Why Do I Have to Spend Five Years in College Instead of Four If I Want to Be a CPA?

As an aspiring certified public accountant (CPA), you will spend more time in college than your peers with other career aspirations. For various reasons, you should expect to be a college student for five years if you want to be a CPA. The extra time you spend studying will not only make you eligible to take the CPA examination, a necessary step for earning your CPA license, but also will allow you to broaden your accounting knowledge and skills.

The Rationale Behind 150 Semester Hours

The most obvious reason that aspiring CPAs need five years of study is because most states require candidates to have this 150 semester hours of college, and even the states that don’t currently have this requirement in place appear to be moving in the direction. To an inquisitive student, this requirement just raises another question. What’s the reasoning behind requiring five years instead of only four, just to take the exam? There are actually a few reasons for this, according to the American Institute of CPAs, but the primary reason is because four years is no longer enough time to cover all of the knowledge and skills a CPA will need to know in the ever-changing field of accounting.

What CPAs Need to Know

During the course of aspiring CPAs’ college careers, they will take coursework that builds and expands their technical accounting knowledge, provides general business skills and knowledge and helps them develop their communication and analytical skills. As matters like tax laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels become more complicated, CPAs need to know how to deal with these new and complex issues. The constant evolution of technological advances means that accounting students will need to learn more about auditing and information systems. As the field of accounting changes, so do the expectations of prospective employers, making these new and more advanced skills necessary even for accountants who are just beginning their careers. With all of the skills and knowledge today’s accounting students (and tomorrow’s CPAs) need to learn, the 150 semester hour requirement makes a lot of sense.

For aspiring CPAs eager to get out into the real world and begin their accounting careers, a delay of an additional year can be frustrating, even if it is necessary. Consider the extra 30 semester hours to be an investment in your skills for the future, as well as an opportunity to build your résumé. You can make the most of your extra year of study by choosing an accelerated dual degree program that will allow you to earn a master’s degree in accounting, financial management or business administration as well as earning your bachelor’s degree. You can also take advantage of more extracurricular and internship opportunities during your college career. If used well, the extra year of study can do more than make you eligible to take the CPA exam.

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