Accounting Schools in Pennsylvania
There are numerous accounting schools in Pennsylvania that can meet your need for a quality accounting education. This guide to accounting schools in Pennsylvania provides you with the information you need to select the right school for your interests and desired career track, whether you wish to study general accounting or a specialty area of accounting. As an alternative to on-campus degree programs, online accounting programs may be a good fit.
- There are 121 colleges and universities with accounting degree programs in Pennsylvania.
- 22 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in accounting.
- Highest graduation rate*: University of Pennsylvania 96%1
- Highest transfer-out rate*: Seton Hill University 44%1
- Highest net price per year*: Drexel University $35,9481
- Lowest net price per year*: Keystone College $12,1531
- Annual undergraduate tuition range for accounting programs in Pennsylvania: $11,010-$43,1602
- 7 Schools in the Businessweek’s Top Business Undergraduate Programs in 2013: University of Pennsylvania (5), Villanova University (15), Carnegie Mellon University (24), Pennsylvania State University (26), Lehigh University (35), University of Pittsburgh (82), St. Joseph’s University (92)
- 3 Schools in the Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges in 2013: University of Pittsburgh (38), Pennsylvania State University-University Park (48), West Chester University of Pennsylvania (71)
- 6 Schools ranked in US News National Universities Rankings in 2013 (top 100): University of Pennsylvania (8), Carnegie Mellon University (23), Lehigh University (38), Pennsylvania State University-University Park (46), University of Pittsburgh (58), Drexel University (83)
*For 4-year colleges and universities with accounting degree programs.
Continue reading to learn more about accounting schools in Pennsylvania with profiles of well-known schools, information for CPA candidates, and more.
Schools With the Highest 2013 First-Time CPA Exam Pass Rate with an Advanced Degree
1. Lehigh University 76.2%
2. Pennsylvania State University
3. Villanova University
4. University of Pittsburgh
5. Saint Joseph’s University
6. La Salle University
There were 14 schools that had first-time candidates for the CPA exam in Pennsylvania (with an advanced degree). The first-time pass rate for these schools varied from 16.7% to 76.2%. As a reference point, the national pass rate was 54.6% in 2013 for all candidates (with a bachelor’s and advanced degree). When researching CPA degree programs, the first-time pass rate can provide an indication of the quality of preparation at a program but the numbers can be skewed at schools with a small number of candidates. For full details on 2013 CPA exam pass rates, see the 2013 NASBA Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Performance report provided by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
Top Masters in Accounting Programs in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State University, often known simply as Penn State, offers a one-year Master of Accounting program for students who have earned an undergraduate degree at Penn State or another school. This program focuses on preparing students to earn their CPA license and is recommended for students interested in CPA careers. The program starts during the fall semester and offers courses such as Advanced Managerial Accounting, Forensic Accounting, Taxes and Business Planning, and Advanced Topics in Financial Reporting. Students take a full-time course load during the fall and summer semesters and an internship during the spring semester that exposes students to accounting practice during one of the busiest times of the year for accounting professionals. Students benefit from a variety of activities that promote student-faculty interaction as well as the school’s expansive corporate connections and partnerships. An Integrated Master’s program for Penn State undergraduate students is also available. Penn State is ranked #50 in National Universities by US News.
Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)
Temple University’s Fox School of Business offers a comprehensive Master of Accountancy degree with a focus on public accounting. The intensive one-year program thoroughly prepares students to pass the Uniform CPA exam, achieve CPA certification, and succeed in their careers. Enrollment is open to students of all undergraduate academic backgrounds, though students who did not major in accounting must take 6 prerequisite courses prior to beginning graduate coursework. The curriculum includes courses in Advanced Studies in Financial Reporting; Advanced Auditing & Assurance Services; Colloquium on Current Issues in Accounting Practice; and Advanced Federal Taxation. The program’s faculty are experienced in their fields and have been recognized for their research as well as professional accomplishments. The program boasts a high job placement rate for graduates as well as a competitive pass rate on the CPA exam. US News ranks Temple University #121 in National Universities, and among other standings the school is known as a leading urban research institution.
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business offers a Master of Business Administration-Accounting Major program that gives students comprehensive backgrounds in business and accounting, forming the foundations for career success. The curriculum has a uniquely flexible structure, integrating traditional classes, internships, business ventures, and other activities to reinforce graduate level learning and experiences. Accounting majors may select from courses such as Tax Planning and Administration, Problems in Financial Reporting, and Taxes and Business Strategy. Students may also choose a double major, choosing from concentrations such as Insurance and Risk Management, Finance, Strategic Management, and various other options to compliment the accounting major. The university’s diverse graduate programs centered on various areas of business and public policy lead to high employment rates at graduation, and the school has the largest alumni network in the US. Multiple joint degree programs are also available. University of Pennsylvania’s accounting program is ranked #2 by US News in the Best Accounting Programs in the nation.
Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in Pennsylvania
McKonly & Asbury LLP is the second largest accounting firm in Pennsylvania and is one of the top CPA firms in the Mid-Atlantic, and has been named one of the best accounting firms to work for in the US. The benefits for employees are diverse and include paid time off for the Uniform CPA exam as well as study materials reimbursement. Boyer & Ritter was ranked #5 in the best companies to work for in Pennsylvania among all small and medium sized companies and the #1 accounting firm to work for by the Best Companies Group. The firm encourages its staff to work in all areas of its business and supports employees who decide to develop practice specialties. BBD, LLP is one of the largest CPA firms in the Philadelphia area thanks to its explosive growth, which is also fueling its aggressive recruiting efforts.
How to Become a CPA in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy oversees the process for becoming a Certified Public Accountant in the state. There are four main steps to complete in order to earn a Pennsylvania CPA license.
1. Complete a 150 semester hour or 225 quarter hour educational program of acceptable coursework in accounting.
2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
3. Apply for a license.
4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
1. Complete a 150 semester hour or 225 quarter hour educational program of acceptable coursework in accounting.
To qualify for a CPA license in Pennsylvania, a candidate must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree and completed 150 semester hours of college education. The 150 semester hours must include at least 24 semester hours of accounting and auditing, business law, finance, and/or tax acceptable to the board for the purpose of qualification. Candidates who take at least 36 semester hours in accounting subjects and/or earn a master’s or postgraduate degree in accounting are generally required to earn fewer work experience hours to qualify for a license.
2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
All CPA candidates in Pennsylvania must complete at least one year of experience in accounting to qualify for a license. The number of hours required in the calendar year varies based on the candidate’s education as follows:
- A candidate qualifying for examination with 24 semester hours in accounting subjects and a bachelor’s degree must complete 3,200 hours of qualifying experience, including at least 800 hours of attest activity, over at least 24 months.
- A candidate qualifying for examination with a master’s or postgraduate degree and 24 semester hours in accounting subjects must complete 1,600 hours of qualifying experience, including at least 400 hours of attest activity, over at least 12 months.
- A candidate qualifying for examination with a bachelor’s degree or higher with at least 36 semester hours in accounting subjects must complete 1,600 hours of qualifying experience, including at least 400 hours of attest activity, over at least 12 months.
All work must be supervised by a currently licensed CPA working for the same employer as the candidate to qualify.
3. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy uses NASBA to administer the Uniform CPA Exam application and testing process. Candidates who are qualified and prepared to take the exam may apply through the NASBA web portal. Pre-evaluation is also available for candidates who are not certain that their education qualifies to test. All four sections of the exam must be passed within an 18-month rolling period.
4. Apply for a license.
Once all other requirements have been met, candidates may submit the Certified Public Accountant Certification Application. Verification of experience must be submitted as part of the application.
Pennsylvania CPAs must renew their licenses on a two year cycle. License renewal requires the completion of 80 hours of continuing education, with at least 20 hours of continuing education in each calendar year. You can find additional information at the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy website.
(Source: Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy)
Pennsylvania Accountant Salary and Job Outlook
Projected Job Growth
Accountants and Auditors in Pennsylvania from 2010-20203
Pennsylvania is one of the top states to start a career in accounting, as it provides more accounting jobs than many other states at a relatively high salary. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, well over 50,000 individuals are working as professional accountants and auditors in Pennsylvania, ranking Pennsylvania #5 in the US for highest employment levels for these professionals. Accountants in Pennsylvania are commanding an average salary of $70,650 per year. Pittsburg, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Allentown are all metro areas with many employment opportunities for accountants, though accountants are in demand throughout the state.
Pennsylvania Accounting Program Student Reviews
Drexel University: “Drexel’s Accounting program is a mixed bag. In general, I found all of Drexel’s business classes to be far too easy and didn’t really feel like I was getting much out of it. All of the classes are strictly lecture-based with the professor rattling off powerpoint presentations. In all of the classes the professor handed out review exams just before an exam so as long as a student could keep up with homework (if there even was any), he or she could just go to the class session before the exam, get the answers to the review exam, and now they have a carbon copy of almost everything that would be on the exam. As long as you’re reasonably intelligent you can put in next to no work and get an A in any accounting class at Drexel. With so many colleges offering accounting and finance degrees, one should be choosy about the program they’re going to take. In my experience, Drexel’s program is sub-par. What good is an easy program if you didn’t really learn anything? You’re going to have to work your butt off to pass the CPA exam later.” -Carl B., student at Drexel University
Pennsylvania State University: “Penn State is famous for football and partying but it is so much more than just it’s social assets. As an accounting major in the Smeal College of Business, I’ve seen firsthand why it’s ranked among the top ten business schools in the USA. From the beginning, Smeal encouraged my peers and I to join any of the 38 different student-run business organizations, and over 900 other clubs within the university. Smeal hosts events all year (including a biannual career fair, regular meet-and-greets with important people in the corporate world, and major-specific career/Internship fairs) that allow students to network with Fortune 500 companies and to learn what their careers will eventually entail. Smeal’s student organizations also set up similar events to increase opportunities for their members. All of my accounting classes were small and intimate; the professors were always very helpful, and knowledgeable. They, and their teaching assistants always made themselves available. I didn’t find any classes overly difficult, but they were challenging enough to be interesting.The worst thing about Smeal is that it’s full of overachievers. You really need to work hard, get great grades, be a leader, and hold an internship!” -Stephanie Y., student at Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State University: “The accounting program at Penn State has many great professors that were former professionals in the field that can also teach. Having this combination, classes are fun and interesting. Although not always easy, the teachers make the classes worthwhile. Furthermore, coupled with this great education, there are always recruiters coming to the accounting classes looking to hire students. I was able to obtain an internship and from this was offered a full-time job before my last year of school even started! Overall, the accounting program at Penn State teaches you the knowledge you need and helps you obtain full-time employment before you graduate. These two aspects put together make it a great program” -student at Pennsylvania State University
Slippery Rock University: “The Slippery Rock University accounting experience was a wonderful thing. Although the curriculum was not challenging to me, it was very challenging to other students in my major. The only issue I had with this curriculum was the people that were teaching some of the classes. Although basically all of the professors were extremely nice and approachable, some of them did not seem like they really knew what they were talking about. These professors still managed to teach the material well. Other than that, the program was great. There were many opportunities to network which made finding a job really easy.” -student at Slippery Rock University
University of Pittsburgh: “The University of Pittsburgh accounting program truly prepared me for the challenges that I’ve experienced in the business world. The variety of mandated courses gives students a taste of many areas of business to ensure they’re on the right path. I like how there’s a focus on preparing for the CPA exam which is what a majority of students are striving toward. Mandated classes include, but are not limited to auditing, analyzing financial statements and finance. Pitt takes advantage of 21st century technologies offering most if not all class notes online if you’re ill and can’t make class. Most professors do a great job of applying text book concepts to real world situations. They’re also easily approachable in office hours. I disliked how a lot of the teaching assistants were hard to understand and work with and were just generally less available.” -student at University of Pittsburgh
1. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Niche College Search: https://www.niche.com/colleges/?degree=4-year&state=PA&major=finance-accounting&sort=best
3. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=814813&mode=2