How to Become a CPA in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a great place to become a CPA, with a strong economy, and a high rate of employment in general, the state of Massachusetts takes care of its workers. Officially known as a “Commonwealth” which simply identifies a historical affiliation with democracy, as opposed to monarchy, as in England at the time of the writing of the state constitution. While it means nothing legally beyond its title, the legacy of upholding the right of individuals is clear in the culture of the state. The Massachusetts gross state product in 2016 was $505 billion, and the per capita income was $53,221, the third highest in the country. Massachusetts operates a flat tax of 5%, regardless of income level, allowing for the accounting trick of much higher taxation of higher income earners, and much fairer, low tax rates for those who earn less.  

With such a strong economy and respect for the worker, CPAs are essential to assist individuals, government, large companies and small businesses that operate in the state. According the the Bureau of Labor and Statistics from the Department of Labor, the expected growth for CPAs and other financial advisors in Massachusetts is 10% between now and 2026. In a state that already employs more than 35,000 CPAs, that means many opportunities for employment in the Old Line State in the coming years. Another great reason to be a CPA in Massachusetts is that all four of the “Big Four” accounting firms have locations in Boston. Any internship with one of these before becoming licensed will set a future CPA up for great success in their professional life.

MA Quick Facts

*Source: BLS Data

Accounting Programs in Massachusetts

Certified Public Accounting requires a broad range of expertise, and therefore a certain amount and particular type of education regulated by the state where they hope to practice. Certainly, the job of a CPA is very similar in each state, but licensing is state-specific for the sake of being clear that the varied state tax laws and guidelines are covered completely and the consumer or company is protected completely. Almost all states have made it possible for CPAs practice locally, even if temporarily, regardless of where their license was obtained. The rules that govern this practice are called Mobility Legislation. Some states only allow this temporary license to be valid for a certain number of working hours per month, or stipulate the amount of money a CPA can make outside of their licensing state, while others require that the CPA can only own property in their licensing state, for instance. These agreements vary from state to state, meaning Massachusetts has agreements like these with some states, but not with others. The website CPAmobility.org is an easy way to find out where CPAs in Massachusetts can practice, and what documentation they must submit, depending on where they wish to practice.

Nationally, people who are applying to become a CPA are required to take a minimum of 150-semester units of college education, in any concentration, encompassing a bachelor’s degree. They also must engage in accounting related work experience, and pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Once someone is licensed as a CPA in any state, interstate CPA licensing requirements (like those mentioned above) begin to apply, regardless of the type of client services performed, and regardless of how well the practitioner knows about the laws in the next state over.

CPA Certifications in Massachusetts

To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Massachusetts, specific eligibility requirements must be met beyond those of the national minimums. The Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy has a website describing these requirements, with links to the relevant statutes, contacts, and in many cases, downloadable and electronic submittable forms for CPA applicants.

In Massachusetts, the person applying to become a CPA must have a bachelor’s degree in Accounting with 150 educational hours from an accredited post-secondary school. This means that in addition to the 120 hours a bachelor’s degree offers, applicants must obtain an additional thirty hours of upper-division coursework in accounting or business, typically in a master’s program, or graduate certificate program. Unique to Massachusetts, applicants must have completed 21-semester units in accounting courses including financial accounting, cost accounting, auditing, and taxation. They must also have completed 9-semester units in business courses including business law, finance and information systems.

Applicants must have completed all the requirements for the bachelor’s degree before you may sit for the exam, but applicants can sit for the exam before all 150 required hours of study are finished.

Anyone who wishes to become a CPA in the United States, must sit for and pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (Uniform CPA Exam). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the body that creates and regulates the exam, and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) administers it in each state.

The Uniform CPA Exam is the same, or uniform, in every state, however, the requirements for being eligible to sit for the exam, and subsequently passing, determines if you can be licensed in your state.

CPA Licensure in Massachusetts, Steps Toward Eligibility

To be eligible for CPA licensure in Massachusetts, candidates must meet these following qualifications:

Source: Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy

In addition to the three minimum national standards, CPAs in Mass (and everywhere) must complete continuing professional education (CPE) hours to maintain their CPA licensure. Specific to The Bay State, these must be earned throughout the year and reported once every two years. Massachusetts CPAs must report at least 80 hours for the 2-year period that goes from 7/1 until 6/30 biennially. Four of these 80 hours must be in the area of ethics in accountancy.

For those CPAs who are also instructors of Accounting, CPE credit is given at the same rate of as hours for non-instructors and instructor credits are limited to 50% of the hours in a reporting period. They make count credit for presenting on accounting, given that their presentation/lecture is original and they have not given it before. For authors of books or manuals on accountancy, authorship can only count for 25% per reporting period.

Best Cities in Massachusetts to Work as an Accountant (Based on Salary)

Source: BLS Data

In the year 2007, federal regulations were passed to allow CPA mobility, meaning if, for example, a CPA had been working with a client for years, and that client moved away or is working in a state they do not live in, that CPA could continue working with that client, even outside of the state the CPA is licensed in. The regulating bodies who govern accounting, and who passed this new regulation are The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

The regulation itself is referred to as Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) and the section dealing with mobility across state lines is section 23, or “no notice, no fee, no escape”. Section 23 is often compared to the driver’s license model. Any driver who is licensed in a U.S. state can, without penalty, drive across the country without applying for new driver’s licenses in each state she visits. If she were to disobey the traffic laws of the state she is visiting outside her licensing state, she can be disciplined by the state where the infraction occurred. The same applies to the UAA, and specifically section 23. The UUA in its entirety was developed and is maintained, reviewed and updated by the AICPA and NASBA. It provides a uniform approach to regulation of the accounting profession.