Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) not only takes a great deal of hard work, but a great many skills. You have to know how to analyze and research facts and figures and be able to explain your findings in a way that others can understand. You will also need a keen understanding of new technologies.
But how do you go about becoming a CPA? Many states have similar requirements, but we will focus on what you need to do to obtain a license and practice in Massachusetts.
What Does a CPA Do?
A CPA is many things to many different types of businesses. Some CPAs work for small companies, while others serve as key executives for major corporations. A CPA is not only a decision-maker, he or she also serves as a consultant.
A CPA position can often open the door to much bigger roles, such as a chief financial officer or chief executive officer. The Federal Bureau of Investigation often hires CPAs to investigate potential fraud.
In a nutshell, CPAs are critical to the success of nearly every type of company.
Putting Your Plan Together
In order to become a CPA, you will need many credit hours of education. You will also have to fulfill a work experience requirement before you will be able to obtain your license. Depending on the state, that could take anywhere from six months to two years.
While educational requirements can vary from state to state, every prospective CPA has to take what is known as the Uniform CPA Examination. It does not matter what state you live in — you have to pass this test before you can become a CPA. But before you can take the exam, your state’s board of accountancy will have to verify that you’ve met your educational requirements.
Applying for a Massachusetts CPA License
In Massachusetts, you have to complete 150 semester hours of post-secondary education in order to apply for a CPA license. This has to include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
Facing a shortage of CPAs in the state, the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy amended its education requirements in regard to the CPA exam in 2006. Instead of having to complete all 150 hours before being eligible to take the exam, students can now take the exam as long as they have completed 120 hours.
But That’s Not All
In addition to completing 120 hours of education, prospective CPAs have to achieve one of the following additional requirements.
Option 1 – Earn a graduate degree in accounting from an accredited school. If the school is not accredited, it must be approved by either the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy or a credentialing committee that the Board appoints.
Option 2 – Earn a graduate degree in business administration or law from an accredited school. This must include either 30 undergraduate hours of accounting courses or 18 hours of graduate courses in accounting.
Option 3 – Earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school that includes 30 hours of accounting courses. Students must take courses in management accounting, taxation, auditing and financial accounting. Students also have to take 24 hours of business classes in areas other than accounting. These include information systems, finance and business law. At least one course must be in one of the following areas — professional ethics, business communication or business organizations.
As you can see, the road to becoming a CPA is anything but easy. But if you are committed and willing to put in the work, the rewards could be substantial.
Learn more about Fitchburg State University’s online MBA in Accounting program.
AICPA: What Is a CPA and What Do They Do?
CPA Accounting Institute for Success: How to Become a CPA in the USA: A Step-by-Step Guide
National Association of State Boards of Accountancy: Massachusetts