Insights from the Girard School of Business

While a master’s degree program in accounting should not be considered a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam prep program, it can give you the tools you need to pass the CPA exam. That’s a big advantage, as earning a CPA can quickly boost an accountant’s career.

There are many reasons to become a CPA. It some cases, the credential is required to attain a senior level position in accounting. Entering an online master’s degree program in accounting can be a big step in achieving career goals for ambitious accountants.

Why Become a CPA 

Only about half of all accountants pass the CPA exam and those who earn the designation have advantages over those who do not. According to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, those advantages include:

  • More Money. You can earn 10% to 15% more with a CPA license.
  • Earning a CPA shows commitment to being the best in the profession, which in turn can open doors to better positions.
  • CPAs are less likely to lose a job. In fact, the demand is as great as ever.
  • Career development. No matter where a CPA might take you career-wise, the knowledge gained in preparing for the rigorous exam simply makes you a better

How high is the demand? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10% increase in accounting jobs nationwide by 2026. Compensation is competitive as well. In Massachusetts, the mean annual salary for accountants was $81,460 in May 2018. In the Boston metropolitan area, which ranks among the top 10 in the country for accounting jobs, that number was $82,830.

Meet the 150-Hour Requirement 

Sitting for the CPA exam requires earning 150 credit hours. Those hours can be earned in a variety of ways, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). One of the most common is to combine the hours earned in a bachelor’s degree program and a master’s degree program.

The AICPA is a good resource to understand why the 150-hour requirement was developed:

  • The expansion in knowledge base needed because of the increase in official accounting and auditing pronouncements and the proliferation of new tax laws. The increasing complexity of business methods, combined with more regulations at the federal, state, and local government level.
  • Improvements in technology that have had a major effect on information systems design, internal control procedures, and auditing methods.

Enter the Right Master’s Program  

A quality master’s degree program in accounting can equip you with the high-level skills you need to take on the top jobs in accounting. In addition to earning the credit hours required to sit for the CPA exam, students also learn important concepts in accounting and how to apply them.

Students can choose to take preparation courses with various providers to help pass the CPA exam. While Merrimack College’s Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program is not a CPA prep program, the College does have CPA examination preparation partners such as Becker and Wiley that can help you become as ready as possible for the exam.

Earning a CPA can boost your accounting career. By carefully planning out your steps, it’s possible to pass the CPA exam and land a top job in the profession.