Insights from the Girard School of Business

A master’s in accounting degree can help satisfy the 150-hour education requirement needed to sit for the CPA exam. It may also help fulfill continuing education hours needed for those who are already licensed CPAs in Massachusetts.

It’s important to understand that earning an online Master of Science in Accounting doesn’t guarantee that you’ll pass the CPA exam. That is up to each individual student. However, a quality graduate program provides graduates with the expertise they need to succeed in the field.

How to Become a CPA in Massachusetts 

To sit for the CPA exam, students need to complete 150 credit hours of higher education with specific coverage in accounting and business. Typically, that means completing both a bachelor’s program and a master’s in accounting program. Merrimack College provides a master’s degree program online and has an on-campus  Undergraduate Accounting program. Why 150 hours? According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), that’s what is required “to obtain the required body of knowledge and to develop the skills and abilities needed to be successful CPAs.”

Meeting the Education Requirement for a CPA 

Students have a variety of ways to complete the 150-hour education requirement. For example, they can earn an undergraduate degree and graduate degree at one university, or they may earn each of these at separate schools. Students can also enter a special 5-year program that leads to earning a master’s in accounting degree.

A common situation involves someone who has earned an undergraduate degree in one major but decides to pursue a master’s degree in accounting. Any of these can satisfy the educational requirement to sit for the CPA exam, according to the AICPA.

Those Who Already Have a CPA

A master’s in accounting degree can also satisfy another important educational requirement for the CPA.  Once you have earned your CPA, each graduate credit you earn can count for 15 continuing professional education (CPE) hours. In other words, four graduate-level credits in accounting or business will earn a student 60 CPE hours. CPAs are required to earn 80 CPE hours over a two-year period to renew the CPA license.

The Value of Becoming a CPA in Massachusetts 

Becoming a CPA in Massachusetts is well worth the effort. The mean annual wage for accountants in Massachusetts was $81,460 in May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The national mean annual wage is $78,820. Those on the high end of the salary range in Massachusetts, which is where you find most CPAs, make more than $96,500 per year. Also, the Boston area is one of the top 10 metro areas in the country for accountant jobs.

The AICPA notes that the level of education needed to meet the education requirements for a CPA is appropriate because accountants today must have a high level of technical competence coupled with a commitment to service. They also need expertise in communication, working in teams, and analytical skills. “Employers are looking for individuals who have the ability to analyze and evaluate complex business problems and the interpersonal skills and maturity to make decisions in a client- and customer-service environment,” according to the AICPA.

Those are exactly the type of skills students develop in a graduate-level program. For accountants who want to meet the education requirements to take the CPA or to earn the needed continuing education requirements to renew a CPA license, a master’s degree can provide them with the education they need.