Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can do wonders for your accounting career, but it’s not easy. You’ll need an additional year of college studies under your belt, and you’ll have to pass the challenging CPA exam. If attaining your CPA certification is your main reason for going back to school to earn your master’s degree, it’s important to find out if your school’s program will prepare you for this next step. Fortunately, many of the best online master’s in accounting programs in the nation are intended specifically to help accountants already in the workforce become CPAs.
Currently, every state and all but one U.S. territory requires CPA candidates to complete 150 hours of college studies, the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) reported. Unless you plan to live or work in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you’ll need an additional year of full-time study after earning your bachelor’s degree to sit for the CPA exam. Earning your master’s in accounting degree – online or otherwise – can help you meet this requirement, although the master’s degree itself is not a requirement in most states.
For your college credits to count, you should make sure that your school has appropriate accreditation. If your school isn’t regionally accredited, you could have additional hoops to jump through when it comes to earning your CPA license, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) reported. While not required, programmatic accreditation from a business-related agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), is also a mark of a high-quality program.
It’s important to note that CPA requirements vary from state to state. Some states, like Texas, require a minimum number of accounting credits to be taken at a brick-and-mortar campus.
How the Right Online Master’s in Accounting Program Will Help
Typically any accredited online master’s in accounting program will satisfy the 150 semester hours of college study requirement, but some programs will do even more to help you achieve your CPA license.
The four-part Uniform CPA Examination is known for being one of the most difficult professional exams you can take. Schools like Walden University place a special emphasis on CPA preparation to help their students pass the exam. Other schools, like New England College, prepare students for additional designations besides the CPA, such as the Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA).
Choosing an online master’s in accounting degree program is about more than checking off a list of requirements to sit for the CPA or other professional accounting exam. Choosing a school with a curriculum that emphasizes CPA preparation will equip you with the knowledge you need not only to pass this difficult exam, but also to succeed in your future career as a CPA.