University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Accounting Certification Exams

Professional certification exams help you establish your technical credentials. The oldest, and best known, certification exam in accounting is the CPA exam, which has been administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants since 1917.

Exams and Certifications

Additional certification options exist for accountants who work in industry or government.

  • The Institute of Management Accountants has offered a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) program since 1972.
  • The Institute of Internal Auditors has offered a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) program since 1974.
  • More recently, in 1997, the Association of Government Accountants began a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) program.  

While your focus as a student is naturally on taking a certification exam, remember that this is just a step towards professional certification. In addition to passing a certification exam, there are additional requirements (e.g., experience requirements, continuing education requirements) for professional certification or licensing that you also must fulfill after graduation.

CPA: Certified Public Accountant Exam

The CPA exam's primary purpose is to establish the technical credentials of those wishing to be licensed as public accountants. If you plan a career in public accounting, taking the CPA exam is a must. In addition, the CPA license is so widely recognized as a credential that many accountants who work in industry or government take the CPA exam as part of their effort to become licensed as CPAs.
While the CPA exam is the same across the nation, the requirements to sit for the CPA exam vary by state. A University of Arkansas MAcc degree qualifies you to sit for the CPA exam in Arkansas.

 To be licensed as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), you must pass the Uniform CPA Exam. To be eligible to sit for this exam, you must meet certain education requirements that vary from state to state. It is important to consider these requirements when planning your courses.

The Uniform CPA Exam is prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and consists of four sections: Auditing & Attestation, Financial Accounting & Reporting, Regulation, and Business Environment and Concepts. The sections may be taken individually or all at together. Information about the content and format of the exam is available at http://www.cpa-exam.org/. The exam is delivered in a computerized format at Prometric and certain other state-board authorized test centers by appointment up to six days a week during January-February, April-May, July-August, and October-November.

Once you are ready to apply for the CPA exam, contact the State Board of Public Accountancy in the state where you plan to sit. The State Board reviews each application to be sure eligibility requirements are met. For the state of Arkansas, applications are available on the ArkansasState Board of Public Accountancy's website: http://www.arkansas.gov/asbpa/

For Sam M. Walton College of Business students the education requirements for the CPA exam in Arkansas may be met in one of the two following ways:

  • OPTION I: Complete the Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program.
  • OPTION II: (based on requirements for the state of Arkansas): Earn at least 120 semester hours including a Baccalaureate degree and 30 semester hours in accounting beyond the Principles Level (with a minimum grade of "C" in each accounting course), including coverage of, financial accounting, auditing, taxation, management accounting, and governmental/not-for-profit accounting. Note that you will need to complete 150 total hours to be licensed. Walton College students should consult with the CPA exam advisor, JaLynn Thomas jthomas@walton.uark.edu for additional suggestions.

If you did NOT earn a degree from the Sam M. Walton College of Business, the above may not be relevant to you. Please consult Rule 3 of the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy at http://www.arkansas.gov/asbpa/rules.html or http://www.arkansas.gov/asbpa/rules_2013/rule-3.pdf or contact the University from which your degree was issued.

Note to all candidates: The CPA requirements for states can change quickly. You should check the State Boards frequently to ensure you still meet the requirements.

CMA: Certified Management Accountant Exam

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) conducts the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) examination. The IMA website states the following in regards to the CMA examination:

  • The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation provides corporate management and individual Members with an objective measure of knowledge and competence in the field of management accounting. The CMA is an invaluable credential for professional advancement and for broadening professional skills and perspective in the managerial accounting field.
  • The CMA Exam topics include economics, business finance, situational analysis, and decision making with a strong emphasis on ethics.

The CMA exam is offered in a computer-based format on demand.

To qualify to take the exam, you must have a baccalaureate degree in any area from an accredited college or university. Membership in the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is required. Candidates must also meet the IMA's Standards of Ethical Conduct. There is an experience requirement to become a licensed CMA. For more information on the exam and registration, go to: www.imanet.org.

CIA: Certified Internal Auditor

The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation is the only globally accepted certification for internal auditors Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree or its equivalent.

Completion of the degree and work experience is required before the certificate is awarded. Candidates must exhibit high and professional character and agree to abide by the Code of Ethics established by the Institute of the Internal Audits.

The CIA exam consists of four parts: The Internal Audit Activity's Role in Governance, Risk and Control; Conducting the Internal Audit Engagement, Business Analysis and Information Technology, and Business Management Skills.

For more details about the exam and registration information go to: http://www.theiia.org/index.cfm?doc_id=43.