Whether your goal is to become a bookkeeper or your eyes are set on the CPA license, admission into the best accounting programs can be competitive.
This brief overview of admission requirements should help you get an idea of what to expect once you’ve made the decision of applying for an accounting course.
Associate’s Degree in Accounting
A two-year Associate’s degree in accounting can prepare you for a job as a clerk, bookkeeper, or for further study. To be admitted into such a program you need to hold a high school diploma or equivalent.
Certain schools may ask for a GPA of at least 2.0 in high school, as well as completion of necessary courses such as Algebra and English.
Depending on the college, you may also need to have scored above a certain value in ACT or SAT math, reading and English. To verify this information, the school will need to see your transcripts alongside the application form and fee.
If you do not fulfill all the accounting associate degree requirements, you may be able to attend supplemental courses during your degree. The college may also require you to maintain a certain GPA throughout your studies in order to be granted a degree.
Just like in any other application process, post-secondary credits and experience gained through volunteering, internships, or paid work may put you at an advantage. Enthusiasm for the subject and an excellent record can go a long way in securing your place at a good college.
Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
If your goal is to start an accounting career and possibly become a licensed CPA, you will need to complete at least a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field.
Entry Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
A high school diploma or equivalent will be needed to gain admission into a relevant program and most schools will expect you to hold a GPA of 3.0 or better.
The best programs also require candidates to have passed the ACT and/or SAT exams with certain minimum scores. Excellent math and communication skills will be expected, so completion of relevant courses will be an asset.
An Associate’s degree can help you gain admission to a Bachelor’s degree and Associate’s graduates are considered to have fulfilled the high school education requirement.
Any additional experience in accounting, through volunteering, internships or paid employment, will help your chances of enrolling into a top program. As an aspiring accountant you will be expected to have strong analytic skills and knowledge of math, as well as a track record that proves hard work and determination.
Additional courses in statistics and business will put you at an advantage. Competitive programs may have a set of prerequisite courses spanning a variety of areas. In addition, certain universities may require you to pass an entrance exam before being able to choose an accounting major.
Accounting is a competitive field from the get-go, so it’s never too early to start preparing: undergraduate-level courses and real world experience can show an admissions committee that you are a motivated student who can make it in this challenging field.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Requirements
If your goal is to become a licensed CPA, you will need to complete 150 credits in most states – more than the 120 normally required for a Bachelor’s degree. You may complete the additional credits by earning a Master’s degree, by double-majoring or by undertaking additional coursework within your school.
Once you have fulfilled your state’s CPA educational requirements (including compulsory courses), you will have to pass the CPA exam as well as an ethics examination. You will also have to acquire a certain amount of accounting experience (1-2 years) before you can become a licensed CPA.
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An alternative certification that you can obtain is CFP (Certified Financial Planner). To achieve this, you will need to hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher and to pass the CFP exam, which requires knowledge of a wide range of financial planning topics. You must also acquire three years of professional experience in financial planning.
If you hold any other CFP-board approved designation (including PhD in business and CPA) you are entitled to sit for the CFP exam regardless of other requirements.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA) Requirements
To become licensed as a Certified Management Accountant, you will need to hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, as well as two years of professional experience.
Knowledge of economics, statistics and financial accounting is also necessary in order to pass the two-part CMA exam.
Master’s Degree in Accounting or Taxation
One of the most popular ways of completing the coursework required for CPA certification is to earn a Master’s Degree in Accounting or Taxation. A Master’s degree shows determination and self-reliance and offers in-depth knowledge that can help your prospects when applying for high-paying jobs.
So how do you enroll?
You will need a Bachelor’s degree in order to meet the requirements for a Master’s Degree in Accounting. In many cases, this will need to be accounting or business-related, although some universities may allow you to use a Master’s in Accounting as a means of changing careers.
Many competitive Master’s level programs require an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.5, as well as high scores on the GRE or GMAT exams. You will also be required to write a convincing personal statement outlining your career goals and your suitability for the course; reference letters may also be needed.
Showing motivation and revealing yourself as a well-rounded person through essays, recommendation letters and the interview stage may be the most important part of the application process.
Many courses will also expect candidates to have completed high-level math courses and other prerequisites; however, those with an unrelated previous degree may have the opportunity of taking supplemental courses. Top programs may expect students to maintain a high GPA throughout their graduate studies.
A BBA or BSBA at the undergraduate level and an MBA at the graduate level are often viable choices for somebody wishing to start an accounting career while keeping their options open. An MBA is a common choice for Accounting graduates who do not need to complete more advanced accounting courses to satisfy CPA requirements.
Prerequisites for business degrees are similar to accounting admission requirements. Courses in statistics, calculus, business and economics may be required prior to enrolment on a BBA/BSBA. The minimum GPA accepted can range between 2.5 and 3.5, while certain minimum SAT or ACT scores may also be required.
Students applying for an MBA program will also need to face a competitive application process. Applicants will often need to have a GPA of at least 3.0 or even 3.5, with GMAT scores above 500 and GRE scores required by certain programs.
A Bachelor’s degree is required when applying for graduate study and a three-year Bachelor’s degree may not be sufficient; in this case, students may need to complete a pre-Master’s program to qualify for MBA admission.
Just like the Master’s in Accounting, an MBA application will entail transcripts showing an excellent academic record as well as essays, reference letters and an interview which will allow candidates to shine out.
Extra-curricular activities and real-world experience are extremely helpful in revealing an applicant as a mature, motivated student ready to take on the challenges of graduate study.
PhD in Accounting
If you’re looking to enter the academic world, a PhD in Accounting may be a necessary stepping stone. Admission for doctoral programs is highly competitive: you will need to hold at least a Bachelor’s degree and often a Master’s degree or relevant accounting experience.
High scores on the GRE or GMAT exams will also be expected. Like any other graduate degree, you will also need to provide a personal statement and reference letters. To maximize your chances, you will need to have completed a core set of advanced courses and to demonstrate a long-standing interest in accounting and research.
Whatever your career goal, you will be facing a competitive job market and you will need more than a degree to stand out. In order to make the most of your education, you will have to demonstrate motivation and genuine passion for the field through extracurricular activities, independent study, field experience and an excellent academic record.
Every additional accounting-related experience will bring you one step closer to a great education and consequently a great job; so seize every opportunity and don’t wait until you graduate to start your career.
When applying for admission to top programs at the undergraduate or graduate level, you will need to demonstrate that you are more than simply qualified for the program: you will have to show that the program will open the gate to achieving your most important dreams. Nothing comes easily, especially in accounting – so be prepared to show that you are able to take on a challenge and achieve great things.
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