Accounting Schools in Wisconsin
The following overview of accounting schools in Wisconsin provides valuable information for those pursuing an education and career in accounting. You will find information on the process for Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure in the state, salary and employment statistics, and information comparing the various master’s in accounting programs available at Wisconsin’s not-for-profit schools. You can read profiles of select traditional masters-level accounting programs offered by Wisconsin schools, whether on campus, online, or hybrid. Continue reading to find more information about how to become a CPA in Wisconsin, the top accounting schools, and career possibilities for accounting graduates in the state.
- There are 48 colleges and universities with accounting degree programs in Wisconsin.1
- 7 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in accounting.1
- 1 school was ranked in Forbes’ Best Business Schools 2019.2
- 1 school was ranked in the Princeton Review’s Great Schools for Accounting Majors 2020.3
- 1 school was 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
- 5 schools had a 2018 CPA exam pass rate at or above the national average of 51.9%.6
- 4 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 Wisconsin
- Wisconsin CPA Salary and Job Outlook
- Top Master’s in Accounting Programs in Wisconsin
- Wisconsin Master’s in Accounting Program Comparison
- Select Schools in Wisconsin with Master’s in Accounting Programs
- Additional Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Student Reviews
How to Become a CPA in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Accounting Examining Board (the Board) oversees the process for becoming a Certified Public Accountant in the state. There are six main steps to complete in order to earn a CPA license in Wisconsin.
- Complete 150 semester hours of college-level coursework in accounting.
- Accumulate the required hours of experience.
- Complete the Wisconsin Online Ethics Exam.
- Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
- Apply for a license.
- Receive a license.
1. Complete 150 semester hours of college-level coursework in accounting.
The Board has adopted the 150-hour rule for prospective CPA licensees, which requires that candidates complete 150 semester hours of education to qualify for a license. The education must include the award of at least a bachelor’s degree and a concentration in accounting or equivalent coursework. To qualify as a concentration in accounting, the program must consist of 24 undergraduate-level or 15 graduate-level semester hours of accounting coursework, including financial accounting, cost or managerial accounting, taxation, auditing, and accounting information systems. In addition, the concentration in accounting must also include 24 undergraduate-level semester hours or 15 graduate-level semester hours of business coursework in non-accounting topics including economics, finance, statistics or data analysis, business law, and information technology.
2. Accumulate the required hours of experience.
One year of accounting experience or its equivalent is required to qualify for CPA licensure in Wisconsin. The experience must have been earned after completing 120 semester hours of education and an accounting concentration. The experience must include services or advice in accounting, attest, compilation, management advising, financial advising, or any related consulting and be verified by the candidate’s employer. Experience earned in industry, government, public practice, or advanced and specialized teaching in academia typically satisfies Board requirements. Part-time work may qualify, but full-time work is given preference.
3. Complete the Wisconsin Online Ethics Exam.
A candidate for CPA licensure must pass an ethics exam specific to the rules and statutes of the state of Wisconsin. Candidates may access the exam and review the materials covered by the exam through the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (WDSPS). Candidates must pass the exam with a score of 80% or greater. Candidates who fail the exam must wait 30 days to retake the exam. Candidates who fail a second time must wait 90 days.
4. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
Candidates who have completed 120 semester hours of college-level education and a concentration in accounting may apply to take the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Uniform CPA Exam. Like most states, the Board uses the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to administer the application and testing process. Candidates who are ready to test may apply through the NASBA website. All four sections of the exam must be passed with a score of 75 or higher within a rolling 18-month period.
5. Apply for a license.
Once all licensing requirements have been met, prospective CPAs may submit an application for a license and all relevant fees to the Board. The candidate must submit forms verifying the completion of all licensure requirements with their application, including the Verification of Employment and Experience Evaluation Form and the Experience Record Form. All necessary documents are available on the Board’s website.
6. Receive a license.
Once the Board receives the application and fees, they will send an application ID number by email. Using that number, applicants may track the progress of their application through the Board’s web portal. It will take about three weeks for the application to process, at which point successful applicants will be able to find their license number and downloadable files for a wallet card and a wall certificate on the Board’s website.
CPA License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
The license renewal date for CPAs in Wisconsin is December 14 of every odd-numbered year. CPAs are required to complete 80 hours of continuing education (CE) for every renewal period, with at least 20 hours of CE completed during each 12-month period. The CE must include at least 40 hours of formal learning activities and three hours of CE related to ethics.
Wisconsin CPA Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 22,390 accountants and auditors work in Wisconsin, with an average annual salary of $71,260.10 The Milwaukee metropolitan area has the highest employment for accountants in the state, with 7,870 accounting professionals working there.10 The Eau Claire area reports the highest salaries in the state, with the average yearly salary for accountants averaging $78,230.10 Projections Central predicts that the demand for accountants and auditors will grow by 5.8% through 2028 in Wisconsin, which is a slightly slower rate than the national average of 6.4%.11
Wisconsin CPA Salary by Metro Area
|Metro Area||Number Employed10||Average Annual Salary10|
Top-Ranked Schools with Master’s in Accounting Programs in Wisconsin
Forbes’ Best Business Schools* 2019
- University of Wisconsin-Madison (#35)
*With master’s in accounting programs.
