A Master’s of Taxation will usually help accountants prepare for the CPA exam. It can help exam candidates meet the educational requirements and can provide knowledge of key concepts covered on the exam. Having said that, there are certain drawbacks to pursuing a master’s degree while simultaneously preparing for the strenuous CPA test.
What are the Education Requirements?
The American Institute of CPAs requires that prospective CPAs complete 150 semester hours of education. Most states are transitioning to the 150 semester hours of education, but four-year degrees usually require only 120 credit hours. Traditional four-year undergraduate programs are not adequate for obtaining the necessary skills knowledge to become a CPA. This is because there are always newer tax laws, business methods and auditing rules being introduced to the world of accounting. CPAs can selectively take additional coursework, pursue a graduate level certificate or complete a master’s degree. They can also combine an undergraduate accounting degree with a master’s degree or they can join a five-year professional accounting program. Learn about how to become a licensed CPA at the American Institute of CPAs website here.
Why a Master’s Degree?
Employers expect that CPAs will have a high level of technical competence, a sense of commitment to service and excellent analytical and communication skills. They want individuals who can evaluate complex financial problems and apply their interpersonal skills to collectively make decisions in a customer centered environment. Master degree programs will endow students with the above mentioned skills and knowledge needed to be successful CPAs. Graduate-level programs will more fully develop skills related to analysis, planning, presentations and technical knowledge. A Master’s degree in Taxation will cover a wide range of core business competencies, such as IT and management, but primarily focus on state, federal and corporate taxation topics. Students will about tax research, standard practices and securities transactions. They will also learn about international taxation and state tax administrative bodies.
Words of Caution
Pursuing a graduate degree is usually a good, long-term career investment. It will increase the marketability of job candidates and once hired, help them earn promotions and higher salaries. However, a Master’s degree in Taxation isn’t required to pass the exam and earn the CPA credential. Simultaneously studying for the CPA test while taking graduate level coursework will be extremely demanding. Graduate accounting certificate or degree programs that specifically focus on understanding and passing the CPA test may be a better choice for certain students. Individuals who choose to simply earn the 30 credits above the undergraduate degree will be able to focus more time and energy on the exam’s content. Once these individuals pass the test and accumulate work experience, returning to graduate school will be easier because they will have industry insight and practical knowledge.
Pursuing a Master’s of Taxation in order to pass the CPA exam is a good idea as long as the individual strategically plans and carefully prepares for the experience.