By Anne Rosivach
New York and Pennsylvania have joined the 47 states and territories that already require 150 credit hours for CPA licensing. The latest state to mandate the change is Pennsylvania, where on July 10 Governor Edward Rendell signed a bill amending the state's CPA law to require 150 credit hours and one year experience in public accounting for licensure. The education and experience changes will go into effect as January 1, 2012.
In New York, where students will have to meet the 150 hour education requirement to sit for the CPA exam as of August 1, 2009, students are deciding whether to take the exam before the end of the Spring semester.
Universities in both states are expanding existing graduate programs or designing new pathways to a master's degree to prepare for an expected increase in enrollment, and accounting firms are adjusting their recruiting programs to help new hires meet the requirements.
Tim Boyle, Partner in Charge of Recruiting at KPMG in Philadelphia said that that the new law creates the need to "think about how we can help." In a conversation with AccountingWEB, Boyle emphasized the need to communicate about the firms' needs with both students and the schools. At the same time, he says for the interim period, "It has forced us to be creative and work with the students." He finds that regardless of the requirements, more students want a graduate degree and are looking for a longer term experience in public accounting.
The additional education requirement is not going to change the plans of many accounting students, Brian Campo, a candidate for the Masters in Accounting (MAC) at Villanova University in Philadelphia told AccountingWEB. "Accounting students today expect to go on for a graduate degree. The degree sets you apart and shows a dedication to the field."
Villanova offers four programs that students can choose from to earn the 150 credits, including a popular 4-1, 1-4 program where candidates for the MAC take four courses during the summer after graduation, one distance learning course during both the fall and spring semesters and then return for four courses the following summer. "Since most accounting grads will not go to work until the September following graduation," Campo said, "this program gives them the opportunity to get into the work force and begin earning a salary with only one summer's interruption."
Some senior accounting majors at Canisius College in Rochester, New York will sit for the CPA exam in the summer of 2009 rather than take another year of study, said Joe O'Donnell, chair of the college's accounting department, according to the Rochester Business Journal. "They've taken the approach, 'I want to beat the deadline'."
One New Yorker who plans to stay in school is Peter Loney, a forward on the men's basketball team at Damaen College in Amherst, NY. "I planned to get a master's degree anyway," Loney says. "I think I'll definitely be more prepared with the 150-hour degree as opposed to the 120-hour degree."
At Villanova, faculty and administrators are working hard to ease the transition for students. "We are going into undergraduate courses, and the faculty are talking about it," Villanova's associate dean Bob Bonner told AccountingWEB. "Villanova has had graduate accounting programs in place since 2000, but at the School of Business, we are continuing to look at enhancements."
Bonner plans to meet with the larger firms in the Philadelphia area "who also have a vested interest in making this transition," he says, to come up with solutions and ideas "so that the students don't have to have the conversation." Villanova, which has a large number of students entering as freshmen with advanced placement credits, is considering a range of additional avenues to the 150 credits that could include a nine-month compressed program for students who can begin their program in their senior year.
As coordinator of the advanced accounting courses at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College of the City of New York, Associate Professor Donal Byard says he, "tried to make sure that all instructors in these courses informed students early about the impending changes in the requirements to sit for the CPA exam in New York," according to the school's news site, The Ticker.com.
About 450 accounting majors graduate from Baruch each year preparing for the CPA exam. According to the chair of the department, Professor Masako Darrough, the department is proposing a revised program, that would allow for more flexibility for students pursuing the major. The program that used to require 33 undergraduate credits to meet New York's current 124 hour requirement might require fewer credits if the proposal is put into action, allowing for extra master's level classes.
A hallmark of Pennsylvania's new law, according to Governor Rendell, is that it permits "increased CPA mobility to practice across state lines." Accounting graduates from Villanova practice in New York and New Jersey, Bonner says, and the requirement is becoming standard. Currently, only six jurisdictions do not have the 150 hour requirement in place: California, Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont and the Virgin Islands.
Twenty-two states allow candidates to sit at 120 hrs, but require 150 for certification. They are: AK, AZ, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IA, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, NJ, RI, SC, VA, and WA. Pennsylvania can be added to this list, but the 150-hour is still optional until 2012.