Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) involves a lot of education, training and passing the Uniform CPA Examination®, and many pursuing this career wonder if a master’s degree is required to sit for the CPA exam. There is more than one path towards becoming a CPA, and earning a Master’s in Accounting is just one. Here is some information on what education is required to sit for the CPA exam as well as potential career outlook.
Educational Requirements to Become a CPA
Becoming a CPA requires first becoming an accountant, and this requires at least a bachelor’s degree, which is a four-year program. Accountants typically earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration with a concentration in accounting or a related field. Students in an accounting degree program take accounting-related courses and often complete an internship.
Bachelor degree accounting programs generally require completion of 120 credits. To be a licensed CPA, the candidate must complete courses equaling 150 college credits in all the U.S. states and territories other than the U.S. Virgin Islands. Because the bachelor’s degree program is 30 credits short of the requirements, aspiring CPAs must earn the additional credits. In addition to completing the degree and earning the required credits, the individual must pass the CPA exam.
Is a Master’s Degree Required?
Many aspiring CPAs choose to earn the Master’s in Accounting to complete the required credits and become licensed as a CPA. This is not the only path towards becoming a CPA. Accounting students can choose to complete the additional 30 credits by taking graduate courses after earning the baccalaureate degree. An individual is not required to have a master’s degree to become a CPA. Here are a few different paths a student can take to earn the 150 credits needed to become a CPA.
- Combine a bachelor’s degree in a non-accounting field with a Master’s in Accounting.
- Combine a bachelor’s degree in a non-accounting field with an MBA with an accounting concentration.
- Combine a bachelor’s degree in accounting with a master’s degree.
- Earn the bachelor’s degree and take college graduate courses equaling 30 credits.
- Complete a 5-yr combination bachelor’s/Master’s in Accounting.
What the CPA Exam Entails
The CPA exam is a four-part test that must be successfully passed before the candidate can obtain licensure as a CPA. The student must complete each section in four hours with a score of at least 75, according to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. The sections cover the following areas:
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
- Auditing and Attestation
- Business Environment and Concepts
All parts do not need to be taken at the same time, but they must all be completed within 18 months of completing the first test.
Career Outlook for CPAs
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that accountants should see a job growth of 10 percent between 2016 and 2026. Their employment growth is closely connected to the economy; as the economy grows, so does the need for accountants. Those who have earned the Master’s in Accounting or the CPA credential will typically see the best prospects. According to a July 2018 wage report by PayScale, CPAs earned an average annual wage of $63,427 with wages ranging from $45,421 to $103,128 or more.
With the excellent career opportunities available to CPAs, it’s no secret why many students are choosing this career. Higher education typically means higher wage potential, which is why so many aspiring CPAs choose to earn the Master’s in Accounting to sit for the CPA exam.