Read on to find the answers to some commonly-asked questions about becoming a CPA in Massachusetts.
1. 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. (For more information about the experience requirement, see FAQ #7).
2. 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 from a nationally or regionally-accredited college or university. Associate Degree/Community College courses must be transferred into a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Credits can be earned outside of an actual bachelor’s or graduate degree. Introductory accounting courses qualify to fulfill accounting course requirements.
3. Do I 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.
4. Does my college-level education need to include specific coursework?
It depends; the requirements vary based on the highest degree you obtain. Summary information is provided below. For further details, please see http://www.cpatrack.com/becoming_a_cpa/.
- Level 1. If you obtain a Master’s degree in accounting from an AACSB accredited accounting program, or an accounting program that has been approved by the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy, you will not need to meet specific course requirements.
- Level 2. If you earn a graduate degree in accounting from a school that does not fall within Level 1, 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 (45 quarter 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.
- Level 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.
- Level 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.
5. Can I sit for the CPA exam before I meet the 150-hour requirement?
YES, you may sit for the exam if you have a bachelor's degree and at least 120 educational credits (180 quarter hours) that include 21 credits in accounting and 9 credits in business. These credits require coverage in certain subject areas as specified on http://www.cpatrack.com/cpa_exam/exam_regulations. If your bachelor's degree was awarded with less than 120 credits, you will need to take additional courses to reach 120 and there are NO exceptions. Anyone who sits for the exam before acquiring 150 educational credits will be required to complete an Academic Evaluation for Certification Report before applying for a Massachusetts CPA license. This is filed with CPA Exam Services for a fee of $100 and is available at www.NASBA.org.
6. Is there a time limit to meet the 150-hour certification/licensure requirement if I sit for the exam with 120 credits?
YES. You must meet the educational requirements within 3 years from the time you receive your official letter of passing all four parts of the exam. If you don’ t, you will need to retake all parts of the exam.
7. What is the experience requirement for CPA certification/licensure?
It depends on your level of education. With 150 credits, you need one year of public accounting experience; if your experience does not include 1000 hours in the report function, you will be issued a non-reporting license. With a graduate degree in accounting, business, or law, no experience is required for certification /non-reporting license.
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8. Can I substitute non-public accounting experience to meet the requirement for certification?
Yes, the Board of Public Accountancy, in its discretion, my grant you credit for professional accounting experience while working in a position in private industry or government. To learn about the special conditions that must be met, please visit http://www.MSCPAonline.org/nonpublicexp.
9. What is a non-reporting license?
A non-reporting license allows you to use the CPA designation and perform all accounting services except signing off on financial statements.
10. How can I qualify for a full reporting license to allow me to sign off on financial statements?
You will qualify for a full reporting license after you complete twelve months of employment in a public accounting firm and obtain 1000 hours in the report function on full disclosure financial statements, of which not more than 300 hours may consist of full disclosure compilations. If you anticipate a future need to sign off on financial statements, you may choose to apply for a full reporting license when your initial non reporting license expires. Additionally, the non reporting licensee who wishes to accept a report engagement may qualify for a full reporting license if s/he complies with the provisions of 252 CMR 3.02(5). To do so, you will be required to provide official documentation to the Board of Public Accountancy that you have taken 80 hours of CPE in financial statement reporting within six months prior to accepting the report engagement. Further, you will need to enroll with a qualified Report Acceptance Body prior to the issuance of the initial report and complete a quality review within nine months subsequent to the issuance of the initial report.
11. How do I proceed after I have passed the exam and meet the education and experience requirements for certification/licensure?
After you receive your official notification from CPA Exam Services that you have passed the CPA exam, you can download the application for certification/licensure from the Web site of the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy, http://www.mass.gov/dpl/boards/pa.
12. Once I’m certified, do I have to do anything to maintain my initial CPA license?
Yes, every two years you will need to submit a license renewal application and fee to the Division of Public Licensure and provide evidence of completion of 80 hours (credits) of continuing professional education, which includes four credits 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.
13. 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. You will need to contact that state’s Board of Public Accountancy.
14. Where do I find more information about becoming a CPA in Massachusetts?
You can use the MSCPA’s student website as a clearinghouse for resources about the CPA exam and certification requirements. There, you will find links to download the exam application form as well as information about how to have your transcript pre-evaluated to determine if you meet the academic requirements, what you need to do if you attended a foreign university, etc. If you have specific questions about licensing requirements in Massachusetts, you should visit the Board of Public Accountancy Web site or contact the Board at:
Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy
1000 Washington Street, Suite 710
Boston, MA 02118
Visit MSCPA online to view education requirements for a CPA certification in Massachusetts