Passing the CPA licensure exam will increase your earnings and professional standing, but you need to start planning in advance to meet the prerequisites. You must meet specific educational and experience requirements to even take the exam. This means considering your college choices today and choosing a degree program that will deliver the accounting, mathematics and regulatory knowledge you need to excel on the CPA exam in your state.
Do I Need a Master’s Degree in Accounting to Become a CPA?
To be eligible for the CPA exam, you must meet a minimum level of educational credits. For most states, you are required to have 150 credit hours at the post-secondary level before taking the exam. A typical bachelor’s degree requires only 120 hours of coursework, so you will have to obtain an additional 30 hours after completing your undergraduate classes. You have several options for these extra credit hours. If you’re just starting your accounting career, you could enroll in a 150-credit hour program designed to prepare you for professional success as a Certified Public Accountant. If you already have some college experience or you want to choose your own bachelor’s degree topic, you can finish your B.A. or B.S. degree and then take 30 hours of graduate-level coursework. While you could earn a 60-hour master’s of accounting or master’s of business administration (MBA), you don’t have to complete those degrees to take the CPA exam.
How Much Accounting Experience Do I Need to Take the CPA Exam?
Unlike the educational requirements for sitting the exam, there is no national standard for workplace experience. In some states, you must have two years of full-time professional work in public accounting before you can take the certifying exam. This forces you to take an entry-level job and build up your resume. Other states give you a provisional certification after you pass the exam and then allow you several years to obtain the necessary experience for full status as a CPA. Contact your state’s licensing board for accountants to learn the specific regulations for your area.
How Challenging is the CPA Exam?
In 2016, approximately one half of test-takers passed the CPA exam. That is a typical rate for most years. While that number may sound daunting, don’t be deterred from your dream of working in the accounting field. First, you can still work as an accountant without your CPA licensure. Second, you can retake the exam as many times as you need. Finally, many students did not enter an accounting program with the intent of becoming a CPA and take the exam with limited background in public accounting. Because you’re preparing to meet the prerequisites in advance, you have time to create and follow an appropriate study plan. Reach out to your accounting professors and ask for their advice, tailor your class projects towards topics that are popular on the exam and choose electives that will help you pass the CPA exam.
If you’re committed to becoming a Certified Public Accountant, you can achieve that goal. By working on the prerequisites for the CPA licensure exam today, you’ll give yourself the tools and background to earn your certification.