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CPA Classes and Courses Overview

Certified public accountants (CPAs) must meet their state's specific requirements for coursework and work experience, as well as pass the four parts of the CPA exam. Preparation courses for CPAs are normally taken through a full certificate or degree program.

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Essential Information

Aspiring CPAs normally need to have completed 150 credit hours of coursework, including a significant number of credits in business and accounting classes, to qualify to take the exam. They can meet these requirements by taking business, accounting and finance classes through accountancy degree programs at the bachelor's and master's levels. Bachelor's programs geared toward CPA preparation include additional courses to reach 150 hours and are often combined programs that award students with both bachelor's and master's degrees in accountancy. Continuing education departments at many schools also offer shorter certificate programs that contain courses designed to prepare students for a state's CPA exam.

Bachelor's programs in accounting provide a foundation in introductory through advanced accounting topics. Master's programs go on to cover many of the same topics at an advanced level to prepare students for the complexity of the CPA exam. CPA preparation certificate programs often require or recommend a bachelor's degree in the subject and normally also have advanced accounting coursework.

Here are some concepts that you might expect to study when taking a CPA class:

  • Contracts
  • Applied improvisation
  • Business valuation
  • Fair Value Methods
  • Derivatives
  • Security markets
  • Behavioral finance

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

Overview of CPA Classes

Financial Reporting Course

Financial reporting centers on the accounting and reporting of an organization's income and expenditures. This CPA class explains how to analyze transactions and prepare financial statements according to generally accepted accounting principles. Students learn how to properly comprehend financial accounting information.

Managerial and Cost Accounting Course

Whereas financial accounting prepares information for use outside a company, managerial accounting is performed for the benefit of managers within the company. Students in this class learn to analyze costs and compile budget information to aid in managerial decision-making. They find out how to trace expenditures and profits to individual managers in a process called responsibility accounting. A CPA also uses managerial accounting to evaluate cost to profit ratios and utilization of production capacity.

Income Taxation Course

Tax preparation is a common task for CPAs, so CPA coursework usually includes study of federal income tax law. These courses cover income, deductions, losses, capital gains and tax form preparation methods for both individuals and businesses. Students also learn about losses and timing issues.

Business Law Course

In many states, the education requirements needed to sit for a CPA exam include a business law course. These classes explain the legal rules applying to business operation, including sales, torts and contracts. They provide students with a better understanding of business structure, including how businesses are formed, financed and dissolved. Third-party beneficiary contracts and the law of assignment are among the accounting issues addressed in this class.

Financial Auditing Course

Accountants may be asked to audit an organization's financial records to verify their accuracy. In financial auditing courses, students learn the procedures and standards for independent and internal auditing. These classes also discuss the ethical issues presented in the job and the legal liability of the CPA performing the audit. Case studies are used to demonstrate real-world examples of these concepts.

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