If you’re in the process of obtaining your CPA license or are thinking about doing so, you know that there are a lot of requirements you have to meet in your state in order to qualify and apply to sit for the CPA Exam. While these requirements vary from state to state, what almost all of them do have in common is having candidates meet the 150-hour education rule. Currently, only the U.S. Virgin Islands is the only U.S. jurisdiction that does not require this.
This rule basically requires that all CPA Exam candidates have a total of 150 semester hours of education under their belts in order to sit for the CPA Exam. Many bachelor degrees or undergraduate programs typically only give students 120 semester hours—meaning they have to obtain an extra 30 semester hours to meet the requirement.
In this article, we’ll talk about why the 150 hour rule is so critical for aspiring CPAs and also the different pathways that candidates take in order to obtain those extra 30 hours.
Why the 150-Hour Rule is so Important
The traditional four-year undergraduate program is simply not adequate enough. Incoming CPAs need additional skills and knowledge to perform their jobs efficiently, which means candidates need to take additional courses from an accredited university to cover topics they weren’t exposed to in their undergrad program. According to the AICPA, here are a few other reasons why expansion of knowledge in certain areas is imperative:
- Significant increases in official accounting and auditing pronouncements and the proliferation of new tax laws have expanded the knowledge base that professional practice in accounting requires.
- Business methods have become increasingly complex. The proliferation of regulations from federal, state, and local governments requires well-educated individuals to ensure compliance. Also, improvements in technology have had a major effect on information systems design, internal control procedures, and auditing methods.
- The staffing needs of accounting firms and other employers of CPAs are changing rapidly. With more sophisticated approaches to auditing now in use, and with the increase in business demands for a variety of highly technical accounting services and greater audit efficiency, the requirements for effective professional practice have increased sharply. The demand for a large quantity of people to perform many routine auditing tasks is rapidly diminishing.
How to meet the 150-Hour Rule
There are a few ways that CPA Exam candidates can meet this requirement. While many candidates think that they must go through a master’s program to do so, this is not the case. Here’s what you can do to make sure you have all the education necessary when you’re ready to apply and sit for the exam.
- Enroll in a specialized or customized undergraduate program that ensures you’ll meet all course and hour requirements.
- Get a bachelor’s degree and take some courses at the graduate level.
- Combine an undergraduate accounting degree with a master’s degree at the same school or different one.
- Combine an undergraduate degree in some other discipline with a master's in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting.
- Enroll in an integrated five-year professional accounting school or program leading to a master's degree in accounting.
We hope you found this helpful and wish you the best of luck on your CPA Exam journey!