Become a CPA

Certification Eligibility

To be eligible for a CPA certificate/license in Massachusetts, a candidate must complete at least 150 semester hours of college-level education, successfully pass the CPA Exam and earn the equivalent of one year of experience in public accounting.

Find out what every Massachusetts CPA Candidate needs to know! The information provided here has been updated to include the most recent changes to the MA regulations.

Education

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Is there a time limit to meet the 150 hour requirement if I sit for the exam with 120 credits?
    No, there is no time limit to reach the 150 hour requirement.

Educational Requirements: The exact nature and number of specific courses you must complete to qualify for CPA certification/licensure is based on the highest level of education you have attained.

  1. Earned a Graduate degree in accounting from an accredited college or university whose accounting program has been further accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or from an accredited college or university whose graduate accounting program has been reviewed and accepted by the Board of Public Accountancy.

  2. Earned a Graduate degree in accounting from an accredited college or university that is not included in the above list, or a graduate degree in business administration or law from an accredited college or university.

  3. Earned a Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and an additional 30 credits to reach the required 150 credits for certification/licensure.

Exam

  1. 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 above in educational requirements . 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 NASCA's website.

  2. 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.

Experience

  1. 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.

  2. 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 #1 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.

Certification/Licensure 

Effective May 19, 2017
To be eligible for a CPA certificate/license in Massachusetts, a candidate must complete at least 150 semester hours of college-level education, successfully pass the Uniform CPA Exam and earn the equivalent of one year of experience in public accounting.

  1. 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.

  2. 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 or industry is required for certification/licensure.

  3. Once I’m certified, do I have to do anything to maintain my initial CPA 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.

  4. 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. For more information, visit NASBA's website and view the requirements of each individual state. Ultimately, you will need to contact your new state's Board of Public Accountancy.

  5. Where do I find more information about becoming a CPA in Massachusetts?
    You can use the MSCPA’s student website, CPATrack, 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 or contact the Board at:
  • Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy
    1000 Washington Street, Suite 710
    Boston, MA 02118
  • Phone: 617-727-1806

Acceptable Courses and Degrees

What constitutes a course in business?

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

CPA Candidate Requirements - Graduate Degree in Accounting

A candidate with a graduate degree in accounting from a program that has been approved by the Board of Public Accountancy is not required to satisfy specific business course credit hour or content requirements. It is assumed that the candidate has pursued a sufficient level of business coursework while earning the graduate degree.

CPA Candidate Requirements - Bachelor's Degree in Business or Law

A candidate with a graduate degree in business administration or law from an accredited college or university must complete 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) of business courses at the undergraduate level, or 18 semester hours at the graduate level (27 quarter hours), or an equivalent combination thereof.

There is a great deal of flexibility in business courses offered by schools of business and management. Although candidates with graduate business or law degrees do not need to satisfy specific business course requirements, candidates are strongly encouraged to obtain coverage in business law.

CPA Candidate Requirements - Bachelor's Degree in Business

A candidate with a bachelor's degree in business from an accredited college or university is required to complete the same number of credit hours of business coursework as a candidate with a graduate degree (24 undergraduate or 18 graduate), and these courses must include coverage in each of the following areas:

  • Business law,
  • Information systems,
  • Finance,
  • At least one of the areas of economics, business organizations, professional ethics, and/or business communications.

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; Law for Accountants.
  • INFORMATION SYSTEMS: Management Information Systems; Information Resource Management.
  • FINANCE: Corporate Finance; Managerial Finance; Financial Risk Management; Financial Planning; Investments.
  • ECONOMICS: Managerial Economics; Macroeconomics; Microeconomics.
  • BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS: Organizational Behavior; Managing People.
  • PROFESSIONAL ETHICS: Business Ethics; Professional Ethics.
  • BUSINESS COMMUNICATION: Business Writing; Professional Speaking; Managerial Communications.

If a course title does not clearly relate to the coverage area, the candidate may need to submit a course catalogue, syllabus or letter from a professor detailing the coverage. If you think there may be a question about the coverage provided in one of your courses, use this course evaluation checksheet as a guide for yourself or to submit with documentation supporting coverage when you apply to sit for the CPA Exam.

CPA Candidate Requirements - Non-Business Bachelor's Degree

A candidate whose highest degree is a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than business must complete at least 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) of business courses at the undergraduate level. These credits must include at least three semester hours in each of the following areas:

  • Business law,
  • Business information systems,
  • Professional ethics,
  • Finance.

Courses in quantitative applications in business, business management of organizations, economics and/or business communication may be included for the business course requirements.

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, Financial Reporting and Analysis
  • Auditing: Financial Statement Auditing, Internal Audit, IT Audit
  • Taxation: Income Taxation, Financial Planning, Corporate Taxation, Tax Implications of Accounting Decisions
  • Management Accounting: Cost Accounting, Accounting Information for Decision Making, Managerial Accounting
Please note that elementary and introductory courses will count toward the requirements for accounting hours after January 1, 2007.

