Earning a CPA license is an essential career move for an accountant. Having one proves to the world that you’re a qualified and capable professional that can handle large amounts of money.
Of course, the difficulty of the CPA exam reflects its importance— only approximately 50% of test takers end up passing the test and earning their license.
As in most other states in the country, becoming a CPA in Massachusetts is a tough but rewarding process. The state has very strict education requirements, but the salary you’ll make as a CPA more than makes up for it.
In order to make things a little easier for you, I’ve compiled a resource of everything you need to know to become a licensed CPA in Massachusetts.
Read on to see what your requirements are and what you should expect from the test!
Massachusetts CPA Exam Details
All CPA exam content is uniform across the United States. As a result, you don’t need to worry about state specific content. Instead, you just need to pass the Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG) exams. A passing score on each test is 75.
Each of the 4 tests is split up into 5 sections. The first 2 testlets consist of a series of multiple choice questions and the remainder is made up of task based simulations. You’ll have a total of 4 hours to complete each of the 4 exams. There is one mandatory 15 minute break that stops the clock, and 3 optional ones that don’t.
You should take a look at the AICPA exam blueprints before studying to get an idea of what subjects you’ll need to understand for each section. After that, the best way to ensure you earn a passing grade on all four sections is to enroll in a CPA review course with a pass guarantee.
For the most part, Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room for students looking to meet their educational requirements for the CPA license. Instead, their requirements are uniform and expected of all candidates.
To start, you must have a bachelor’s degree with at least 120 of your 150 credit hours being from an accredited institution. Plus, 21 of those hours must be based on accounting, and 9 of those hours must focus on business courses.
Once you’ve completed that, you must send all of your transcripts to the NASBA CPA Examination Services (CPAES). This is done by filling out an Academic Evaluation for Certification Report (AECR), which requires you to attach a copy of your transcripts and pay a licensing fee.
Completing 120 courses and earning a degree takes a minimum of 4 years, although there’s a good chance it’ll take longer than that. It’s especially likely to take longer than expected when you consider the work experience requirements that you also need to meet in the same time period.
According to the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy, you must have at least 1 year of accounting work experience before you qualify for the exam. All work must be completed under the employment of a certified CPA.
Much like with other states, there are no strict limits on your workplace outside of the licensed CPA. You’re free to gain experience through government work, the private sector, or anywhere else.
Uniform CPA Exam Fees
Massachusetts has a higher fee for the CPA exam than other states. To start, you must pay an initial application fee of $195. There’s also a $100 fee you must pay when sending your AECR in order to sit for the exam. Should you need to retake the exam for any reason, you’ll need to pay up to $177.
Even after you’ve paid for registration (which is heavily discounted when paying for all four at once instead of one at a time), you’re still not off the hook. Each of the 4 parts of the CPA exam must be paid for separately. They cost $225 each and must be paid for again if you need to retake them. In total, you can expect to pay a minimum of $1,095 to take the CPA exam.
You’re going to want to pass the test on your first try to keep fees down. I would suggest taking a CPA prep course to better your chances of passing on the first try. They can be pricey, but not as expensive as re-registering for the exams.
After completing the CPA exam, you’ll be asked to complete one final payment for your license. Massachusetts charges $175 for the initial license fee, but you’ll also need to pay a renewal fee of $161 every 3 years.
Bear in mind that there may be additional fees attached to your license. For instance, late renewal adds an extra $57 to the cost. Make sure to submit your renewal early to avoid extra fees!
Massachusetts has a fairly strict set of requirements for continuing professional education. For starters, the deadline for every CPA to complete their biennial renewal is June 30th. You must have completed 80 hours of continuing education every 2 years, with at least 4 hours of those being in ethics. Unfortunately, Massachusetts doesn’t allow carry over credit, so you’ll have to meet this requirement in the same period.
After the CPA Exam
Once you’ve completed the CPA exam, you’re finally ready to enter the workforce as a public accountant. Massachusetts has decent demand for CPAs, and salaries match the national average at $72k a year. According to ZipRecruiter, the highest paying cities in the state are Leominster, New Bedford, and Cambridge. Each of those cities has an average pay that’s thousands of dollars higher than the state’s average.
But before you move to one of the high-earning locations, keep this last tip in mind:
Living in Massachusetts isn’t as expensive as other states, but your cost of living may go up depending on what city you live in. According to RentData, the average rent in Cambridge is much higher than Leominster and New Bedford, so you may end up paying more of your salary towards living expenses and cancelling out the increased salary from jobs in that area.
If you’re smart about balancing your rent and other living costs with your salary, you may end up with more money overall than someone who works in a higher paying state. According to The Department of Numbers, the fraction of renter’s income spent on rent is slightly lower than the national average, so becoming a CPA in Massachusetts is a good move!
Massachusetts CPA Exam FAQs
Q: How long does it take to become a CPA in Massachusetts?
A: It takes a minimum of 5 years just to meet the prerequisites for a CPA license. After that, you need to pass all 4 tests within 18 months. In total, it will take you a minimum of 6 years to become a CPA.
Q: How many CPAs are there in Massachusetts?
A: The Massachusetts Society of CPAs reports that there are over 11 thousand active CPAs in the state.
Q: How do I renew my CPA license in MA?
A: Renewal occurs every 2 years on June 30th. You must have completed 80 hours of CE credit with at least 4 hours of ethics training. Once you’ve done that, you need to pay $161 for renewal, with an extra $57 charge for late applications.
MA Exam Information and Resources
For more details, please contact:
1000 Washington Street, Suite 710
Boston, MA 02118-6100
Now that you have started the CPA exam application process, your next step is to find a CPA review course that fits your budget, learning style and schedule.
It can take several weeks for your application to be processed so don’t waste that valuable time waiting to hear back from your state board. If you start studying now you will get a nice jump start on the material and will be better prepared to pass your first CPA exam!
Bryce Welker is a regular contributor to Forbes, Inc.com, YEC.co and Business Insider. After graduating from San Diego State University he went on to earn his Certified Public Accountant license and created CrushTheCPAexam.com to share his knowledge and experience to help other accountants become CPAs too. As Seen On Forbes