A CPA Degree is a reference to the educational requirements needed to become a Certified Public Accountant rather than a specific degree itself.
To qualify for sitting the CPA exam, and really to prepare adequately for it, you must earn at least 150 credits (semester hours). However, the standard Bachelor Degree in Accounting only gets you 120 credits, a fact which can sometimes create confusion.
There are three ways to meet the educational requirements for public accounting certification:
Let’s review our three options.
Bachelor Degree in Accounting with Additional Coursework – the CPA Path
When the CPA educational requirements changed from 120 credits to 150, universities were quick to change as well. Some undergraduate accounting programs now offer two paths of study – traditional and CPA. The CPA path has additional coursework to make it compatible with the CPA standards.
Generally, students work with an advisor to select the accounting courses that will meet their individual professional and career goals.
While specific requirements vary by state:
In contrast, a traditional Bachelor in Accounting requires 18 semester hours of accounting and roughly 21 semester hours of core business classes. The standards for CPA candidates are clearly higher.
It’s pretty challenging, but not impossible, to earn 150 credits in your four undergraduate years. You have a few options to get it done.
A Bachelor Degree in Accounting along with an MBA – is it a good way to go?
Suppose you have earned your Bachelor Degree in Accounting and just decided you’d like to become a CPA. Perhaps your original career goals didn’t include public accounting, but you’ve since decided a CPA certification would be a benefit to you professionally? You may be wondering if an MBA with an accounting concentration makes sense. It depends on your career preferences.
Master in Accounting – The Gold Standard
If your goal is to pass the CPA Exam on the first attempt and work successfully in public accounting, there is no better way to fulfil your educational requirements than a Master in Accounting at a top ranking business school.
A Master in Accounting is an intensive graduate program requiring a Bachelor Degree in Accounting or a business related topic for admission. If your Bachelor Degree is in something other than accounting, you will more than likely have to take a few undergraduate accounting courses are prerequisites.
Earning this degree typically requires 12-24 months depending on the curriculum.
Many universities are offering a combined Bachelor (BS) / Masters (MS) program in accounting. This is the CPA Degree of choice. At a program like this you will move directly from your four undergraduate years directly into a year of graduate work at the same school. This has advantages.
A Master in Accounting offers a level of professional respect you won’t get from either of the two previous options. A Certified Public Accountant with a Master in Accounting has a professional advantage over a CPA without one, it’s that simple.
CPA Degree – Summary
Of the three major CPA degree options, a Master in Accounting stands out as the best way to prepare for a successful public accounting career. Combined Bachelor (BS)/ Masters (MS) programs simplify the process and offer the most efficient method for meeting the strict educational requirements of your State Board of Accountancy while preserving your ability to enjoy your college experience.