Can You Become a US CPA with 3 Year Degree Alone?

cpa with 3 year degreeCan a 3-year bachelor degree (generally equivalent to an Associate degree) quality to sit for the CPA exam?

I am afraid not.

Since 2012, it has been exceeding hard for 3-year bachelor degree holder to get qualified for the US CPA exam. Delaware, the “last remaining” state that welcome associate degree holders, changed its rules effective August 1, 2012.

How Rules Have Changed in Delaware throughout the Years

There are a lot of outdated information circulating on the Internet related to Delaware CPA exam requirements.

I would like to take the opportunity to clarify using the timeline below — the information you gathered on the Internet may well be correct, but it may not be the most up-to-date.

Before 2006

Working experience was not required to get a Delaware CPA certificate  as long as you are not planning to practice public accounting in Delaware.

After 2006

Since 2006 Delaware has been requiring all candidates to have work experience before getting the CPA qualification by abolishing the so-called two-tier system, which means that you can no longer get a CPA certificate alone, but a full CPA license instead.

With that, each CPA candidate with varying degrees will need to fulfill the following:

  • Masters degree: 1 year of working experience
  • Bachelor degree:  2 years of working experience
  • Associate degree: 4 years of working experience

Please note that the working experience has to be supervised and verified by a CPA license holder (note: CPA certificate holder is not qualified for verification). “CPA equivalent” e.g. Chartered accountants from Canada and Australia are NOT allowed for Delaware.

In terms of the education requirement, Delaware is the easiest to fulfill. Not only that Associate degrees are allowed, the number of account courses required is only 21 semester hours (one of the least, if not the least, among all states) and elementary accounting courses can be counted.

Effective August 1, 2012

Delaware will join the vast majority of states to impose a 150 credit hour requirement on all candidates. If you have an associate degree, got qualified for the CPA exam but don’t manage to pass all  4 parts of the exam before this deadline, you will be allowed to pass the CPA exam but you will not eligible for the CPA license.

It will also be impossible for you to switch to other states because none of the states will accept candidates with only a 3-year bachelor degree.

  • For details, please go to the Delaware CPA Exam Requirements page with links to the primary source e.g. NASBA’s Delaware page and State Board pages.

I have BCOM. Can I Get Qualified At All?

I will take Indian candidate as an example since I get the majority of inquiries from them:

If you are:

  • B.COM only: no (sorry about that) – remedy is to take a 2-year master’s degree, or transfer your credit to a 3-year university, make up a few courses and graduate from there.
  • B.COM + Indian CA: I run out of ideas for you guys, but Leslie-Anne might be able to help if you are willing to sign up CPAexcel courses (there is a 95% refund if you can’ get qualified in the end).
  • B.COM + M.COM: yes it is possible.

For further details specifically for Indian candidates please check out this page here.

I Have a 3 Year Degree and I Got ACCA. Can I Get Qualified?

For non-Indian candidates who went through a 3-year university system, please check out CPA exam exemptions which cover other professional qualifications such as ACCA.

If you are not qualified for any of these exemptions, I am afraid that you will need 2-year master’s degree to fulfill the typical 150 credit hour requirements.

If CPA doesn’t Work, Do You have Other Suggestions for Me?

cpa with 3 year degreeIf you want to go for jobs in the investment field, such as asset management, equity research analyst or hedge fund specialist, then you can consider CFA.

For most of you who are accountants working/plan to work in in corporate/industry, I encourage that you check out the CMA qualification because at least BCOM from a typical university in India, or any 3-year degree from a “decent” university in your country, can get you qualified.

For general info on CMA as well as CMA vs CPA, please click on the respective links which will bring you to our sister site, IPassTheCMAexam.com. Good luck!

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites

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  • Ashish Garg says:

    I am from india and i have done bcom.I am in CA final .Can you please tell me if I do mcom through correspondence will it be counted for 150 hours.

  • Hossain says:

    I am Australian and have degree of Masters in Professional Accounting. Am I eligible ?

  • Daniel Ng says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Q1) I am from Singapore and I have graduated with a Bachelor of Accountancy (three-year direct honours programme) from Nanyang Technological University. My school (Nanyang Business School) happens to be AACSB accredited as well, so do you think I may meet the 120 credit hour requirement?

    Q2) The NASBA International Evaluation Services requires my country (Singapore) to submit my GCE A-level certificate, so is it an indication that it may count towards credit hours? I took 4 GCE Singapore-Cambridge A-level subjects (all my grades are B or A) in the past, so would it like probably add up to approximately 30 credit hours? Do you have any advice whether GCE A-levels may count towards the Education requirement for U.S. CPA?

    Thank you!

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Daniel, it is possible that they count your A-Level plus the 3 years as equivalent to a 4-year bachelor degree. I can’t generalize because it depends on the rules of specific states. But I believe it is possible.

