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Business Administration

Becoming a CPA in Massachusetts - A Profession on the Move: 

Forces such as technology and globalization have drastically changed the business world. More and more, businesses need the expertise that CPAs, as trusted business advisors, can provide. The CPA profession is also changing to ensure that CPAs of the future have the skills and knowledge needed to meet ever-changing client demands. Read on to find the answers to some commonly asked questions about the changing requirements for becoming a CPA in Massachusetts.

What are the general requirements for becoming a CPA?

All candidates for certification must meet specific educational requirements and pass the Uniform CPA Exam. In addition, experience in the practice of public accounting may be required, depending on your educational background.

What is the education requirement for becoming a CPA?

Candidates wishing to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam in Massachusetts are required to have 150 credit hours of college level education. The 150-hour requirement is a result of the growing demand for CPAs to provide clients with a wide range of professional services. CPAs are required to make increasingly complex and technical judgments, creating the need for professionals with diverse skills and a broad educational background. The additional education requirement is designed to meet this need.

Does this mean that I will need a graduate degree to become a CPA?

NO, the only degree required for certification is a bachelor's degree. However, the skills and knowledge usually developed in a graduate program (e.g., Masters of Accounting, Masters in Tax, MBA, law degree) may be very useful in helping CPAs to meet client demands. For this reason, the Massachusetts Society of CPAs strongly encourages a graduate education.

Does my college-level education need to include specific coursework?

It depends; the new requirements vary based on the highest degree you obtain. Summary information is provided below. See http://www.mass-cpa-ed-reqs.info/ for additional guidance.

If you obtain a graduate degree in accounting from an AACSB accredited accounting program, or one approved by the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy, you will not need to meet specific course requirements.

If you earn a graduate degree in business administration or law from an accredited college or university, or in accounting from an accounting program from an accredited college or university that has not been approved by the Board, you will need 18 semester hours (27 quarter hours) of accounting at the graduate level or 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) at the undergraduate level. These courses must include coverage in financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and management accounting. Elementary or introductory accounting courses do not qualify for this course requirement. In addition, you must have an additional 24 semester hours of business courses at the undergraduate level or 18 semester hours at the graduate level.

If your highest degree is a bachelor's degree in business, you will need 24 semester hours in both accounting and business courses. The accounting courses must include the content specified in the preceding paragraph. The business courses must include coverage in business law, quantitative applications in business, information systems, finance, and coverage in at least one of the areas of economics, business organizations, professional ethics, and/or business communication. If your degree is not in business, your 24 semester hours in accounting must include at least three semester hours in each of the subject areas of financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and management accounting; and your 24 semester hours in business must include at least three semester hours in each of the areas of business law, business information systems, professional ethics and finance.

How do I know if my accounting program is accredited by the AACSB or approved by the Board?

Check with the administrator of your program, or obtain a list of accredited and approved programs from the Board of Public Accountancy or from the Massachusetts Society of CPAs

(http://www.mass-cpa-ed-reqs.info/ ). The AACSB web site (www.aacsb.edu) also lists accredited accounting programs.

How does my level of education affect the experience requirement for certification?

The experience requirement for certification is one year. However, if you have a graduate degree in accounting, business or law, there is no experience required for certification. In all cases, if you intend to be associated with the issuance of financial statements, you will be required to complete 1000 hours in the report function of full disclosure financial statements within three years prior to accepting a report engagement.

How do the requirements differ if I sat for the CPA exam before the 150-hour requirement became effective?

If you sat for the CPA exam before July 1, 2002, you will not be subject to the 150-hour requirement. You will, however, be subject to the rules in existence before July 1, 2002, that require you to have at least 24 semester hours in accounting subjects, including at least six semester hours of financial accounting, and three semester hours in each of the areas of audit, tax, and in any other advanced accounting area. However, keep in mind that if you do not meet the 150-hour requirement you will be subject to the pre- July 1, 2002, experience requirements. This means that you will need three years of experience (or two with a graduate degree) to become certified. Given this tradeoff, the knowledge and expertise you will gain from advanced studies, and the additional career benefits associated with a graduate degree, it may make sense for you to satisfy the 150-hour requirement even if you took the exam before July 1, 2002.

Once I'm certified, do I have to do anything to maintain my license?

The need to enhance your skills and knowledge doesn't end with certification. Once licensed, every CPA is required to obtain at least 80 hours of acceptable continuing education in each two-year period preceding re-licensing. In addition, every CPA is required to adhere to a code of professional conduct that helps to maintain integrity and dignity in the profession. Finally, CPAs in the practice of public accounting (or their firms) are required to undergo a quality review process within three years prior to applying for license renewal.

What if I move to another state? Will my license transfer with me?

Reciprocity, or the recognition of your Massachusetts license in another state, is ultimately the decision of the licensing board in your new state. However, since almost all states have adopted the 150-hour education requirement, it is likely that if you meet the new certification requirements for Massachusetts you will be able to obtain a license in another state.

Where do I find out more information about becoming a CPA?

If you are interested in obtaining information about sitting for the Uniform CPA Exam, visit the MSCPA's student web site www.CPATrack.com where you will find a link to the AICPA's exam web site www.cpa-exam.org.  CPATrack.com will also provide you with information about how to have your transcript pre-evaluated to determine if you meet the academic requirements and where to go to have your course work evaluated if you attended a foreign university.

If you have specific questions about any licensing requirements, you should visit the Board of Public Accountancy web site www.mass.gov/dpl/boards/pa or contact the Board at:
Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy
239 Causeway Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114
617.727.1806

Why should I join the Massachusetts Society of CPAs?

The Society is the only professional organization representing CPAs in Massachusetts. Membership provides you with information, education, opportunities for professional growth and development, and a strong voice in front of the legislature and public. In short, the Society will help you to meet your career and personal goals as a CPA. There are various categories of membership available, including student and associate memberships. To receive membership information and an application, contact the Membership Department at 1.800.392.6145 or visit www.MSCPAonline.org/join.php.

Information provided by the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy

Updated February 2005