What are the general requirements for becoming a CPA?
All candidates for certification must meet specific educational requirements and pass the Uniform CPA Exam. In addition, experience in the practice of public accounting may be required, depending on your educational background.
What is the education requirement for becoming a CPA?
Candidates pursuing CPA certification in Massachusetts are required to have 150 credit hours of college level education. The 150-hour requirement is a result of the growing demand for CPAs to provide clients with a wide range of professional services. CPAs are required to make increasingly complex and technical judgments, creating the need for professionals with diverse skills and a broad educational background. The additional education requirement is designed to meet this need.
Does this mean that I will need a graduate degree to become a CPA?
NO, the only degree required for certification is a bachelor's degree. However, the skills and knowledge usually developed in a graduate program (e.g., Masters of Accounting, Masters in Tax, MBA, law degree) may be very useful in helping CPAs to meet client demands. For this reason, the Massachusetts Society of CPAs strongly encourages a graduate education.
Does my college-level education need to include specific coursework?
It depends; the requirements vary based on the highest degree you obtain. All coursework must be completed at a nationally or regionally accredited college or university and Associate Degree/Community College courses will be accepted only if transferred into a four-year bachelor's degree program. Elementary or introductory accounting courses qualify to fulfill your accounting course requirements. Summary information is provided below. For further details, please see http://www.cpatrack.com/becoming_a_cpa/required
- 1. If you obtain a graduate degree in accounting from an AACSB accredited accounting program, or one that has been approved by the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy as substantially equivalent to an AACSB program, you will not need to meet specific course requirements.
- 2. If you earn a graduate degree in accounting from a school that does not fall within the above category, or if you earn a graduate degree in business administration or law, you will need 18 semester hours (27 quarter hours) of accounting at the graduate level or 30 semester hours (45quarter hours) at the undergraduate level, or an equivalent combination thereof. These courses must include coverage in financial accounting, audit, taxation, and management accounting. In addition, the degree must include or be supplemented by 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) of business courses (other than accounting courses) at the undergraduate level or 18 semester hours at the graduate level, or an equivalent combination thereof.
- 3. If your highest degree is a bachelor's degree in business, your degree must include, or be supplemented by, 30 semester hours in accounting with coverage in financial accounting, audit, taxation, and management accounting. In addition, the degree must include, or be supplemented by, 24 semester hours in business courses other than accounting courses. These business courses shall include coverage in business law, information systems, finance, and coverage in at least one of the areas of economics, business organizations, professional ethics, and/or business communication.
- 4. If your degree is not in business, your 30 semester hours in accounting must include at least three semester hours in each of the subject areas of financial accounting, audit, taxation, and management accounting; and your 24 semester hours in business must include at least three semester hours in each of the areas of business law, business information systems, professional ethics and finance. Business courses, other than accounting, in business management of organizations, economics, and/or business communications may be included for the business course requirements.
Can I sit for the CPA exam before I meet the 150- hour requirement?
YES. After January 1, 2007, candidates may qualify to sit for the exam when they have completed 120 of the required 150 semester hours (or 180 of the 225 quarter hours) of college education at a nationally or regionally accredited institution where the successful completion of 120 semester hours (180 quarter hours) results in obtaining a bachelor's degree.
What educational requirements must I meet if I choose to sit for the exam with 120 credits?
You must have completed 21 semester hours of accounting courses that include coverage in financial accounting, audit, taxation, and management accounting and 9 semester hours of business courses, including coverage in the areas of business law, finance, and information systems.
Can I sit for the exam during my final semester before graduation?
NO, you must have completed all of the requirements for your bachelor's degree. You may, however, apply for the exam during your final semester. For planning purposes, please note that the application review process for a first-time exam candidate will take 6-8 weeks and that testing is only available in the first two months of each calendar quarter. Once your exam application is approved you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) that gives you six months to schedule and complete all exam sections for which you applied. If you have not taken all exam sections and your NTS expires, your fees will be forfeited.
Can I sit for the exam before I receive my official college transcript certifying the completion of my bachelor's degree and required accounting and business courses?
YES. Beginning January 1, 2007, you will be able to sit for the exam before you actually receive your official transcript as long as you are able to provide the certified transcript within 90 days of your exam date. Failure to provide a transcript(s) that certifies the award of the bachelor's degree and completion of all required accounting and business courses will result in the loss of any exam credit in the exam window completed. Also, you will not be allowed to sit as a Massachusetts exam candidate in future CPA exams until such official transcript is received by the testing administrator.
Is there a time limit to meet the 150-hour requirement if I sit for the exam with 120 credits?
YES. You have 3 years from the time you receive notice of passing all four parts of the exam to meet the educational requirements. If you don't, you will need to retake all parts of the exam.
Where do I find out more information about becoming a CPA?
If you have specific questions about any licensing requirements, you should visit the Board of Public Accountancy Website or contact the Board at:
Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy
239 Causeway Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114
What is the experience requirement for CPA certification?
It depends on your level of education. With 150 credits, you need one year of public accounting experience. With a graduate degree in accounting, business, or law, no experience is required for certification.
Does my experience have to include 1000 hours in the attest function?
NO, however, the privileges of your license will be restricted to all accounting services except issuing reports on financial statements.
How can I receive full license privileges to allow me to sign off on financial statements?
You will qualify for full license privileges after you complete twelve months of uninterrupted employment in a public accounting firm and 1000 hours in the report function on full disclosure financial statements, of which not more than 300 hours may consist of full disclosure compilations.
Once I'm certified, do I have to do anything to maintain my license?
YES. Upon your initial certification, you are issued a biennial license that will require you to complete 80 hours of acceptable continuing education of which 4 credits are in the area of professional ethics. In addition, every CPA is required to adhere to a code of professional conduct that helps to maintain integrity and dignity in the profession. Finally, CPAs who sign off on financial statements (or their firms) are required to undergo a peer review every three years.
What if I move to another state? Will my license transfer with me?
Reciprocity, or the recognition of your Massachusetts license in another state, is ultimately the decision of the licensing board in your new state. However, since almost all states have adopted the 150-hour education requirement, it is likely that if you meet the certification requirements for Massachusetts you will be able to obtain a license in another state.
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