Princeton Review’s Great Schools for Accounting Majors* 2020
- Marquette University
*With master’s in accounting programs.
Public Accounting Report’s Top 50 Master’s Accounting Programs 2019
- University of Wisconsin-Madison (#16)
Wisconsin Master’s in Accounting Program Comparison
Below we have compiled a table including information about all not-for-profit Wisconsin 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|
|Marquette University||AACSB||63.3%||MS-Accounting (MSA);|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||AACSB||82.4%||Master of Accountacy (MAcc)||43.7%||88%||—||$706|
|University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee||AACSB||70.3%||MS-Management-Accounting;|
|University of Wisconsin-Whitewater||AACSB||70.8%||Master of Professional Accountancy (MPA);|
- — indicates none.
- N.Av. indicates no data available.
Select Schools in Wisconsin with Master’s in Accounting Programs
Marquette University’s College of Business offers a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) that can be completed in as little as one year. The 30-credit hour program may be taken full-time or part-time and will fulfill the 150-semester hour rule for CPA licensure. Students learn technical, practical, and theoretical accounting skills through such courses as Advanced Corporate Issues; Auditing: Ethical, Legal, Professional, Reporting; Advanced Cost Management; and Analysis of Corporate Financial Statements. Students take courses from the MBA program to fulfill the business elective requirements of the degree. Although students from all academic backgrounds are admitted to the program, it is recommended that students have an undergraduate degree in accounting. Those without an undergraduate background in accounting may need additional undergraduate courses before pursuing graduate coursework. Admission to the program requires an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and GMAT or GRE scores. Applicants may qualify to waive the testing requirement is they have an undergraduate GPA of 3.25 with qualifying business coursework.
The Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UW-Madison) offers a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program that can be taken in two different formats. The Integrated MAcc (IMAcc) is a five-year program for students currently enrolled in the undergraduate accounting program at UW. The IMAcc adds one year and 30 credit hours to the undergraduate program. The Graduate MAcc (GMAcc) is a two-year stand-alone program that includes foundational accounting courses and the graduate-level coursework found in the IMAcc program. Courses available for both programs include Financial Statement Analysis, Advanced Assurance Services, and Advanced Financial Reporting. Students in either program may declare an optional emphasis in Taxation. Both programs meet the CPA licensure requirements for every state except California and Texas. An internship is required for students in the IMAcc program but is optional for students in the GMAcc program. The MAcc at the UW-Madison requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA and not less than a “B” grade in any course at level 300 or above. Graduates from the MAcc program have had a 98% job placement rate within three months of graduation.
The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee’s (UW-Milwaukee) Lubar School of Business has a Master of Science in Management-Accounting that can be completed in one year and is designed for students without a prior accounting degree. The 30-credit hour program can be tailored to each student’s needs with the help of a faculty advisor, prioritizing preparation for the Uniform CPA Exam. The Accounting concentration is open only to students without a prior accounting degree; there is also a Professional Accounting concentration, which is reserved for those with prior accounting education. Most students in the program take foundation courses before entering the program. The MS in Management-Accounting curriculum includes nine required courses and one elective. Required courses include Accounting Information Systems, Advanced Business Law, and Advanced Taxation. Students can expand on the core curriculum with options such as a study abroad course, a management research project, or an internship. Admission to UW-Milwaukee’s program requires a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA and submission of GMAT scores. Students with a bachelor’s degree in accounting may enroll in the Master of Science (MS) in Management-Professional Accounting program.
The University of Wisconsin at Whitewater (UW-Whitewater) offers a Master of Professional Accounting (MPA) that can be completed in about one year. The program requires 30 credit hours to complete and will help students fulfill the 150-semester hour rule for CPA licensure. The program is tailored towards students with an undergraduate degree in accounting, but students with other degrees may enroll by taking additional foundational coursework. Students in the program will work with an academic advisor to construct a curriculum that meets both the 30-credit hour requirement for graduation and their individual career goals. UWW offers a wide variety of available accounting classes, including Corporate and Special Entity Taxation; Forensic Accounting and Professional Ethics; International Taxation; and Sustainability and Environmental Reporting. Admission into the MPA program requires an undergraduate degree with at least a 3.25 GPA (3.0 for AACSB- or Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)-accredited degrees), two to four years of professional work experience, and a composite GMAT score of at least 1,100. A composite GMAT score is gained by multiplying an undergraduate GPA by 200 and then adding the GMAT score. Graduates from UW-Whitewater’s MPA program have begun careers with firms such as Deloitte, Baker Tilly LLP, and PwC.
