Setting yourself up for educational success

Tips for making the most of community college and beyond

If becoming a CPA is on your horizon, the quality of your education throughout college and grad school matters. When reviewing your application for licensure, State Boards of Accountancy typically evaluate the quality of your education based on whether your institution and maybe even your business school are accredited.

Generally speaking, accreditation is a review process for colleges and universities that evaluates and monitors the quality of an institution’s programs. There are quite a few accrediting organizations—some vary from region to region—but the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) governs them all. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) are considered the benchmarks in business and accounting education accreditation. When it comes to CPA licensure, state boards look most favorably on degrees (at all levels) from accredited universities, colleges and (in some cases) programs.

If you haven't picked a community college yet, it's worth taking time to find one that is accredited. You can do that by checking our list of accredited schools and universities.

If you are already attending a community college that’s not accredited, there's no need to panic. There is still a lot you can do to make the most of the education you’re getting there:

  • Get your associates degree. Having an associate’s degree under your belt can make the transfer process easier—especially if you’re staying in the same state.
  • Get involved with your local state CPA society. Joining your state society as a student member can help you learn how your state’s CPA board evaluates schools and degrees in your area (with regards to licensure). After all, your state CPA society wants to see you get those three letters almost as much as you do.
  • Make an accredited four-year college or university your next stop. Again, use this list of accredited schools and universities to find the best options for your next scholastic step. Moving forward, you’ll want to be sure that your bachelors—and eventually your masters—degrees are coming from schools that are accredited.
  • Check out your state or future school’s articulation agreement and equivalency databases. Articulation agreements typically either guarantee the associate’s degree you’re obtaining will satisfy all freshman and sophomore general education requirements at the four-year university or will specify a list of courses that will be treated as equivalents. (Tip: You can find this by searching online for “articulation agreement” plus the name of your state.) Similarly, equivalency databases can give you a clearer picture of which specific courses will transfer and what they will count as

If the process of exploring schools and transferring ever feels overwhelming, just focus on one step at a time and remind yourself why you’re doing it in the first place. A transfer counselor or academic advisor at your school can also be invaluable in helping you with your specific transfer scenario. And, above all, don’t lose sight of the fact that many successful CPAs have started where you are right now and transferred their way to amazing careers. Keep your eyes on the prize and you’ll be another one of those success stories before you know it.

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