Becoming a CPA in Massachusetts

These FAQs reflect the changes to the rules and regulations that were approved by the MA Board of Public Accountancy and went into effect on May 19, 2017.

What are the general requirements for becoming a CPA?

All candidates for certification must pass the CPA Exam and meet specific educational and experience requirements. (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 (community college credits are accepted). Credits can be earned outside of a degree program. 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 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.

Provision 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.

Provision 2. If you earn a graduate degree in accounting from a school that does not fall within Provision 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 18 semester hours of business at the graduate level, 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) of business courses (other than accounting courses) at the undergraduate level or or an equivalent combination thereof.

Provision 3. If your highest degree is a bachelor’s degree, 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.

5. Can I sit for the CPA exam before I meet the 150-hour requirement?

Yes, as long as you have completed a bachelor’s degree, or you are within 90 days of your degree conferral date, and your degree consists of 120 semester credits (or 180 quarter hours) earned at a nationally or regionally-accredited college or university. Your transcript(s) must document 21 credits in accounting and 9 credits in business. These credits require coverage in certain subject areas as specified on www.cpatrack.com. If your bachelor’s degree was awarded with less than 120 credits, you will need to take additional courses to reach 120 – 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 https://nasba.org/licensure/nasbalicensing/massachusetts

6. Is there a time limit to meet the 150-hour certification/licensure requirement if I sit for the exam with 120 credits?

No, there is no longer a time limit to complete the 150 hour requirement.

7. What is the experience requirement for CPA certification/licensure?

You are required to have one year of experience in public accounting that includes no fewer than 2,000 hours of providing services or advice using accounting attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax and consulting skills. Part-time experience can be earned over a period of three years.

8. Can I substitute non-public accounting experience to meet the requirement for certification?

Yes, three years of full-time employment in industry, government, academia or a nonprofit that includes no fewer than 2,000 hours of performance of services as cited in FAQ #7 can be substituted. The Board will look at such factors as the complexity and diversity of work and part-time experience can be earned over a period of nine years.

9. How do I proceed after I have passed the exam and meet the education and experience requirements for certification/licensure?

You can apply online or download the application for certification/licensure from the website of the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy, www.mass.gov/ocabr/licensee/dpl-boards/pa.

10. 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 that 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.

11. 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, it is likely that if you meet the certification requirements for MA you will be able to obtain a license in another state. For more information, visit: www.nasba.org and the requirements of each individual state. Ultimately, you will need to contact your new state's Board of Public Accountancy.

12. Where do I find more information about becoming a CPA in Massachusetts?

You can use the MSCPA’s student website www.CPAtrack.com as a clearing house 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, visit the Board of Public Accountancy’s website www.mass.gov/ocabr/licensee/dpl-boards/pa or contact the Board at:

Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy
1000 Washington Street, Suite 710
Boston, MA 02118
617.727.1806

These FAQs reflect the changes to the rules and regulations that were approved by the MA Board of Public Accountancy and went into effect on May 19, 2017.

Visit MSCPA online

Visit MSCPA online to view education requirements for a CPA certification in Massachusetts