Do you need extra accounting credits for CPA exam? How to make up to the 150 semester hour requirement? Here are a few tested and proven ways that work.
CPA Requirements: An Overview
Most State Boards require candidates to fulfill 150 credit hours. For a typical bachelor degree holder, this means 30 credit hours of extra courses is necessary.
The good news is that you have much flexibility to get this done: courses from a regionally accredited college, university and other educational institutions are all fine. It can be online / long-distance or on campus.
I discuss the definition and updates of the 150 credit hour requirement here. For practical ways to get the credits done, here are my suggestions.
1. Credits for CPA exam via Local Community Colleges
If you live in the US and prefer a classroom setting, the nearby community colleges is a good choice.
- Traditional Classroom Setting. You may prefer the traditional on-campus instruction to online courses.
- Big Saving. Most community colleges offer substantial saving to 4-year conventional colleges.
- Extra Benefits. Get the perks such as the library, the athletic facilities and other activities.
- Inflexible. It’s hard to attend the courses if you have busy schedule.
- Do not offer bachelor / masters degree. If you are aiming for getting a bachelor degree, then you shouldn’t go through community colleges (which gives out associate degrees). Credit transfer is possible if the college has an articulation agreement but it takes more time, money and effort.
- A few state boards (e.g. Louisiana, Nebraska) do not accept courses from community colleges unless the credits are transferred to 4-year college.
- Some states (e.g. New York) accept non-accounting courses you take from community colleges but for core accounting and audit courses they have to be taken in a 4-year universities.
- Correspondence courses from non-US universities (which is likely non-regionally accredited) may or may not be counted. Please check with state board or your evaluator on how this applies to your situation.
2. Credits for CPA Exam via CLEP
This option is available to US candidates only.
CLEP is a credit-by-examination program that can potentially save you a lot of money. Most state boards accept CLEP credits as long as you took actual classes at the same school that accepted the CLEP credits. The school awards you the credits for the class. You can’t submit your CLEP results directly to the board.
Since the rules of CLEP acceptance is different in different states, I cannot provide a more specific suggestion. Please contact your state board for details.
3. Credits for CPA exam via Local Colleges and Universities
If you are aiming for a Masters degree program to fulfill the CPA exam requirements, then I encourage you to explore nearby universities.
They won’t be as affordable as community colleges but their programs will most likely be recognized by the state board. It’s worthwhile to check but they may have evening classes or even online courses that give out the same credit.
How To Pick The Best Program
Here are some suggestions for your research on the local universities:
- Check out the flexibility. As most of you have work and/or family commitment, it is very important to find a school that meets your lifestyle. For example, do they offer evening classes? What is the attendance policy?
- Compare the price. Your goal is to get the credits, not access to a state-of-the-art library in expensive colleges. Tuition fee can vary greatly depending on the facilities. You can also see if you can qualify for any scholarships or financial assistance.
- Arrange a campus visit. It’s always good to get feel of the campus by going on a tour. Check out the class size, the professors and teaching style, as well as the facilities around the campus
- Gather feedback: Do you know anyone who took courses at the school? Do they have a positive, and more importantly, any negative experience that you should be aware of?
4. Get an Extra Degree
There is always an option to get an extra master’s degree in related field, especially if you lack a lot of accounting credits. Afterall, 30 credit hour is one full year of education.
The consideration for choosing a master’s program is different from choosing non-degree classes. For master’s, it is best to have your long-term goal in mind. In other words, the subject you take is something you are interested in and will be value-add to your future career.
Also, the school should ideally have a good career service program. This will help immensely in the future when you attend campus fairs and on-campus interviews. I have more information on accounting career development in this website.
There are two levels of qualifications you need to fulfill for the CPA exam. The first one is the “degree” eligibility and the other one is the number of credit hours required.
If you don’t have a 4-year bachelor degree or equivalent, there isn’t a way to work around it and you have to get an additional degree that is 4 years at a minimum. The easiest solution is to get a 2-year master’s degree.
But if you have a 4-year degree but not the full 150 credit hours requirement, then things are easier because you can choose to get the extra degree, or to save money, simply take non-degree courses.
I Need Specific Tax and Accounting Credits. Can You Help?
For federal taxation courses, I have a related post here.
For general courses in accounting and auditing courses, I have this recommendation:
UNA Professional Accounting Prep Program (Online)
- Each course is counted for 3 credit hours for US$475 (including books).
- These are all upper-division courses and are designed specifically for students to make up for the 150 credit hours.
- The course titles are specific, e.g. US GAAS, federal taxation so you can get specific requirement fulfilled.
- You can work on your own pace (but need to wait till the end of the semester to get the transcript). If you need guidance on which courses to take for your specific state, Professor Greg Carnes from UNA should be able to help you.
- These courses are eligible for Lifetime Learning Credit.
Some insights from a student and CPA candidate:
I did 5 classes. No complaints. I took the 2 taxation classes, business law, audit, and the first financial reporting class.
The quizzes are T or F and as I recall they were all around 20 questions. They went quickly and are timed and mostly around 30 minutes. You can use your materials to answer them, but if you aren’t familiar with the material before taking the quiz that won’t be enough time to find all the answers, or at least that was my experience. The tests were like 30 questions, more like CPA exam format and timed at 2 hours usually. Some of the courses allowed less time and that made it harder to look up answers.
I was 16 units short and I’m so glad I found this option.”
Note: As far as I know, the UNA courses are not recognized by New York and New Hampshire state boards. Please double check before proceeding.
How to Sign Up?
UNA runs this program in partnership with CPAexcel. You can get access through the Wiley CPAexcel main page:
1. Go to the “Resources” tab ->
2. “Earn University Accounting Credit” ->
3. “UNA Professional Accounting Prep Program”
Questions are most welcome in the comment section. Good luck!