When a person is looking into a career as a public account, they might wonder if they need a business degree to become a CPA. In order to obtain certification, future Certified Public Accountant candidates will be required by each state to complete specific requirements in education, experience, and testing.
Certification and Licensing for a CPA
The requirements to be licensed as a Certified Public Accountant vary by state, with the state licensing board determining the requirements for obtaining the certification to practice professionally in public accounting. In most states, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a closely related field is a mandatory qualification.
In addition to completion of an undergraduate degree, a prospective CPA will be required to have a set number of years of experience in the accounting profession, including as a non-public accountant, in order to be considered for licensure. In some states, experience in another profession or industry might also be able to be counted toward the experience requirement. Successful completion of the CPA examination is also required.
The CPA Examination
The CPA examination is a uniform test given to all prospective Certified Public Accountants around the country. The test is administered and developed by the American Institute of CPA and it is designed to ensure that all certified professionals in the field have a solid understanding and grasp of the knowledge and practical skill required in order to complete various accounting tasks. Additional information on the CPA exam can be found at the American Institute of CPAs website.
The 14-hour test covers four sections of the accounting field. Prospective CPAs taking the exam will be tested on auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation. The activities of the test include the analysis of case studies to make recommendations and predict outcomes, which is referred to as the task-based simulation. Additionally, multiple choice questions and short answer responses are included.
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An Undergraduate Degree in Accounting
Completion of a bachelor’s degree in accounting is most often helpful for state licensing, but it can also be beneficial for preparing for the CPA examination. An accounting degree includes a number of courses in general education, general business, and the accounting field specifically. Accounting courses often include international accounting, auditing, information technology systems in accounting, business ethics, income tax, contemporary issues in accounting, and principles of accounting. Future CPAs can also use other business degrees to meet the education requirements for certification.
In addition to an undergraduate level degree in a relevant field area, many states are requiring or will soon require completion of 150 hours of education, which is over the amount of credits required for most bachelor’s degrees. Prospective CPA professionals might continue on to complete a master’s degree to meet the education credit hour requirement or pursue a post-graduate certificate.
With the required hours of education, the right work experience, and successful completion of the CPA examination, most prospective CPAs will be ready to qualify for certification. When determining an answer for an individual wondering if they need a business degree to become a CPA, remember that there are different requirements by state, but a degree in business, accounting, or a similar program will be beneficial.