The 150-Hour Education Requirement

by | March 10, 2009

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In 1998, the AICPA membership voted to increase the educational credentials required for certification. It implemented this requirement in response to increases in accounting, auditing and tax regulations, the increasing complexity of the business environment, the advance of technology and to improve the overall quality and breadth of work performed by CPAs. Now, in order to sit for the CPA exam in most states, you must have completed 150 credit hours, or five years, of college-level education. The additional year allows for increased development of communication, analytical and interpersonal proficiencies as well as technical competence.

According to some university career services offices, this requirement of a fifth year of education to sit for or practice as a CPA has inhibited the number of students entering the field. However, while the additional education might seem onerous to some, the good news is that starting salaries for accountants are spiking up to accommodate the increased education and skill levels.

How do you fulfill the requirement?

While the education requirement generally does not call for the attainment of a full master's degree, the most straightforward way of satisfying the requirement (and the way most schools have designed their accounting programs) involves a graduate degree. The 150-hour education requirement may usually be met in the following ways:

  1. Combine an undergraduate accounting degree with a master's degree at the same school or a different one.
  2. Combine an undergraduate degree in a non-accounting discipline with a master's degree in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting.
  3. Enroll in an integrated, five-year professional accounting school or program leading to a master's degree in accounting.

Which jurisdictions support this requirement?

This requirement is in effect in 45 out of the 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Currently, California, Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont and the Virgin Islands do not have the 150-hour requirement in place. In these states, only four years of education (an undergraduate degree) are required to sit for the exam. It should be noted that, since the general AICPA membership voted for and approved this requirement, it is expected that all U.S. states will eventually conform to these requirements.

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