Become a CPA

If you're looking for a way to enhance your accounting degree and make yourself an attractive hiring choice to top employers, consider earning your certified public accountant (CPA) designation. This prestigious title will signify your expert knowledge of the ever-changing world of business.

Requirements to Become a CPA

How do you Become a CPA in Tennessee?

  • Complete 150 college credit hours.
  • Complete one year of experience in accounting.
  • Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
  • Pass the Ethics Examination.

Information and an application to take the CPA examination may be obtained by calling 1-800/CPA-EXAM (272-3926) or clicking below.

Apply for the Uniform CPA Examination

Once both exams have been passed, the state board is notified and an applicant packet is automatically sent to you to apply for the CPA certificate. Don't forget that the one-year experience requirement must also be met prior to submitting your application for certification.

If you obtained your education in a foreign country, you must have your education evaluated by the Foreign Academic Credentials Service, Inc. (FACS) prior to applying to sit for the CPA exam. FACS ( can be reached at P.O. Box 400, Glen Carbon, IL 62034 or 618/288-1661. FACS is the only credential evaluation service approved by the state board.

Frequently Asked Questions about the 150-hour Education Requirement

Why is there a 150-hour education requirement?

The business world is becoming increasingly complex. With an ever-expanding marketplace, professionals are needed who can interpret the many situations that arise in every area of business, commerce, industry and government. Through the 150-hour education requirement, future CPAs will study many different areas outside of accounting. In turn, CPAs can be prepared to help individuals and organizations negotiate the many different facets of business. Simply stated, a more broadly educated group of graduates will yield a better group of CPAs.

Q: Why is there an emphasis on 150 semester hours of education for aspiring CPAs?

A: There are a number of reasons why a traditional, four-year undergraduate program is no longer adequate for obtaining the requisite knowledge and skills to become a CPA:

  • Significant increase in official accounting and auditing pronouncements and the proliferation of new tax laws have expanded the knowledge base that professional practice in accounting requires.
  • Business methods have become increasingly complex. With so many regulations from federal, state and local governments, well-educated individuals are needed to ensure compliance. Also, improvements in technology have had a major effect on information systems design, internal control procedures and auditing methods.
  • The staffing needs of accounting firms and other employers of CPAs are changing rapidly. With more sophisticated approaches to auditing now in use and with the increase in business demands for a variety of highly technical accounting services and greater audit efficiency, the requirements for an effective professional practice have increased sharply. The demand for a large quantity of people to perform many routine auditing tasks is rapidly diminishing.

Q: How to meet the 150-hour requirement?

A: In Tennessee, students must take a minimum of 24 semester hours in accounting and a minimum of 24 semester hours in general business courses as a part of the 150-hour requirement. General business courses that qualify include (but are not limited to): business law, algebra, calculus, statistics, economics, finance, management, marketing, computer and information systems, ethics and business communications. To obtain 150 semester hours of education, students do not necessarily have to get a master's degree, although it is a good idea. The requirement can be met at the undergraduate level

Students can also choose any of the following options as a way of meeting the requirement:

  • Combine an undergraduate accounting degree with a master's degree at the same school or a different one;
  • Combine an undergraduate degree in some other discipline with a master's degree in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting; or
  • Enroll in an integrated five-year professional accounting school or program leading to a master's degree in accounting.

In most cases, the additional academic work needed to acquire the technical competence and develop the skills required by today's CPA is best obtained at the graduate level. Graduate-level programs are an excellent way to more fully develop skills such as communication, presentation and interpersonal relations and to integrate them with the technical knowledge being acquired.

In addition, it has been shown that students who get a graduate-school-level education have a substantially higher rate of success on the CPA exam. Furthermore, master's degree holders receive starting salaries that are approximately 10 to 20 percent higher than the starting salaries of those with only bachelor's degrees. Finally, there is evidence that promotions to manager and partner and to corporate managerial positions are increasingly going to individuals with master's degrees.

For these reasons, leading professional organizations such as the AICPA, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the Federation of Schools of Accountancy have consistently supported the 150-hour education requirement for entry into the accounting profession.

Q: Which states have the 150-hour Requirement?

A: Currently, 49 states (including Tennessee) have the 150-hour requirement in place or scheduled to take effect in the near future.

Read more about the Tennessee certification requirements from the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy.