The short answer is yes. However, as with most aspects of the CPA exam application and licensure process, this varies dependent on each state. Most accountants will also tell you that doing so is a lot harder than it used to be. Depending on your individual circumstances (educational and employment history) you are likely to face unique challenges as a non-traditional CPA candidate.
Types of Non-Accounting Majors
All states now require CPA exam applicants to have a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher from a board-recognized educational institution. This usually means that they must be acquired through a regionally accredited college or university, but some also accept an institution that is accredited the AACSB, AACSC, IACBE or CHEA. As always, this needs to be specifically stated by the state accountancy board. Additionally, some states are even more lenient by allowing students to have their transcripts evaluated for equivalency by a board-approved credential evaluation service if they received their education from a US-based educational institution that was not board-recognized.
Many, but not all, states will offer two or three educational route options to apply for their CPA exam. It is therefore imperative that you check the state’s requirements before you begin the application process, as you could just end up unnecessarily wasting money on a fee for a failed application.
The three routes are:
- A bachelor’s degree or higher with a major in accounting, with usually with specified course requirements
- A bachelor’s degree with a major in accounting
- A bachelor’s degree in anything with ‘an accountancy degree equivalence,’ meaning that they have fulfilled the specific accounting and course requirements listed under that category by that accountancy board
Most states offer the business degree route, but not all offer the route for an alternate bachelor’ degree. Additionally, each route will have its own course stipulations, in terms of both accounting course and business course requirements.
College Credits for Non-Accounting Majors
Just like ‘traditional’ applicants, you will most likely need to take additional courses to meet the 150 credit hour rule. If accounting was not your major, it is probable that you will need to focus on boosting your accounting credit hours. These accounting credit hours form a part of the 150-hour grand total.
How many accounting courses you need depends on two factors:
- How many accounting courses you have already done, and
- Which state you choose to take the exam in.
While the 150-credit hour rule has been standardized across all states as regards to applying for CPA licensure, there are some states that allow for the exam to be sat when the applicant has acquired at least 120 credits hours. This information can be found on this page.
As mentioned above, if you are unsure whether your education would qualify you for the exam, you can opt to have your transcripts evaluated by a board-recognized credit evaluation service. However, this will usually cost you at least $200.00. This is why CpaCredits offers a free pre-evaluation service, to advise you whether you still have outstanding requirements before you submit your transcripts to a board-approved service.
It should be noted that most states also allow for foreign education holders to have their transcripts evaluated by a board-approved international credentials evaluation service. If their education is found to be substantially equivalent, they will be able to take the CPA exam. CpaCredits extends their free pre-evaluation services to these applicants as well.
College Courses for Non-Accounting Majors
Many states stipulate specific courses that you need to take, how many credits each course should award (usually 3 credits, with the exception of state’s that require ethics course credits, as those can require 2 or 4 credits.) This is further complicated by the fact that most boards state that they will only accept college credits from non-regionally accredited colleges or online programs on condition that those credits are transferred to and appear on, the transcript of a regionally accredited college or university.
Two tier states (those that require 120 credit hours to qualify for the exam) will sometimes also specify different course requirements for the exam than for licensure. This means that the license applicant will be able to use earn the extra 30 credit hours while completing their outstanding course requirements.
Tips for Non-Accounting Majors taking the CPA
If you are coming at the CPA from a different field, you may be unfamiliar with much of the theory. This could mean that you need to account for extra preparation time before the exam. Fortunately, there are many resources online, including YouTube video lectures such as those offered by Mansour Farhat, and the free and premium study guides and multiple choice questions (MCQs) that are also available, among others.
One great way that non-accounting majors can ensure that they are adequately prepared for the CPA examination is by working through good quality accredited courses in business and accounting. Don’t worry – there’s no need to go back to college to catch up with your peers. If you have already graduated with your bachelor’s degree, taking courses online is a great way to build a good foundation in accounting without having to face the cost of university, especially if you still have some course or credit requirements to fulfill.
CpaCredits offers a number of excellent online courses in business and accounting for CPA credit hours that can help you get there. This has the dual benefit of helping you to boost your total number of accounting course credits and teaching you the important theory that traditional applicants (with accounting majors) would have learned during their bachelor’s. All of the courses on CpaCredits are offered through regionally accredited colleges and universities.
If you are applying from another state, jurisdiction or country, you should also confirm whether the board has any residency or US citizenship requirements to sit the exam. What this means varies from state to state, as some will recognize residency based on your place of business being in the state, attending a college or university within the state, or other considerations. Some will also recognize non-citizens for citizenship purposes provided that they have a resident alien status.