CPA Certification Programs

CPA Certification Prep Programs

While a bachelor's degree in accounting is usually sufficient to become an accountant or auditor, the academic requirements to become a CPA are generally more demanding. Most states require students to earn at least 150 credits in order to satisfy the educational requirements of gaining CPA licensure. As bachelor's programs typically only award 120 credits, this leaves a 30-credit gap that needs to be filled.

Students have several options for gaining the remaining credits. Earning a master's in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting are options. This route can help students gain the remaining credits, while also potentially improving job prospects. Students can also take extra courses during their undergraduate studies, take a handful of graduate accounting and business classes, or enroll in a graduate CPA prep program that awards a certificate.

Some schools even offer a joint bachelor/master's degree program that can typically be finished in five years. Many of these 150 credit hour programs ask students to apply once they have completed the first three years of their undergraduate studies. Some institutions may ask that people take the Graduate Management Admission Test prior to applying.

When looking at programs, it's important to remember that some may only be designed to help satisfy the CPA credit requirements in the school's home state. Contact school admissions counselors and state boards of accountancy to ensure credits earned can be used toward licensure in the state in which you wish to be recognized as a CPA.

CPA Careers

Being a public accountant may entail a number of responsibilities. These tasks can include working on tax forms, balance sheets, providing advice on the positive or negative ramification of a business decision, and even reviewing a company's financial statements and report to investors about the veracity of the information provided. Many public accountants, if they earn the necessary 150 credits of undergraduate work, sit for the Certified Public Accountant exam. While many accountants gain CPA licensure to improve job prospects, it's also required if filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Licensed CPAs may be able to find employment with a variety of different companies, firms, or governmental agencies that need accounting professionals to monitor their finances. Below you will find a table that shows other potential careers an individual who has earned a degree and a CPA license may qualify for.

Accounting Position

Common Duties

Typical Education Requirements

Certification Options


  • Ensure the accuracy of financial statements.
  • Prepare tax returns and make the necessary payments.

Bachelor's Degree

  • The Institute of Internal Auditors offers four certifications: the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), the Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), the Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) and the Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA)
  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Management Accountants

  • Record and review an organization's private financial information.
  • Determine how cost-effective the company's processes are.
  • Help upper-management make financial decisions.

Bachelor's Degree

  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA) from The Institute of Management Accountants
  • Chartered Global Management Accountant from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

Financial Analyst

  • Recommend investment opportunities.
  • Learn about the current trends in the economy and the business world.
  • Speak with investors and answer their queries.

Bachelor's Degree


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012

Job Outlook and Salary for CPAs

Even with a CPA license, there a many different careers someone who earns an accounting degree may apply for. The following table contains a few examples with relevant information about potential salary and job growth.

Accounting Position

Mean Annual Wage

United States

(May 2012)

Projected # of New Jobs

United States


Projected Job Growth Rate

United States


Financial Analysts



23% (Above national average)

Accountants and Auditors



16% (Above national average)

Financial Managers



9% (Below national average)

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012; Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, 2013

* Salaries and employment opportunities may vary based on experience, education, location and other factors.


150 Hour Requirement for Obtaining CPA Certification, American Institute of CPAs, Dec. 21, 2012


American Institute of CPAs, CPA Career Paths, 2006-2013


Accountants and Auditors, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2012


Accountants and Auditors, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012


Financial Analysts, May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013


Financial Analysts, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012


Financial Managers, May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013


Financial Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012