Become a CPA

Education

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the education requirement for becoming a CPA in Massachusetts?

A CPA candidate must complete 150 credit hours (225 quarter hours) of college or university education for a Bachelor’s degree from a nationally or regionally accredited institution. Credits can be earned outside of a degree program and community college credits are accepted without transfer into a four-year school.

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., Master's of Accounting, Master's in Tax, Master of Business Administration (MBA), law degree, etc.) may be very useful in helping CPAs meet client demands. For this reason, the Massachusetts Society of CPAs 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. Summary information is provided below.

  • Option 1: If you obtain a Master’s degree in accounting from a college or university whose accounting program is accredited or whose accounting program has been reviewed and accepted by the MA Board of Public Accountancy, you will not need to meet specific course requirements.
  • Option 2: If you earn a graduate degree in accounting from a school that does not fall within Option 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 an equivalent combination thereof.
  • Option 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.
Note: Graduate degrees in business administration include such degrees as Master's in Business Administration (MBA), Master's of Science in Accounting Information Systems (MSAIS), Master's of Science in Finance (MSF) and Master's of Taxation (MST).

Further guidance on what constitutes a graduate degree in business.

Typically, to qualify as a graduate degree in business, a degree program must be offered through the college or university's school of business or management. While most candidates are likely to satisfy this requirement with an MBA degree, it might also be satisfied with a more focused business degree in what would be considered a traditional business subject. Thus, a candidate would be considered as having a graduate degree in business if he or she completed a MST or a MSAIS/MSMIS.

Other traditional areas of business include, but are not limited to, subjects such as: decision sciences, finance (including banking, insurance and real estate), human resources, management science, marketing, operations management, organizational behavior, organizational development, strategic management, supply chain management and technology management (excerpted from AACSB International Accreditation Standards). A focused graduate degree in any of these areas will be considered to be a graduate degree in business.

To qualify, a graduate degree in law should be offered by a law school recognized by the American Bar Association or authorized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to grant law degrees. While most candidates are likely to possess a Juris Doctor (JD) degree or a Master's degree in law (LLM), other postgraduate law degrees will also qualify as appropriate graduate degrees in law.

What if I took both undergraduate and graduate courses to satisfy my accounting and business credit requirements?

If you combine undergrad and graduate credits to calculate the required 30 undergraduate or 18 graduate accounting credits, one graduate credit equals 5/3 of an undergraduate accounting credit. Therefore, a three-credit grad course is worth five undergrad credits. Conversely, one undergrad accounting credit equals 3/5 of a graduate accounting credit.

If you combine undergrad and graduate credits calculate the required 24 undergraduate or 18 graduate business credits, each grad credit equals 4/3 of an undergrad credit. Therefore, a three-credit graduate course is worth four undergrad credits. Conversely, one undergrad business credit equals 3/4 of a graduate credit.

Do the additional courses I take to reach the required 150 total have to include specific subject areas?

No, but we recommend that you review the Examination Blueprints published by the AICPA to ensure that your courses will cover all of the subject matter tested on the Exam. In addition, courses in advanced excel, data analytics and oral and written communications are valued by accounting firms.

What are acceptable accounting courses?

Completion of a course in each of the four required areas is the most direct way to meet the requirement.

Examples follow:

  • Financial accounting: Intermediate Accounting, Advanced Accounting, International Accounting, Financial Statement Analysis and Financial Reporting and Analysis;
  • Auditing: Financial Statement Auditing, Internal Audit, IT Audit;
  • Taxation: Income Taxation, Financial Planning, Corporate Taxation and Tax Implications of Accounting Decisions; and
  • Management Accounting: Cost Accounting, Accounting Information for Decision Making and Managerial Accounting.

Please note that elementary and introductory courses will count toward the requirements for accounting hours.

What are acceptable business courses?

Completion of a course in each of the required areas is the most direct way to satisfy the coverage requirement. Since these coverage areas are broad, the requirement may be satisfied by a wide variety of courses.

Examples of courses that might provide coverage in these areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Business Law: Business Law; and Law for Accountants;
  • Information Systems: Management Information Systems; and Information Resource Management;
  • Finance: Corporate Finance; Managerial Finance; Financial Risk Management; Financial Planning; and Investments;
  • Economics: Managerial Economics; Macroeconomics; and Microeconomics;
  • Business Organizations: Organizational Behavior; and Managing People;
  • Professional Ethics: Business Ethics; and Professional Ethics; and
  • Business Communications : Business Writing; Professional Speaking; and Managerial Communications.

What if a course title does not clearly relate to the coverage area?

If a course title does not clearly relate to the coverage area, you may need to submit a course catalogue, syllabus or letter from a professor.

What if I sit for the Exam before I meet the 150-hour requirement for CPA certification?

Before you apply for your CPA license, you will need to submit an Academic Evaluation for Certification Report (AECR) to NASBA ($100 fee). The report status of "eligible" must be included with your license application.

Is there a time limit to meet the 150-hour requirement once I pass the CPA Exam?

No, there is no longer a time limit.

What if I am an international candidate who earned educational credits at a school outside the U.S.?

You will need to have your educational credentials evaluated by the Center for Educational Documentation or NASBA. These are the only evaluation services accepted. This evaluation is not necessary if you studied a semester abroad as part of your program at a U.S. accredited college.