Terrace, Chicago, and Springfield, IL, erves multiple industries with its comprehensive accounting and consulting services.

Illinois Accounting Associations

  • Independent Accountants Association of Illinois (IAAI): Works to provide accounting and tax professionals with continuing education, representation, up-to-date technology, and opportunities for professional interaction.
  • Illinois CPA Society: One of the largest CPA societies in the country with over 23,000 members, the Illinois CPA Society provides Illinois accountants with educational and employment opportunities, timely and relevant industry information, and advocacy on both industry and government fronts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who issues a CPA license in Illinois?

CPA licenses in Illinois are issued by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Before applying for a license, though, a CPA certificate must be obtained from the IBOE.

How much continuing professional education does a CPA in Illinois need?

A CPA in Illinois needs 120 hours of continuing professional education every three years, including at least four hours of ethics education.

How do I reinstate my CPA license in Illinois?

An inactive license may be reinstated by filing a reinstatement application with the IDFPR, paying any associated fees, and completing any outstanding CPE.

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. Forbes Best Business Schools 2019: https://www.forbes.com/business-schools/list/2/
3. The Princeton Review. The Best 385 Colleges, 2020 Edition. The Princeton Review, 2019.
4. Public Accounting Report 2019 Top 50 Master’s Accounting Programs: https://wpcarey.asu.edu/sites/default/files/documents/par-grad-2019.pdf
5. US News & World Report Best MBA Accounting Programs 2021: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/accounting-rankings
6. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. The NASBA Report on the CPA Exam: Candidate Performance on the Uniform CPA Examination, 2018 Edition. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, Inc., 2019.
7. Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International: https://www.aacsb.edu/
8. Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP): https://acbsp.org/
9. International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE): https://iacbe.org/
10. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2019 Occupational Employment and Wages, Accountants and Auditors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm
11. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2019 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Illinois: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_il.htm
12. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
13. US News & World Report Best Business Schools 2021: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools