Last Updated on August 30, 2023
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CPA Requirements In NC
Accountants can work in a wide range of environments, from law enforcement to Wall Street. In fact, there are a number of certifications an accountant can pick from to steer his or her career in the direction in which they are interested. None of those paths are quite as prestigious as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. The CPA is a state-issued license bestowed on hard-working accountants who pass a stringent set of qualifications, from academia to work experience. The CPA exam is one of the most difficult professional tests in the country and is one that many accounting students need to retake. If you wish to become a CPA in North Carolina you’ll need to meet the state’s standards. Keep reading to discover their requirements for certified public accountancy.
5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in North Carolina
- Get your Education in North Carolina
- Take the Uniform CPA Exam in North Carolina
- Gain the Necessary Experience in North Carolina
- Get your North Carolina CPA License
- Continuing Education in North Carolina
1. Get Your Education
a. Get in touch with colleges and universities in North Carolina to request information on their accounting programs. Under the rules of the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners, in order to become a certified public accountant in the state you need 150 credit hours of college credit and at least a bachelor’s degree.
b. Before selecting a school, make sure that the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners will acknowledge any credits you earn from that school. Under Board rules, the university or college you choose must be accredited by one of the following regional accreditation agencies:
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools–Commission on Colleges
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges–Commission for Senior Colleges
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges–Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools–Higher Learning Commission
- Council on Occupational Education
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges – Commission on Technical and Career Institutions
c. Sign up for classes that will count for credit with the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners.
- Requirement 1: You must earn 150 semester hours and at least a bachelor’s degree, and take one of the following accounting concentrations:
- Accounting Concentration 1: 30 semester hours of undergraduate accounting courses
- No more than 6 semester hours may be in accounting principles
- No more than 3 semester hours may be in business law
- Accounting Concentration 2: 20 semester hours of graduate level accounting courses
- Accounting Concentration 3: An equivalent combination of undergraduate and graduate level accounting courses
- No more than 4 semester hours of graduate income tax courses count for credit in any of the three concentrations
- Accounting Concentration 1: 30 semester hours of undergraduate accounting courses
- Requirement 2: in addition to an accounting concentration, you must have 24 semester hours of other coursework, including at least 3 semester hours in eight of the following fields of study:
- Computer technology
- Social science/humanities
- International environment
If you hold a master’s degree or higher in one of the following disciplines, you are considered to have fulfilled Requirement 2:
- Tax law
- Business administration
- Law degree
2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam
In North Carolina, you are eligible to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination provided that you are:
- A citizen of the United States (or have declared the intention of becoming a citizen)
- A resident alien or a citizen of a foreign jurisdiction that extends similar examination privileges (see section on International Reciprocity under Step 4.)
- 18 years of age or older
- Of good moral character
- Meet the education requirements (hold a bachelor’s degree fulfilling 120 of the 150 semester hours required for a CPA Certificate in North Carolina)
a. Download and complete the Initial Application for Uniform CPA Exam.
b. Along with your completed application, you must submit all of the following to Exam Application, NC State Board of CPA Examiners, P.O. Box 12827, Raleigh, NC 27605-2827:
- Two identical copies of a recent passport-sized photo of yourself
- Official college transcripts bearing the college’s seal
- If you have not yet completed the accounting concentration, list the colleges, courses, semester hours and expected completion date for these courses
- Application fee including administrative fee of $230 plus fees for each section of the exam which you are planning to take (see application for exact amounts) via check, money order or credit card, payable to North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners
- Three references of your moral character (signed by each of them on the Uniform CPA Exam Certificate of Moral Character, included within the application packet)
- All court records related to any current or previous charges (including probation)
c. Within 10 to 15 business days, you will receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) the Uniform CPA Exam if the Board grants you authorization to test. NTS will be sent from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) by mail, fax or email (whichever method you selected when you submitted your application)
d. Go to the Prometric testing centers website to schedule your examination at a North Carolina location. They include:
Exam scores are release in “waves” during each testing window, not just during the blackout month each quarter. You can also check their scores online prior to receiving notification from the Board.
e. Show up at the correct Prometric testing site on your selected examination day ready to take the test.
f. Receive your scores by mail from the Board once they are tabulated. Exam scores are released during the blackout month of each quarterly testing window (March, June, September and December).
