In order to become a certified public accountant (CPA), students must meet state licensure requirements, which vary by state. Most states require CPAs to have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting and 150 credits of college-level credit before they can sit for the certification exam. Accounting degree programs usually prepare students for this exam, and some master's programs include a CPA exam review course. For admission, programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED for bachelor's programs and a bachelor's degree plus GRE or GMAT scores for master's programs. Exam preparation courses are also available for graduates seeking to become certified public accountants (CPAs).
Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
The first step to becoming a CPA is earning a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Accounting. Both options have a math, business and legal focus, but the B.A. program usually includes more liberal arts courses. Graduates are eligible for entry-level employment and learn how to solve problems, communicate through oral and written means and use necessary technology. Program applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores and show proof of high school graduation for admittance. Most bachelor's degree programs have general education requirements in humanities, social sciences, liberal arts, math and science. Students typically complete these courses in their first two years and take accounting courses as upperclassmen.
- Managerial accounting
- Financial accounting
- Tax treatments
- Reporting finances
- Auditing services
- Corporate finance
Master's Degree in Accounting
Those who hold a Master of Science or Master of Arts in Accounting are further prepared to become CPAs. Graduate level courses cover business topics and give degree earners an advantage in the accounting industry. Many programs include a CPA exam review. Only those with bachelor's degrees and acceptable GMAT or GRE scores are admitted. Master's degree programs in accounting cover accounting topics and the many regulations that govern accounting. Master's degree students do not typically complete general education courses.
- Advanced auditing
- Business law
- Professional ethics
- IRS practice
- Financial reporting
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Accountants work for different types of businesses, including banks, corporations, government and universities. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors earned a mean annual salary of $81,660 in 2020 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the employment of accountants and auditors was expected to rise by 4% for 2019-2029.
For CPA programs, coursework topics and concentration vary according to the level. Additional degrees provide advantages in this competitive industry.