Best Cities for Bookkeepers for 2019

According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) set of values, the core mission of bookkeeping and accountancy is to make sense of a changing and complex world. So simple, and yet a natural challenge for accountants and bookkeepers, as the tax laws change, and the financial future becomes less and less certain.

State by State: Job Outlook for Bookkeepers

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that within the field of accounting and auditing (which includes bookkeepers) there will be a 10% growth in jobs by the year 2026. The BLS describes the job of a bookkeeper includes being responsible for some or all of an organization's financial accounts. They record company transactions including monies that come in and are spent. They also produce financial statements and reports for supervisors and managers on the health of the finances of the company. Bookkeepers can work in private practice, with individual clients or small organizations, and can earn certificates and other educational experiences to better qualify them. A bookkeeper should have a vast knowledge of the cloud-based accounting software QuickBooks, or something similar. A strong background in computing, in general, is important for bookkeepers too.

For bookkeeping professionals who are looking for a place to settle down and keep a few bucks in their pocket, look no further than this list of Best Cities for Bookkeeping. Bookkeeping salaries vary a great deal based on location. Finding the right place with the highest salary and smallest cost of living is the goal.

Cost of Living: The Best Choices Based on Real Bookkeeper Salaries

On the note of the cost of living, our editors used data from, which relies on users to populate their job profile and salary data, which is then analyzed to publish comparative data. Payscale was launched to help people gather accurate information on job market pay. They also feature location-specific data on how bookkeepers' reviews about their own jobs, giving a sense of how well-liked an industry is by region. They display data for cost of living in the categories of groceries or food costs, housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and overall costs. It paints a pretty good picture of what life is like financially in that city, based on information from people who live there.

*All images are sourced from the creative commons folder at PhotosForClass

1. Denver

Denver, Colorado is called the Mile High City because of the elevation (although with Cannabis legalized in the state, it has become a double entendre). The Denver economy was jump-started initially by silver and gold mining and maintained its prosperous traditions by producing fossil fuels in the area. Tourism will always thrive in Denver, specifically snowbirds hoping to ski or snowboard their worries away. Although still important for many reasons, tech and communications are becoming the new boom, although learning from past mistakes are making politicians wary of relying too heavily on any one industry. Denver receives government subsidies for many agricultural products like wheat, corn, dairy, and livestock (meat). In Denver, a full-time bookkeeper can expect to make just over $68,290 per year ($19.35/hour). This wage is 15% higher than the average bookkeeper wage. Bookkeepers in Denver seem to really like what they do, giving a job satisfaction rating a 4 out of 5.

The cost of living in Denver is 12% higher than the national average, which is not bad at all considering the opportunities that exist, as well as the proximity to every large city on the west coast by a short plane ride. As a result of an economy dip in the early 21st century, Denver is rebuilding. City leaders are using creative ideas, as with the Cannabis industry, to return the economy back to its Dynasty days of wealth, and prosperity.

Payscale Median Salary: $68,290
Cost of Living based on national average: 12% higher

2. Washington, D.C.

In Washington D.C. tourism is the bread and butter source of income for most people who are not employed by the government, which is mostly everyone else. In the past 10 years, the capital has ranked higher than any state on gross domestic product per capita, three times higher even than the next state after it (Massachusetts). Educational institutions, including George Washington University, Washington Hospital Center, Georgetown University, Howard University and Children's National Medical Center are the top five non-government employers in the city. Bookkeepers who work full-time in the district can expect to earn an average of $40,870 per year ($16.52/hour). Many bookkeepers also receive benefits from their employer and say that they are 5 out of 5 satisfied with their work. Ninety-five percent of the bookkeepers in the district are women.

The Cost of living in D.C. is almost 40% higher than national averages. With the costs of housing leading the way at a rate of 147% higher than average. District residents can expect to pay close to average though for their other expenses. Living outside of the city is not only a good idea, with these prices it is becoming a necessity. Luckily public transport in the capital city is good and getting better. The costs of that are low, in case you were worried.

Payscale Median Salary: $40,870
Cost of Living based on national average: 39% higher

3. Boston 

In the largest city in New England, you can expect to find everything you need most of what you want. The economy of Boston is strong and is ranked among the top 30 most economically powerful cities in the world. The main industry in the state is education, hosting Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, Tufts University, Northeastern University and Boston University, to name a few. High-tech and venture capital companies also proudly contribute to this reputation, adding not only income to the city, but also the promise of a bright future, as these industries are growing every year. The financial services industry in Beantown is important also, specifically with regard to mutual funds, accounting services, and insurance. Boston was ranked as having the ninth-most competitive financial center in the world and the fourth-most competitive in the United States. What this means for bookkeepers is the expectation of a salary of close to $40 thousand ($20.73 per hour), although many make closer to 65 or $70k, easily.

According to Payscale data, the cost of living in this east coast economic hub is 48% more than the average. With housing as the culprit at 108% higher than average, Bostonians can expect to pay closer to the middle for most of their other expenses.

Payscale Median Salary: $39,530
Cost of Living based on national average: 48% higher

4. Houston

The city of Houston is a real comeback story in the last few years. Surviving the floods of Hurricane Harvey in late August 2017, the area is rebuilding, in some parts slowly, but surely. As the largest city in Texas, and in the South in general, Houston also has a Texas-sized economy with a wide range of industry heavy-hitters in manufacturing, transportation, energy, and aeronautics. The city is home to the second most Fortune 500 companies after New York, and a very busy port which moves the most water-bound international cargo than any other port in the world. Bookkeepers can make an average of $39,530 per year at an hourly rate of $16.27. Ninety-two percent of bookkeepers in Houston are women. Houston's economy also benefits from the Texas Medical Center, which is the largest medical center complex in the world. The 52,000 residents of Houston who work at the complex depend on it for their livelihood consider it a large part of the city's economy.

The cost of living in Houston is 2% lower than the national average with housing only 4% higher than the majority of cities in the U.S. Other typical costs are at or below national averages in Houston, making this an economically accessible city, especially for those savvy bookkeepers who see the potential in this area.

Payscale Median Salary: $39,530
Cost of Living based on national average: 2% lower

5. New York

Bookkeepers in New York City know what they are doing. With the strongest economy in the country and one of the strongest in the world, the potential for bookkeeping professionals to make a great living in the financial services industry, in the city that may as well have invented the subject is a smart move. Lower Manhattan is home to some of the biggest and most successful financial companies in the world, including the New York Stock Exchange, dozens of banks, investment groups, fashion companies, and media groups. Just a few miles away in Midtown, the atmosphere changes to more of a retail capital of the world. Bookkeepers in New York City can expect an annual salary that ranges from $34,406 to $69,479. This is at least 15% higher than the national average. Bookkeepers in New York seem to like their jobs, rating them 4 out of 5, in an 80% female workforce.

The cost of living in New York is the highest in the country, with housing costs alone nearly 370% higher than the national average. People in New York are also creative and clever when it comes to housing, and New York sometimes you simply have to be. With the rest of the basics costing around 20% more than national averages, after you have your housing covered, figuring out the rest should be a breeze.

Payscale Median Salary: $39,360
Cost of Living based on national average: 129% higher

6. Seattle 

Seattle is a large Pacific Northwest City located on the Puget Sound in the state of Washington. Originally a logging town, Seattle's economy has drastically changed face a number of times in the last century and a half but has settled squarely at this point on tech. The mega-corporation and giant internet retailer is headquartered there, as well as T-Mobile, Microsoft, and Expedia. Old industry is still present including Boeing Commercial Aircraft and a few holdovers from its manufacturing history. Retail helps fuel the economy with Costco, Nordstrom, and Starbucks. A huge presence of pharmaceutical companies along with state of the art healthcare industries make Seattle a great place if you need care. A full charge Bookkeeper in Seattle can expect to earn between $40,825 annually to $66,813 annually. Women make up 94% of the bookkeepers in the area and seem completely happy with their jobs.

The cost of living in Seattle is a downside, at 49% higher than the national average. Housing is the leading cause of this, at a rate of 94% higher than national averages. People find refuge in living outside the city and commuting in for work, with a number of much more affordable neighborhoods around Seattle than directly in it.

Payscale Median Salary: $38,460
Cost of Living based on national average: 49% higher

7. Chicago

Chicago is in many ways at the center of the nation. Being off the coasts can make some things harder economically, but being in the middle of it all has its advantages too. The industrialization of Chicago began with steel in the early 20th century, making parts for cars and bicycles, and then moved on to small electronics like radios and televisions. Now, the Windy City is known for banks and financial centers, as well as a large stock exchange site, but still contributes to manufacturing, and has a huge service industry that caters to tourism, another large market in Chicago. With such diverse industry and very long history of economic strength, Chicago has a gross regional product (GRP) of over $609 billion. Unemployment has been creeping down since the recession of 2007-09. Bookkeepers can expect to make $27,407 to $56,036 annually on average. This is a little more than 7% higher then bookkeepers average throughout the country.

The cost of living in Chi-town is 23% higher than national averages. Housing is the most expensive aspect of this, at 55% higher than average housing costs elsewhere in the U.S. Transportation is also more expensive, but the original idea that living in large collective spaces like cities would also be cheaper is ringing true for other costs. Utilities and food costs here are lower than national averages, leaving more money for you to put into spreadsheets for yourself when you are not doing that for other people and companies.

Payscale Median Salary: $36,800
Cost of Living based on national average: 23% higher

8. Philadelphia 

Philadelphia is a very strong and resilient place, full of history, a little bit of mystery, and a whole lot of options for a great life. The economy of Philadelphia is made up of a few things, tourism at museums and historical sites honoring the founding of our nation, manufacturing, and financial services. More than 42 million people visited the city in 2017, making the tourism industry one of the biggest in the city. Education is also a large source of money for the city, with 115 universities in and around the city. Bookkeepers who love the City of Brotherly Love can expect annual salaries at an average of $39,305 to $79,856 annually. This is 16% higher than the national average.

The cost of living in Philly is less than you would expect, given all of the opportunity that exists there. Overall, it costs only 17% higher than national averages, with housing as the biggest setback (29% higher). The sheer amount of historical presence of Philadelphia, the medical care and educational options, as well as its proximity to New York City (2 hours driving), Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore (2 hours), Washington, D.C. (2 hours) makes this price point a steal. Philly is a secretly amazing place, that everyone should explore living in if they can. With these average salaries, perhaps bookkeepers especially.

Payscale Median Salary: $36,740
Cost of Living based on national average: 17% higher

9. Minneapolis

Minneapolis, along with its twin city, St. Paul, is the second largest economic hub in the Midwest (after Chicago). With most of the industry in the City of Lakes wrapped up in finance, transportation services, health care, and retail, the Twin Cities contribute nearly 65% of the gross state product of Minnesota. The per capita gross metro product of Minneapolis is $62,054. The famous Mall of America is located here, as well as a handful of fortune 500 companies and other well-known industry leaders like Target, Ameriprise Financial, distance learning company Capella University, RBC Wealth Management, CenturyLink Telecommunications, and others. Bookkeepers in Minneapolis average from $26,244 to $59,028 annually. People in Minneapolis are generally pretty happy and support a diverse and robust cultural arts scene including nurturing the artist Prince into the amazing performer that he was.

The cost of living in Minneapolis is a very doable 5% higher than average, according to Payscale data. Housing, the necessary evil we all are faced with, no matter where we live, is an easy 4% higher than national averages, freeing up space for bookkeepers to have fun in the summer, and stay warm in the 6-month winter.

Payscale Median Salary: $36,490
Cost of Living based on national average: 5% higher

10. Phoenix

The metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona is the 12th largest in the United States by population, with a total of almost 5 million people. The main industries of the area continue to be agricultural, including the "5Cs" of copper, cattle, climate, cotton, and citrus, as well as hosting the international headquarters of retailers like PetsMart, U-HAUL International, Best Western, and Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix. The city had a 2017 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of nearly $215 billion. The top five industries that contributed to this total were finance and insurance, healthcare, real estate, manufacturing, and retail. Bookkeepers in Phoenix can expect to make an average salary that ranges from $26,429 to $51,698 annually. They report loving their jobs, rating their professional life a 5 out of 5.

For a change, the cost of living in Phoenix is 5% lower than national averages, relieving professionals to spend time thinking about something other than their mortgages. In fact, housing, food costs, utilities, transportation and healthcare costs are all lower than national averages in the Valley of the Sun. If the cost of living wasn't enough to love Phoenix, both Stevie Nicks, and Dick Van Dyke are from there, and that is good enough for me.

Payscale Median Salary: $35,160
Cost of Living based on national average: 5% lower