Can You Become a US CPA with 3 Year Degree Alone?

Can a 3-year bachelor degree (generally equivalent to an Associate degree) quality to sit for the CPA exam?

I am afraid not.

Since 2012, it has been exceeding hard for 3-year bachelor degree holder to get qualified for the US CPA exam. Delaware, the “last remaining” state that welcome associate degree holders, changed its rules effective August 1, 2012.

How Rules Have Changed in Delaware throughout the Years

There are a lot of outdated information circulating on the Internet related to Delaware CPA exam requirements.

I would like to take the opportunity to clarify using the timeline below — the information you gathered on the Internet may well be correct, but it may not be the most up-to-date.

Before 2006

Working experience was not required to get a Delaware CPA certificate  as long as you are not planning to practice public accounting in Delaware.

After 2006

Since 2006 Delaware has been requiring all candidates to have work experience before getting the CPA qualification by abolishing the so-called two-tier system, which means that you can no longer get a CPA certificate alone, but a full CPA license instead.

With that, each CPA candidate with varying degrees will need to fulfill the following:

  • Masters degree: 1 year of working experience
  • Bachelor degree:  2 years of working experience
  • Associate degree: 4 years of working experience

Please note that the working experience has to be supervised and verified by a CPA license holder (note: CPA certificate holder is not qualified for verification). “CPA equivalent” e.g. Chartered accountants from Canada and Australia are NOT allowed for Delaware.

In terms of the education requirement, Delaware is the easiest to fulfill. Not only that Associate degrees are allowed, the number of account courses required is only 21 semester hours (one of the least, if not the least, among all states) and elementary accounting courses can be counted.

Effective August 1, 2012

Delaware will join the vast majority of states to impose a 150 credit hour requirement on all candidates. If you have an associate degree, got qualified for the CPA exam but don’t manage to pass all  4 parts of the exam before this deadline, you will be allowed to pass the CPA exam but you will not eligible for the CPA license.

It will also be impossible for you to switch to other states because none of the states will accept candidates with only a 3-year bachelor degree.

  • For details, please go to the Delaware CPA Exam Requirements page with links to the primary source e.g. NASBA’s Delaware page and State Board pages.

I have BCOM. Can I Get Qualified At All?

I will take Indian candidate as an example since I get the majority of inquiries from them:

If you are:

  • B.COM only: no (sorry about that) – remedy is to take a 2-year master’s degree, or transfer your credit to a 3-year university, make up a few courses and graduate from there.
  • B.COM + Indian CA: I run out of ideas for you guys, but Leslie-Anne might be able to help if you are willing to sign up CPAexcel courses (there is a 95% refund if you can’ get qualified in the end).
  • B.COM + M.COM: yes it is possible.

For further details specifically for Indian candidates please check out this page here.

I Have a 3 Year Degree and I Got ACCA. Can I Get Qualified?

For non-Indian candidates who went through a 3-year university system, please check out CPA exam exemptions which cover other professional qualifications such as ACCA.

If you are not qualified for any of these exemptions, I am afraid that you will need 2-year master’s degree to fulfill the typical 150 credit hour requirements.

If CPA doesn’t Work, Do You have Other Suggestions for Me?

If you want to go for jobs in the investment field, such as asset management, equity research analyst or hedge fund specialist, then you can consider CFA.

For most of you who are accountants working/plan to work in in corporate/industry, I encourage that you check out the CMA qualification because at least BCOM from a typical university in India, or any 3-year degree from a “decent” university in your country, can get you qualified.

For general info on CMA as well as CMA vs CPA, please click on the respective links which will bring you to our sister site, Good luck!


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