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:”
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.
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.
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:
Then, test takers choose to complete one of these disciplines:
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|
|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|
|Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP)||Data Analytics in Tax|
|Taxation of Corporations|
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.
While not all accounting professionals become certified, there are some key reasons to get a CPA license.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To learn more about DePaul University’s online MSA program fill out the fields below to download a brochure. You can also call (800) 950-0232 (toll-free) or (312) 676-6438 to speak to one of our admissions advisors.