Accounting Schools in Tennessee
The following guide to accounting schools in Tennessee provides comprehensive information on master’s in accounting degrees available in the state as well as the process for Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure and data on employment and average salaries for accountants across the state. You will also find a comparison of all available graduate-level accounting programs in Tennessee with data on accreditation, CPA exam pass rate, and more. Continue reading to find out more about accounting schools in Tennessee and career opportunities for graduates.
- There are 32 colleges and universities with accounting degree programs in Tennessee.1
- 16 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in accounting.1
- 2 schools were ranked in Forbes’ Best Business Schools 2019.2
- No schools were ranked in the Princeton Review’s Great Schools for Accounting Majors 2020.3
- 2 schools were ranked in Public Accounting Report’s Top 50 Master’s Accounting Programs 2019.4
- No schools were ranked in US News & World Report’s Best MBA Accounting Programs 2021.5
- 8 schools had a 2018 CPA exam pass rate at or above the national average of 51.9%.6
- 11 universities and business schools are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International.7
- 2 schools are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).8
- 1 school is accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).9
For not-for-profit colleges and universities with accounting degree programs.
Table of Contents
- Steps to Become a CPA in Tennessee
- Tennessee CPA Salary and Job Outlook
- Top Master’s in Accounting Programs in Tennessee
- Tennessee Master’s in Accounting Program Comparison
- Select Schools in Tennessee with Master’s in Accounting Programs
- Additional Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Student Reviews
Steps to Become a CPA in Tennessee
The Tennessee State Board of Accountancy (the TNSBA) oversees the process for becoming a CPA in the state. There are six main steps to complete in order to earn a Tennessee CPA license.
- Complete 150 semester hours of college-level education in accounting.
- Accumulate the required hours of experience.
- Pass the AICPA Professional Ethics Exam.
- Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
- Apply for a license.
- Receive a license.
1. Complete 150 semester hours of college-level education in accounting.
The TNSBA requires CPA applicants to have completed 150 semester hours of education that includes the award of a bachelor’s degree or higher and includes a minimum of 30 semester hours of accounting education, at least 24 of which are at the upper division or above. At least 24 semester hours in general business are also required. Subjects that satisfy the general business requirement include:
- Algebra, calculus, statistics, probability
- Business communications
- Business law
- Computer/Information systems
2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
Prospective Tennessee CPAs must earn at least 2,000 hours of experience in accounting or related services across a period between one and three years to qualify for a license. The experience gained may be in industry, government, public practice, or academia. In order to qualify, the services or advice provided must be centered on the use of accounting, attest, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills. All experience must be verified by a currently licensed CPA.
3. Pass the AICPA Professional Ethics Exam.
The TNSBA has adopted the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Professional Ethics course and exam to fulfill the ethics requirement for CPA licensure in the state. Candidates can order the required self-study course materials from the AICPA or the Tennessee Society of CPAs (TSCPA) websites and must pass the exam with a score of at least 90%. Scores must be sent to the TNSBA directly from AICPA.
4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
Candidates who have completed 18 semester hours of upper-division accounting coursework and bachelor’s degree or higher may take the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Uniform CPA Exam. The Uniform CPA Exam is a requirement for CPA licensure in all 50 states. All four sections must be passed within an 18-month rolling period with a score of 75 or higher. The TNSBA uses the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to administer the exam application and testing process. Applicants may visit NASBA’s website to apply for the exam.
5. Apply for a license.
The final step for CPA licensure in Tennessee is to apply for a license. Once the TNSBA has received notification that the candidate has passed both the AICPA ethics exam and the CPA exam, they will mail an application for licensure with further instructions.
6. Receive a license.
After submitting an application to the TNSBA, the application will be reviewed for completeness and then sent on for final processing and approval, which usually takes about three days. Once the application is approved, applicants will receive an email with their license number. At this point, they may begin practicing as a CPA. The TNSBA will mail applicants a wallet card and physical license certificate as soon as possible and a decorative wall certificate one to two months later.
CPA License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Renewal of the CPA license is on a biennial schedule based on the license number issued. At least 80 hours of continuing education (CE) are required for each renewal period, at least 40 hours of which must be in technical subjects. If the CPA is performing attest services, at least 20 hours of CE must be in accounting and auditing, or if performing expert witness services, at least 20 hours of CE must be in the field of expertise referenced by the court. Two CE hours should be in Board-approved ethics courses that are Tennessee-specific. You can find additional information on the TNSBA website.
Tennessee CPA Salary and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that about 22,580 auditors and accountants are working in Tennessee.10 The average salary for accountants in Tennessee is $71,460 annually.10 The Memphis metro area has the highest wages for accountants in the state, with an average yearly salary of $74,33010 Employment for accountants and auditors in Tennessee is projected to grow to 26,050 accountants in the state by 2028, by a rate of 16.4%, nearly three times as fast as the national projected growth rate (6.4%).11
Tennessee CPA Salary by Metro Area
|Metro Area||Number Employed10||Average Annual Salary10|
*Estimate not released to the BLS.
Top-Ranked Schools with Master’s in Accounting Programs in Tennessee
Forbes’ Best Business Schools* 2019
- Vanderbilt University (#30)
- University of Tennessee-Knoxville (#54)
*With master’s in accounting programs.
Public Accounting Report’s Top 50 Master’s Accounting Programs 2019
- University of Tennessee (#26)
- Vanderbilt University (#37)
Tennessee Master’s in Accounting Program Comparison
Below we have compiled a table including information about all not-for-profit Tennessee 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. Also please note that tuition per credit is based on in-state, on-campus tuition; per-credit rates may vary for out-of-state and online students.
|School Name||Accreditation||CPA Exam Pass Rate6||Master’s in Accounting Degree(s)||Acceptance Rate12||Grad Rate1||Online Options?||Tuition per Credit|
|Belmont University||AACSB||57.6%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc);|
|Christian Brothers University||—||N.Av.||Master of Accountancy (MAcc)||N.Av||61%||—||$695|
|East Tennessee University||AACSB||70.0%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc)||N.Av||50%||—||$636|
|Lipscomb University||ACBSP||57.1%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc);|
Professional MBA-Accounting and Finance
|Middle Tennessee State University||AACSB||48.8%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc)||N.Av||47%||—||$575|
|Southern Adventist University||IACBE||0.0%||MBA-Accounting||N.Av||55%||Yes||$650|
|Tennessee Wesleyan University||AACSB||N.Av.||MBA-Accounting||N.Av||41%||Yes||$500|
|Tenessee State University||AACSB||25.0%||MBA-Accounting||N.Av||32%||—||$548|
|Tennessee Technological University||AACSB||66.7%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc)||78.6%||N.Av.||Yes||$622|
|University of Memphis||AACSB||50.0%||MS-Accounting;|
|University of Tennessee-Chattanooga||AACSB||52.0%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc)||N.Av||48%||—||$469|
|University of Tennessee-Knoxville||AACSB||88.0%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc)||68.3%||72%||—||$658|
|Union University||AACSB||11.1%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc);|
|Vanderbilt University||AACSB||64.7%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc)-Assurance;|
Master of Accounacy (MAcc)-Valuation
- * indicates combined program.
- — indicates none.
- N.Av. indicates no data available.
Select Schools in Tennessee with Master’s in Accounting Programs
Belmont University’s Jack C. Massey Graduate School of Business offers a 30-credit hour Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program that is tailored towards helping students meet the CPA exam requirements in as few as 12 months. Belmont’s MAcc curriculum is structured to provide individualized yet academically rigorous learning through such courses as Management Accounting and Control Systems; Applied Financial Accounting Theory; International Accounting and Taxation; and External Auditing. Three Massey MBA courses are also required in the curriculum: Leadership and Ethics, The Entrepreneurial Challenge, and an International Residency. International trips are offered throughout the year to complete the International Residency degree requirement. All classes take place on weeknights. The MAcc requires 18 hours of undergraduate accounting coursework to begin the program. Students without the required credit hours may fulfill them through the program’s Summer Accounting Institute before beginning in the fall semester. The Massey School of Business offers comprehensive career planning and placement assistance through the school’s Massey/COBA Career Services Office.
The Jennings A. Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) offers a 30-credit hour Master of Accounting (MAcc) program that will help meet the educational requirement to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam. Full-time students should be able to complete the program with one year. Students can choose between two optional specializations: Assurance and Taxation, which can be incorporated by taking four specialized courses among the 17 hours of electives required. Required core courses include Accounting Analytics; Current Legal Topics in Corporate Governance; Risk Management and Fraud; and a series of CPA Review courses. No thesis is required to complete the degree, though students must take a capstone course, Advance Financial Accounting and Reporting Problems, which must be completed within six years from the admission date. For additional networking and learning opportunities, students may be interested in joining the school’s Beta Alpha Psi or Institute of Management Accountants chapters. Graduates of the MAcc program have entered careers with such firms as Deloitte, KPMG, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the Tennessee Department of Audit.
The University of Tennessee (UT) offers a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program through the Haslam College of Business that can be completed in only 10 months of study. The 30-credit hour program is taken during the Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters, with students taking four required core courses and six courses in a specialization; specializations include Audit and Controls; Information Management; and Taxation. Every student must take Analytics and Disruptive Technologies I; Financial Reporting; Business Combinations; and Independent Research in Accounting. Students who did not major in business or accounting at the undergraduate level are invited to apply for admission but will need to complete some prerequisite coursework in accounting, information management, and business before beginning the program. Past graduates of UT’s MAcc program have had a 100% placement rate within two months of graduation, working primarily in public accounting and industry roles.
Online and Hybrid Programs
Southern Adventist University (Southern) has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) available entirely online. The program consists of 36 credit hours, and full-time students can complete the degree in as little as one year. All Southern MBA students will take 27 credit hours of business administration core, including courses such as Accounting for Control and Decision Making; Operations Management; and Organizational Behavior. Accounting students will choose nine credits in accounting from courses such as Federal Taxation; Advanced Issues in Audit and Attestation; and Advanced Financial Accounting and Reporting. Entry into the program requires a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a GMAT score received in the last five years. Students admitted without the necessary prerequisite accounting coursework must take four 500-level accounting courses as part of the program. For students in need of financial assistance, Southern offers a graduate assistantship program that can offset the cost of up to six credit hours.
Tennessee Technological University (Tennessee Tech) offers a hybrid Master of Accountancy (MAcc) that hosts the majority of coursework online, supplemented with two in-person weekend residencies. The program is designed to prepare students to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam while enrolled, with course credit offered for CPA exam preparation courses and completion of the exam. The 30-credit hour program is offered on either a one-year track for full-time students or a two-year track for students wishing to study part-time. Coursework includes core courses such as Tax Management for Entities; Auditing; and Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct. Electives can be chosen from the MBA program, 5000-level accounting courses, or courses from other programs or even other schools with MAcc coordinator approval. Admission into the program requires an undergraduate degree or higher with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a minimum score on the GMAT of 500 or equivalent GRE score, and a letter of recommendation. Tennessee Tech MAcc students will need a 3.0 GPA to graduate and must not receive a “C” on more than six credit hours.
The Fogelman College of Business at the University of Memphis (UofM) offers students a 30-credit hour online Master of Science (MS) in Accounting that can be completed in 12 months. The program seeks to develop leadership and problem-solving skills, accounting proficiency, and to prepare students for the CPA exam. The MS in Accounting offers students three concentrations in General Accounting, Taxation, and Data Analytics. All MS in Accounting students will take six required courses covering subjects such as taxation; financial analysis; financial reporting; and ethics and regulations. Admission into the program requires an undergraduate degree or higher, the completion of all prerequisite coursework, and an acceptable GMAT score received within the last five years. Applicants with an undergraduate degree in business and at least a 3.5 GPA, or those who have passed the CPA Exam may have the GMAT requirement waived. Applicants still unsure about whether they want to pursue a full degree or those seeking professional development may enroll with non-degree status for a semester before determining whether to proceed towards the full MS in Accounting degree.
Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in Tennessee
- Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain (LBMC): The largest professional services firm in Tennessee and has offices in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.
- Kraft CPAs: Based in Nashville and one of middle Tennessee’s largest independent accounting and consulting firms, the firm offers audit, tax, accounting and a broad range of consulting services.
- Blackburn, Childers & Steagall, PLC (BCS): BCS has over 50 years of experience providing accounting, audit, and consulting services to clients, and has offices in Johnson City, Kingsport, and Greeneville.
Tennessee Accounting Associations
- Tennessee Association of Accountants (TAA): The mission of the TAA is to protect the interests of accountants, develop the knowledge and efficiency of its members, promote cooperation within the profession, and promote the highest standards of ethics.
- Tennessee Society of CPAs (TSCPA): The TSCPA acts on behalf of its nearly 10,000 members to promote public awareness of the the value of CPAs, provide CPE and public forums, and represent the professional views of regulatory and governmental bodies.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get my CPA license in Tennessee?
To become a CPA in Tennessee, you will need to complete 150 credit hours of acceptable college-level coursework including an undergraduate degree or higher and acceptable coursework in accounting and business. You must also complete 2,000 hours of professional experience over the course of one to three years under the supervision of a licensed CPA. You must pass the AICPA Professional Ethics Exam with a score of 90% or better as well as all four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam with a score of 75 or better. Finally, you must submit documentation that you have completed all requirements and an application to the TSBA. After all these requirements have been met, you will be licensed to practice as a CPA in the state of Tennessee.
How much does a CPA make in Tennessee?
According to the BLS, the average salary for accountants and auditors in Tennessee is $71,460 annually.10 The Memphis metropolitan area has the highest average salary in the state at $74,330.10
How long does it take to pass the CPA Exam?
All sections of the Uniform CPA Exam must be taken and passed within an 18-month period. If a section is failed or not completed by the end of 18 months, the entire exam must be retaken.
Middle Tennessee State University
1301 E Main St
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
Student Review: “MTSU’s accounting program in the Jones College of Business offers a solid learning experience with good professors, decent student organizations, and a fair amount of opportunities for networking and professional development. The coursework is highly relevant to the field of accounting and ensures that students have a full, well-rounded knowledge of businesses and their processes. The courses are highly relevant to the CPA Exam. The professors are all very well-qualified, with most having doctorates and CPA certifications. There are a few different accounting student organizations with a wide variety of speakers and some networking opportunities. The campus is nice with lots of new buildings, including the business building and the neighboring student union, though something is always under construction. There are plenty of places to eat and hang out, and lots of resources to help with schoolwork. The library is open late and the computer lab in the business building is open 24 hours. MTSU’s accounting program offers a BBA, which is obviously a four-year degree from an accredited school. The education is a good one, but the professional opportunities, while present, are not as impressive as some private schools.” -Student at Middle Tennessee State University
Pellissippi State Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Rd
Knoxville, TN 37932
Student Review: “The time I spent at Pellissippi State Community College was a challenge. The curriculum was decent, but lacking in a lot of ways. Typically, the syllabus at the teachers gave out at the beginning of the year were useless. I only had a couple of classes that actually followed it. The entire set up of every campus felt like a typical high school, with many of the students included in that description. There were some star teachers in my math classes, but the majority of the teachers acted like they did not want to be there. In one of my marketing classes, my teacher would actually roll his eyes and call you stupid for having a different opinion than him. We were assigned guidance counselors at the beginning of every semester. The policy, I thought, was that every student needed to meet with this counselor before finalizing the schedule. I never was able to meet my guidance counselor, much less discuss my scheduling. Overall, the college was mediocre and I felt that I pretty much wasted my time.” -Student at Pellissippi State Community College
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996
Student Review: “The education and practical experience at the University of Tennessee’s accounting program sparked a lifetime of leadership in me. The curriculum through the accounting program was both intensive and stimulating. When accepted into the University of Tennessee Haslem Business program to start my accounting major courses, the faculty was committed to preparing me for a life in the spectrum of business. My first internship while in college was with a non-profit set up through one of my advanced accounting classes. This enabled me to analyze and communicate financial information for various donors, different methods of bookkeeping, and ultimately how to utilize a budget on a tight string. One aspect I felt that needed improvement in the major was the lack of online resources used to help work homework and projects. I am a visual learner and would have greatly appreciated more online resources.” -Student at the University of Tennessee
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/par-grad-2019.pdf
5. US News & World Report Best MBA Accounting Programs 2021: 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, Tennessee: “https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tn.htm
11. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm
12. US News & World Report Best Business Schools 2021: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools