CARROLL SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
Guide to Meeting
Certified Public Accountant
Prof. Billy S. Soo
Accounting Department Chair
Revised: October 28, 2009
The purpose of this guide is to assist students interested in becoming a Certified Public
Accountant (CPA). Requirements to become a CPA vary by state and may change over
time. It is therefore an excellent idea to check the State Board of Accountancy’s web site
in the state you plan to practice for the latest requirements (google: ‘state’ board of
accountancy, e.g., MA state board of accountancy). An appendix of selected state CPA
web sites is provided at the end of the document.
Given the large number of BC students that end up practicing in Massachusetts and New
York, the specific CPA requirements for these states are discussed in this guide. Most
other states follow a similar set of rules but the student should check with their respective
state boards to ensure that they have satisfied all the requirements. If after reading this
guide you are still uncertain as to how you will be able to meet the CPA requirements,
please consult your accounting professor or seek assistance from the Accounting
Department in Fulton 520.
General CPA Licensure Requirements. Most states impose the following
requirements to become licensed as a CPA:
Be of good moral character.
Minimum age, typically 18 or 21.
Bachelor’s or baccalaureate degree (not limited to business).
Minimum total credit hours (usually 150) including separate minimums in
accounting and business.
Specific topical coverage of accounting and business courses.
Minimum work experience.
Pass the CPA exam.
Some of the requirements may be waived if the candidate meets a more stringent set of
requirements. For example, in Massachusetts, candidates with a graduate degree in
accounting from an accredited institution (e.g., BC’s MSA program) automatically satisfy
the minimum credit and topical coverage requirements and do not require any work
experience to qualify for the CPA.
The requirements for taking the exam may be a sub-set of the requirements for CPA
licensure, thereby allowing a candidate to take the exam even prior to satisfying all of the
CPA certification requirements. In the states of Massachusetts and New York, for
example, students need only 120 credit-hours to take the exam but would need 150 credit-
hours to qualify for the CPA. This distinction will be discussed in the next section.
Massachusetts (MA) CPA Requirements.
1. Exam Requirements – To sit for the CPA exam in MA, a candidate must:
• be at least 18 years old;
• complete at least 120 semester hours of course work;
• complete all the requirements for a bachelor’s degree;
• complete at least 21 semester hours of accounting including coverage in
financial accounting, management (cost) accounting, auditing and taxation; and
• complete at least 9 semester hours in business including coverage in business
law, finance and information systems.
A BC undergraduate accounting major who takes all the required accounting
courses (MA021, MA022, MA301, MA302, MA307, MA405) and both
Accounting Information Systems (MA320) and Auditing (MA309) will satisfy
these examination requirements.
A candidate can apply (but not sit) for the exam prior to receiving the
undergraduate degree provided he/she submits the final transcript within 90 days of
taking the exam. The candidate will also need to submit a notarized certificate of
enrollment signed by the department chair. Exam application forms are available
online from the National State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) website:
Although some states now allow candidates to sit for the exam with a reduced
set of requirements, it does not mean that a student should rush to take the
exam. Historical test results show that students with a graduate degree (150
credits compliant) pass the exam at a higher rate than students with only an
2. CPA Certification Requirements – To be licensed as a CPA in MA, a candidate must:
• pass the CPA exam (and therefore meet all of the requirements to take the
• complete one year of public accounting experience (no experience is required
with a graduate degree in accounting, business or law);
• complete at least 150 semester (225 quarter) hours of course work within 3
years of passing all four parts of the exam;
• meet at least one of the following educational requirements:
o obtain a graduate degree in accounting from an AACSB accredited
accounting program or one that has been approved by the Massachusetts
Board of Public Accountancy (BC’s MSA program meets this
o obtain a graduate degree in business administration (e.g., MBA, MSF,
MST) of which 18 graduate (or 30 undergraduate) semester hours are in
accounting with specific coverage of financial and managerial
accounting, auditing and taxation, and 18 graduate (24 undergraduate)
semester hours are in business. A combination of graduate and
undergraduate credits may be used to meet the requirements --- each
undergraduate credit is equivalent to 3/5 of a graduate credit;
o obtain an undergraduate degree in business of which 30 semester hours
are in accounting with specific coverage of financial and managerial
accounting, auditing and taxation, and 24 semester hours are in business
courses other than accounting with specific coverage of business law,
information systems, finance and coverage in at least one of the areas of
economics, business organizations, professional ethics and/or business
o obtain an undergraduate degree in any non-business field but with 30
semester hours in accounting with specific coverage of financial and
managerial accounting, auditing and taxation, and 24 semester hours are
in business courses other than accounting with at least three semester-
hours in the areas of business law, business information systems,
professional ethics and finance.
All education credits must be completed at a nationally or regionally
accredited institution but are not limited to the candidate’s degree-granting
institution. Credits taken at a two-year accredited school (or overseas as
part of an exchange program) are accepted only if transferred and
recognized by a nationally or regionally accredited institution.
New York (NY) CPA Requirements
1. Exam Requirements – To sit for the CPA exam in New York, a candidate must:
• complete at least 120 semester hours of course work and
• complete at least a course in each of the following accounting topical areas:
financial accounting, cost or management accounting, audit and attestation and
taxation. Audit and taxation must be taken in the junior or senior year.
A BC undergraduate accounting major who takes all the required accounting
courses (MA021, MA022, MA301, MA302, MA307, MA405) and Auditing
(MA309) will satisfy these examination requirements.
A candidate must have graduated and received his undergraduate degree prior to
applying for the exam. A minimum average grade of C (B) is required on all
undergraduate (graduate) accounting classes to be able to sit for the exam.
2. CPA Certification Requirements – To be licensed as a CPA in New York, a candidate
• be of good moral character;
• be at least 21 years old;
• pass the CPA exam;
• have at least one year of qualifying experience (according to New York
requirements, working for a public accounting firm will suffice even if you do
not practice auditing);
• meet at least one of the following requirements:
o complete at least 15 years of public accounting experience acceptable to
the State Board for Public Accountancy;
o obtain a bachelor’s or higher degree and complete 150 semester hours of
course work including 33 semester hours in the professional
accountancy content areas, which include but is not limited to the
following subjects: financial accounting and reporting, cost or
managerial accounting, taxation, auditing and attestation services,
fraud examination, internal controls and risk assessment, and
accounting information systems, and 36 semester hours in general
business courses including but is not limited to business statistics,
business law, computer science, economics, finance, management,
marketing, operations management, organizational behavior,
business strategy, quantitative methods, and information technology
systems. The curriculum must also include coverage in
business/accounting communications, ethics/professional
responsibility and accounting research.
All education credits must be completed at an accounting program that is
registered by the NY Department of Education as licensure-qualifying or
equivalent to a registered program, or at an accounting program that is
accredited by a body accepted by the Department (e.g., AACSB). Boston
College satisfies this requirement.
MEETING THE CPA REQUIREMENTS AT BOSTON COLLEGE
Undergraduate Degree in Accounting only – A BC undergraduate with a
concentration in accounting is required to take the following six courses:
MA021 – Introduction to Financial Accounting
MA022 – Introduction to Managerial Accounting
MA301 – Financial Accounting Standards & Theory I
MA302 – Financial Accounting Standards & Theory II
MA307 – Managerial Cost Analysis
MA405 – Federal Taxation
plus one elective from:
MA 309 – Auditing
MA 320 – Accounting Information Systems
MA 351 – Financial Statement Analysis
MA 602 – Accounting Theory
1. Qualifying for the CPA Exam Only. To meet the requirements for taking the
CPA exam in MA, a BC undergraduate must take both Auditing (MA309) and
Accounting Information Systems (MA320). In addition, the student must take five
classes every semester including their senior year. Ignoring Advance Placement
(AP) credits, withdrawals and overloads, the student should graduate with the
minimum 120 credit-hours (5 classes/semester x 3 credits/class x 8 semesters) and
satisfy the 21 Accounting and 9 general business credit requirements to sit for the
In NY, a BC undergraduate needs only to take the six required classes plus
Auditing (MA309) and graduate with 120 semester-credits to qualify to sit for the
It bears repeating that while a candidate can qualify to sit for the CPA exam
with a minimal set of credits (120 in most cases), it does not mean that the
student has learned all that will be covered in the exam. Historical test results
show that the odds for passing the exam are much higher if a student has
satisfied the 150 credits and taken additional accounting classes beyond the
As of October 1, 2009, 23 states now allow candidates to sit for the CPA exam
with only 120 hours of course work (but still require 150 for certification). These
states are AK, AZ, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IA, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND,
NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, VA, WA. Note that each state may also impose minimum
accounting and/or business credit hour requirements on top of the 150 required
2. Qualifying for CPA licensure. The two key education constraints in meeting the
requirements for CPA licensure are the 150 credit hour requirement and the
minimum credit hours in Accounting. A BC undergraduate will be unable to meet
the requirements for CPA licensure unless the student obtains 30 additional credit
hours from a combination of AP credits, overloads, and summer or on-line courses.
(i) The first step in determining how close a student is to meeting the 150 credit
hour requirement is to obtain a copy of the transcript or degree audit and count the
number of AP credits and courses taken. Projecting a regular five three-credit
course load throughout the four years, a BC student will graduate with a total 120
credit hours. The number of AP credits recognized (“flipped”) on the transcript
plus the total projected credit hours at graduation will determine the number of
remaining classes to be taken after graduation to meet the 150 hour requirement.
Note that while AP credits may be recognized without limit for purposes of waiving
out of core classes, Boston College imposes a minimum number that it will
recognize on the transcript. Starting with the class of 2011, Boston College will
recognize for advance standing (and therefore reflected on the transcript) students
with 24 or more AP credits (18 AP credits was the minimum for the class of 2010
or earlier). For students intending to take the CPA exam, the registrar has agreed
to lower the minimum number of AP credit it will recognize on the transcript to 15.
The recognition of this lower threshold of AP credits can only be done after you
graduate (which means it can not be used for advance standing). Prior to the end
of the spring semester of your senior year, you must notify the accounting
department chair and secretary of your wish to have your AP credits recognized
for purposes of the CPA exam. The list will then be forwarded to the Office of
Student Services. Assuming you have at least 15 credits, that request will be
(ii) A student with 30 or more AP credits should be able to satisfy the 150 hour
requirement easily without overloads. However, the student should consult with an
accounting faculty advisor to ensure that the minimum 30 (33 in NY) accounting
credits and required course coverage are also satisfied within the four-year
For those with 15-29 AP credits (or a combination of at least 15 AP and college
credits totaling 135-149), students will be able to meet the 150 hour requirement by
taking no more than five classes in the summer term after their senior year.
For those with less than 15 AP credits, students will need at least two terms (e.g.,
summer and fall) to meet the 150 hour requirement.
It is important to remember that meeting the 150-hour rule is not the goal ---
passing the CPA exam is. Meeting the 150-hour requirement but failing the
CPA exam results only in wasted time and costs. Hence, the student should
avoid overloading and/or taking useless or less rigorous courses just to meet
the 150 hour requirement at the expense of taking courses that are relevant to
their careers and that would help them pass the CPA exam.
iii) In addition to having at least 150 total credit hours, a CPA candidate must also
take a minimum number of credits in business and accounting with specific
coverage of certain topics. In MA, CPA candidates must have at least 24 semester
hours of non-accounting business courses. For students intending to practice in
MA, this requirement is met easily by the management core.
NY state requires at least 36 non-accounting business credits. The management
core requires only 30 credits (plus 3 more if you’ve taken Portico). Hence, in
addition to meeting the management core, NY candidates will need to take two
additional business courses. The department recommends that a student take
Business Law II (MJ022) which is covered in the CPA exam and/or a business
communications course (such as the Business Writing course offered by the English
Department - EN588 and CSOM – MH588), which is a topical requirement in NY
iv) In MA, the minimum number of accounting credits is 30 with specific coverage
of financial accounting, audit, taxation and management accounting. Because
accounting majors are required to take only seven accounting classes to receive the
concentration, they must take at least three additional accounting courses in order to
meet this requirement.
NY state requires 33 credits in “professional accounting” content areas, with at least
topical coverage of accounting research, ethics/professionalism and business or
accounting communication. Ethics and professionalism and business or accounting
communication can be satisfied by accounting or general business courses.
Because an accounting concentration requires only seven accounting classes, a
student intending to practice in NY must take four additional accounting classes.
To meet the 33 credits in Accounting, the department recommends that a student
take a business or accounting communication class (either as part of the business
core requirement if offered by the school or as part of the accounting requirement if
offered by the Accounting department) and the ethics & professional responsibility
class (MA634). We currently anticipate that the accounting research requirement
will be satisfied by the Federal Taxation class (MA405). Note that Accounting
Information Systems (MA 320) and FAST III (MA601) are not required by NY
state but is highly recommended because of its coverage in the CPA exam.
