What Accounting Classes Count Toward Becoming a CPA?

The CPA designation can take an accounting clerk's career to the next level.
The CPA designation can take an accounting clerk's career to the next level. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Certified public accountants (CPA) are permitted by state law to provide a range of accounting-related services to both individuals and businesses. Accountants with a CPA designation often open their own independent accounting firms, serving clients locally, regionally or nationally. State laws governing CPA certification vary, but accountants are generally required to complete specific accounting and business courses in their bachelor's degree program before taking a CPA certification exam. Educational institutions often use slightly different terminology for identical courses; work with the guidance office at your school to ensure you cover all of the required topics.

Income Tax Courses

One of a CPA's major services is the preparation and filing of income taxes. Individuals often consult CPAs to simplify the income tax accounting process or to obtain the maximum credits and deductions. Small businesses almost always consult with CPAs to handle their income taxes, ensuring that they stay out of trouble with the IRS while minimizing their tax obligations.

Examples of courses covering income tax topics include Legal Environment of Business, Introductory and Advanced Income Tax Accounting and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.

Cost Accounting

Accounting for costs is of the utmost importance in any business, so much so that businesses often consult with CPAs to get a handle on their cost structures. Cost accounting courses will teach you the basics of various cost-recognition methods, as well as advanced concepts such as depreciation and amortization.

Examples of courses which cover costing topics include Cost Accounting, Accounting Information Systems and Intermediate Accounting.

Managerial Accounting

Managerial accounting courses cover intermediate and advanced accounting topics useful for internal purposes. Basic financial accounting courses are centered around creating financial statements for external users; intermediate and advanced accounting courses focus on creating reports for managerial use within the company. These courses dabble a bit in statistical analysis to help develop meaningful reports out of large quantities of data.

Examples of courses with cover internal accounting topics include Managerial Accounting and Managerial Statistics.

Audit Accounting

Certified public accountants can find a steady stream of work in the area of external auditing. A CPA may even decide to focus exclusively on financial audits due to the generally larger size of business clients seeking audit services. Independent audits are required to accompany the annual reports of all publicly traded corporations. Private businesses contract with accounting firms to administer external audits for a number of reasons, as well, such as adding a layer of protection to their internal control policies.

Examples of courses which cover auditing topics include Audit Accounting, Auditing and Attestation and Governmental Accounting.

Basic Accounting and Business

If your degree is in a field unrelated to business, your state is likely to require you to take an introductory accounting course. The state will also likely require you to take a range of basic business management courses, including business law, statistics, business communications and basic finance. These additional requirements can increase the time and money required to obtain your certification.

The range of general business courses required for CPAs includes Intro to Business, Intro to Marketing, Business FInance, International Business, Economics and Business Ethics.

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