Accounting Schools in Iowa

This page provides you with an overview of accounting schools in Iowa that offer graduate degrees in accounting and will equip you with detailed information on the possible career paths for Iowa accounting graduates. You will also find information about the licensure process to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) including how to take the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Uniform CPA Exam and the AICPA Professional Ethics exam. There are many colleges and universities in Iowa that offer quality programs in accounting, but it is important to choose a program that fits your needs and learning preferences. Online and distance education programs provide excellent opportunities for those interested in accounting who require more flexibility. On-campus programs are also available across the state and provide a more traditional learning experience.

Quick Facts

For not-for-profit colleges and universities with accounting degree programs.

Table of Contents

Steps to Become a CPA in Iowa

The Iowa Accountancy Examining Board (the Board) of the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureauand oversees the process for becoming a CPA in the state. There are six main steps for prospective Iowa CPAs to complete in order to earn a license.

  1. Complete 150 semester hours of education, including a bachelor’s degree, with a concentration in accounting.
  2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
  3. Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.
  4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
  5. Apply for a license.
  6. Receive a CPA license from the Board.

1. Complete 150 semester hours of education, including a bachelor’s degree, with a concentration in accounting.

The Board requires prospective CPAs to complete 150 college-level semester credits or equivalent including a bachelor’s degree. The 150-semester hour requirement must include a concentration in accounting, which may be a graduate degree in accounting or business or an undergraduate degree in accounting that includes at least 24 semester hours in accounting above the elementary level as well as 24 semester hours in business-related courses.

2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.

Prospective Iowa CPAs must complete at least one year or 2,000 hours of accounting experience over no more than a three-year period. Experience can be accumulated in areas such as:

  • Accounting
  • Attest
  • Compilation
  • Consulting
  • Financial advisory
  • Management advisory
  • Tax

Work experience gained in government, academia, and private or public practice is acceptable towards the requirement. Note that attest CPA applicants must have at least two years of experience. Experience for all candidates must be verified by an actively licensed CPA.

3. Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.

A passing score on the AICPA ethics course and exam is required for Iowa CPA applicants. The self-study course and exam can be ordered through the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants (ISCPA). Additional study resources are also available on the AICPA website.

4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.

CPAs in all 50 states must pass the AICPA Uniform CPA Exam in order to become licensed. The Board uses the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to administer the exam application and administration process. Applicants may apply to the exam through the NASBA website. Iowa applicants can take the exam as early as 120 days prior to completing the bachelor’s degree requirement; however, the exam results will not be released until the candidate has completed the educational requirements for the bachelor’s degree. All four sections of the exam must be completed and passed with a score of 75 or higher within an 18-month rolling period.

5. Apply for a license.

Candidates who have passed the Uniform CPA and ethics exams and earned the required experience hours are eligible to apply to the Board for a CPA license. The Board only accepts online applications and no paper forms are available. Note that applicants who passed the Uniform CPA Exam three or more years prior to applying for a license must also report 120 hours of continuing education.

6. Receive a CPA license from the Board.

Once the application is reviewed and approved, successful candidates will receive a confirmation via the online portal. A paper certificate is also mailed. Applicants may not use the CPA designation until they receive confirmation from the Board.

CPA License Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Iowa CPA licenses expire annually on June 30 and must be renewed online. Renewal notices are sent electronically by the Board in May; however, it is the individual’s responsibility to ensure the license is valid. After earning a license, CPAs must complete 120 hours of continuing education (CE) with at least four hours in ethics. CPAs who supervise compilation services must also complete eight hours of CE in financial statement presentations during each three-year renewal period. Note that all CE should be completed prior to December 31 or June 30 preceding the July 1 renewal date. CPAs may select which date shall be used to calculate CE requirements. You can find additional information on the Board’s website.

Iowa CPA Salary and Job Outlook

CPAs in Iowa earn an average annual salary of $69,480 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).10 There are 10,170 accountants and auditors working in Iowa with most employed in two primary metro areas: Des Moines, where the average salary for accountants is $75,230, and Omaha-Council Bluffs, where the average salary is $72,930.10 CPAs may also find above average salaries in Cedar Rapids ($71,770) and Davenport-Moline-Rock Island ($70,830), although fewer opportunities may be available in these smaller metro areas.10 The projected growth for accountants and auditors in Iowa through 2028 is 9.8%, faster than the national average of 6.4%.11

Iowa CPA Salary by Metro Area

Metro AreaNumber Employed10Average Annual Salary10
Cedar Rapids1,030$71,770
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island1,050$70,830
Des Moines-West Des Moines4,070$75,230
Iowa City450$68,350
Omaha-Council Bluffs4,880$72,930
Sioux City490$64,590
Waterloo-Cedar Falls390$64,040

Top-Ranked Schools with Master’s in Accounting Programs in Iowa

Princeton Review’s Great Schools for Accounting Majors* 2020

  • Iowa State University

*With master’s in accounting programs.

Public Accounting Report’s Top 50 Master’s Accounting Programs 2019

  • University of Iowa (#27)

Iowa Master’s in Accounting Program Comparison

Below we have compiled a table including information about all not-for-profit Iowa colleges and universities offering a master’s degree in accounting. The graduation rate is for first-time undergraduates seeking a bachelor’s degree, but since it is widely considered to be an indicator of a school’s overall success, we have included it for comparison. Tuition per credit is based on in-state, on-campus tuition; per-credit rates may vary for out-of-state and online students. The reported CPA Exam Pass Rate is from the 2018 test series. In 2019, NASBA paused releasing statistical Candidate Performance reports until 2025 due to a new exam and licensing structure. Check with schools for more recent data.

School NameAccreditationCPA Exam Pass Rate6Master’s in Accounting Degree(s)Acceptance Rate12Grad Rate1Online Options?Tuition per Credit
Drake UniversityAACSB52.9%Master of Accounting (MAcc);
Iowa State UniversityAACSB38.9%Master of Accounting (MAcc);
Maharishi International UniversityIACBEN.Av.MBA-Accounting;
Saint Ambrose UniversityACBSP12.5%Master in Accounting (MAcc)N.Av.64%$960
University of IowaAACSB90.0%Master of Accountancy (MAc)N.Av.72%$557
University of Northern IowaAACSBN.Av.Master of Accounting (MAcc)N.Av.67%$363
Upper Iowa University55.6%MBA-AccountingN.Av.48%Yes$608

  • — indicates none.
  • N.Av. indicates no data available.

Select Schools in Iowa with Master’s in Accounting Programs

Traditional Programs

Iowa State University

Iowa State University grants a 30-credit Master of Accounting (MAcc) degree with specializations in Data Analytics; Financial Reporting and Assurance; Global Business; Managerial Decision Making; and Tax. The degree prepares students to take the Uniform CPA exam in Iowa and work as accountants in public or private practice. Those with undergraduate degrees in subjects other than accounting may be required to complete additional prerequisite coursework. A concurrent degree option (the 4+1 Program) is also available to Iowa State undergraduate students enrolled in the accounting bachelor’s degree program, whereby the MAcc can be completed in just one year following the four-year bachelor’s degree with some overlapping coursework between the two degrees. MAcc courses include Advanced Federal Taxation; Fraud Examination and Prevention; and Advanced Accounting Problems. Students also complete a CPA exam prep course as part of the degree requirements. For those interested in international accounting or a study abroad experience, the Study in London course is a three-week international leadership and accounting experience that counts towards six credit hours of electives. Iowa State also offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting, which requires students to take three accounting electives in addition to business coursework.

Maharishi International University

Maharishi International University (MIU) offers two Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees in Accounting at the Fairfield campus. The MBA in Accounting is designed for students with a four-year bachelor’s degree but little-to-no prior experience in accounting. The degree takes 11-15 months to complete depending on prerequisite courses. Students are exposed to fundamental accounting concepts and develop skills in related areas, such as data mining and accounting payroll systems. Students complete 58 semester credits including 18 credits in business foundations, such as marketing and finance, at least 16 credits in the accounting specialization, such as Financial Accounting Analysis and Managerial Accounting, and additional graduate-level electives. International students can apply to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which provides a paid internship for up to one year after graduation. MIU also offers an MBA in Accounting-Professionals, which provides students with up to two years of paid internships or training at companies across the United States.

University of Iowa

The Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa offers an AACSB-accredited Master of Accountancy (MAC) with start dates in the fall, spring, and summer terms. This 30-credit program teaches students advanced accounting skills to prepare for the Uniform CPA Exam in Iowa as well as transferable skills, such as problem-solving, analytics, leadership, and communication, that can be useful in any business setting. Students can complete a general MAC degree or choose from one of four optional concentrations in Financial Accounting/Auditing, Managerial Accounting, Business Analytics, and Tax to deepen their understanding in a specific area of accounting. All students complete accounting core courses, two courses in business analytics, and electives. Typically, the degree takes one year of full-time study to complete for applicants with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, although students from any undergraduate background are eligible to apply. The University of Iowa also offers a combined Juris Doctor (JD)/MAC degree for those interested in legal careers as well as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Accounting leading to academic, research, and teaching careers.

University of Northern Iowa

At the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls, aspiring CPAs can complete an AACSB-accredited Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degree that is designed to meet the requirements for the Uniform CPA Exam. The program is offered on a full-time basis and requires 30 semester credit hours. All students are required to complete 12 semester credits of core coursework, such as Financial Accounting Theory and Analysis and Business Law for the Professional Accountant, as well as 18 semester credit hours chosen from a range of accounting electives. Electives include Advanced Auditing; International Financial Economics; and Cost Benefit Analysis. An experiential learning component is also required and may include an internship, co-op, or another applied accounting course. Students interested in accounting research can apply to the Graduate Assistantship Program for the opportunity to complete paid work experience supervised by a business faculty member. A bachelor’s degree in any subject area is required to apply to the UNI MAcc program.

Online and Hybrid Programs

Drake University

Drake University offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting with a hybrid format that combines online classes with traditional classes at the Des Moines campus. The MBA program has a data-driven focus that teaches students to apply data to strategy and decision-making processes in key business functions. This degree is designed for part-time students and working professionals and can be completed in two years of part-time study. Students complete 42 semester credit hours, including 27 semester credits of core business courses, 12 semester credits in the accounting concentration, and three one-credit professional development seminars. The program offers students the flexibility to study unique areas of interest in accounting via electives such as Advanced Financial Accounting; Tax Research and Planning; and Fraud Examination. Drake also offers an on-campus Master of Accounting (MAcc) that takes between 30 and 60 semester credit hours to complete depending on the applicant’s prior education in accounting and business.

Upper Iowa University

For students interested in a fully-online degree option, Upper Iowa University (UIU) offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting that can be completed online or in combination with classes at campuses across Iowa including Fayette, Des Moines, and Waterloo. In the MBA in Accounting program, students learn about the fundamental business functions while also earning credit towards the educational requirements for the Uniform CPA Exam. The degree consists of 36 semester credit hours including five core business courses and a capstone project. The Accounting emphasis includes five required courses, such as Advanced Accounting Information Systems and Forensic Accounting, and one additional graduate-level elective. Courses are offered in an accelerated eight-week format with up to two courses taken during each block. Many start dates are offered throughout the year to accommodate the needs of busy or working students. The degree can be completed in two years of full-time study although part-time study is also permitted.

Additional Resources

Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in Iowa

  • RSM: A large national accounting firm with numerous offices in Iowa including Des Moines, Davenport, and Cedar Rapids among others.
  • Honkamp Krueger & Co., P.C.: An independent accounting and business services firm headquartered in Iowa that provides services to all types of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, franchises, and nonprofits.
  • Hogan Hansen: A mid-sized firm providing accounting and financial consulting services at five locations across Northern, Central, and Eastern Iowa.

Iowa Accounting Associations

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you become a CPA in Iowa?

The process of becoming a CPA involves education, examination, and experience requirements. Aspiring CPAs must complete 150 semester credits, including a bachelor’s degree, and one of the programs completed must include a concentration in accounting. The applicant must also pass all four sections of the AICPA Uniform CPA Exam and Professional Ethics exam. Finally, at least 2,000 hours of work experience in approved accounting functions must be completed in no more than a three-year period. Once all requirements have been met, an application for certification can be submitted to the Board.

How much does a CPA earn in Iowa?

The average annual salary for CPAs in Iowa is $69,480, but salaries vary by region.10 Lower salaries are reported in Waterloo-Cedar Falls ($64,040) and Sioux City ($64,590), whereas higher annual salaries can be found in Des Moines-West Des Moines ($75,230) and Omaha-Council Bluffs ($72,930).10

How do I take the CPA exam in Iowa?

In Iowa, the Uniform CPA Exam is administered by NASBA. Individuals who meet Iowa state requirements can apply directly to NASBA along with a copy of their transcripts to be approved to take the exam. Once approved, all four sections of the exam must be passed with a score of at least 75 in an 18-month rolling period.

1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Forbes Best Business Schools 2019: https://www.forbes.com/business-schools/list/2/
3. The Princeton Review. The Best 385 Colleges, 2020 Edition. The Princeton Review, 2019.
4. Public Accounting Report 2019 Top 50 Master’s Accounting Programs: https://wpcarey.asu.edu/sites/default/files/documents/par-grad-2019.pdf
5. US News & World Report Best Accounting Programs 2020: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/accounting-rankings
6. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. The NASBA Report on the CPA Exam: Candidate Performance on the Uniform CPA Examination, 2018 Edition. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, Inc., 2019.
7. Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International: https://www.aacsb.edu/
8. Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP): https://acbsp.org/
9. International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE): https://iacbe.org/
10. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2019 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Iowa: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
12. US News & World Report Best Business Schools 2020: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools