Online Master of Science in Accountancy

CPA Exam Information

The CPA Exam tests participants’ understanding of various accounting and business concepts, and it is overseen by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the American Institute of CPAs®. The exam is not a requirement for all accounting roles, but some positions do require you to be a licensed CPA.

In addition to passing the exam itself, candidates must meet other benchmarks; together these requirements are sometimes known as the “three Es:”

  • Examination: Pass the CPA exam.
  • Education: Complete a minimum level of college education, typically 150 credit hours.
  • Experience: Gain relevant work experience in accounting under the supervision of a licensed CPA. The specific experience requirements may vary by jurisdiction but is usually one to two years.

While specific requirements vary by jurisdiction, most states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with 150 semester hours of college education, including a specific number of accounting and business courses.

While this test has existed for more than a century, it has undergone a major shift recently known as the CPA Evolution.

Understanding CPA Evolution

Passing the CPA exam has been a signifier that an individual possesses the essential skills, knowledge and ethical standards required to excel in accounting and related fields. However, the profession has undergone considerable changes due in part to advancements in technology, evolving regulations and major global shifts in work practices. In order for CPA certification to remain a relevant benchmark, it needed to change as well.

Starting in 2024, the test moved to a core-discipline format that emphasized the higher-order skill most needed to solve challenges and complexities within the accounting field today.

“Entry-level CPAs are handling procedures that require deeper critical thinking, problem-solving and professional judgment. Responsibilities that were traditionally assigned to more experienced professionals are being pushed down to the staff level. As a result, newly licensed CPAs need to know more than ever before to meet the needs of practice.”
—National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the American Institute of CPAs® on the CPA Evolution

One of the biggest changes to the test is that test takers get to choose a discipline area. Before, everyone completed sections in Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation. Now, the breakdown is as follows:

Everyone taking the CPA exam completes sections in:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Taxation and Regulation (TCP)

Then, test takers choose to complete one of these disciplines:

  • Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR)
  • Information Systems and Controls (ISC)
  • Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP)

How the DePaul Online MSA Prepares You for the CPA Exam?

The curriculum of DePaul’s MS in Accountancy is modeled on the most recent iteration of the CPA exam and was fully refreshed in anticipation of the testing change. Just like the CPA format, the MSA curriculum features core courses plus a choice of elective options. Every core course maps onto the AUD, FAR or TCP sections. The majority of electives map onto one of the CPA disciplines. (See our curriculum page for full course listings and descriptions).

CPA Section Corresponding DePaul MSA Course
Auditing and Attestation (AUD) Principles of Accounting Information Systems
Auditing I
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) Financial Accounting
Financial Accounting Theory & Practice I and II
Advanced Topics in Accounting Theory
Taxation and Regulation (TCP) Tax Treatment of Individuals and Property Transactions
Taxation of Corporations/Partnerships
Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR) Cost and Managerial Accounting
Accounting Theory and Policy Formulation
Forensic Financial Statement Analysis and Valuation
Information Systems and Controls (ISC) Auditing II
Internal Auditing, Corporate Governance and Internal Control
Audit Analytics
Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP) Data Analytics in Tax
Taxation of Corporations
Tax Research

The first-time pass rate for the CPA exam nationally is 50% in 2019. By comparison, 58% of DePaul MSA graduates pass their first section within one year of graduation.

The online MSA program will not only provide you with the solid foundation and technical accounting knowledge critical to your accounting career, but it will also help you meet the educational requirements needed to sit for the CPA exam. Completing the degree is your first step to a successful career in accounting.

Watch our CPA FAQ video featuring Dr. Hui Lin, Deloitte Foundation Endowed professor and director of the School of Accountancy & MIS. Learn how much more you could earn over the course of your career as a CPA and about the recent change to the CPA exam, from four required parts to three required parts plus a chosen discipline to demonstrate deeper skills and knowledge.


Do I need to take the CPA exam and become certified?

While not all accounting professionals become certified, there are some key reasons to get a CPA license.

  • Enhanced career prospects—Many jobs, such as those in accounting firms, advisory services, or tax preparation, require applicants to be a licensed CPA.
  • Increased earning potential—A CPA is often required to move into more senior level or specialized roles where one might earn higher salaries.
  • Regulatory compliance—In areas such as taxation, auditing, financial analysis or financial reporting, a CPA license is legally required.
  • Professional credibility—A CPA designation demonstrates a high level of competence and adherence to industry standards, boosting your professional reputation.

When deciding whether you should take the CPA exam, it’s important to consider your long-term career goals. For example, do you see yourself as a generalist or more of an accounting specialist? If you want to focus on a particular area of accounting, like auditing, CPA licensure is likely the best path for you.

What if I took a section of the exam before January 2024?

Any candidate who has passed at least one section of the CPA Exam before the CPA Evolution transition will be given an 18-month extension of credit and will have until June 30, 2025, to pass all remaining sections of the CPA Exam without losing credit for any section passed before the end of 2023.

Is there a set order to the exam?

No, there is no set order in which candidates must take the CPA exam sections. The test taker gets to decide which section they want to take first. Once you pass your first section of the exam, you generally have a maxim of 18 months to pass all remaining sections. This time limit varies by jurisdiction, so it is important to check with your State Accountancy Board for specific information.

What else do I need to become a CPA?

CPAs become licensed through their respective state boards of accountancy. Although licensure is granted by individual states and some jurisdictions, all 50 states adhere to the same core requirements.

These include:

  • Bachelor’s degree and 150 semester hours of credit
  • Transcript review by a state board of accountancy
  • Schedule and pass the Uniform CPA Exam in your state

It is important to note that most bachelor’s programs do not meet the semester hour requirement. Students who have less than 150 semester hours will need to pursue additional education beyond their undergraduate degree, either through a master’s degree in accountancy or graduate certificate program.

If you have any questions about the CPA exam, feel free to contact our advisors, and we would be glad to help you.

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