Earn an MBA to Strategically Meet the 150-Credit-Hour Requirement

By Ashley Elmore, Ph.D., Georgian Court University – March 20, 2017
Earn an MBA to Strategically Meet the 150-Credit-Hour Requirement

Everyone knows that it’s not easy to earn the CPA designation — which is why it’s so highly regarded. The requirements are stringent, and the four parts of the CPA exam are difficult to pass. It typically takes 400 hours to prepare to take the exam, not to mention the time and investment needed to meet the 150-credit-hour requirement. One might wonder if it’s worth it. 

The ROI of the CPA License

An article published in the Journal of Accountancy in 2016 entitled “CPA Credential Delivers High Value” discussed the significant return on investment (ROI) of obtaining the CPA designation. Based on data Robert Half publicly makes available on CPA and non-CPA salaries, the consumer price index and other indicators, the authors found that the lifetime earning premium (LEP) for a 22-year-old CPA working for a large company is $981,720 more than a non-CPA associate if they both work until age 65. When the time and cost associated with passing the CPA exam and maintaining the certification throughout one’s career was taken into consideration to calculate the net present value (NPV) of the designation, the 22-year-old CPA would still realize an ROI of $861,888. CPAs working for small or medium-sized companies will generally realize a lower NPV since these businesses generally pay less money, especially at an entry level. 

Why an MBA? 

The AICPA increased the number of credit hours to qualify for certification because CPAs are more than accountants today. CPAs are trusted advisors upon whom clients rely to guide them in many areas of their business. This demands that CPAs are knowledgeable in a wide variety of business disciplines including management, economics, operations, finance, information technology, human resources, business law and marketing. 

Individuals with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree are better prepared to meet the ever-increasing demands of today’s global economy. “MBA programs focus on timely and relevant business issues,” says Janice Warner, Ph.D., dean of the School of Business and Digital Media at Georgian Court University. “Students work with businesses on real concerns so that they learn how to approach a problem from a multi-disciplined perspective. MBAs are trained to look beyond the obvious to determine the underlying cause of a situation and deliver viable solutions. A CPA who is also an MBA will therefore provide more value to clients.” 

“Professionals who hold both the CPA and MBA designations can increase their LEP even more,” adds Warner. Each designation that a professional holds will typically increase his or her salary by at least 10 percent. This is just one reason why you should consider a graduate degree to meet the 150-credit requirement. Many MBA programs require 36 to 48 credits to earn a degree. 

One of the major issues accounting firms face is the lack of available talent to transition current leadership to the next generation. With so many partners approaching retirement in the near future, firms are taking several approaches to solve this problem. While many firms are merging, others are investing in training in the areas of leadership, teamwork, business development, communication and presentation skills, and business writing. In addition to subject matter expertise, MBAs work in teams and learn leadership as well as soft skills. This makes MBAs more valuable to their employer. 

CPA candidates have many options to meet the 150-credit requirement. These include taking general interest classes at a community college, continuing to study at an undergraduate level, or electing to take a CLEP exam to qualify for credits. Although these alternatives may be easier and cost less money, they may not be as strategic as earning an MBA. 


Ashley  Elmore

Ashley Elmore

Ashley Elmore, Ph.D., is the MBA director and an assistant professor of marketing and management at Georgian Court University.