Accounting Schools in Virginia
Virginia’s master’s in accounting programs provide diverse options for earning an accounting degree. As an alternative to traditional on-campus programs, some schools offer online or hybrid programs to accommodate a wider variety of students. In this guide, you will find comprehensive data on Virginia’s accounting schools as well as information about the accounting profession in Virginia (including the steps to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the state) accounting employment and salaries, and professional accounting organizations in the state.
- There are 48 colleges and universities with accounting degree programs in Virginia.1
- 14 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in accounting.1
- 2 schools were ranked in Forbes’ Best Business Schools 2019.2
- 2 schools were ranked in the Princeton Review’s Great Schools for Accounting Majors 2020.3
- 3 schools were ranked in Public Accounting Report’s Top 50 Master’s Accounting Programs 2019.4
- 1 school was ranked in US News & World Report’s Best MBA Accounting Programs 2021.5
- 6 schools had a 2018 CPA exam pass rate at or above the national average of 51.9%.6
- 8 universities and business schools are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International.7
- 3 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 Virginia
- Virginia CPA Salary and Job Outlook
- Top Master’s in Accounting Programs in Virginia
- Virginia Master’s in Accounting Program Comparison
- Select Schools in Virginia with Master’s in Accounting Programs
- Additional Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Student Reviews
Steps to Become a CPA in Virginia
The Virginia Board of Accountancy (VBOA) oversees the process for becoming a CPA in the state. There are seven main steps to complete in order to earn a Virginia CPA license.
- Complete 150 semester hours of college-level education in accounting.
- Accumulate the required hours of experience.
- Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.
- Pass the Uniform CPA Examination
- Complete any pre-licensure continuing education, if required.
- Apply for a CPA license.
- Receive a CPA license.
1. Complete 150 semester hours of college-level education in accounting.
Virginia follows the 150-hour rule, meaning that CPA applicants in the state must complete at least 150 semester hours of college education that include the award of a bachelor’s degree. The total hours must include 24 semester hours in accounting courses above the foundational level as well as 24 semester hours of business courses, no more than six semester hours of which may also be considered accounting courses. The VBOA recommends, but does not require, that these hours include graduate study in accounting.
2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
Virginia CPA candidates must earn at least 2,080 hours or the equivalent of one full year of professional accounting experience, and have that experience certified by a licensed CPA. Work may be performed in academia, government, industry, or public or private practice so long as it involves the use of accounting, financial, tax, and other relevant skills to accounting practice. Self-employment may not be counted towards the experience requirement.
3. Complete the AICPA ethics course and exam.
A passing score of 90% on the Professional Ethics Exam offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is a requirement for Virginia CPA licensure. The self-study course is titled Professional Ethics: The AICPA’s Comprehensive Course and it can be taken through AICPA’s website. Candidates should request that the AICPA send their exam scores directly to the VBOA.
4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
Candidates who have completed at least 120 semester hours of education and a bachelor’s degree in accounting are eligible to take the Uniform CPA Exam developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates should apply to take the exam through the VBOA CPA Licensure Services portal. Once a candidate’s application has been approved by the Board, he or she will receive further information on scheduling and taking the exam. The exam consists of four sections that may be taken in any order over an 18-month period. All sections must be passed with a score of 75 or higher.
5. Complete any pre-licensure continuing education, if required.
Candidates who do not apply for a license in the same calendar year that they pass the Uniform CPA Exam must complete continuing professional education (CPE). For every calendar that begins after passing the exam, candidates must complete at least 40 hours of continuing education, including two hours of a VBOA-approved Virginia-specific ethics course.
6. Apply for a CPA license.
Once all the requirements have been met, prospective CPAs must apply to the VBOA for a license. The VBOA uses an online process for first-time CPA applicants and applicants can submit the required materials and access their application using the online portal.
7. Receive a CPA license.
Applicants may track the progress of their application on the VBOA online portal. Once the license application and documentation are submitted the VBOA will take between two and five business days to update the online checklist. After all documentation and applications have been processed the applicant will receive a notification via email from the VBOA indicating approval of the application and issuance of a license.
CPA License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licensed CPAs in Virginia must complete 120 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) during each rolling three-year period, with no fewer than 20 hours in any given calendar year. Licensed CPAs will also need to complete a board-approved Virginia-specific ethics course every year. You can find additional information on the VBOA’s website.
Virginia CPA Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 42,200 accountants and auditors are currently working within the state of Virginia.10 The state has the fourth-highest average salary for accountants and auditors in the nation, averaging $85,720 per year.11 The Washington DC metro area that includes parts of Virginia has the highest average salaries at $92,660 per year, the fourth-highest of any metropolitan area in the US.11 Projections Central predicts that employment for accountants and auditors in Virginia will rise by 7.3% by 2028, slightly faster than the national average, to a projected total of 48,820 employed in the state.12
Virginia CPA Salary by Metro Area
|Metro Area||Number Employed10||Average Annual Salary10|
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||6,490||$72,580|
Top-Ranked Schools with Master’s in Accounting Programs in Virginia
Forbes’ Best Business Schools* 2019
- University of Virginia (#13)
- William and Mary (#44)
*With master’s in accounting programs.
Princeton Review’s Great Schools for Accounting Majors* 2020
- George Mason University
- James Madison University
*With master’s in accounting programs.
Public Accounting Report’s Top 50 Master’s Accounting Programs 2019
- University of Virginia (#19)
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (#23)
- College of William and Mary (#42)
US News & World Report’s Best MBA Accounting Programs 2021
- University of Virginia (#32 tie)
Virginia Master’s in Accounting Program Comparison
Below we have compiled a table including information about all not-for-profit Virginia 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 Rate13||Grad Rate1||Online Options?||Tuition per Credit|
|Averett University||—||N.Av.||Master of Accountancy (MSA)||N.Av.||100%||Yes||$565|
|Fairfax University of America||—||N.Av.||MS-Accounting (MAC);|
|George Mason University||AACSB||60.7%||MS-Accounting (MSA);|
|James Madison University||AACSB||92.9%||MS-Accounting (MSA)||N.Av.||84%||—||$499|
|Old Dominion Unveristy||AACSB||53.3%||MS-Accounting||100%||53%||—||$547|
|Shenandoah University||AACSB||N.Av.||MBA-CPA Licensure Option||100%||60%||Yes||$905|
|Saint Leo University-Chesapeake||ACBSP||N.Av.||MBA-Accounting||N.Av.||49%||Yes||$570|
|University of Virginia-Main Campus||AACSB||75.8%||MS-Accounting||36.5%||95%||—||$1,223|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||AACSB||44.0%||Master of Accountancy (MAcc)||N.Av.||67%||—||$844|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||AACSB||73.3%||Master of Accounting and Information Systems (MACIS)||N.Av.||86%||—||$761|
|William and Mary||AACSB||64.5%||Master of Accounting (MAcc)||74.5%||90%||—||$1,162|
- — indicates none.
- N.Av. indicates no data available.
Select Master’s in Accounting Programs in Virginia
James Madison University’s (JMU) College of Business offers a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) degree that can be tailored to the needs of both business and non-business majors. The primary focus of the program is on preparing students for careers in public accounting, which includes providing the education needed to meet the requirements to sit for the Uniform CPA exam. The program requires 30 credit hours to graduate and can be completed in a little as one year. An optional concentration in Taxation is offered for students seeking an additional specialization. Program courses include Advanced Auditing; Accounting Theory; Corporate Financial Reporting; and Government and Nonprofit Accounting. Students with undergraduate degrees in non-business majors may need to take prerequisite courses in accounting and business at an AACSB-accredited school before admission to the program. Applicants to the MSA program will need to have completed either the GMAT or the Uniform CPA Exam.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has a 30-credit Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program with a concentration in Data Analytics that prepares students for careers in accounting through classroom interaction as well as interaction with the business community. The program is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. The courses required to earn the degree take place in the evenings and are held either one or two evenings per week depending on the course schedule. Courses in the program such as Forensic Accounting, Advanced Topics in Accounting Information Systems, Business Data Analytics, and Tax Research and Planning help students prepare for successful professional careers in various sectors of accounting. Students may qualify for graduate assistantships and scholarships offered through the School of Business. Students with non-accounting undergraduate degrees may be interested in VCU’s Post-Baccalaureate Undergraduate Certificate in Accounting. The Department of Accounting at VCU holds full accreditation from the AACSB.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s (Virginia Tech) Pamplin College of Business offers a blended Master of Accounting and Information Systems (MACIS) degree. This degree is an option for students with a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, although prerequisites may be required to prepare students without an accounting background for the program. The MACIS degree can typically be completed within twelve to 24 months, though students may take longer based on their academic backgrounds and scheduling availability. The 30-credit hour program offers specialization tracks in Accounting Analytics, Information Systems, Audit, Financial Services, or Tax, each of which meets the requirements for CPA licensure in Virginia. Those accepted into the program are expected to maintain a grade point average of at least a 3.0 throughout the curriculum. MACIS students will have the opportunity to participate in the Business Horizons Career Fair, which allows students to meet face-to-face with over 100 different recruiters. Over 90% of past domestic graduates have found full-time employment before graduating.
Online and Hybrid Programs
Averett University offers a Master of Accountancy (MSA) available completely online. The MSA is built around Avertt’s Individually Designed Education for Adult Learners Program (IDEAL) to allow adult and professional students to design a program around their individual needs. The MSA program requires 30 credit hours to graduate, with coursework focusing on the sections of the CPA Exam. The program will allow students with an undergraduate degree in accounting to meet the 150-semester hour requirement for CPA licensure. Each semester of the MSA program focuses on a different portion of the Uniform CPA Exam to allow students to focus on each section individually. Courses include Federal Tax Research and Analysis; Issues in Business Law and Ethics; Forensic and Investigative Accounting; and Advanced Auditing and Assurance Services. To be accepted into the program applicants must have a combined GPA and GMAT score of 1,050 or above using Averett’s formula of multiplying the GPA by 200 and adding the GMAT score.
