Accounting Schools in Tennessee

The following guide to accounting schools in Tennessee provides comprehensive information on accounting degrees available in the state so that you can find the right platform on which to build your career in accounting. The various accounting degree options available in Tennessee include generalized accounting programs as well as specialized programs like forensic accounting. Some students also find that online degree programs are a good fit for their skills and interests.

Quick Facts

  • There are 33 not-for-profit colleges and universities with accounting degree programs in Tennessee.1
  • 13 not-for-profit schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in accounting.1
  • Highest graduation rate*: Vanderbilt University, 92%1
  • Highest transfer-out rate*: Carson-Newman University, 44%1
  • Highest net price per year*: Belmont University, $35,3821
  • Lowest net price per year*: Le Moyne-Owen College, $7,9501
  • 3 schools ranked in Businessweek’s Top Business Undergraduate Programs in 2017: Lipscomb University (77), University of Tennessee-Knoxville (83), Belmont University (103)
  • 1 school ranked in Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges in 2018: University of Tennessee (#85 in-state, #76 out-of-state)
  • 1 school ranked in US News National Universities Rankings in 2019 (top 100): Vanderbilt University (14)

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

Continue reading to find out more about popular programs offered by accounting schools in Tennessee as well as career opportunities for graduates.

Schools with the Highest 2015 First-Time CPA Exam Pass Rate with an Advanced Degree

  1. Vanderbilt University (92.1%)
  2. University of Tennessee-Knoxville (86.2%)
  3. Middle Tennessee State University (65.1%)
  4. University of Memphis (64.5%)
  5. University of Tennessee Chattanooga (59.4%)
  6. Rhodes College (58.6%)
  7. Tennessee Technological University (53.9%)

There were 12 schools in Tennessee that had first-time candidates for the CPA exam (with an advanced degree) in 2015. The pass rate ranged from 33.3% to 92.1% for these schools. The national pass rate for all candidates was 48.4% in 2015 (with bachelor’s and advanced degrees). You can use the first-time pass rate to compare accounting programs, although the percentage may be misleading for schools with a small number of candidates. For a complete breakdown of CPA exam statistics see the 2015 NASBA Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Performance report provided by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

Top Master’s in Accounting Programs in Tennessee

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Belmont University (Nashville, TN)

Belmont University’s Jack C. Massey Graduate School of Business offers a Master’s of Accountancy (MACC) program that is tailored towards students holding non-business bachelor’s degrees to help them meet the CPA exam requirements in as few as 15 months. Established in 1992, the MACC curriculum is designed to provide individualized yet academically rigorous learning through such courses as Management Accounting and Control Systems; Accounting Theory-Accounting Standard Setting; International Accounting and Taxation; and External Auditing. International trips are offered throughout the year for course credit for the International Study Abroad degree requirement. All classes take place Monday through Thursday evenings. Additionally, students whose work demands temporarily conflict with class schedules may opt out of a term; up to three years following the program start date are permitted to complete the degree requirements. Students receive comprehensive career planning and placement assistance through the school’s Massey/COBA Career Services Office. Belmont University is ranked #6 (tie) in Regional Universities (South) by US News.

Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, TN)

Middle Tennessee State University offers a Master’s of Accounting (MAcc) program that offers students flexibility in selecting courses to meet their career goals. Students may choose a Tax Accounting specialization or complete the 30-credit hour degree on a general track. Courses offered include Advanced Financial Accounting and Reporting Problems; Advanced Accounting Theory; Accounting and Legal Issues for Managers; and Federal Income Tax Research and Planning. No thesis is required to complete the degree, though students must take a capstone course which must be completed within six years from each student’s 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. Middle Tennessee State is fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Business-related degrees are among the most popular at this school, where most classes are held with fewer than 50 students. US News ranks Middle Tennessee State as a Tier 2 school in National Universities.

University of Tennessee (Knoxville, TN)

University of Tennessee offers a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program through its College of Business Administration’s Department of Accounting and Information Management that promises to challenge students as they prepare for careers in accounting. Students can specialize in either Audit and Controls or Taxation during the 10-month, full-time program. Admission is competitive and the curriculum is challenging, including courses such as Corporate Taxation and Reorganizations; Tax Strategy and Entity Taxation; Systems Audit Security and Controls; and Enterprise Resource Planning Systems. The program’s placement statistics for past graduates are competitive, with students regularly finding positions prior to graduation in all sectors of accounting. Students who did not major in business or accounting at the undergraduate level but who have outstanding academic records are also invited to apply for admission. The Public Accounting Report has ranked the University of Tennessee’s Master of Accountancy Program highly among public university masters in accounting programs, and US News ranks the University of Tennessee #115 (tie) in National Universities.

Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in Tennessee

Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, or LBMC, is the largest accounting firm in middle Tennessee and one of the largest accounting firms in the Southeast. LBMC has offices in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, and the firm focuses on employee development and offers competitive benefits to its staff. Kraft CPAs is based in Nashville and is one of middle Tennessee’s largest independent accounting and consulting firms. Kraft aims to make each employee’s career with the firm rewarding. Blackburn, Childers & Steagall, PLC has over 40 years of experience providing accounting, audit, and consulting services to clients, and has offices in Johnson City, Kingsport, and Greeneville. Blackburn, Childers & Steagall is always looking to hire top talent.

How to Become a CPA in Tennessee

The Tennessee State Board of Accountancy oversees the process for becoming a Certified Public Accountant in the state. There are five main steps to complete in order to earn a Tennessee 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. Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.
  4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
  5. Apply for a license.

1. Complete a 150-semester hour or 225-quarter hour educational program of acceptable coursework in accounting.

The Tennessee Board of Accountancy requires prospective CPA applicants to have completed a 150-semester hour program of education that includes the award of a bachelor’s degree. All credits must have been completed at a regionally accredited college acceptable to the Board. In addition, the 150 semester hours must include a minimum of 30 semester hours of accounting education, at least 24 semester hours of which are at the upper division or above. At least 24 semester hours in general business are also required, 12 of which must be at the upper division or above. Subjects that satisfy the general business requirement include:

  • Algebra, calculus, statistics, probability
  • Business communication
  • Business law
  • Economics
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Technology/Information systems
  • Marketing

2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.

Prospective Tennessee CPAs must earn at least 2,000 hours of experience in accounting and related services across a period between one and three years to qualify for a license. The experience earned may be in industry, government, public practice, or academia so long as the services or advice provided are centered on the use of accounting, attest, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, and/or consulting skills. Note that in order to sign reports on financial statements on behalf of firms, licensees must have completed two years of experience within a 10-year period in compilations, reviews, and audits. All experience must be verified by a current licensee.

3. Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.

The Tennessee Board of Accountancy has adopted the self-study ethics course and exam developed by AICPA to fulfill the ethics requirement for CPA licensure in the state. Candidates can order the required course materials from AICPA. After passing the exam with a score of at least 90%, candidates must request that the score be sent to the Tennessee Board of Accountancy directly from AICPA.

4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.

The Uniform CPA Exam is a requirement for CPA licensure in all 50 states. The Tennessee Board of Accountancy uses NASBA to administer the exam application and testing process. Applicants may visit the NASBA web portal to apply for the exam. All four sections of the exam must be passed within an 18-month rolling period.

5. Apply for a license.

The final step to becoming a CPA in Tennessee is to apply for a license. Once the Tennessee Board of Accountancy has received notification that a candidate has passed both the AICPA ethics exam and the Uniform CPA Exam, the board will mail the application for a license to the candidate with further instructions.

After a CPA license has been issued, renewal is on a biennial schedule based on the license number issued. 80 hours of continuing education are required for each renewal period, and at least two of these hours should be in board-approved ethics courses that are Tennessee-specific. You can find additional information on the Tennessee Board of Accountancy website.

Tennessee Accountant Salary and Job Outlook

Projected Job Growth


Accountants and Auditors in Tennessee from 2016-20262

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 18,300 auditors and accountants are working in Tennessee and predicts that demand for these professionals will increase by over 24% within the state through 2026.2,3 The average salary for accountants in Tennessee is $67,360 annually.3 The Nashville metro area has over 9,210 current accountants and auditors, and many accountants and auditors also find work in Knoxville at a slightly higher salary than the state’s average, around $71,550 per year.3

Student Reviews

Note: Student Reviews are based on the experiences of a few individuals and it is unlikely that you will have similar results. Please review the “Data, Student Reviews and Other Information” section in our Terms of Use and Disclaimers.

Middle Tennessee State University
1301 E Main St
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
(615) 898-2300

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
(865) 694-6400

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
(865) 974-1000

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. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026): https://projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017, 13-2011 Accountants and Auditors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm