The US CPA qualification is a globally recognized credential that is useful not only to auditors, but also to financial professionals. Is CPA for non accounting majors and non-accountants a possibility?
It is Getting Tougher … A Lot Tougher
I am an Economics major and only took 1 quarter (2 credit hours) of basic accounting course at school, but I manage to become a CPA by taking extra courses.
I am a living example of how an non-accounting major can become a Certified Public Accountant. State Boards, however, have been tightening up the rules. We need to find creative ways to achieve our goals.
The CPA Exam Requirements
In order to become a CPA, you’ll need to fulfill the 3Es:
For education, you must have at least a 4-year bachelor degree together with minimum accounting and business credit hours, as well as 150 credit hour of general higher education. For the exam, you need to pass all 4 parts of the Uniform CPA exam. And lastly, for the experience, you’ll be completing 1 to 2 years of experience that is relevant and properly verified.
For non-accounting majors, the bottle neck is likely, first, the minimum accounting credit hours, and second, the 150 credit hour requirement, and third, the relevant experience.
1. Fulfilling the Education Requirements
The most logical way to get around is to pick a state that requires the least accounting courses:
- Maine: 15 credit hours
- Hawaii: 18 credit hours
- Georgia: 20 credit hours
- Massachusetts: 21 credit hours
- Alaska: there is a path for non-accounting major
Here is the catch:
Maine. They have lenient accounting educational requirements, but much stricter experience requirements. Maine asks for at least 2 years of public accounting experience with 4,000 hours of audit compilation.
Georgia. The state board requires these 18 credit hours to be upper-division courses, meaning they only count the intermediate and advanced courses, the ones offered in the third or fourth year of college. In practice, you will need to take a lot more than the required 18 credit hours in accounting to get qualified.
Massachusetts. MA has specific rules on which course to take. In this case the coursework must include financial accounting, audit, management accounting, and taxation.
Alaska. Alaska requires 15 accounting credit hours for accounting majors, 24 hours for those concentrating in Accounting. There is even a path for non-accounting majors (<15 accounting credits) but the candidate MUST have at least 1 year of public accounting experience.
As you see, there are quite a few restrictions from these state boards. So let’s take a look at the second option.
2. Making Up for Accounting Courses
Remember that I mentioned about the 150 credit hour of general higher education? This is part of the CPA education requirements, meaning that if you have a standard 4-year bachelor degree, that is, 120 credit hours of education, you still need to get 30 extra credits to qualify. Thankfully, for these 30 credit hours, it can be non-degree courses and in any discipline as long as they are taken from a regionally accredited educational institution.
If you are lacking both the 30 credit hours and some accounting courses, then you might solve the two issues together with one solution — take additional accounting courses.
This way, you can reach the 150 credit hours AND fulfill the necessary accounting credits at the same time. The studying helps directly in your CPA exam preparation as well.
Once you reach the standard requirement, you have a lot more state boards to choose from, many with flexible working experience requirement that can accelerate your path to become a fully licensed CPA.
3. Completing the Experience Requirements
As a non-accounting major, chances are that you may not be working as an accountant. If this is the case, then you might need to check out the specific experience requirements before proceeding.
These days, almost all state boards accept a more general definition of relevant experience – public accounting is the most relevant, but accounting in corporate and governmental agencies are now counted. In some cases, academic positions in universities can also be accepted.
To find out more about the experience requirements, potential obstacles and solutions, please check out the first link below with further explanation on rules and remedies.
For Your Further Reading
- How to take extra accounting courses to fulfill the 150-hour requirements
- States with flexible working experience requirement
- 50 most sought-after questions from CPA candidates
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