You may utilize the North Carolina page of the NASBA Gateway to retrieve scores within 24-48 hours of NASBA receiving the scores from the AICPA. NASBA and the Board use Twitter and Facebook to announce when the AICPA sends scores to NASBA. You will still receive a paper score notice by mail from the Board, but the online score retrieval allows you to access scores more quickly. Because there is a lag time between NASBA posting the scores online and when the Board receives notification of the scores, paper notices are not immediately available.
If you need to arrange disability testing accommodations or want further information, contact Phyllis Elliot, Examinations Specialist, via email at [email protected] or by phone at (919) 733-4224.
For detailed information on the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.
3. Gain The Necessary Experience
The North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners requires candidates to fulfill an experience prerequisite before they can become licensed CPAs in the state.
a. Get in touch with your school’s career center, who will help you find qualifying experiences. You may fulfill your experience requirement in one of the following ways:
- Option 1: Complete one year of experience in the public practice of accounting under the supervision of a licensed CPA
- Option 2: Complete one year of experience in the practice of accounting under the supervision of a licensed CPA
- Option 3: Complete four years of experience in the full-time teaching of accounting at an accredited university or college
- Teaching courses outside of the accounting field do not count towards the experience credit. Disallowed courses would include but are not limited to: finance, business law, computer applications, personnel management, statistics and economics
- If you teach accounting principles, this cannot count for more than two years of your total four years of experience
- At least two years of your teaching in accounting must be in advanced accounting courses, with 9 semester hours taught in at least two of the following areas:
- Income tax
- Intermediate financial accounting
- Advanced managerial accounting
- Option 4: Complete four years of self-employed experience in accounting
- Option 5: Complete four years of accounting experience (not CPA supervised)
- Option 6: Complete a substantially equivalent combination of the five options above suitable to the Board
- Make sure your hourly calculations meet the requirements:
- One year equals 52 weeks of full-time employment of at least 30 hours a week
- If you work part-time, this must be noted on your Experience Affidavit, with a record of the part-time hours you worked for each week
b. Complete the correct Experience Affidavit for each experience (forms for regular, part-time work, self-employed, and teaching are listed at the link)
- Complete the top portion of the Experience Affidavit and give it to your direct supervisor to complete, sign, and return to you for submittal to the Board with your certification application
- If you fulfill the experience requirement under Option 3, you must submit an Experience Affidavit-Teaching, as well as a letter from each university or college where you taught. The affidavit must include:
- Number of credit hours taught per year
- Names and academic level of courses taught
- Number of hours that constitute full-time teaching
- Letter must be signed by the department head or dean
- If you fulfilled the experience requirement through part-time work, you must also submit an Experience Affidavit-Part-Time and attach it to the regular Experience Affidavit you submit
- If you fulfilled the experience requirement through self-employment, you must submit an Experience Affidavit- Self-Employed, along with five notarized statements from individuals or companies who were your clients
4. Get Your North Carolina CPA License
After passing the Uniform CPA Exam, completing the education requirements and fulfilling the Board’s experience requirement, you are ready to apply for your North Carolina CPA Certificate. (Under the Board’s definitions, “certificate” equals “license” in North Carolina).
a. Within a year prior to applying for certification, you must also pass an open book examination on the North Carolina Accountancy Statutes and Rules, including Rules of Professional Ethics and Conduct. To satisfy this requirement you may complete an 8 CPE (continuing professional education) hour course on this subject before applying for certification. Contact the North Carolina Association of CPAs, an organization that offers courses that will meet this requirement.
b. Checklist – Have you completed each of the following steps?
- Completed 150 semester hours of college credit, including all necessary coursework, and earned a bachelor’s degree at minimum
- Passed the Uniform CPA Exam with a score of 75% or above
- Completed the course on North Carolina Accountancy Statutes, Rules, and Ethics
- Fulfilled the Board’s experience requirement of one or four years (depending upon the experience you choose)
- Received completed Experience Affidavits from all of your qualifying employers
c. Apply for your North Carolina CPA Certificate.
- Access all forms required to apply for CPA certification here, including the Original North Carolina CPA Certificate Application
- Attach a recent 2” x 2” passport-sized photo of yourself
- Enclose a copy of the certificate of completion of the North Carolina Accountancy Statutes and Rules course
- Enclose a $100 check or money order payable to the NC State Board of CPA Examiners, or $100 credit card authorization
- Submit 3 forms from CPAs attesting to your moral character (one is included within the application package – make copies). These must be signed by each CPA and notarized
- Submit your completed, signed, notarized Experience Affidavits
- If you do not have a master’s degree in accounting, complete the 150 Semester Hour Worksheet (included in the application packet), showing a breakdown of your courses
- Send this completed application packet to: NC State Board of CPA Examiners, P.O. Box 12827, Raleigh, NC 27605
d. Wait to be notified. The NC State Board of CPA Examiners will notify you in writing when your application is approved and issue your CPA Certificate
Interstate Reciprocal Certificate
If you hold a CPA license or certificate from another jurisdiction, meet all of the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners’ education and experience requirements for CPAs, and you now live in or have a place of business in North Carolina, you may be eligible for a Reciprocal CPA Certificate.
- At this time, all jurisdictions are considered to have requirements substantially equivalent to those of North Carolina except the Virgin Islands
- Apply for a Reciprocal NC CPA Certificate. Upon submittal of the completed application, a recent photograph, and a $100 fee, you will be issued a Temporary Permit which will be valid for four months, giving you time to meet the following requirements:
- Pass the North Carolina Accountancy Statutes and Rules course
- Complete the Authorization for Interstate Exchange of Information form and send to the Board that holds your CPA license (included within the application packet)
- This documentation must be received within 90 days of receiving your Temporary Permit
- Mail application and documentation to: NC State Board of CPA Examiners, P.O. Box 12827, Raleigh, NC 27605
International Reciprocal Certificate
If you are a Chartered Accountant within the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, or Nova Scotia, the NC State Board of CPA Examiners regards you as being substantially equivalent to North Carolina CPAs. To qualify for international reciprocity so as to be certified as a CPA in North Carolina, you will first need to pass the NASBA International Qualification Exam (IQEX).
- To obtain an IQEX application, contact Alice Grigsby with the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners at [email protected]
- Complete, sign and have the application notarized
- Attach a recent passport-sized photo of yourself
- Enclose $100 payable to the NC State Board of CPA Examiners
- Enclose Experience Affidavits (included within application packet) signed by supervisors
- Complete Authorization for Exchange of Professional Accounting Licensing Information for Foreign Reciprocity form (included within application packet) and send it to your jurisdiction’s licensing agency to complete and return to the Board.
- Mail all of the above to: NC State Board of CPA Examiners, P.O. Box 12827, Raleigh, NC 27605
If you hold a CPA certificate or license with another foreign jurisdiction, you must complete the regular North Carolina certification process.
5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in North Carolina
In order to maintain a current, valid CPA certificate in North Carolina, you must comply with the state’s continuing professional education (CPE) requirements.
a. Complete 40 CPE hours each year
- A minimum of two CPE hours must be in regulatory or behavioral ethics and conduct
- 20 CPE hours may be carried over to the next year but cannot be used to satisfy the ethics requirement
b. Select from CPE programs listed on NASBA’s National Registry of CPE Sponsors
The North Carolina Board of CPA Examiners recognizes these seven fields of study:
- Accounting and Auditing
- Governmental Accounting
- Governmental Auditing
- Regulatory ethics
- Behavioral ethics
- Consulting services
- Administrative practice
- Social environment of business
- Business management and organization
- Business law
- Management advisory services
- Special knowledge and applications
- Computer science
- Specialized knowledge and applications
- Personal development
- Personal development
- Personnel/human resources
Enroll in approved formats, such as:
- National/state accounting organizations’ professional development programs
- National/state accounting organizations/chapters’ technical sessions of meetings
- Accredited university and college courses
- Credit courses: 1 semester hour = 15 CPE hours
- Noncredit courses: 1 semester hour = 1 CPE hour
- Accounting firms’ CPE programs
- CPE correspondence courses
- Teaching a CPE course (may only account for 50% of your total CPE hours)
- Teaching a college course (may only account for 50% of your total CPE hours)
- Authoring a publication (may only account for 25% of your total CPE hours)
- Self-study (must be for CPE purposes with an examination)
c. Maintain documentation of your CPE hours for at least four years, including:
- Sponsor of course
- Title/description of content
- Location of course
- Dates of attendance
- Certificates of completion
- Number of hours claimed
d. Report your CPE hours annually at the time of certificate renewal.
As a North Carolina CPA, you are not required to provide details of each course during the annual license renewal process. Instead, in conjunction with the annual license renewal period, the Board conducts an audit of licensees’ CPE records to ensure compliance with the Board’s rules. If selected for the CPE audit, you must respond to the Board within the specified time frame (usually 30 days) and must provide certificates of completion for each CPE course claimed for credit. NOTE: In accordance with 21 NCAC 08G .0401(i), it is your responsibility to maintain records substantiating the CPE credits that you claim for the current year and for each of the four calendar years prior to the current year.
Now that you’re a CPA in North Carolina
Good for you! Your years of education and hard work have come to fruition, and you are now a North Carolina CPA! Some professional organizations that you may want to consider joining are the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the North Carolina Association of CPAs. Both organizations, one national and one local, offer members continuing education and professional development opportunities, as well as networking and guidance.
Also, think about specializing! In North Carolina, the possibilities for specialization are many, and include finance, auditing, information systems auditing, forensic accounting and risk management.
HOW TO BECOME A CPA IN NORTH CAROLINA
The economy of North Carolina is one that heavily relies upon the financial sector, both because of several mega-corporations located there, but also because many of these hugely successful enterprises are themselves banks and accounting firms. When, in accounting circles, people refer to the “big four” firms, they are talking about Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (known as just “Deloitte”), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (E&Y), and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG). The latter three of these have offices in North Carolina. Bank of America is based in Charlotte, and BB&T comes out of a city called Winston-Salem. There are 14 Fortune 500 and 26 Fortune 1000 headquarters that call the Tar Heel State home, as well as hundreds of accounting firms.
With an especially strong economy, particularly in the 15 metropolitan or urban areas across the state becoming a CPA has never been a better idea. North Carolina reports consistently low unemployment and a gross state product that hovers around $528 billion. These and other reasons mean that North Carolina’s accounting sector is steadily growing.
QUICK NC FACTS
ACCOUNTING PROGRAMS IN NORTH CAROLINA
Certified Public Accounting, like many professional fields, require those who practice to complete a state-specific type and amount of financial, tax, and legal education before they are entitled to practice. While many of the duties CPAs perform seem fairly uniform throughout the country, the reason licensing is state specific is to ensure that CPAs are equipped to handle not only the federal tax, business, and financial laws and regulations, but also the varied state tax laws and guidelines that are not transferable across state borders. Nearly every state, however, makes it an option for CPAs to practice in other states. Some states cap the number of hours or the amount of money a CPA can make outside of their licensing state, while others require simply that the CPA not own property in the state they are practicing if it is not their licensing state.
The national requirements to become a CPA include a minimum standard of 150-semester units of post-secondary education, one year of accounting related work experience, and passing the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Once you are licensed as a CPA in any state, interstate CPA licensing requirements begin to apply, regardless of the type of client services you perform, and regardless of how well you know about the laws in the next state over. Educational programs in accounting include sections on inter-state laws regarding accounting practice.
ACCOUNTING DEGREES IN NORTH CAROLINA
To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in North Carolina, specific eligibility requirements must be met beyond those of the national minimums. The NC State Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners has a website describing these requirements, with links to the relevant statutes, contacts, and in many cases, downloadable and electronic submittable forms for CPA applicants. The person applying must have a bachelor’s degree in Accounting with 150 educational hours from an accredited post-secondary school (with a few exceptions). Unique to North Carolina, these hours must include a course on communications, a course on computer science, one on economics, ethics, finance, humanities, international environment, law, management, and finally, one on statistics. Most North Carolina-based accounting programs embed these requirements into required coursework. Any person applying who has a Master’s degree in accounting, tax law, finance, economics, or business administration is also eligible.
