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CPA Requirements: Meeting the 150 Credit Rule on a Budget

Happy Friday, people! Is it a blackout month yet? I guess not. But hey, we have a good question I received via Twitter yesterday to talk about. If you have a CPA exam question, life question, career question or general insult to hurl at me, tweet or email me.

Done w/ exam but do u have any recs on getting 150 cred other than grad school. I don’t want to pay the $$ for it. #cpahelp

Ahhh, the good old 150 rule. Intended to turn bright-eyed young accounting students into skilled leaders of the industry, the 150 rule has driven a lot of you right off the steaming pile of debt. But unless your state actually requires a Master’s (I can’t name a single one that does), there is absolutely no reason to take that route unless you feel that it will improve your salary prospects or if you can afford it. Otherwise? Please.

So. What’s a 4-year-college underachiever to do?

The truth is that many state boards accept credits from any educational institution recognized in that state, meaning you can easily sign up for 30 units at community college and meet the 150 unit requirement for licensure. Now, the key here is to take classes that you think will round you out as a human being, actually be interesting, or at least inspire you to show up for class. In my experience taking night classes at a community college back in the day, community college professors can actually be a lot more fun than the professors you might be used to. Many work in the industry or field that they will be teaching you about, which allows them a real world practical experience that many academic accounting professors might not have (sorry, guys, you know I’m right). If you are single, you can also definitely find some tail at community college, so there’s another bonus.

Community college will be your cheapest option (if recognized by your state board), but if that isn’t something you’re able to do, there are always online colleges. A lot of these are for-profit, overpriced and not always fun to attend, though I can’t say that from personal experience. I’ve heard stories, mmkay? If you have the money, there’s nothing wrong with enrolling to take some online classes this way but it is definitely more feasible for the left-brainers out there.

Whatever you decide to do, take the opportunity to get creative with your education. Those additional units are meant for you to advance your knowledge so you can be better at your job protecting the public trust or whatever it is you’re meant to do when you get your CPA. A fucking art class wouldn’t kill you, it rounds you out.

Do I Have To Wait To Get My Degree to Apply for the CPA Exam?

For today’s edition of “help me figure out my life even though the answers are pretty much freely available on Google and/or here on Going Concern”, we get a reader question about the CPA exam application process or, more specifically, how to get a jump on the process. Let’s go:

I am a college student I will have 150 credits in May 2010. Do I have to wait until I get my actual diploma before I can start the process of applying to sit for the test? I guess I’ve heard that it take up to 2 months to receive an NTS so I am worried that I will have to wait until August to actually take the CPA exam. Are there loopholes?

Well, dear reader, firstly if you are going to write in asking us a question like this, it really helps to know what state you will be applying in. All jurisdictions have their own rules and their own crap to sift through, so application timelines can vary wildly depending on where you are applying. I know for a fact you can bypass California’s 8 – 10 week application time by applying when you are not eligible to sit for the exam (like your last semester of college) and then just reapply when you ARE eligible as it will only take about a week to get a reapplication processed. If you call the exam unit in California, they might even give you this suggestion themselves. As for other states? Without knowing where you are it’s hard to tell you what to expect.

The general rule is that you must meet your state’s requirements before application. Some states allow you to apply when you are not eligible as long as you will meet their requirements within a set period of time (like 180 days). Call your state board to see if this is an option.

If you’re lucky enough to be in a 120 state, you can apply for the exam with 120 units and just have to reach 150 by the time you have passed all four parts of the exam.

Most states require your degree to have posted to your transcripts before you can apply for the exam. Again, there are always exceptions so your best bet is to talk to your state board directly and ask. Asking “are there any shortcuts to licensure?” won’t get you very far so try instead to ask if there is a way to apply for the exam before you are eligible to sit or if they have any suggestions for speeding up the process.

The best way to accomplish that is to make sure you have all your paperwork in order and, if available at your school, have your degree fast-tracked to appear on your transcripts as soon as possible. Your school may charge you a nominal fee for this service, but ask them if that’s a possibility if you’re trying to get this over with sooner rather than later.

Arnie Signs 150-Hour Rule for California

arnold.jpgNo one panic, if you get licensed before 2014, you’re grandfathered in as substantially equivalent. So if you feel like procrastinating, don’t let us stop you but maybe keep the date in mind.
In addition to the new credit hour requirements, Ah-nuld also signed bills requiring mandatory peer review for CPA firms starting next year and requiring non-active CPAs to disclose their status. We thought those were both standard operating procedure but a couple more laws won’t hurt anything.
If you can’t bear the thought of 25-30 extra credit hours in college, move to Colorado, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands as they’re the holdouts on the 150 credit-hour requirement.
California Adopts 150-Hour Rule [Web CPA]