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Schools for Certified Public Accountants (CPA): How to Choose

Bachelor's and master's degree programs, as well as graduate certificate programs, are available to prospective CPAs through business or accounting programs at 4-year colleges and universities.

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At the undergraduate level, students may enroll in programs in accounting or business administration. CPA standards, however, usually require that individuals have more than the minimum bachelor's degree course hour requirements, so aspiring CPAs must enroll in graduate-level programs as well.

Top 10 Accounting Schools

According to U.S. News and World Report, these schools offer the top ten undergraduate programs in accounting, as of 2016:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees (In-state, 2016-2017)*
University of Texas - Austin Austin, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $9,806
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $15,698
Brigham Young University - Provo Provo, Utah 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $5,300
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $51,464
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $52,217
University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $49,685
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $43,476
Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $34,246
New York University New York, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $49,602
St. Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $43,020

Source: U.S. News and World Report

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Accounting with Computers, General
  • Auditing
  • Bookkeeping
  • Financial Accounting
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Taxation, General

School Selection Criteria

Students interested in CPA programs may want to keep these considerations in mind:

  • Because many states require students to complete equal amounts of business and accounting credit hours, business programs offering accounting concentrations may be the best way for students to complete all required courses for CPA exams.
  • In addition to a bachelor's degree program in accounting, students may want to consider post-bachelor's certificate programs or master's degree programs to supplement their credit hours required for the CPA exam.
  • According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than 50% of aspiring CPAs successfully complete the 4-part AICPA exam the first time they take it (www.bls.gov), so students may want to consider programs that offer preparation courses for the CPA exam within the curriculum.

Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration

A bachelor's degree program in business examines global business environments through classes in marketing, management, sales and accounting. Prospective CPAs may choose to concentrate in accounting.

Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

A bachelor's degree program in accounting, particularly those including certification preparation courses, will help prepare students to become CPAs. Students take both accounting and business courses.

Graduate Certificate in Accounting

Graduate certificate programs in accounting provide students with the necessary credits and education to pass the CPA exam. Students lacking business credits may be able to substitute accounting credits for business education credits. These certificate programs commonly cover advanced topics in accounting.

Master's Degree in Accounting

Master's degree programs in accounting incorporate study of financial accounting theory and practice, federal income taxation, securities law and business ethics. In addition to strengthening technical and analytical skills, master's programs fulfill the 150-credit-hour requirement for the CPA exam.

Several highly-ranked public and private 4-year schools offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs to prepare individuals to take the CPA exam. In deciding which school and program is best, students should factor in criteria such as state requirements for the exam and programs with test preparation courses.

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