Do you need extra accounting credits for the CPA exam? How to make up to the 150 semester hour requirement? Here are a few tested and proven ways that work.
Most State Boards require candidates to fulfill 150 credit hours. For a typical bachelor’s degree holder, this means 30 credit hours of extra courses are 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.
If you live in the US and prefer a classroom setting, the nearby community colleges are a good choice.
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 accepts 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.
If you are aiming for a Masters’s degree program to fulfill the CPA exam requirements, 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.
Here are some suggestions for your research on the local universities:
There is always an option to get an extra master’s degree in a related field, especially if you lack a lot of accounting credits. After all, 30 credit hours is one full year of education.
The consideration for choosing a master’s program is different from choosing non-degree classes. For a 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 a 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 on 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’s 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.
For federal taxation courses, I have a related post here.
For general courses in accounting and auditing courses, I have this recommendation:
Note: As far as I know, the UNA courses are not recognized by New York and New Hampshire state boards. The other state boards are likely okay. Please double-check before proceeding.
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.”
UNA runs this program in partnership with Wiley.
You can click here, scroll down to the “Academic Credit” section, and click on the UNA image link.
There are other accounting certifications you may want to pursue. Most other accounting certifications and designations do not have a 150 credit hour requirement and have lower barriers to entry. You can learn all about these other designations in my course guide.
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!