CPA Exam Regulation FAQs

Source: Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy Website (October 2010)

 

CPA EXAMINATION REQUIRMENTS AS OF JANUARY 1, 2007

The Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy (BoPA), at the request of many interested parties held discussions regarding amending its education rules to sit for the CPA exam. After much input from the CPA industry, the Board came to the conclusion that allowing candidates to sit for the exam at the point they earn a bachelor's degree and 120 semester hours, rather than the current 150 semester hours, is one step towards alleviating the shortage of CPAs in the Commonwealth.

 

BoPA members voted on September 28, 2006, to adopt amendments to 252 CMR, allowing candidates to sit for the CPA exam at 120 hours but to retain the current license requirement of 150 semester hours. On November 3, 2006, the rule was accepted by the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the rule changes become effective on January 1, 2007. If you have questions, e-mail the Secretary of the Board, Leo H, Bonarrigo, CPA, through this web site. Unfortunately, he is in only one or two days a week, so be patient for responses.

 

The following are frequently asked questions on these various subjects:

 

Based on the new rule, can I sit for the CPA exam before I meet the 150- hour requirement?

Yes. After January 1, 2007, candidates may qualify to sit for the exam when they have completed 120 of the required 150 semester hours (or 180 of the 225 quarter hours) of college education at a nationally or regionally accredited institution, where the successful completion of 120 semester hours (180 quarter hours) results in obtaining a bachelor's degree.

What are the new educational requirements one must meet if one chooses to sit for the exam with the bachelor's degree and 120 credits?

One must have completed 21 semester hours of accounting courses that include coverage in financial accounting, audit, taxation, and management accounting and 9 semester hours of business courses, including coverage in the areas of business law, finance and information systems.

Does my college-level education need to include any other specific coursework?

The requirements to sit for the exam do not, but to become licensed, the requirements to become certified vary based on the highest degree you obtain, and you should read the new rule 252 CMR 2.07(2) carefully. In either case, all coursework must be completed at a nationally or regionally accredited college or university and Associate degree/community college courses will be accepted only if transferred into a four-year bachelor's degree program. Elementary or introductory accounting courses will now qualify to fulfill your accounting course requirements for exam and licensure.

Can I sit for the exam during my final semester before graduation?

NO. You must have completed all of the requirements for your bachelor's degree before you sit. You may, however, apply for the exam during your final semester. Please note that the application review process for a first-time exam candidate will take 6-8 weeks and that testing is only available in the first two months of each calendar quarter. Once your exam application is approved, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) that gives you six months to schedule and complete all exam sections for which you applied. If you have not taken all exam sections and your NTS expires, your fees will be forfeited.

Is there a time limit to meet the 150-hour certification/licensure requirement if I sit for the exam with 120 credits?

Yes. You have three years from the time you receive notice of passing all four parts of the exam to meet the educational requirements for CPA certification/licensure. If you don't, you will need to retake all parts of the exam. This requirement is inflexible and candidates should plan accordingly and continue their education even when sitting for remaining parts of the exam. When every candidate applies after January 1, 2007, the testing administrator will complete an Academic Evaluation for Certification form. For candidates who satisfy the licensing requirement (252 CMR 2.07(2) (a)) when applying to sit for the first time, no further correspondence on the education issue will be necessary throughout the exam process. For all others, an academic report will be issued detailing the semester hour and course deficiencies to become certified once the entire exam is completed. This report will be updated through the entire exam experience.

When the final part is successfully completed, the passing grade notice will be sent our registered mail, and the date of delivery will begin the three year period to complete the 150 semester hour requirement for certification. The Academic Evaluation for Certification form will be required in the licensure application process, and a fee of $100 will be charged by the testing service for monitoring education during the exam process (and beyond) and verifying 252 CMR 2.07(2) (a) compliance prior to the candidate applying for a MA license.

All candidates who sit for the exam in any other state without completing the requirements of 252 CMR 2.07(2) (a) must complete the full education requirement within three years from the date they receive their final passing grade. If they do not, they must comply with the new reciprocity requirement of 252 CMR 2.08 in order to become licensed in Massachusetts.

Can I sit for the exam before I receive my official college transcript certifying the completion of my bachelor's degree and required accounting and business courses?

Yes. Beginning January 1, 2007, you will be able to sit for the exam before you actually receive your official transcript as long as you are able to provide the certified transcript within 90 days of your exam date. Failure to provide a transcript(s) that certifies the award of the bachelor's degree and completion of all required accounting and business courses will result in the loss of any exam credit in the exam window completed. Also, you will not be allowed to sit as a MA exam candidate in future CPA exams until such official transcript is received by the testing administrator.

How the ratio is calculated of graduate course value vs. undergraduate course value under the new education rule 252 CMR 2.07(2) (a)?

