Tough Questions About the 150-hour Requirement
- The idea to require students to complete additional, postgraduate
education before becoming eligible to receive a CPA license
was first introduced by the AICPA in 1959. In that year, the
AICPA’s Special Coordinating Committee to Study the
Report of the AICPA Commission on Standards of Education and
Experience for CPAs recommended that postgraduate study be
adopted as a requirement for the CPA certificate.
of the concept was slow. Not until 1978 did the first state,
Hawaii, enact a law requiring candidates to complete 150
hours of education to sit for the CPA exam. Since then,
the 150-hour requirement has taken off: today, most U.S.
states have statutory language that provides or will provide
for the requirement, and there appears to be little doubt
that it’s here to stay. New York was one of the last
states to enact the requirement, and it will officially
become law here on August 1, 2009. That means today’s
college sophomores in New York will be the first in the
state mandated to fulfill the requirement.
requirement’s ubiquity and the fact that it’s
about to become law in New York State means it may be time
to start asking tough questions about its efficacy and impact.
Most fundamentally: Has the requirement been working in
the states in which it has passed? The question may sound
simple, but answering it definitively is not easy. Still,
attempting to do so is critically important to the future
of the profession. Examining the 150-hour requirement’s
objectives—and seeing if it is meeting those objectives—is
a good place to begin.
and Questions About the 150-Hour Requirement
to the AICPA, the 150-hour requirement’s objective
is to “improve the overall quality of the work performed
by CPAs confronted with advancing technology, an increasingly
complex business environment, and society’s continuing
demand for accounting and assurance services.” Determining
whether the requirement has met this objective requires
more specific questions to be asked first. Here are a few:
Does the requirement improve students’ writing skills?
the requirement improve students’ analytical skills?
about their ability to adapt to “advancing technology”?
150 hours of education enough to “improve the overall
quality of the work performed by CPAs”?
a master’s degree be required to become a CPA?
it’s certainly too early to answer these questions
with respect to New York State, we can look to other states
that have implemented the requirement for some clues. The
Illinois CPA Society, for example, recently published an
examination of the requirement’s impact on the profession.
Among the report’s major findings: Most employers
think intellectual and interpersonal skills are more important
than accounting knowledge, and most 150-hour graduates are
not being offered significantly higher staring salaries
than 120-hour graduates. More study is needed to corroborate
these findings, but it’s a start.
long history of the 150-hour requirement has not yet produced
sufficient analysis to evaluate its impact on the profession.
We must begin by asking the tough questions.
Publisher, The CPA Journal
Executive Director, NYSSCPA