Accounting Certification Exams
Professional certification exams help you establish your technical credentials. The oldest, and best known, certification exam in accounting is the CPA exam, which has been administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants since 1917.
Exams and Certifications
Additional certification options exist for accountants who work in industry or government.
- The Institute of Management Accountants has offered a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) program since 1972.
- The Institute of Internal Auditors has offered a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) program since 1974.
- More recently, in 1997, the Association of Government Accountants began a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) program.
While your focus as a student is naturally on taking a certification exam, remember that this is just a step towards professional certification. In addition to passing a certification exam, there are additional requirements (e.g., experience requirements, continuing education requirements) for professional certification or licensing that you also must fulfill after graduation.
Federal Title IV Licensure Requirement
In the State of Arkansas, the 120-credit hour undergraduate degree alone does not meet the 150-credit hour education requirement for CPA licensing. However, if you have successfully completed 30 hours of upper-level accounting coursework above the Principles and Principles II level, have successfully completed Governmental/Nonprofit Accounting, and have successfully completed 120 hours of coursework, the Arkansas State Board of Accountancy will allow you to apply for eligibility to begin writing the Uniform CPA Examination with approval from the William Dillard Department of Accounting. You will not be eligible for licensing until after you have successfully completed 150 hours of coursework. All accounting coursework must be completed with a grade of “C” or better.
Passing the Uniform CPA Examination is the first step in becoming licensed. The William Dillard Department of Accounting’s master’s degree programs will allow you to have completed all requirements both to write the Exam and to be licensed in Arkansas. Be aware that all states require at least 150 hours for licensure, with each State having unique examination eligibility requirements. Those requirements can change over time. The various State Boards ultimately make the decision as to whether a student qualifies for Uniform CPA Examination eligibility. Occasionally, State Boards may also enforce unpublished requirements or change requirements during an academic year. Students should work closely with the Department CPA Examination Advisor to select the appropriate coursework for CPA Exam qualification purposes for the state where licensure is desired. It is not necessary for you to physically take the CPA Exam in the state where you are seeking licensure. The Exam is administered at Prometric testing sites across the country.
The State Boards of Accountancy provide possible avenues for license reciprocity between states once licensure is achieved. However, both the professional requirements for licensure and the reciprocity agreements vary by state and occur well after coursework is complete. Therefore, we cannot make a specific determination of when requirements will be met for either of these.
Dr. Barry Bryan is our CPA Advisor and will work with you on questions about the Exam or the licensing process. If you are interested in a state other than Arkansas, be sure to contact him as soon as possible to discuss that state’s requirements.
CPA: Certified Public Accountant Exam
The CPA exam's primary purpose is to establish the technical credentials of those
wishing to be licensed as public accountants. If you plan a career in public accounting,
taking the CPA exam is a must. In addition, the CPA license is so widely recognized
as a credential that many accountants who work in industry or government take the
CPA exam as part of their effort to become licensed as CPAs.
While the CPA exam is the same across the nation, the requirements to sit for the CPA exam vary by state. A University of Arkansas MAcc degree qualifies you to sit for the CPA exam in Arkansas.
To be licensed as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), you must pass the Uniform CPA Exam. To be eligible to sit for this exam, you must meet certain education requirements that vary from state to state. It is important to consider these requirements when planning your courses.
The Uniform CPA Exam is prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and consists of four sections: Auditing & Attestation, Financial Accounting & Reporting, Regulation, and Business Environment and Concepts. The sections may be taken individually or all at together. Information about the content and format of the exam is available at https://www.cpa-exam.org/. The exam is delivered in a computerized format at Prometric and certain other state-board authorized test centers by appointment up to six days a week during January-February, April-May, July-August, and October-November.
Once you are ready to apply for the CPA exam, contact the State Board of Public Accountancy in the state where you plan to sit. The State Board reviews each application to be sure eligibility requirements are met. For the state of Arkansas, applications are available on the ArkansasState Board of Public Accountancy's website: https://www.arkansas.gov/asbpa/
For Sam M. Walton College of Business students the education requirements for the CPA exam in Arkansas may be met in one of the two following ways:
- OPTION I: Complete the Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program.
- OPTION II: (based on requirements for the state of Arkansas): Earn at least 120 semester hours including a Baccalaureate degree and 30 semester hours in accounting beyond the Principles Level (with a minimum grade of "C" in each accounting course), including coverage of, financial accounting, auditing, taxation, management accounting, and governmental/not-for-profit accounting. Note that you will need to complete 150 total hours to be licensed. Walton College students should consult with the CPA exam advisor, Dr. Barry Bryan firstname.lastname@example.org for additional suggestions.
If you did NOT earn a degree from the Sam M. Walton College of Business, the above may not be relevant to you. Please consult Rule 3 of the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy at https://www.arkansas.gov/asbpa/rules.html or https://www.arkansas.gov/asbpa/rules_2013/rule-3.pdf or contact the University from which your degree was issued.
Note to all candidates: The CPA requirements for states can change quickly. You should check the State Boards frequently to ensure you still meet the requirements.
CMA: Certified Management Accountant Exam
The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) conducts the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) examination. The IMA website states the following in regards to the CMA examination:
- The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation provides corporate management and individual Members with an objective measure of knowledge and competence in the field of management accounting. The CMA is an invaluable credential for professional advancement and for broadening professional skills and perspective in the managerial accounting field.
- The CMA Exam topics include economics, business finance, situational analysis, and decision making with a strong emphasis on ethics.
The CMA exam is offered in a computer-based format on demand.
To qualify to take the exam, you must have a baccalaureate degree in any area from an accredited college or university. Membership in the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is required. Candidates must also meet the IMA's Standards of Ethical Conduct. There is an experience requirement to become a licensed CMA. For more information on the exam and registration, go to: www.imanet.org.
CIA: Certified Internal Auditor
The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation is the only globally accepted certification for internal auditors Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree or its equivalent.
Completion of the degree and work experience is required before the certificate is awarded. Candidates must exhibit high and professional character and agree to abide by the Code of Ethics established by the Institute of the Internal Audits.
The CIA exam consists of four parts: The Internal Audit Activity's Role in Governance, Risk and Control; Conducting the Internal Audit Engagement, Business Analysis and Information Technology, and Business Management Skills.
For more details about the exam and registration information go to: https://www.theiia.org/index.cfm?doc_id=43.