Many CPAs look back fondly at those who provided mentoring on their path to a CPA career. Whether a college professor, relative, friend, or co-worker, mentors are an important source of advice and counsel. A major component of the journey is, of course, education, where the 150-credit requirement is a focal point. All too often, however, an applicant for a CPA license is surprised to find that the education requirement has not been properly met. It is an easy mistake for CPA applicants to assume that, because they were an accounting major in college and ultimately attained the total 150 credits, they automatically fulfilled the CPA education requirement of their licensing state. This article hopes to minimize disappointments by alerting those mentors of New York CPAs about the circumstances that contribute towards education requirement discrepancies.
Insufficient Accounting Credits
The most common education requirement discrepancy in New York is that the applicant did not obtain the state’s required 33 accounting credits. Not all undergraduate accounting programs comprise 33 credits; in these situations, students should have a plan to make up the difference. They could either take additional accounting courses as undergraduate electives or as part of a graduate program.
Falling short of the 33 credits can also happen when multiple states are involved, and it is certainly common for students to go to college outside New York but apply for a CPA license in New York State. Exhibit 1gives a general comparison of accounting credit requirements for New York and its five neighboring states. States also have other, more specific regulations; details on these are available at the websites listed in Exhibit 2.
Except for Connecticut, New York’s neighbors require fewer than 33 accounting credits. Accounting student mentors should be aware not only of the accounting credits of the particular college, but of the semester hours of accounting education for the state in which the student intends to seek a license. For example, a student from New York who attends a college in New Jersey with a 24-credit accounting program will have to take an additional three accounting courses of three credits each if that student intends to be licensed in New York. Accounting majors at New York colleges who are seeking a Connecticut CPA license may also need to augment their accounting education plan.
New York State licensure requirements also identify content areas within the 150 credits for accounting and general business. For example, the 33 accounting credits must include at least one course in financial accounting and reporting, cost or managerial accounting, taxation, and auditing and attestation services (i.e., external auditing). The 36 general business credits can be from any of the following areas: business law, business statistics, business strategy, computer science, economics, finance, information technology and systems, management, marketing, operations management, organizational behavior, and quantitative methods. The curriculum must also include the study of accounting research, business or accounting communications, and ethics and professional responsibility, either as stand-alone courses or integrated into other courses.
Mentors should advise those pursuing a CPA license in New York to be sure that all of the accounting courses in their accounting major curriculum qualify. Sometimes a college will include a course in its accounting curriculum that does not qualify as an accounting course with New York State; finance courses often fall into this category. Colleges can rectify this with better labeling, or in some cases, cross-referencing courses to identify them as both accounting courses and finance courses. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) website offers a useful listing of typical course titles that colleges can utilize to ensure that their accounting courses qualify (http://bit.ly/2vEaADU). The NYSED also offers evaluation assistance if the appropriate course content is not apparent from the course title.
It should also be noted that money and banking courses, personal finance courses, and insurance courses do not qualify for accounting credit. In addition, accounting review courses or CPA exam review courses that are taken for academic credit at a regionally accredited school cannot be accepted toward the 33-credit accounting course work requirement.
With regard to foreign education, New York CPA applicants who completed any of their college education outside of the United States that is not part of a qualifying program will be required to have a full review of their education for licensure.
All New York CPA applicants are required to file Certified Public Accountant Form 2, Certification of Professional Education,which requires an official transcript from the educational institution attended. Accurate records are important, but administrative problems can and do occur. It is not unusual for students to attend more than one college; when this occurs, Form 2 is required from each educational institution, which increases the chances of an administrative problem. Whether from one or multiple colleges, accounting students would be well advised to meticulously check college transcript records for accurate courses, qualifying credits, transfer credits, and other information before applying for New York State CPA licensure.
Forewarned is Forearmed
By advising aspiring CPAs to be aware of their accounting credits, course content, and college transcript accuracy, mentors can help New York CPA applicants avoid surprise, disappointment, and unnecessary delay on the road towards a New York CPA license.