Accounting Schools in Washington
This guide to accounting schools in Washington provides key information to help you decide on the right school at which to pursue a degree in accounting. Washington’s colleges and universities provide diverse options for earning accounting degrees from the associate’s to the doctoral level, with programs in in-demand specialties such as accounting technology and auditing as well as more generalized areas of study. Competitive options for earning an accounting degree online are also available, which can be a flexible alternative to traditional on-campus programs.
- There are 49 not-for-profit colleges and universities with accounting degree programs in Washington.1
- 9 not-for-profit schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in accounting.1
- Highest graduation rate*: City University of Seattle, 100%1
- Highest transfer-out rate*: Saint Martin’s University, 29%1
- Highest net price per year*: Seattle University, $35,5811
- Lowest net price per year*: Bellevue College, $7,3371
- 2 schools ranked in Businessweek’s Top Business Undergraduate Programs in 2017: University of Washington (52), Seattle University (86)
- 2 schools ranked in Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges in 2018: University of Washington (#7 in-state, #17 out-of-state), Western Washington University (#92 in-state, #79 out-of-state)
- 1 school ranked in US News National Universities Rankings in 2019 (top 100): University of Washington (59)
*For four-year not-for-profit colleges and universities with accounting degree programs.
Keep reading to learn more about your options for earning an accounting degree in Washington, as well as further information about potential careers for accounting graduates.
Schools with the Highest 2015 First-Time CPA Exam Pass Rate with an Advanced Degree
- University of Washington (75.8%)
- Gonzaga University (70.6%)
- Washington State University (62.2%)
- Western Washington University (60.0%)
- Central Washington University (52.4%)
- Seattle University (42.0%)
The first-time CPA exam pass rate provides a helpful metric when comparing accounting programs, although the percentage may be misleading for small schools with few candidates. There were six schools in Washington state that sent first-time CPA exam candidates (with an advanced degree) in 2015. Of these schools, the first-time CPA exam pass rate ranged from a low of 42.0% to a high of 75.8%. The national pass rate for all CPA candidates was 48.4% in 2015. For a full breakdown of exam statistics see 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 Washington
University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
University of Washington’s Michael G. Foster School of Business offers a Master of Professional Accounting (MPAcc) program that builds on existing accounting skills, allowing students to graduate in as few as three quarters. The MPAcc program is full-time and qualifies students to sit for the Uniform CPA exam while preparing them for careers and leadership in professional accounting. Two specialization tracks are offered in Auditing and Assurance or Taxation. Typical courses taken for the degree include Advanced Accounting Issues and Related Tax Implications; Advanced Financial Analysis; SOX, Controls, and Computerized Systems; and Communications in Professional Accounting. Students may also elect to undertake an independent research project. Many courses are based on case studies, preparing students to apply their knowledge in the professional world. US News ranks University of Washington #59 (tie) in National Universities, noting its affordable tuition rates, excellent academic programs, and distinct campus. The University of Washington also has small class sizes and works hard to help students finance their education.
Washington State University (Pullman, WA)
Washington State University offers a Master of Accounting (MAcc) degree in 32 credit hours that focuses on professional development. Upon graduation, students are equipped to pursue careers in finance, government, business, nonprofits, and public practice, and are also qualified and prepared to sit for the Uniform CPA exam. Graduate class sizes in the Carson College of Business, through which this degree is offered, are kept small to encourage peer and faculty interaction. Courses offered include Contemporary Accounting Cases and Problems, Advanced Taxation, Special Topics in Accounting, and Accounting Theory. Students also take a professional research course as well as a course to prepare for the required final exam. Concentrations of emerging technologies, business planning, and innovation in business management are integrated within the curriculum. The Washington State University Master of Accounting degree is one of just four master’s degrees in the state of Washington accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). US News ranks Washington State University #140 (tie) in National Universities.
Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in Washington
BDO has offices in Seattle and Spokane each being client-focused. With over 100 years of experience and offices all over the world, BDO has lots of opportunities. Bashey, Hutchinson & Walter, CPAs is ranked as one of the top 100 accounting firms in the Puget Sound area by the Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants. Berntson Porter & Company PLLC has been named one of Washington’s Best Workplaces by Seattle Business Magazine, among other accolades. Berntson Porter has openings at all levels for qualified recent graduates.
How to Become a CPA in Washington
The Washington Board of Accountancy oversees the process for becoming a Certified Public Accountant in the state. There are six main steps to complete in order to earn a CPA license in Washington.
- Complete a 150-semester hour or 225-quarter hour educational program of acceptable coursework in accounting.
- Accumulate the required hours of experience.
- Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.
- Complete the Washington State Ethics & Regulations course.
- Apply for a license.
- Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
1. Complete a 150-semester hour or 225-quarter hour educational program of acceptable coursework in accounting.
CPA candidates in Washington state must first complete 150 semester hours of education that include the award of a bachelor’s degree or higher. Of those 150 semester hours, 24 semester hours must be in accounting subjects; 15 of these semester hours must be at the upper-division level. In addition, candidates must complete 24 semester hours in business administration subjects.
2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
The Washington Board of Accountancy requires prospective licensees to acquire at least one year of experience totaling 2,000 work hours. Experience may be gained through full- or part-time work in public accounting, industry, or government. In some cases, experience in academia may qualify. All work counted towards the experience requirement must be verified by a licensed CPA and utilize skills in business, accounting, and auditing.
3. Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.
As part of the Washington state ethics requirements, prospective CPAs must complete the AICPA professional ethics course. Information about the course can be found on the Board’s website. Documentation of the candidate’s passing score must be forwarded to the Washington Board of Accountancy.
4. Complete the Washington State Ethics & Regulations course.
In addition to the AICPA exam, Washington CPA candidates must take and pass a self-study course specific to Washington State Ethics & Regulations with a grade of 90% or higher. Candidates must contact the Washington Board of Accountancy for a username and password to access the exam. More information about the process can be found on the Board’s website.
5. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
The Uniform CPA Exam is a licensure requirement in all 50 states. The Washington Board of Accountancy uses NASBA for the application and testing process. Candidates may begin their applications on the NASBA website. All four sections of the exam must be passed within an 18-month rolling period to qualify for a license.
6. Apply for a license.
The Washington State Board of Accountancy has implemented an online license application process. Once all licensing requirements have been met, candidates may create a user account and apply for a license.
Licensed Washington CPAs must complete 120 hours of continuing education for each three-year license renewal period. You can find additional information at the Washington Board of Accountancy website.
Washington Accountant Salary and Job Outlook
Projected Job Growth
Accountants and Auditors in Washington from 2016-20262
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 30,460 accountants and auditors work in Washington, making it one of the best places on the West Coast for accountants to start a career.3 On average, accountants in Washington make a salary of $76,010 annually, one of the highest average salaries in the US.3 The majority of Washington accountants work in the Seattle and Tacoma metro areas.3
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, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017, 13-2011 Accountants and Auditors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm