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The Best Colleges for Accountants Based on Earning Potential

Susan Honea

Susan Honea – 8 years experience helping businesses with bookkeeping, tax preparation and auditing

Last updated: September 1, 2020

The Best Colleges for Accountants Based on Earning Potential

If you’re a budding accountant, finding the perfect college can be a long and overwhelming task with hundreds of colleges to choose from. From the salary you can expect when you leave university to the average debt students have, there are many factors you’ll want to consider.

To make the search easier for you, we have gathered data from every state to find out which colleges are the best for BAs in accountancy based on the median earnings of graduates.

We’ve also rated the colleges based on the median total debt students have, the monthly loan repayments you can expect, the college’s graduation rate, and how the average salary you’ll receive after graduation compares to the state’s average salary for accountants.

The top 10 colleges for BAs in accounting

According to our research, the college boasting the best earning potential for graduating accountants is Georgetown University in the District of Columbia. Graduates can expect an average salary of $83,100, which is nearly $40,000 more than the average of $46,528 and a whopping $17,800 more than second-place Santa Clara University, California. These high salaries aren’t eaten away by high debt levels, either, as students from Georgetown University also enjoy a relatively low amount of debt – a median amount of $15,500. That’s almost $10,000 lower than the average of $25,351. The college also has an impressive graduation rate of 94%.

The remaining 9 universities within the top 10 have graduation salaries that range from $63,400 to $65,300, meaning graduates here can expect to earn over 30 percent more than the average accounting graduate. Most of these colleges also enjoy lower-than-average median debt levels, except for Bucknell University, Pennsylvania ($27,000) and Villanova University, Pennsylvania ($26,744). And all have relatively high graduation rates (over 88%), aside from Fordham University, New York (77%), and Loyola Marymount University (81%).

The highest-ranking colleges at a glance

RankStateCollege NameMedian Earnings ($)Median Total Debt ($)Monthly Loan Repayment ($)College Graduation Rate (%)Annual Mean Wage (in College State)% of Annual State Salary Graduates Are Earning
1District of ColumbiaGeorgetown University83,10015,50016194103,93079.96
2CaliforniaSanta Clara University65,30020,0002088883,91077.82
3New YorkFordham University65,30024,5772557798,65066.19
4MassachusettsBoston College64,90017,0001769283,80077.45
5CaliforniaLoyola Marymount University64,90025,1052618183,91077.34
6IndianaUniversity of Notre Dame64,30019,0001979671,69089.69
7PennsylvaniaBucknell University64,10027,0002808976,72083.55
8PennsylvaniaLehigh University63,90021,7052258976,72083.29
9PennsylvaniaVillanova University63,70026,7442789076,72083.03
10CaliforniaUniversity of Southern California63,40020,5002139283,91075.56

The highest-scoring colleges in each category

  • The college with the highest median earnings – Georgetown University, District of Columbia – $83,100
  • The college with the lowest median total debt – CUNY York College, New York – $6,250
  • The college with the lowest monthly loan repayment – CUNY York College, New York – $65
  • The college with the highest graduation rate – University of Notre Dame, Indiana – 96%
  • The college where graduates earn the highest % of the annual state salary for accountants – University of Notre Dame, Indiana – 89.69%

Students in the District of Columbia enjoy top graduating salaries and high salaries as they gain experience

When it comes to average graduating salaries for accounting students and the annual mean wage for experienced accountants, the District of Columbia comes out on top for both.

Students graduating from colleges in the District of Columbia can expect to earn the highest graduating salaries with a state average starting salary of $55,700. Plus, they’ll enjoy the highest annual salary as their career progresses thanks to an annual mean wage for all accountants of $103,930. This means DC graduates could see their earnings almost doubling throughout their careers.

As we can see, there does appear to be some correlation between the annual salaries on offer to graduates and the mean accounting salary across the state. The only real anomaly is New York where fully-fledged accountants enjoy high earnings ($98,650) but graduates earn less than half this with an average of $44,890. This is likely due to the large number of colleges offering accounting in the Empire State (42 with salaries ranging from $32,000 to $65,300).

At the bottom end of the scale, however, is Montana. Students here graduate with an annual salary of $35,100 but can expect to almost double this to $66,170 throughout their careers, despite this being one of the lowest state salaries on offer.

Doubling wages is something most graduates will witness if they graduate and get a job in the same state. In fact, the average increase in salaries from graduation to a fully-qualified accountant is almost 63 percent.

As already noted, graduates in New York see the biggest growth in their wages (an increase of nearly 120%), while graduates in Oklahoma see the lowest salary growth throughout their careers (just over 40%).

Our methodology: How did we find the best colleges for accounting degrees?

Using the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard tool, we analyzed all of the colleges that were shown to offer BAs in accounting. To ensure these courses are still available at each college, we also conducted a Google search to confirm this. Some colleges may have been shown in the tool as offering BAs in accounting but weren’t included if no data was available for median salaries.

The colleges were ranked based on their median salary for students graduating with a BA in accounting and related services. When colleges tied with their annual salaries, we ranked them based on the median total debt graduates leave the college with. If there was a further tie, we used the higher graduation rate, and, finally, the % of the annual state salary if all of the categories were tied.

To calculate the percentage of annual state salary graduates are earning, we gathered the data on the annual mean wage in each state from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s website and compared it to the median earnings of graduates from each individual college.

To view the full data, click here.