Since a candidate now needs 30 semester hours of undergraduate accounting courses or 18 semester hours of graduate courses for licensure, each undergraduate hour now equals 3/5 of a graduate hour (or conversely, each graduate hour equals 5/3 of an undergraduate hour).

An example: A candidate with 15 undergraduate hours and 9 graduate hours would have an equivalent of 30 undergraduate hours. (15 undergraduate hours + (5/3 x 12 = 15). If a candidate sits for the exam with the required 21 undergraduate accounting semester hours, he/she would only need complete 2 graduate accounting courses rather than 3 undergraduate accounting courses to comply with 252 CMR 2.07(2)(a) for licensure.

For business courses, since a candidate remains to need 24 semester hours of undergraduate accounting courses or 18 semester hours of graduate courses for licensure, each undergraduate hour equals 3/4 of a graduate hour (or conversely, each graduate hour equals 4/3 of an undergraduate hour).

An example: A candidate with 9 undergraduate business hours and 12 graduate business hours would have an equivalent of 24 undergraduate hours. (9 undergraduate hours + 4/3 x 12 graduate = 15, and the total is now 24). If a candidate sits for the exam with the required 9 undergraduate business semester hours, he/she would only need complete 4 graduate accounting courses rather than 5 undergraduate accounting courses to comply with 252 CMR 2.07(2)(a) for licensure. All should be advised that if one were earn a graduate degree in business (MBA, MST, MSAIS, or MSF), no specific business course coverage is necessary and only 18 graduate semester hours in business are required.

Does this mean that I will need a graduate degree to become a CPA?

No. The only degree required for certification is a bachelor's degree, with 150 semester hours of education contained in this degree or supplemented after earning the bachelor's degree. However, the skills and knowledge usually developed in a graduate program (e.g., Masters in Tax, MBA, or Law degree) may be useful in helping CPAs meet client demands. For this reason, the BoPA strongly encourages a graduate education. In addition, the experience requirement is relaxed when one earns the graduate degree (explained in 252 CMR 2.07(2) (b) as follows:

1.   If you obtain a graduate degree in accounting from an AACSB accredited accounting program, or one that has been approved by the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy as substantially equivalent to an AACSB program, you will not need to meet any specific course requirements of 252 CMR 2.07(2) (a), either accounting or business course subjects.

2.   If you earn a graduate degree in accounting from a school that does not fall within the above AACSB category, or if you earn a graduate degree in business administration or law, you will need 18 semester hours (27 quarter hours) of accounting at the graduate level or 30 semester hours (45 quarter hours) at the undergraduate level, or an equivalent combination thereof (undergraduate courses are weighed as 3/5 of graduate courses per this new rule as mentioned above). These courses must include coverage in financial accounting, audit, taxation, and management accounting. In addition, the degree must include or be supplemented by 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) of business courses (other than accounting courses) at the undergraduate level or 18 semester hours at the graduate level, or an equivalent combination thereof (undergraduate business courses are weighed as 3/4 of graduate courses per this new rule as mentioned).

3.   If your highest degree is a bachelor's degree in business, your degree must include or be supplemented by 30 semester hours in accounting with coverage in financial accounting, audit, taxation, and management accounting. In addition, the degree must include, or be supplemented by, 24 semester hours in business courses other than accounting courses. These business courses shall include coverage in business law, information systems, finance, and coverage in at least one of the areas of economics, business organizations, professional ethics, and/or business communication.

4.   If your degree is not in business, your 30 semester hours in accounting must include at least three semester hours in each of the subject areas of financial accounting, audit, taxation, and management accounting; and your 24 semester hours in business must include at least three semester hours in each of the areas of business law, business information systems, professional ethics and finance. Business courses, other than accounting, in business management of organizations, economics, and/or business communications may be included for the business course requirements.

In all 4 cases herein, the 30 semester hours of undergraduate or 18 semester hours of graduate   accounting or business courses do not have to be included in the undergraduate or graduate degrees.

When is the CPA Exam given, and what are the application deadlines?

The CPA Exam, which is now a Computer Based Examination (CBT) is administered during four examination windows a year, and is available through our testing administrator. To receive an application and/or any other exam related information, please call the exam service at 1-800-272-3926 or 1-615-880-4200, or visit their website at www.nasba.org.

Where do I obtain a CPA exam application?

Exam applications are obtainable by contacting the CPA Exam Service at 1-800-CPA-EXAM, ext. 4257 - or 1-615-880-4200, or by visiting their website at www.nasba.org.

-  Will on-line university courses be accepted in the new educational requirement?

The on-line courses must be accepted through a degree-granting program at an accredited college or university. Generally, as is the case for any course to be accepted in meeting the educational requirement, this means that the candidate should be able to present a transcript from an accredited college or university showing that the course was accepted within a degree-granting program.

Do not call the Board administrative office for any exam related operational information (i.e. grade release information, change of address, etc.).