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Can I Become a CPA With a Finance Degree?

CPA There are a number of different ways to become a certified public accountant. The career holds quite a bit of job security for candidates, making it a popular choice for new graduates, or people looking for a change of career. One of the most commonly misunderstood aspects is the educational requirement. The existence of both financing and accounting degrees, can cause confusion about whether or not they can become a CPA if all they have is a finance degree. However, that doesn’t present a problem, provided a few other criteria are met.

CPA Requirements

To become a CPA, you must have a degree. However, the courses of study you choose are far more important than if you have a finance or accounting degree. The majority of states require that candidates have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, with between 20 and 24 hours of credit in accounting fields. Some states require a certain number of general business courses, as well. The requirements for your state can be checked here. Overall, around 150 hours of credit in total are required for the completion of a standard degree; dividing this time between accounting and business courses provides not only a path to becoming a CPA, but a number of other career options, too.

CPA Certification Exam

All states have an additional CPA exam that candidates must pass in order to be granted certification. The requirements for the exam might vary, as some states allow students to take it prior to obtaining the required credit hours, according to Becker Professional Education. However, even if the exam is passed, the student will not be granted certification until he or she meets the required number of credits. Other states require that 150 semester hours be met before taking the exam.

Ethics Exam

Due to the nature of the work a CPA does, an ethics examination is required. This is called the Professional Ethics Exam for CPAs. A candidate must demonstrate personal integrity and fiduciary responsibility in order to work as a CPA and serve as a financial advisor. Cost for this exam varies based on the state, as do the specifics relating to the exam.

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Certain states require that a CPA have previous experience as an accountant, but for those that lack this experience, working as an apprentice or intern under an already certified CPA will suffice. The time required can range from several months to a couple of years, depending on state requirements.


The salary for CPAs is much higher than the salary for standard accountants, but it varies based on whether they are employed in public or corporate accounting, according to the Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants. For a large corporate firm, a senior accountant can expect to make anywhere from $71,000 to $92,000 per year. However, for a large public firm, that same CPA might make only $67,000 to $86,000 per year. The salary rate is very dependent upon the size of the company, the CPA’s experience, and whether or not they work in public or private sectors.

In the end, it isn’t so much what degree a person has as what courses they studied in school. Someone with a degree in finance can still become a CPA, provided they studied the right accounting courses. If not, they can enroll for a semester or two in order to take the courses they need.