What is the CPA Exam?
The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam, by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), is the industry-recognized qualification test for entry-level knowledge and skills in accountancy. It is a computer-based test that covers a combination of question formats, from multiple-choice questions to simulations that replicate the workplace.
Candidates who pass the exam become a CPA — an accredited accountant who is held to the highest standards. CPA credentials guarantee to the public that the accountant in question has the education, experience, and licensing to provide a top-quality professional service.
The exam has gone through many changes since its inception in 1896. The latest changes by the CPA Evolution initiative mean we will see a new CPA Exam in 2024.
Due to the differing local laws in the US, there are 50 state boards of accountancy, and five other location-specific jurisdictions, that can issue CPA licenses. For example, at the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business, Associate Professor of Accounting Jan Williams and her colleagues prepare students to sit the CPA exam for Maryland.
What are the key changes in the new CPA?
The most obvious change is transitioning from four standard exam sections to a format using three standard sections and one discipline section. The core sections of the new CPA cover accounting, auditing, and tax. The three disciplines for CPA candidates to choose from are:
- Business analysis and reporting (BAR)
- Information systems and controls (ISC)
- Tax compliance and planning (TCP)
But will the new CPA exam be harder?
The discipline exams are generally seen as more difficult than the core parts and broaden the scope of the test. However, many in the accounting world see the new CPA exam format as affording candidates more flexibility in what they learn and the opportunity to advance into a specific area.
How is the University of Baltimore reacting to the new exam?
As the industry standard qualification, institutions such as the Merrick School of Business have reacted quickly to stay relevant in the sector. “Currently, we are updating our curriculum here at The University of Baltimore to ensure that students are prepared for the CPA Exam.” (00:45)
To be eligible for the CPA exam in Maryland, applicants need to prove a certain level of educational progression. To that end, Merrick School of Business offers a post-baccalaureate, upper-level Certificate in Accounting that meets the coursework requirements. The Certificate is available to anybody with a bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, accepts credit transfers.
In addition, the University offers a wide range of financial aid and scholarships for diverse profiles who want to become accountants. Many of these are aimed at high-performing students who want to pursue one of the postgraduate qualifications in accounting offered at Merrick. In the interest of equal access, others are aimed at less-advantaged students, such as those from single-parent families.
What kind of students are best suited for the accounting profession?
It’s easy to look at a highly respected profession such as accounting and see it as a discipline for a narrow section of society. However, Jan sees it as a more open field. “I would start with a student who is detail-oriented, who likes numbers, who’s inquisitive, and also a problem-solver.” (00:59)
A background in or a passion for accountancy is a clear advantage, but not necessary to pursue a postgraduate qualification. For example, future accountants can apply to Merrick’s MSc in Accounting program with any bachelor’s degree. By the end of the master, students will be prepared for the CPA exam and a career in accounting.
What opportunities does the accounting profession provide?
Although qualified accountants may have limited options in terms of job titles — financial analyst, controller, and chief financial officer, to name a few — the industries they can work in are limitless. As Jan explains: “I tell students that it’s a dynamic profession, because they have the opportunity to match their interests with their accounting skills.” (01:22)
In practice, this means you can take your skills and competencies into a sector you’re passionate about. From music and fashion to insurance and personal financial planning, everyone needs to balance their books and invest wisely.
How can I apply for the new CPA Exam 2024?
Now we’re at the end of the article, there was only one burning question left. To apply for the CPA Exam there are five steps:
- Check your eligibility to take the CPA Exam.
- Submit your application and fees.
- Receive your authorization to test (ATT).
- Verify all information on your notice to schedule (NTS).
- Schedule your exam.
Through the school of accountancy, Merrick Business School guides all their students on how to apply for the new CPA Exam.
If you’d like to learn more about studying accounting, contact a master’s program ambassador on MASTERGRADSCHOOLS.