Candidates who aspire to the role of certified public accountant (CPA) may wonder whether you need a master’s degree in accounting to become a CPA. While you must meet rigorous degree and education requirements to begin working toward certification, a graduate degree is not strictly necessary. However, earning a master’s in accounting often is a great choice for aspiring CPAs. The degree not only helps them meet the education requirements but also aids them in preparing for the difficult CPA examination.
The CPA Degree Requirement
Different states have different requirements for CPA candidates. Typically, having a college degree is one requirement you must meet to sit for the CPA exam, though some states will waive this requirement if the applicant has enough years of experience. Technically, a master’s degree is not mandatory to attain your CPA credential, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
If you don’t need a master’s degree in accounting to become a CPA, why do so many CPAs choose this route? They must meet additional education requirements besides having a degree – and often, an undergraduate education isn’t sufficient.
The 150 Semester Hours Requirement
The number of credit hours you have completed at college can help you decide if you need a master’s degree in accounting to become a CPA. Most bachelor’s degrees require 120 semester hours of study. However, most states require that candidates for CPA certification have 150 semester hours of college under their belts.
The extra education required “is best obtained at the graduate level,” according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Earning a master’s degree in accounting, business administration or a related subject can help students develop the skills necessary to understand the new tax laws and increasingly complicated business practices that today’s CPAs deal with on a daily basis.
Should You Go to Graduate School for Accounting?
Even though you don’t need a master’s degree in accounting to become a CPA, having a graduate education can be extremely helpful. It puts you over the 150 semester hours requirement so that you can sit for the exam. Your additional year (or more) of education equips you with more accounting knowledge and skills than you would have from your undergraduate education alone, which will help you succeed in your future career.
Additionally, the CPA exam is a challenging test. Candidates need to earn passing scores on all four parts of the difficult test, typically within just 18 months. Many graduate accounting programs include coursework or resources that help students prepare for the CPA exam itself as well as the work they will handle throughout their careers.
Some schools offer accelerated one-year master’s of accounting programs or five-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. This way, if you need a master’s degree in accounting to become a CPA, you can complete your education quickly and get your career started sooner.