      150 credit hours = master’s degree in the US. Since yours is a bachelor degree, even if you take A-level into account, it doesn’t add up to that in my opinion. So I don’t think you can actually get 150 hours out of all this… but if you could, it would be super 🙂 Please let us know how it goes so I can do a better job answering other’s questions in the future. Thanks!

      • Daniel Ng says:

        Dear Stephanie,

        So sorry for the late reply.

        I got the official reply from NASBA evaluation some time in May, and the breakdown is as follows:
        1) 4 GCE A-levels subject: 4 x 8 credits = 32 credits
        2) 3-years degree course: 95.5 credits for all my university courses
        So in total I was given 127.5 credits, which allows me to apply to Montana State to sit for the CPA examinations.

        I purchased the Gleim materials in March this year, and took all my 4 exams for the first time in 1 window (Jul/Aug). I got 94(BEC), 93(AUD), 85(FAR) and 84(REG). Though I still need to figure out ways to attain the additional 22.5 credits, I’m just so glad that I got over the exam and recently I have started working in one of the Big4s in Japan.

        Lastly, I’m just so glad that I get to know this website and I am really very grateful to you for maintaining this website. Thank you so much!

        Daniel

  • Daniel Ng says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    Thank you so much for your reply!!

    I have just gotten a reply from NIES just this morning that they have received all my related documents and hence will start my evaluation process and let me know the result in 7-8 weeks. Regardless of the outcome, I will let you know again(probably in end March?) on how it turns out at your website, hopefully it will serve as a “reference” for people who are in a similar situation as me.

    And also, I really want to thank you once again for your excellent comparison of the CPA review course. Being a “self-studier”, I have just purchased the Gleim CPA package yesterday and I am working to pass the CPA exam (new syllabus) within this year.

    • Abdullah says:

      Hey Daniel Ng,

      Can you share what was the evaluation of NIES of your Alevel subjects for credit towards sitting for the CPA exam? Also, can you please share the subjects you had taken up in your Alevels.

      I am in a similar situation and would love to know how you dealt with the whole situation. Also I would love to talk to you over a call/email and would appreciate if you can help me.

      • Daniel Ng says:

        Dear Abdullah,

        So sorry for the late reply. As expected, I was given 8 credits for each A-level subject, as I have taken 4 subjects (Biology, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics), I was given a total of 32 credits due to my A-levels subjects.

        Please note that I was not given any credits for AS-level subjects (the content is supposedly to be half of that of A-level examination).

  • Claire says:

    Hello Stephanie,

    Would a distance-learning MBA be considered for the credit hour requirement? I have a 3-year BBA and have passed the CMA exams.

    I’d really appreciate your guidance.

    Thank you

  • Merene Abraham says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am from India and have completed my Bachelors in Science (Chemistry) from University of Madras.The Bachelor’s program in India was a 3 year program. Subsequently I have also completed my MBA with specialisations in Accounting, Finance and Computer Information Systems from California State University, East Bay, Hayward USA in 2004.

    As part of fulfilling the 4 year Bachelor’s degree requirement for the US I have taken pre-requisite courses in Accounting and FInance prior to my entry into the Masters program. Kindly let me know if (1) I would be eligible to appear for the CPA exam (2) if I would have to get my credentials evaluated prior to my application to the CPA program (3) which state out of the 50 states I could apply for a licence (4) which CPA training institute or materials would be most useful in my preparation for the CPA if I were to qualify.(5) if you require copies of my transcripts and certificates for further evaluation.

    Thanks & Regards,

    Merene

  • Mohit says:

    Hi,

    I am an India Student and passed B.com (Pass) in 2007 (3 year degree) and MBA, Finance (2 year degree), am I eligible for CPA exam.

  • Aparna Thyagarajan says:

    Hi
    I am from India and have completed my Bcom (3 Years) + CA Inter.I am currently preparing for my CA Final.
    Can you please guide me as to which are the best states for me to meet the examination evaluation and licensing requirement and also regarding the various evaluating agencies

  • Rajiv says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I have a question. I am in US currently. I have the following credentials. Would i qualify for CPA exams.

    1) Bachelor in Business Studies (3 year)
    2) Post graduate Diploma in Marketing (CIM, UK)
    3) MBA- General Mgmt ( Edinburgh Business School, UK)
    4) And over 10 years work experience in Commercial Banking – a multinational bank.

    First of all is CPA appropriate for me at this point of my career.

    And secondly if am short on credit hours, i am sure i will need some additional accounting credit hours. I believe since i am in US i can get that here in a year. Can you recommend some good insitutions or uni where i can accquire that economically?

    Appreciate your quick response. I am looking to start my CPA if possible within a year now.

  • Rajiv says:

    Possible states for me would be NY or NJ.

    Thanks.

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