CPA Exam 150 Credit Hours: Requirement and Rules 150 Hour Requirement for Obtaining a CPA License

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How to Meet the 150-Unit Requirement Before You Graduate

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How to Meet the 150-Unit Requirement Before You Graduate

Roger CPA Review
Lysern Marcelino is a senior at UC Berkeley who is going through the Big 4 recruiting process and fulfilling some accounting internships. Learn more about what advice she has to offer as a busy student and working professional looking to become a CPA--specifically when it comes to fulfilling the 150-unit requirement to become a CPA in states that enforce this rule.

I decided that I wanted to become an accountant in 2015, while I was in my second year of college. 

In 2014, the California Board of Accountancy instituted a new educational requirement that CPA candidates would need 150 semester units (or 225 quarter units) to be licensed. Most undergrads graduate with 120 semester units (or 180 quarter units), so aspiring CPAs need to take an extra year of classes to be eligible for California licensure. 


To me, an extra year of college sounded expensive and time consuming.

And trying to obtain CPA licensure in another state was not an option I was considering. I briefly questioned my career goal of becoming an accountant, but I decided to leave that can of worms for my mid-life crisis. Once I was dead-set on becoming a licensed CPA in California, I set a goal to obtain my 150 units before graduating with my bachelor’s degree. Every semester, I would plan out my course schedule to meet my 150-unit goal, and I successfully graduated from my undergrad program with more than 150 units.


Here are my tips to meet the 150-unit requirement before you graduate with your bachelor’s degree. 

1. First, calculate all the eligible college units you have. 

  • Your units from your undergraduate institution will probably be your main source of units, but that doesn’t mean that they are the only ones you can count. 
  • Remember those AP credits? If your college offers units for AP exams, you can use these units towards the 150-unit requirement, as long as the AP credit units are listed on your transcript. In order to get units for your AP exams, check in with an academic counselor at your college and ask them if you can submit your AP exam scores for unit credit. Many universities, colleges, and community colleges give credit for AP exams, so it doesn’t hurt to ask. Also, if you’ve already submitted your AP scores to your college, they may have already given you credit for them! Check your transcript to see if the units are listed. If you need help, consult with an academic counselor at your school. 
  • Have you taken any community college courses? Community college courses count towards your 150, so send your community college transcripts to the Board of Accountancy when you apply for licensure.


2. Once you have calculated your unit total, how do you get to 150 units? Take courses at a community college.

  • Community colleges are a great resource for aspiring CPAs, because they are offer a breadth of courses in accounting and business. Also, if you’re like me (or any accountant for that matter) you’re money-conscious, and community college courses are budget friendly without sacrificing quality! 
  • Also, some community colleges offer courses to fulfill the Accounting Ethics requirement! You can earn some extra units while fulfilling the Accounting Ethics requirement if you find an eligible course at a community college near you. 
  • Take summer courses 
  • If you’re not interning full-time during the summer, take a few college courses to beef up your unit count. I recommend taking courses that sound interesting to you, because being bored to death is no way to spend your summer. Also, if you’re lucky, your college or university offers a special summer program to help you earn additional accounting units. My alma mater offers a special summer program called the Berkeley Charter of Professional Accountancy or BCPA program, which helps students earn 30 accounting units over two summers. Check with your college or university to see if they offer any summer programs for to reach your 150-unit requirement. 
  • Take online courses (from a community college) 
  • Online courses are a great way to fulfill your unit requirement. Online courses give you the flexibility to do the work on your own terms, since you don’t have to physically show up. If your schedule allows, you can take an online course in addition to your regular courses. I highly recommend taking online community college courses, because they are much cheaper than other online courses. Before enrolling in online courses from for-profit or other non-profit institutions, double check to see if a community college has a similar course to save some money. 


In summary, taking additional courses in the summer or during the school year will help you reach the 150-unit requirement once you graduate. Also, finishing the 150-unit requirement before you graduate with a bachelor’s degree will give you an edge in recruiting, since many firms look for candidates who have completed or will complete 150 units. 


Lastly, keep in mind to check directly with your state board of accountancy. 

Every state has different educational requirements that need to be met in order to sit for the CPA Exam and become a licensed CPA in that state. In order to ensure that you're fulfilling those requirements, I highly recommend that you get in touch with your state board of accountancy. While many states enforce the 150-hour rule, the ways in which they enforce them can vary (such as specific classes that need to be taken). So don't leave anything to chance. It's always better to be safe than sorry!

I hope this article helped you take a step closer to become a CPA! 

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What You Need to Know about Academic Credit Systems in the U.S.

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If you’re preparing to become an international student and pursue a degree in America , it’s important you figure out how credits are awarded at American universities as well as how European credits are converted to university standards in the States.

So, here are the basic things you should learn about credits and grading system used in American colleges and universities.

View Masters in the U.S.

Why should I care about American academic credits?

  • USA credits are different in comparison to credit systems used in Europe , or other parts of the world;
  • Credits determine if you need to take a preparation programme to meet your Bachelor's or Master's degree;
  • Credits influence your GPA ;
  • Especially in the U.S., the number of academic credits a programme has may determine tuition fees for the degree.

You can now apply with Studyportals to a Master's in the U.S.

You can now apply with Studyportals to one of our partner universities in the U.S. without any extra costs:

  • James Madison University
  • Lipscomb University
  • Western Washington University

Check the available Masters and see which of the degrees match your background and interests. Start the application process by filling in your student profile. You will soon get contacted by one of our application counsellors who will assist you further. We’ll then apply on your behalf. Find out more about  applying to a Master's degree with Studyportals . 

Or you could try some good online universities from America:

  • Walden University
  • Kettering University Online

6 top answers about academic credits in the U.S.

1. What is a contact hour?

A contact hour includes any lecture or lab time when the professor is teaching the student, and they usually equal 50 minutes in real time.

2. What's the difference between contact hours and credit hours?

In universities and colleges in the United States, students usually receive credit hours based on the number of "contact hours" they spend studying per week in class.

3. What is a semester credit hour?

A semester credit hour (SCH) is the amount of credit a student earns for successful completion of one contact hour and two preparation hours per week for a semester. One semester credit hour equals 15-16 contact hours per semester, regardless of the duration of the course.

Basically, for a one semester credit hour course, you should invest one contact hour in class and two additional preparation hours each week that take place out-of-class. These can represent homework, fieldwork or practical courses.

4. How many credits does a course have?

Most colleges and universities award 3 Semester Credit Hours (SCH) (45-48 contact hours) for the successful completion of a study course. The number of credits for lectures, independent project work, laboratory time and internships vary depending on specific institution requirements.

5. What is the relationship between degree courses and credit hours?

A course is measured in the number of credit hours needed to complete it. For an undergraduate degree, basic courses may have 1 credit or 2 credits. In a Master’s degree, including for MBAs, most courses are either 3 or 4 credits.

A standard full-time study load is usually 30 credit hours per year. Typically, in order to graduate with a degree, universities expect students to complete:

  • 120-130 credit hours for a Bachelor’s degree
  • 30-64 credit hours for a Master's degree

Some universities use Semester Credit Hours to set tuition fees and scholarships for prospective students. During a semester, an international student has to take between 9 and 12 credit hours, depending on each college or university.

us credit systems-1.jpg

6. What are Quarter Credits?

Some universities in the United States use Quarter Calendar Credit Hours , where, the academic year is divided into three terms. In this case, a Bachelor’s degree usually requires a minimum of 180 quarter hours to complete instead of 120.

Semester credit hours and GPA

In the U.S., credits are also used to determine a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) for a semester or academic year. In some cases, GPA scores are required for admission to advanced study programmes in the U.S. (most typically for MBA programmes). GPA scores range from 0.0 to 4.0. A score of 4.0 is the equivalent of an A average, while 0.0 represents an F score. Each American Bachelor’s and Master’s programme specifies their own minimum GPA requirement for graduation.

The semester GPA of a student is calculated based on the final marks received for each course and the credit hours awarded by the programme for that semester. The final overall GPA is the average of all courses completed during the years of study.

Find out why the GPA is so important for your studies abroad.

How to convert American credits to European credits

ECTS is the most commonly used credit system in Europe. The major difference between the European Credit System ECTS and the U.S. College Credit System is that the first is based on student workload and the second on contact hours.

The student workload represents the number of hours needed to follow and prepare for a class, taking examinations, and preparing for these examinations.

The ECTS is oriented towards the time required for a student to meet the intended study outcomes, while the U.S. system is more oriented towards the time a faculty member needs to teach.

Here’s a comparison between the grading system in the Netherlands and the one used in the U.S.

Example of converting ECTS to Semester Credit Hours

For a college or university in the U.S.:

1.67 ECTS = 1.00 US College Credit Hour

Conversion standards may vary between higher education institutions in the U.S.

Here’s an online calculator that can help you convert ECTS into GPA.

Search and apply to Masters in the U.S.

Preparation courses offer an easier path to an American university

In some cases, due to the entry requirements of some universities from the U.S., a credit transfer may not be possible, so you won’t be eligible for admission. You might also be in the situation where you don’t meet the required level of English proficiency or haven’t taken the official TOEFL exam.

Advanced English knowledge is a must if you want to be a good candidate for an American university. So you still have a chance if you apply to a pathway programme or preparation course. Either focused on English language or a certain field of study, pathway programmes will help you acquire the necessary skills and education you need to get admitted to your chosen university in the USA.

Get more details about preparation courses and find the right one for you.