Because some of these classes are not offered every semester, it is also important
that the student plan his/her courses carefully to ensure he/she takes the required
courses when they are available.
Graduate Accounting Courses at Boston College – To enable students to meet
the 150 hour requirement, the Accounting department offers a large number of
graduate courses over the summer (and the fall and spring semesters). The
maximum number of classes a student can take over the summer is five. Therefore,
a student who needs less than 15 credits (five classes) to reach 150 can meet this
threshold by taking classes in the summer after their senior year. Students who
need more than 15 credits (six or more classes) will need two terms to reach 150.
Boston College offers a Masters of Science in Accounting program for qualified
applicants (see www.bc.edu/msa for more details). For as few as eight courses
taken over two terms, students can satisfy the 150 hour requirement and receive an
MSA degree from Boston College. Students can complete their MSA degree over
summer-fall, fall-spring-summer or summer-summer. At least one summer term is
required because certain required courses are offered only in the summer. Consult
the MSA co-directors (Prof. Ron Pawliczek and Jeff Cohen) and the Graduate
Programs Admissions Office if you would like more information on the MSA
program at BC.
A student who completes the MSA degree at Boston College will automatically
satisfy all the education requirements of the MA CPA. Candidates for NY state
will also be able to satisfy their requirements but must select the right combination
BC undergraduates who need less than eight courses and do not wish to pursue an
MSA degree to reach the 150 hours can take classes at Boston College as special
students. However, they will need to apply to the Graduate Programs Office as a
special non-degree student before they will be allowed to register for the classes.
Application forms will be available in the Graduate Programs and department
offices starting early spring semester (expected due date of March 1).
Planning your Courses - A checklist is provided in Appendix A to help determine
whether all education requirements are satisfied by students intending to take the
CPA exam in MA or NY. For other states, please consult the respective state
boards of accountancy (or NASBA web site) for specific course requirements. If
necessary, consult an accounting professor if you are uncertain.
Appendix B provides a list of all accounting courses offered at Boston College and
the term(s) when they are normally offered to help you plan your schedule. Note
that certain classes are offered only once or twice a year. Students intending to go
abroad should therefore plan accordingly.
INTRODUCTION TO THE CPA EXAM
Elements of the CPA Exam. The CPA exam is a common exam recognized by all
55 U.S. jurisdictions (50 states plus District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S.
Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands). While
individual states or jurisdictions may impose different education and/or experience
requirements, the CPA exam is recognized in all states regardless of where you take
and pass it. Keep in mind however that some states may require CPA candidates to
complete the education and/or experience requirements within a limited time period
after passing the exam.
There are four parts to the CPA Exam. A minimum grade of 75 is required to pass
each part. A description of each part from the AICPA is provided as well as the
corresponding BC courses that cover the material follows:
1. Auditing and Attestation (AUD). This section covers knowledge of auditing
procedures, generally accepted auditing standards and other standards related to
attest engagements, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge. Covered by
MA309 (Audit and Assurance) and MA320 (Accounting Information Systems). For
the MSA: MA815 (Financial Auditing), MA818 (Accounting Information Systems)
and MA825 (Assurance & Consulting Services).
2. Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). This section covers knowledge of
general business environment and business concepts that candidates need to know
in order to understand the underlying business reasons for and accounting
implications of business transactions, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.
Covered by MA022 (Managerial Accounting) and MA307 (Managerial Cost
Analysis). For the MSA: MA817 (Internal Cost Management) and MA827
3. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR). This section covers knowledge of
generally accepted accounting principles for business enterprises, not-for-profit
organizations, and governmental entities, and the skills needed to apply that
knowledge. Covered by MA301 (FAST 1), MA302 (FAST 2), MA601 (FAST 3),
MA351 (FSA) and MA602 (Accounting Theory). For the MSA: MA813 (FAP1)
MA814 (FAP2), MA601, MA602 and MA824 (FSA).
Note: IFRS will be covered in the CPA exam beginning January 2011.
4. Regulation (REG). This section covers knowledge of federal taxation, ethics,
professional and legal responsibilities, and business law, and the skills needed to
apply that knowledge. Covered by MJ021 (Business Law I), MJ022 (Business Law