Online and Hybrid Programs
Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW) offers an online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Accounting program that can prepare students to take the CPA exam and succeed in accounting and auditing careers. The 36-credit hour program consists of 24 credit hours of core business courses and 12 to 15 hours of accounting courses, depending on previous accounting coursework. Courses in the Accounting concentration include Advanced Auditing, Fraud Management, Governmental Accounting, and Statutory Accounting. Students may pursue more than one concentration and complement their accounting study in areas such as Finance; Management; and Risk Assessment and Management, among other options. Admission into the program requires a bachelor’s degree but does not require any kind of entrance exam. Prerequisites for the MBA program include previous coursework in accounting, finance, management, and statistics. Students seeking to defer some of the cost of their education may apply for a variety of scholarships offered through CUW’s Uncommon Scholarship program.
Edgewood College offers a one-year full-time Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) program that is available entirely online. The 30-credit hour program is structured for working professionals with enrollment open at the beginning of any semester. The program is meant to help prepare students for the Uniform CPA Exam, with students receiving a discount on exam preparation materials. The coursework is divided into business and accounting courses, with 18 credit hours of accounting coursework and 12 credit hours of business coursework. Accounting courses include Fraud and Forensic Accounting; Strategic Management Accounting; and Governmental and Not-for-Profit Accounting. Applicants to the program are required to have an undergraduate degree with at least a 2.5 GPA. Applicants without the necessary undergraduate GPA may submit GMAT scores of at least 430 (or the GRE equivalent) to be considered. Some prerequisite accounting coursework is required. Students without a bachelor’s degree in accounting may take the required courses at Edgewood prior to enrollment in the MSA program.
Top Accounting Firms for Graduates in Wisconsin
- SVA Professional Services: With branches in Milwaukee and Appleton, SVA is made up of three branches, SVA CPAs, SVA Consulting, and SVA Financial Group.
- RitzHolman CPAs: Based in Milwaukee, Ritz Holman is a member of AICPA that offers accounting, tax, and financial services to businesses, individuals, and nonprofits.
- Baker Tilly: One of the largest accounting firms in the US, Baker Tilly has offices nationwide, five of which are in Wisconsin; the firm offers a wide array of services across a variety of industries, including family business, private equity, and not-for-profits.
Wisconsin Accounting Associations
- Wisconsin Association of Accountants (WAA): Protects the rights of its members to practice accounting, provides high quality CE, and promotes high ethical standards among accountants.
- Wisconsin Institute of CPAs (WICPA): With more than 7,000 members, WICPA offers CE options, professional advocacy, and networking opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to work for a CPA to become a CPA in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin requires one year of full-time employment in accounting or its equivalent part-time experience for licensure. There is no explicit regulation stating that the experience must be gained under a licensed CPA; however, the experience must be verified by your employer and is subject to review by the Board.
How do I become licensed as a CPA in Wisconsin?
To become a CPA in Wisconsin, you must accumulate 150 semester hours of college-level coursework including a bachelor’s degree or higher and a concentration in accounting. You must gain one year of experience in the practice of accounting. You also must pass two exams: an ethics exam specific to the rules and regulations of accounting in Wisconsin as well as the Uniform CPA Exam. Once you have completed these requirements, you must submit an application along with all necessary forms and fees to the Board.
How much does a CPA make in Wisconsin?
The BLS reports that accountants and auditors in Wisconsin make an average of $71,260 annually.10 The highest average salary for accountants and auditors in the state is in the Eau Claire metropolitan area, at $78,230.10
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
1725 State St
La Crosse, WI 54601
Student Review: “While not the most illustrious of schools for the accounting and finance programs, La Crosse offers an outstanding education in both these areas. Not only are the instructors amazing teachers, but I have found that they have a great deal of real life industry knowledge. They also prepare you for the certification exams as well, as can be seen by their extraordinary pass rate which has been rated in the top 10-20 schools in the nation consistently for many years. Independent study for these exams will also allow students to collect credits, which are essential to being able to receive your certification after passing the exams (in order to receive your certification as a CPA you need 150 credit hours). They also offer classes during winter and summer breaks, allowing you to finish your degree even faster. If you’re looking for a great business school at a relatively reasonable price, look no further than UWL!” – student at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
2442 E Kenwood Blvd
Milwaukee, WI 53201
Student Review: “The UW-Milwaukee accounting program was a very good program that set me up for success in the real world. They have some of their accounting classes taught by professionals that actually work, or have worked in, the field for a few years. This kind of “hands on” experience is absolutely invaluable. If you ask them what it’s like working on a day to day basis, or what to expect when applying for jobs this information can really help you on learning what to expect and how to negotiate. You are going to have to learn to work with money after all. Overall I think the experience was great and I would recommend the program.” – student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
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 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, Wisconsin: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wi.htm#13-0000
11. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
12. US News & World Report Best Business Schools 2021: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools