Students with a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field have the option of taking the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam to become a CPA or pursue a master's degree in accounting. Some requirements to become a CPA can be fulfilled through a master's degree program.
The CPA Exam vs. Master of Accounting Degree Program
The CPA Exam
Passing the Uniform CPA Exam is one of the steps in the process of becoming a CPA. While this certification is not required in all states to be able to practice accounting, the certification designates an industry standard of qualification and can increase job prospects. The CPA exam is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and contains the same content in every state and territory that it is administered. The exam consists of four sections: Regulation, Financial Accounting and Reporting, Auditing and Attestation, and Business Environment and Concepts. And an examinee must have a score in all four sections of at least 75 from a 0-99 scale to pass.
Master of Accounting
Rather than attempting to become a CPA directly after earning a bachelor's degree, students also have the option to pursue a master's degree in accounting. This program can also prepare you for the CPA exam and may allow you to fulfill the minimum number of educational hours necessary to become a CPA. Common courses might include financial accounting theory, auditing, taxation, and managerial accounting. Some programs may also offer specializations or concentrations within the degree, such as a tax concentration.
Exam and Program Requirements
There are a number of prerequisites students need to complete before they can become a CPA, some of which vary depending on the state. You will most likely need a bachelor's degree in accounting in order to take the exam, but may also need a minimum number of credit hours to become a CPA; a common minimum is 150 educational hours. Beyond educational experience, some states will require you to have one or more years of work experience in the field to qualify. Citizenship, residency, and age requirements can also apply in some states, as well as passing an ethics exam.
To be considered for admission to a master of accounting degree program, you will likely need to have earned a bachelor's degree, though not necessarily in the field of accounting. A GPA minimum of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale may be required, as well as submission of official academic transcripts. Standardized test scores, such as GRE or GMAT scores might also be required with the application, though a minimum score is not common. Additional documentation you might have to provide include letters of reference, personal essays or a statement of intent, and a resume listing relevant personal, educational or work experience.
Upon receiving a bachelor's degree in accounting, it is possible to take the CPA exam and begin the process to become a CPA. A master's degree program in accounting might also help students fulfill requirements in the process, and can further prepare them for the exam.