According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants typically hold a bachelor’s degree in order to work in many entry-level positions. To advance in the accounting sector, many accountants may believe they need to attain a master’s degree to be considered for higher positions at companies. However, some accountants wonder how much work experience, if any, is needed to attain a master’s degree. For example, if one graduated from their undergraduate accounting program, could they just immediately apply for a graduate degree in accounting, specifically a Master of Accountancy (MAcc)?
The Certified Public Accountant
One of the most sought after jobs in the accounting sector is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) position. A CPA is considered the highest professional level of accounting in business. A CPA is the only accounting professional that can directly file accounting documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Beyond that, many CPAs are sought after by firms because of their expertise in accounting.
Many CPAs also start their own accounting firms and help manage the firms, thanks to their knowledge and experience. If becoming a CPA is a key goal for a regular accountant, than a MAcc is typically needed. The CPA is administered by the American Institute of CPAs (AIPCA). The AICPA works with 46 states and the District of Columbia to uphold an uniform requirement of 150 academic requirements in accounting to be eligible for the CPA exam. To get to 150 academic hours, most accountants need a bachelor’s degree (120 credits typically) and then 30 extra credits, at least. These 30 extra credits are often found by enrolling in a MAcc program.
Loopholes and State-By-State Requirements
However, not every person needs a MAcc to become eligible for CPA status. Many schools offer 5-year accounting programs. These programs combine a bachelor’s program with graduate-level courses in the last year. At the end of the five years, the student will have 150 credits or more. In addition, many states require work experience before applying to become a CPA. The AICPA explains that most states require at least two years of professional work experience before applying to the CPA exam. This means that even if one applies directly to a MAcc or invest in the 5-year accounting program, work experience is still required before seeking a CPA. But this only means work is required before the CPA, not before the MAcc. Although a MAcc is not required for a CPA, work experience is only required for the AICPA. Work experience before a MAcc depends on the school.
Work Experience for CPA, not MAcc
Schools will vary on whether they require work before apply for a MAcc program or not. One business school may not require work experience, but could take work experience as consideration for admissions. Experience like part-time work or past internships may be seen as positive traits for an applicant to a MAcc program, but not required. Therefore, work experience is definitely a necessary variable to advance toward higher accounting positions, like a CPA. But, work experience for a MAcc program, which is often needed for CPA eligibility, is not required by some schools.