The School of Business at George Mason University (Mason) has a 30-credit Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program that is available almost entirely online and that can be completed in as little as 11 months. The program is structured to assist students in gaining the necessary professional accounting skills to compete in a global arena and meet the 150-credit hour requirement for licensure. Classes are modular, with students able to enroll in one or two classes every eight weeks. The curriculum is delivered asynchronously to accommodate different rates of student learning. Required courses cover a variety of topics including taxation, financial accounting, and fraud. All online students must take the course entitled Global Accounting Environment, which includes a week-long global residency abroad. Previous residencies have taken place in Prague, London, and Frankfurt. Past graduates from the MSA program have found employment with firms such as Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. Before their graduation, 64% of past Mason MSA graduates had already found employment.
Liberty University offers an online Master of Science in Accounting (MS in Accounting) that provides students with the critical skills and knowledge necessary to take advantage of opportunities in the accounting field. The 30-credit hour master’s in accounting may be completed in as little as one year and will fulfill the 150-semester hour requirement for a CPA license in Virginia and prepare students for the Uniform CPA Exam. Students will choose a specialization in Audit and Financial Reporting; Business; Financial Services; Forensic Accounting; Leadership; Taxation; or General Accounting. Students across all specializations will study cost accounting, business law, ethics, and information systems. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with at least a 3.0 GPA to be admitted in good standing. Applicants who do not have the required prerequisite accounting coursework may be required to complete Liberty’s Undergraduate Certificate in Accounting. Students interested in business may be interested in Liberty’s online MBA with a concentration in Accounting.
Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in Virginia
- PBMares: Among the largest accounting firms in the state of Virginia, the firm provides services to clients both in their community and worldwide.
- Keiter: Another one of Virginia’s largest CPA firms, where the focus is on identifying opportunities for its clients.
- Yount Hyde & Barbour: With offices in multiple Virginia cities, the firm provides accounting, tax, and assurance services to individuals and commercial businesses.
Virginia Accounting Associations
- Virginia Society of Tax & Accounting Professionals (VSTAP): Founded in 1948, VSTAP provides educational opportunities, elevated standards of proficiency and integrity, and promotes and protects the the interests of accounting professionals in Virginia.
- Virginia Society of CPAs (VSCPA): Dedicated to empowering CPAs, the VSCPA seeks to enhance their profession by communicating information, promoting professionalism, and advocating for members.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I become a CPA in Virginia?
To become a CPA in Virginia you must complete 150 semester hours of college-level coursework focused in accounting, including a bachelor’s degree or higher. You must also accumulate 2,080 hours of work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA. After that, you must pass both the AICPA Ethics Exam and the Uniform CPA Exam. Once you have completed these steps you may apply to the VBOA for a license.
How many CPAs are there in Virginia?
According to the BLS, as of 2019, there are 42,200 people working as accountants and auditors in the state of Virginia, earning an average annual salary of $85,720.10 The highest level of employment is found in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area, with 41,370 accountants and auditors working in the area.10
What do you have to do to keep your CPA license in Virginia?
CPAs in Virginia need to complete 120 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) every three years to maintain their license including two hours of ethics CPE. They must complete a minimum of 20 of these CPE hours during each calendar year.
How long after taking the CPA exam do I have to get licensed?
In Virginia your Uniform CPA Exam results do not expire; however, for every calendar year that begins after you pass the exam that you do not become licensed, you must take 40 hours of CPE including two hours of ethics education.
1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515
Student Review: “I went to Liberty University for just over 2 years. I completed some of my core classes as well as my accounting classes. I was able to do some of my classes online which was much easier on my schedule. The instructors and professors were very professional and were able to quickly help the students if they ever had any problems or needed extra help in the class. Being a Christian school I expected a “forced down your throat” approach but they are very courteous to all religious backgrounds and thought they presented their beliefs in an upfront and respectful way.” – Student at Liberty University
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Student Review: “The Virginia Tech accounting program is great and highly underrated by many college ranking sites. The school is overshadowed by its fantastic engineering program, but the accounting program has produced many great alumni, some of which spoke in class. My professors were very helpful and always made students aware of their office hours. The program would rate a 5 if not for the horrible online tests one of my professors used in a sophomore class. It was not very informative and just made that class more difficult than it should have been.” – Student at Virginia Tech
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, California:
11. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2019 Occupational Employment and Wages, Accountants and Auditors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm
12. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
13. US News & World Report Best Business Schools 2021: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools