There are only a handful of U.S. cities with reputations for being major finance hubs. Chicago in Illinois is one of those cities.
Each of the Big 4 accounting firms -- Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG -- have offices in the city, employing thousands of people each. Deloitte alone employed 4,148 professional staff members and 825 Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in 2014, according to Crain's Chicago Business.
Beyond the big storied institutions, financial technology start-ups such as Avant and Braintree have also made Chicago their home. They too are on the hunt for qualified workers with accounting backgrounds.
To meet the needs of financial firms both large and small, Illinois accounting schools offer a number of degree and certificate programs. Those who are interested in entering the fast-paced, well-compensated world of finance may even find they can earn their degree online. Here's more about what you need to know about Illinois accounting programs and careers.
Online Accounting Programs in Illinois
Illinois accounting schools offer programs that range from undergraduate certificates to graduate degrees. Those planning a career as a Certified Public Accountant should expect to spend five years in school to meet the educational requirements of the CPA exam. Some schools offer specific programs designed with CPA candidates in mind.
However, other careers related to finance and accounting may require less education. Bookkeepers and accounting clerks, for example, may be ready to work after earning a certificate or associate degree.
Regardless of whether you're interested in earning an advanced degree or simply want to get your foot in the door as quickly as possible, there are a number of online learning options available in Illinois. The following are some examples of the variety of online programs offered in the state.
- Blended accounting degree courses at College of DuPage
- Associate degree in accounting from Black Hawk College
- Bachelor's degree completion program in accounting at Southern Illinois University
- Master of Science in Accountancy at Aurora University
Some Illinois accounting schools may offer their entire program online while others may have on-campus requirements for students. In addition to in-state schools, Illinois students may also be able to complete their education through a public or private school based in another state.
What is the Accounting Career Outlook in Illinois?
Professional and business services, which includes accounting occupations, is one of the hottest sectors of the Chicago economy, according to Crain's Chicago Business. Some Illinois accounting schools have seen almost their entire graduating class find jobs or make plans for further education within three months of receiving their degree.
What's more, Big 4 firms continue to increase their hiring at a significant pace. For instance, PricewaterhouseCoopers increased its professional staff by more than 22 percent from June 2014 to June 2015.
The chart below takes a closer look at the type of employment opportunities available for graduates of Illinois accounting programs.
|Position||Employment in Illinois (2014)||Average Salary in Illinois (2014)||Expected Job Growth (2014-2024)|
|Accountants and Auditors||47,810||$73,390||11.7%|
|Bookkeeping, Accounting or Auditing Clerks||55,280||$38,740||9.3%|
|Personal Financial Advisors||11,520||$98,640||23.4%|
Incomes can vary throughout the state, and workers in Chicago may see bigger paychecks than those working elsewhere in Illinois. For instance, accountants in Chicago earned average incomes of $74,620 in 2014, an amount greater than the $60,390 average earned by accountants in Champaign and Urbana.
What are Accounting Specializations in Illinois?
As with other fields of study, there are opportunities for accounting students to specialize within their major. The specializations offered may depend upon the institution and may include the following.
- Professional accountancy
- Forensic accounting
- Public accounting
- Accounting information systems
Accounting professionals also have the opportunity to apply for voluntary professional certification. These certification programs are offered by industry groups and may result in designations such as Certified Management Accountant, Certified Financial Analyst and Certified Public Bookkeeper.
However, the most distinguished credential for accounting professionals may be that of a Certified Public Accountant. Unlike other credentials offered by industry groups, CPAs are licensed by their state. In order to be eligible for licensure in Illinois, candidates must have 150 hours of coursework through in an accredited program. For those earning a bachelor's degree, their program must include the following:
- 30 semester credit hours in accounting
- 2 semester credit hours research and analysis in accounting
- 24 semester credit hours in business other than accounting
- 2 semester credit hours in business communication
- 3 semester credit hours in business ethics
While the financial firms of Chicago and other businesses in Illinois are often on the lookout for CPAs, this course of study isn't for everyone.
If you're interested in a career in accounting but don't want to go the route of becoming a CPA, check with Illinois accounting schools to learn more about your other options and how you can earn your degree online.
1. Projections Central, Long-Term Projections, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
2. Occupational Employment Statistics, Illinois, May 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_il.htm
3. Chicago looks to boost next-generation financial firms, Meg Graham, Chicago Tribune, January 18, 2016, http://www.chicagotribune.com/bluesky/originals/ct-big-ideas-fintech-startups-bsi-20160118-story.html
4. Chicago's Largest Accounting Firms, 2015, Crain's Chicago Business, http://www.chicagobusiness.com/section/lists?djoPage=product_details&djoPid=1618&djoTry=1443119955
5. Accounting Program, Southern Illinois University, http://onlineug.business.siu.edu/about/acct/
6. This is the hottest job sector in Chicago, Steven Strahler, Crain's Chicago Business, September 27, 2014, http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140927/ISSUE01/309279984/this-is-the-hottest-job-sector-in-chicago
7. Accounting Program, College of DuPage, http://www.cod.edu/programs/accounting/index.aspx
8. Online Degree Programs at Aurora University, http://online.aurora.edu/programs/
9. Accounting Transfer AA, Black Hawk College, http://www.bhc.edu/2011/02/accounting-transfer-aa-2/
10. Overview and Facts, CPA Exam, Illinois CPA Society, http://www.icpas.org/uploadedFiles/Students/2015%20CPA%20Exam%20FAQ%20Brochure.pdf