How do I verify that sufficient coverage has been obtained?

If a course title does not clearly relate to the coverage area, the candidate may need to submit a course catalogue, syllabus or letter from a professor. If you think there may be a question about the coverage provided in one of your courses, use this course evaluation check sheet as a guide for yourself or to submit with documentation supporting coverage when you apply to sit for the CPA Exam.

Examples of courses that count toward the requirement for accounting hours and may have the required coverage include:

  • Accounting Information Systems,
  • Accounting Internship,
  • Contemporary Issues or Topics in Accounting,
  • Accounting Theory,
  • Governmental or Not-for-Profit Accounting.

Examples of courses that do not count toward the requirement for accounting hours accounting courses that are not completed or accepted in transfer at a four-year accredited college or university, Law for Accountants (satisfies business course requirement), and Communication or Writing for Accountants (satisfies business course requirement).

What is 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

In general, a graduate degree in business or law is defined as any post-baccalaureate degree in what would be considered a traditional business or law subject.

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 M.B.A. (Master's in Business Administration) 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 Master's Degree in Taxation (M.S.T.) or a Master's of Science in Accounting/Management Information Systems (M.S.A.I.S./M.S.M.I.S).

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 (J.D.) degree or a master's degree in law (L.LM.), other postgraduate law degrees will also qualify as appropriate graduate degrees in law.

Does the college or university I attend need to be approved by the Board of Public Accountancy?

Approved graduate programs in accounting include any program that has been accredited by the AACSB International or programs that have been approved by the Board based on an application and review process.

A complete list of all AACSB-accredited programs can be found on the AACSB website.

Any non-AACSB-accredited accounting programs may seek approval status by submitting a written request to the Board of Public Accountancy. The request should provide detailed information about the degree requirements, brief descriptions of required and elective courses, and other information that will help the Board to determine the content and coverage of the program.

An accounting program that has not been approved by the Board will generally be considered as a graduate degree in business.

How to Qualify

A candidate can determine if he or she has met the educational requirements for certification/licensure by answering the following series of questions:

Do you have a graduate degree in accounting from an accredited college or university whose accounting program is AACSB-accredited or whose program has been reviewed and accepted by the MA Board of Public Accountancy?

AACSB-accredited/accepted MA Board of Public Accountancy program list »

YES – You have satisfied the educational requirements if your MSA is from a college on this list. You will not need to meet specific course requirements.

NO – Proceed to the second question below.

Do you have a graduate degree in accounting from an accredited college or university that does not meet the provisions #1, or a graduate degree in business administration or law from an accredited college or university?

YES – Your degree must include, or be supplemented by, a specified number of hours of accounting and business courses.

Details:

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). Read further guidance on what constitutes a graduate degree in business.

Accounting Coursework

You must have 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. Coverage in these topic areas generally means that a course has been completed in the specified subject area, but a candidate may submit proof that the required subject areas have been covered in other courses.  

Business Coursework

You must have 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) of business courses (other than accounting courses) at the undergraduate level, or 18 semester hours (27 quarter hours) at the graduate level, or an equivalent combination thereof.* These courses must be completed or accepted in transfer at a four-year accredited college or university.  

NO Proceed to the third question below:

Do you have a bachelor's degree in business from an accredited college or university?

YES – To be eligible for CPA certification/licensure, your degree must include, or be supplemented by, a specified number of hours of accounting and business courses.

Details:

Accounting Coursework

You must have 30 semester hours (45 quarter hours) in accounting at the undergraduate level.* The accounting courses must include coverage in financial accounting, audit, taxation, and management accounting. Coverage in these topic areas generally means that a course has been completed in the specified subject area, but a candidate may submit proof that the required subject areas have been covered in other courses.  

Business Coursework

You must have 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) of business courses (other than accounting courses) at the undergraduate level.* These business courses must include coverage in the areas of business law, information systems, finance, and coverage in one of the areas of economics, business organizations, professional ethics, and/or business communication.  

*If you combine undergraduate and graduate courses to arrive at the required core accounting and business credits, please note:

  • Since a candidate needs 30 semester hours of undergraduate accounting courses or 18 semester hours of graduate accounting courses, each undergraduate hour equals 3/5 of a graduate hour, or conversely, each graduate hour equals 5/3 of an undergraduate hour.
  • Since a candidate needs 24 semester hours of undergraduate business courses or 18 semester hours of graduate business courses, each undergraduate hour equals 3/4 of a graduate hour, or conversely, each graduate hour equals 4/3 of an undergraduate hour.

Future CPA Students

Are You Eligible?

To be eligible for a CPA certificate/license in Massachusetts, a candidate must:

  • complete at least 150 semester hours of college-level education,
  • successfully pass the computer-based CPA examination,
  • and have the equivalent of one year of public accounting experience.