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Best way to earn 150 credits to take the CPA Exam?

I'm currently a sophomore at Rutgers Business School majoring in accounting and want to know what would be the best way to earn those credits. Should I double major, get my masters, minor in a few things, or do something else entirely? I'm planning on doing auditing for the big 4, but I'm open to advice on other accounting career paths as well. #accounting #cpa #cpaexam #career-counseling

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Tom’s Answer

Hi Joshua,

Most of my colleagues got to the 150 credit requirement by taking a "5th year" to get a Masters in Accounting. From what I hear, the biggest benefit for going for the Master's of Accounting is that these programs are setup to help your perform well on the CPA exam. Most of the courses offered in the Masters programs are tailored around what is tested on all four parts of the CPA Exam.

That being said, a Masters program is typically very expensive and is not always necessary. I did not go for my Masters of Accounting - instead I took these FEMA courses to obtain the needed credits once I graduated from college to get to the 150. The FEMA courses are insanely cheap - I believe they were about $88 per credit when I took them. If you Google FEMA Independent Courses, you will find a variety of courses that are accredited through Frederick Community College in Maryland. I would recommend this option instead of going for the Masters if you are looking to not spend a great deal of money.

At the end of the day, it comes down to preference. Both options have their benefits so it's up for you to ultimately decide what's best for yourself.
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Adriana’s Answer

Hi Joshua,

It sounds like you already have a goal of becoming a CPA and starting your career with the Big Four. With that in mind, I would recommend earning the 150 hours via a Bachelor's degree in accounting and a Master's degree in accounting as well. While each state's course requirements for CPA licensure are not exactly the same and vary, the overall theme is roughly the same. Most states stipulate a certain number of credits in accounting courses, and usually the number of accounting course credits you earn in a Bachelor's degree is not enough. For example, Florida requires 36 credits of accounting courses. My university's Bachelor's degree had only 24 credits of accounting coursework. Therefore, continuing with a Master's degree in accounting made sense.

After completing your Bachelor's degree in accounting (120 credits), you still have 30 credits more to go. Why earn these credits taking random courses for a minor when you could instead take a 30-credit program and earn a whole Master's degree at the end of it? This post-graduate degree is much more recognized in practice than a college minor (which to be honest, no one cares about minors in the real world).

I did both my Bachelor's degree and Master's degree in accounting. I passed 2 sections of the CPA Exam in the 8-month period between completing my Bachelor's degree and starting my Master's degree. The other 2 sections I passed while in the Master's program. I highly, highly recommend passing the CPA Exam *before* you begin working full-time for a firm. It is difficult to study and work at a Big Four firm at the same time. I've seen countless colleagues of mine push studying to the wayside because they are too busy with work. They miss out on the $5,000 bonus our Big Four firm offers for passing the CPA Exam within 1 year of beginning employment. And...the longer they are out of the school/academic mindset, the harder it is to study! I scheduled my exam sections to coincide with the courses I was taking - I found this to help since my brain was already used to being tested on the same concepts.

Best of luck! Feel free to comment on my response if you have any more questions.

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Joe’s Answer

I believe some of the best ways to achieve 150 credit hours to sit for the CPA are:

After four years of undergrad, enroll in a MBA/MSA graduate program to reach 150. This path introduces you to more complex accounting topics in addition to new areas of technology and big data.

OR

During your undergrad, ensure you take 18 credit hours every semester to reach a total of around 144. Then all you have to take is between 2-4 summer classes during your undergrad to reach 150.


I have friends in accounting who are successfully pursuing the second option. My sister enrolled in a MSA program to reach her 150 and although it costed her more money, it was an effective way to learn more about nuanced accounting topics and build up productive credit hours to reach 150.

Joe recommends the following next steps:

Count your credit hours to date, see how much you have left.
See if you can take 18 credit hours for what semesters you have left, and the classes are ones you are interested taking.
Assuming you take 18 credit hours for all remaining semesters, see how far your undergrad credit total falls short of 150. Of what remains, see if you can bridge the gap with summer classes at a local community college. Ensure they can transfer.
If you can't enroll in more than 15 credit hours a semester at your university or you fall short regardless, start researching MBA/MSA programs at different universities.
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Mikayla’s Answer

Hi Joshua,

This really is a matter of opinion, and I think the answer is it depends. However, if you can get a graduate assistantship, I would advise going into a graduate program. This way, the school will pay for most of your graduate degree and you can save money. Also, you'll probably have the opportunity to take more advanced accounting classes which may help you with CPA exams.

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Hadar’s Answer

Hello!

I think the key to getting the 150 units necessary for the CPA exam is also to consider what classes (such as GEs or elective courses) can count towards your specific requirements and to be strategic about it. When I was in my junior year at college, I began taking online classes at a community college in my area. I did one every quarter (so three during the school year) and then took a couple of classes over the summer while doing an internship. Online classes worked for me as they were flexible and you could complete the material on your own time, which worked better with my school schedule.

Best of luck to you!
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Yunqing (Meredith)’s Answer

I took a Accounting master. It is not necessary to take another major.
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Denera’s Answer

When I was in undergrad, I could not decide if I wanted to attend grad school or not so I decided to take the extra courses during undergrad. I took extra business courses and decided to minor in education. I desire to teach accounting in the future and those education courses allowed me to think outside of business and focus on ways that I can help my colleagues/students learn and form more people and public speaking skills.

No need to have a double major if that's not something you desire.

Denera recommends the following next steps:

Find an interest outside of the business department (i.e. education, psychology, math, technology, etc.)
If nothing outside of the business department interest you then minor in finance or marketing. Any business focus that has peeked your interest.
If you decide not to take on a minor, you can take any course to your liking to reach the 150 credits. For instance, I took a CPR course for credit.
Once you make your decision on the suggested options above then commit to your decision but, do not let any minor or miscellaneous courses interfere with your major courses if Accounting is your desired major. (Note: A few of my classmates did not graduate on time assuming a class was given every semester. They decided to take a class that was not mandatory, which interfered with their goal.)
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Emilio’s Answer

Hey there!!

I found myself in a similar situation. I think it really depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. During my undergraduate studies I realized I was going to graduate a semester early and began looking into adding a minor or doing a masters program. Coming from a smaller school I wanted to have an experience at a larger school so I think that's what ultimately pushed me into doing a masters program. This decision gave me flexibility because I did not have take extra courses allowing me to do internships while in school.

Emilio recommends the following next steps:

Research grad programs around you and see if that's something you would be interested in
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Aimee’s Answer

If your undergraduate degree does not cover the 150 hours I would suggest looking into graduate degree programs. You could do something like a masters in taxation that would help you while you study and sit for the exam. You also tend to get paid more at an entry level position if you have a masters degree.
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Michelle’s Answer

Hi Joshua,

From my personal experience, I believe getting a Master's degree to obtain the 150 credit hours is good way to meet the requirements of the CPA. I sat for the CPA while I still completing my Master's degree and many of the concepts I learned from class was applicable to the CPA exam. I give credit to my passes to some of those Master's classes. I highly recommend doing CPA and schooling at the same time to knock out two birds with one stone.
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Matthew’s Answer

Hi Joshua,

This is a great question, and as you can see by the responses thus far, there are many paths available to get the credits needed to sit for the exam or become certified. I wanted to share the path I took as it was a bit unconventional, and I don't believe it's been covered completely in the responses already provided.

I finished my undergraduate degree having earned 139 credits from the university. Although only 120 credits were required to graduate with a bachelor's degree in business administration from my university, I was able to pick up an extra 19 credits between taking additional courses and from the advanced placement classes I took in high school. In addition to the advanced placement classes, I also took two college courses through my high school for an additional 6 credits that I was able to use against the requirements for a total of 145. At this point, I only needed 6 additional accounting-specific credits to make the requirements for certification. My accounting professor recommended Louisiana State University's online course options. At the time, these courses were easily accessible and relatively affordable. Since I entered the industry, I've encountered many fellow accountants who have also taken online accounting courses through LSU. After completing an online governmental accounting class and an online forensic accounting class, I finally met all credit requirements for sitting/certification.

I've been a public accountant my whole career and I'd say it's about a 60/40 split with the majority of professionals I've encountered earning a master's degree to reach the credit requirements to sit for the exam or for certification. While education provides a great background to apply throughout your career, a lot of what I do on a day-to-day basis was taught to me on the job, so I never felt I was at a disadvantage to those people who opted for a higher degree. I know every high school has different offerings, but I wanted to share my experience in case it's at all helpful. I actually forgot about the college courses I took in high school until a fellow accountant told me that she was utilizing similar credits she earned in high school against her requirement! Regardless, if you can get close to the 150 after completing your undergraduate degree, LSU Online could be a cheaper option to supplement any remaining accounting credits you might need instead of a master's degree.
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Lauren’s Answer

I am a recent college graduating and started my career as an audit associate. I did a 5 year program for a masters, which I loved especially if you do plan on going into audit and pursuing your CPA, the masters classes significantly helped me in that aspect.
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Vic’s Answer

Hi!

I have seen people do different things:
- enroll in an accounting masters program with a lighter workload to get credits and to study/sit for the CPA while in school (studying becomes difficult while working full time)
- take community college courses during undergrad
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Richard C.’s Answer

Great Question - For me, I always tried to earn my 150 credits by taking classes that were offered in the business school that seemed interesting to me outside of accounting. In the end, I took 6 economics classes and earned a minor in economics along with my MBA in accounting. Not only did this keep my classwork fresh & interesting, but it gives me a unique perspective everyday in the field as a big 4 auditor.

Best of Luck!
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Matthew’s Answer

Hi Joshua,

I think the best way to get the 150 hours is going to graduate school and getting a masters degree, but it will depend on your current situation and how many hours you have going into school. Getting a Master's degree will help you learn more about your major and what your job will be doing. It will also depend on your school and what the administors push students to do.

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Minaz’s Answer

Hi Joshua! I did my undergrad in India with accounting and finance as my majors. That, along with my MBA in Finance from PSU got me the 150 credits I needed for the CPA exam.

Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Hi Joshua, I would ultimately say, majoring in only accounting is just fine. With just a single major, you will have plenty of time to explore other areas that potentially would interest you. Being well-rounded is a great attribute of any employee. If you are looking for a good pairing with accounting, finance is a good option for a minor. In order to take the CPA exams, you are required to have 150 credit hours. So after your 120 credit hours in your undergraduate career, you can then really begin to focus on accounting by getting a Master Degree if you desire. The Masters Degree would be attractive to employers, while also helping you reach that 150 hours. I hope this helps, best of luck! Haley Haley Schrock
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