In North Carolina, CPAs must also complete one of the following options of work experience before they can obtain their CPA; work for one year, 30 hours per week, under the supervision of a licensed CPA, work as a non-CPA accountant for four years, or spend four years teaching accounting specific courses, at least half of which must be teaching advanced accounting courses such as Auditing or Advanced Managerial Accounting. If the applicant chooses to work less than 30 hours per week, the number of required time doubles (2 years, 8 years, and 8 years respectively).
CPA LICENSURE IN NORTH CAROLINA, STEPS TOWARD ELIGIBILITY
To be eligible for CPA licensure in North Carolina, candidates must meet these following qualifications:
Anyone who wishes to become a CPA in the United States, must sit for and pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (Uniform CPA Exam). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the body that creates and regulates the exam, and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) administers it in each state. The Uniform CPA Exam is the same, or uniform, in every state, however, the requirements for being eligible to sit for the exam, and subsequently passing, determines if you can be licensed in your state.
In addition to these three minimum national standards, CPAs in North Carolina (and everywhere) must complete Continuing Professional Education (CPE) to maintain their CPA licensure. This can be accomplished through educational conferences held by the AICPA, or through specific coursework given in-person or online through the AICPA website. North Carolina, CPAs must complete 40 hours annually, of continued professional education or CPE. Two of these 40 must specifically be in the area of Accounting Ethics. CPAs can report to the state of North Carolina about their professional development all year long and must have all of their reporting done by New Year’s Eve each year. The type of instruction can be varied, however, 50% must be instructor based either teaching or learning, 25% can be self-study coursework of courses that are at least 25 minutes long, and the remaining 25% can be granted for any educational accounting material the accountant publishes.
For instance, if you are an accounting professor, you can apply the hours you spend teaching towards CPE, or if you publish educational material on accounting, you can apply the hours it took to plan and publish this as well. If you become a CPA in North Carolina and begin practicing, but neglect your CPE requirements in the first or any subsequent year, your CPA license will be placed on inactive status. CPAs with an inactive license may reinstate to active status by completing a form and submitting it to the North Carolina CPA Board, pay the current certificate application fee, submit three certificates of good moral character and endorsements of eligibility, and furnishing the Board with documentation of the completion of the necessary hours of CPE, including the required course on the North Carolina accountancy statutes and rules.
BEST CITIES IN NORTH CAROLINA TO WORK AS AN ACCOUNTANT (SALARY)
As recently as 2007, federal regulations passed that ensure if, for example, a CPA had been working with a client for years, and that client moved to the next state over or took a job just over the border, or (a newer scenario) the client is telecommuting to a state neither of them lives in, that CPA could continue working with that client, even though the clients finances are now the concern of a state the CPA is not licensed in. The regulating bodies who govern accounting, and who passed this new regulation are the AICPA and NASBA.The regulation itself is referred to as Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) and the section dealing with mobility across state lines is section 23, or “no notice, no fee, no escape”. Section 23 is often compared to the driver’s license model. Any driver who is licensed in a U.S. state can, without penalty, drive across the country without applying for new driver’s licenses in each state she visits. If she were to disobey the traffic laws of the state she is visiting outside her licensing state, she can be disciplined by the state where the infraction occurred. The same applies to the UAA, and specifically section 23. The UUA in its entirety was developed and is maintained, reviewed and updated by the AICPA and NASBA. It provides a uniform approach to regulation of the accounting profession.
Accounting Schools in North Carolina
The following overview of accounting schools in North Carolina contains key information about the accounting programs available in the state so that you can make an informed decision about your education options. The universities and colleges in North Carolina provide an array of accounting programs including general accounting and specialty topics such as forensic accounting and accounting technology. Many schools also offer online accounting degree programs. Some students find that online accounting degree programs provide better flexibility and are a better fit than traditional on-campus options.
- There are 89 not-for-profit colleges and universities with accounting degree programs in North Carolina.1
- 11 not-for-profit schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in accounting.1
- Highest graduation rate*: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 91%1
- Highest transfer-out rate*: Catawba College and Gardner-Webb University, 40%1
- Highest net price per year*: High Point University, $39,1011
- Lowest net price per year*: Elizabeth City State University, $2,3041
- 4 schools ranked in Businessweek’s Top Business Undergraduate Programs in 2017: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (7), Wake Forest University (13), North Carolina State University (47), Elon University (48)
- 6 schools ranked in Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges in 2018: Appalachian State University (#29 in-state, #22 out-of-state), North Carolina State University (#9 in-state, #7 out-of-state), University of North Carolina at Asheville (#61 in-state, #71 out-of-state), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#1 in-state, #1 out-of-state), University of North Carolina Wilmington (#62 in-state, #68 out-of-state), Western Carolina University (#58 in-state, #48 out-of-state)
- 4 schools ranked in US News National Universities Rankings in 2019 (top 100): Duke University (8), Wake Forest University (27), University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (30), North Carolina State University-Raleigh (80)
*For four-year not-for-profit colleges and universities with accounting degree programs.
Keep reading to find out more about your options for earning a degree from accounting schools in North Carolina, with profiles of popular programs, possible career tracks, and more.
Schools with the Highest 2015 First-Time CPA Exam Pass Rate with an Advanced Degree
- Wake Forest University (83.5%)
- University of North Carolina at Wilmington (80.0%)
- Duke University (79.9%)
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (65.3%)
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte (53.9%)
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro (50.0%)
- East Carolina University (45.5%)
There were seven schools in North Carolina that had first-time CPA exam candidates (with an advanced degree). The CPA exam pass rate ranged from 45.5% to 83.5% for these schools. The CPA exam pass rate for all candidates in the United States in 2015 was 48.4% (with a bachelor’s and advanced degree). The first-time CPA exam pass rate can serve as a good metric for comparing schools although the numbers may be skewed at smaller schools with few candidates. For a full breakdown by school see the 2015 NASBA Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Performance report provided by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
Top Master’s in Accounting Programs in North Carolina
North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)
North Carolina State University’s Jenkins Graduate School, through the Poole College of Management, offers a Master of Accounting (MAC) program that combines technical training with real-world experience for a comprehensive program of study. Students in the program can choose to concentrate in Enterprise Risk Management, Information Technology, or Tax Strategy. The 31 credit hour curriculum is founded on eight required core courses and nine hours of electives. Courses in the core for all accounting graduate students include Applied Financial Management, Accounting and Tax Research, Managerial and Career Effectiveness, and Advanced Commercial Law. Students have opportunities for community involvement through the school’s Financial Literacy projects and may optionally participate in accounting focused study abroad programs. The application deadline for students who wish to be considered for tuition assistance through fellowships and scholarships is February 1. North Carolina State is ranked #80 (tie) in National Universities by US News for its affordable tuition, various degree programs, and highly ranked specialist colleges.
University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC)
University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School offers a prestigious Master of Accounting (MAC) program. The Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Master of Accounting degree takes students beyond studying for the CPA exam and helps develop the credentials and skills needed for success in an accounting career. Leadership and communication skills are emphasized in the program as well as meaningful community involvement and executive networking. Courses in this program are held on a module schedule with two modules per semester. Students may optionally pursue concentration tracks in Audit or Tax. Full-time students may complete the degree program in one year, and this program is available on-campus or fully online. Fundamental courses include Financial Statement Analysis, Cost Accounting, Auditing and Assurance Services, and Financial Reporting. University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is ranked #11 in the Best Accounting Programs in the nation by US News.
University of North Carolina Wilmington (Wilmington, NC)
The Cameron School of Business at University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) offers a Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) that is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Students can choose to concentrate in either Tax Services or Assurance/Systems Advisory. The MSA is a 10-month, full-time, day program emphasizing hands-on learning that prepares graduates to pursue professional careers in accounting at all levels, from local CPA firms to federal agencies and international corporations. To be admitted, students must have an acceptable score on the GMAT and have completed prerequisite accounting courses. Those who did not complete the prerequisites as part of their undergraduate degree may take the courses through UNCW before applying to the MSA program. The program boasts a 96% placement rate at graduation and a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Graduates will meet the 150-hour education requirement to pursue CPA licensure in North Carolina and most other states.
Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC)
Western Carolina University maintains a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program that prepares students for careers in public accounting by meeting the educational and exam preparation requirements for CPA certification in most states. Most classes within the program, including the core requirements, can be taken evenings and weekends. The school encourages students from all undergraduate backgrounds who are interested in professional accounting careers to apply. Completion of the master’s degree requires 30 credit hours, including 21 credit hours in core offerings such as Income Tax Theory and Applications, Accounting Theory and Practice, Auditing, and Public Accounting Regulatory Environment. Students may also pursue internship opportunities to earn course credit. Full-time students typically satisfy graduation requirements in 12 to 18 months, while part-time students may complete the program in 24 months. Western Carolina University is ranked #34 in Regional Universities (South) by US News in recognition of its outstanding academic programs and competitive student-faculty ratio.
Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in North Carolina
Johnson Price Sprinkle, PA is consistently hiring for qualified graduates for its three North Carolina offices in Asheville, Boone, and Marion. Meaden & Moore is one of the 100 largest accounting firms in the US, and has an office in Charlotte, North Carolina. Meaden & Moore recruits recent graduates from campuses across North Carolina and other states. Rives & Associates, LLP has offices in Charlotte, Lexington, and Raleigh, and is hiring for driven individuals committed to providing professional, quality service.
How to Become a CPA in North Carolina
The North Carolina Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners oversees the process for becoming a Certified Public Accountant in the state. There are five main steps to complete in order to earn a CPA license in North Carolina.
- Complete a 150-semester hour or 225-quarter hour educational program of acceptable coursework in accounting.
- Accumulate the required hours of experience.
- Apply for and pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
- Take an approved accountancy law course.
- Apply for a license.
1. Complete a 150 semester hour or 225 quarter hour educational program of acceptable coursework in accounting.
The North Carolina of Board of Public Accountant Examiners follows the 150-hour rule, which requires that candidates for a license complete a program of education amounting to 150 semester hours that includes the award of a bachelor’s degree or higher. North Carolina candidates must earn a concentration in accounting at either the undergraduate or graduate level, or a combination thereof. A concentration at the undergraduate level must include at least 30 semester hours of accounting, whereas a concentration at the graduate level must consist of at least 20 semester hours in accounting. The education program must also include 24 semester hours of supplementary coursework made up of at least one three semester hour course from at least 8 of the 10 subjects of:
- Computer technology
- Humanities/social science
- International environment
2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
North Carolina CPA applicants must complete at least one year of full-time work experience supervised by an actively licensed CPA. This experience may be in the public practice of accounting or in the field of accounting. Candidates who complete their work experience by teaching the subject of accounting full-time must complete at least four years of experience. Candidates working in accounting who are not directly supervised by a licensed CPA may be able to meet experience requirements by working full time in the field of accounting for four years.
3. Apply for and pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
Candidates who are prepared to take the Uniform CPA Exam should apply to the North Carolina Board of Public Accountant Examiners using the Uniform CPA Examination Application. The application should be submitted with the appropriate fee(s) for the sections being taken. Applicants who are initially approved and apply to one section at a time should complete the re-exam application for sections not yet attempted. All four sections of the exam must be passed within an 18-month rolling period.
4. Take an approved accountancy law course.
Prospective North Carolina CPAs must take an approved accountancy law course within one year prior to applying for certification. Two courses are currently approved, both of which are available through the North Carolina Association of CPAs website: the seminar format “Ethics Principles and Professional Responsibilities” or the online self-study course “North Carolina Law Course: Ethics, Principles, and Professional Responsibility for North Carolina License Applicants.” Either course should be completed prior to applying for a license.
5. Apply for a license.
Once all requirements have been met, candidates may apply for a license using the Original North Carolina CPA Certificate Application. The packet must include supporting documentation demonstrating that the candidate has met all licensing requirements.
Once licensed, North Carolina CPAs must renew their license annually and meet the required 40 continuing professional education (CPE) hours to remain in good standing, two hours of which much be in regulatory or behavioral professional ethics. You can find additional information at the North Carolina Board of Public Accountant Examiners website.
North Carolina Accountant Salary and Job Outlook
Projected Job Growth
Accountants and Auditors in North Carolina from 2016-20262
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 31,470 accountants and auditors are currently working in North Carolina, at an average annual salary of $75,660.3 Most accountants in North Carolina find work in the northern part of the state in the greater Durham-Raleigh metro area.3 The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for accountants will increase as new laws and regulations take effect in the coming years, pushing employment in this field higher by a predicted 10% nationally through 2026.4 Jobs growth for accountants in North Carolina is expected to be slightly higher, at 13.8% during the same time period.2