There are a number of requirements that need to be met in order to take the exam (Uniform CPA Examination) and earn licensure as a certified public accountant (CPA). The requirements vary somewhat by state or jurisdiction. But, regardless of jurisdiction, coursework is vital, as is applicable work experience.
The process of meeting CPA licensure requirements can be time-consuming, including the substantial education component. An online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an emphasis in accounting is an excellent option for gaining the additional coursework needed to become a CPA, particularly if you hope to one day take a leadership position or even run your own firm.
What Are the Educational Requirements to Become a CPA?
The most basic educational requirement to become a CPA is a bachelor’s degree. Yet a bachelor’s degree alone does not usually include the amount of coursework needed to satisfy the 150 credit hour minimum that all states require for CPA licensure. States also require completion of a certain amount of credit hours in accounting-specific studies. States detail specific accounting courses that students must take in order to apply for licensure.
Further, reflecting the essential importance of ethics in accounting, most states include an ethics exam in their CPA requirements, and some require specific ethics coursework. Ethics requirements are generally based on the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Code of Professional Conduct, although some states have their own ethics codes for CPAs.
How Can I Satisfy the Additional Educational Requirements?
After a bachelor’s is completed, students may opt to take some graduate-level courses, complete a master’s degree or enroll in an accounting MBA program like the one offered fully online by the University of West Florida (UWF). An MBA in accounting provides a versatile, comprehensive approach to business studies while also helping students develop the high-level and technical knowledge required of CPAs.
The general business classes that are a part of an online MBA program help students learn how to manage and work with a variety of people in diverse settings. In addition to gaining knowledge in all functional areas of business administration, students develop critical thinking, decision-making and communication skills. These are important assets for anyone in the business world, especially those in leadership roles.
Sometimes, CPA exam requirements can be met with just a specialized, extended bachelor’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s plus collegiate credit hours from previous or post-undergrad studies. But the 150 credit hour minimum includes more than just accounting and financial coursework. UWF’s MBA with an emphasis in accounting complements undergraduate accounting and business studies, augmenting student knowledge with advanced accounting coursework designed specifically to prepare graduates for the CPA exam.
What About Work Experience?
Experience is also a requirement for those wishing to obtain their CPA license. Most states require at least two years of public accounting experience, according to AICPA. The coursework in an online MBA program can give students the foundational knowledge they need to begin working in the accounting field, in turn fulfilling the requirement for work experience. The well-rounded and varied coursework of an MBA, including business, finance and accounting topics, can be very helpful in a workplace setting, making MBA graduates attractive employees.
Plus, the online design of UWF’s accounting MBA program offers unique benefits. Students who already work in the accounting field can continue to work while earning their degree online. This provides students with the opportunity to apply what they learn directly to their work while, at the same time, satisfying a portion of the work experience requirements for CPA licensure.
The list of CPA requirements is not long, but it is intensive. The required coursework is diverse and contains many classes in advanced and technical accounting. An MBA can help students who wish to take the CPA exam meet the educational requirements with a broad approach that encompasses many aspects of business. This is often a desirable route to CPA licensure because of the many benefits of a comprehensive MBA degree.
Learn more about UWF’s online MBA with an emphasis in Accounting program.