The demand for accountants nationwide is expected to grow 10% between 2016 and 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The outlook is even stronger in Michigan where growth is forecast at 14% between 2014 and 2024. By that point there will be 33,550 accountants employed in the state with an estimated 1,190 job openings annually. And with demand on the rise, expect the 2016 median salary of $64,790 to rise as well. If you're ready to take your first steps down an exciting career path and your focus is public accountancy, you might want to learn how to become a certified public accountant (CPA) in Michigan.
Meet the Michigan Education Requirements
CPAs operate at the highest level of the accounting world, often in public practice in an accounting firm or other business environment performing the internal audit every year or even working on government contracts. That is why the Michigan State Board of Accountancy requires all CPAs to receive academic credentials as accounting majors and meet a certain level of college credit requirement from specific acceptable coursework in order to earn professional state licensure. On your journey to become a CPA one of your first goals should be to get an Associates In Accounting (AA) diploma. After obtaining an associate degree, you can follow these additional steps to satisfy the CPA requirements with an advanced degree.
Enroll in an accounting program at a four-year institution that is accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies. If there is any confusion about whether a program is eligible, inquire with administrators before enrollment.
Complete the 150 total semester hour requirement and earn an undergraduate degree with an accounting concentration. Education that is earned outside of the United States is acceptable as long as it is reviewed and approved by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) International Evaluation Service.
- To cover the acceptable coursework for state licensure, your official college transcript of your college education and degree program must include 3 credit hours in auditing.
- The academic program must also include 21 credit hours in accounting subjects - Financial Accounting and Accounting Theory, Managerial Accounting including Cost Accounting, Accounting Systems and Controls, US Federal Taxation, or Governmental/Fund Accounting.
- The final requirement is 24 credit hours in a general business subjects.
- If you are able to meet the above requirements for accounting classes while pursuing a degree not concentrated on accounting it still fulfills the state's education requirement. You might also take courses offering credit hours which offer accounting classes on accounting information systems, financial planning or other finance programs, auditing financial statements, forensic accounting, general accounting services, and more. You will need to discuss these classes with the board of accountancy or your academic advisor to be sure they will count toward your semester hour requirement.
Classes taken at a community college, online, for AP credit, in a pass/fail situation, or through correspondence courses are all acceptable as long as the credit is recognized and recorded on your official college transcript from the educational institution that grants the accounting or finance degree.
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Campus and Online Degree Options in Michigan
An associate degree from a Michigan community college, or other institution, is a low-cost and effective way to start an accounting career while also completing the core curriculum and about half of the college credit required for a baccalaureate degree. Learn More
A four-year degree in accounting is perhaps the best way to launch a career in accounting work. The Michigan Board of Accountancy requires that students have it to sit for the CPA exam offered by the AICPA, and it's a prerequisite for a graduate program. Learn More
Whether completed on the heels of a bachelor's degree or in mid-career, an advanced degree in accounting will open new opportunities for professionals in this field. In fact, instead of just continuing to earn college credit in basic accounting, a student could choose to complete graduate work at a business school and earn a master of business administration with an accounting MBA concentration. Accounting graduates who earn this type of advanced degree at the graduate level can gain access to executive compensation and high-level positions in any company.Learn More
Doctorate or PhD
This is the highest level of education possible. While the business community generally doesn't require such lofty degrees, a doctoral degree is practically necessary for a career based and focused in academia. Learn More
Online Degree Programs
Online degree programs are proliferating more and more all the time. They provide students with the same outcomes as on site, in person learning and they are often more affordable and, in terms of commitment, more flexible.Learn More
Pass the Uniform CPA Exam
In order to demonstrate you have the skills and competencies required of all CPAs you must pass a standardized exam used in every state and provided by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA):
You are eligible as long as you have met the education requirement, earned at least 120 of the 150 required hours, or plan to reach either mark within 30 days of taking the exam.
- Register for the exam with the CPA Examination Services (CPAES). You can either register online or download application forms to submit through the mail.
- Test takers must also request an official transcript from the intuition where you graduated of all accounting classes completed. Electronic submission is preferred, but if this is not possible transcripts may be submitted in a sealed official envelope.
- If you have met the education requirements, submit the exam application, transcript, and any exam fees to the CPA Examination Services – Michigan Coordinator, P.O. Box 198469, Nashville, TN 37219-8469.
- If you have not yet completed 150 semester hours, submit your application, transcript, and a Certificate of Enrollment form. The final document is completed by your college registrar.
- If you require any special accommodations during your examination, include an ADA Accommodation request form with your other application documents. If you met the education requirements outside the US, include an International Evaluation report.
The NASBA will notify you whether or not you're approved to take the exam. You can request to be notified by email, fax, or mail.
Use the Prometric website to find a testing facility near you, then sign up for a testing date that accommodates your schedule. There are testing facilities throughout the state:
- Ann Arbor
- Auburn Hills
- Grand Rapids
- Sault Ste Marie
You should research what info is on the exam and study extensively in advance. Earning a passing score on the exam is essential to advancing your CPA career, and the cost of taking it is high. Repeat attempts is negative for you both personally and professional, so prepare and practice for the test profusely and arrive at the testing center early to make sure you are able to sit for the exam on time.
Exam scores are accessible online 48 hours after the test is completed. An official declaration of scores is sent to you through the mail.
Satisfy the Michigan Experience Requirement
It's extremely important for CPAs to have core competencies and standardized skills. But, like most jobs, a lot of the CPA's actual abilities are learned on the job through accounting experience and on the job training. That is why the Michigan State Board of Accountancy has experience requirements that require CPA candidates to earn practical work experience at an accounting firm or similar business before becoming eligible for licensure:
You must earn at least 2,000 total hours of on-the-job work experience. This is equivalent to about one year of full-time employment. This work experience must meet several conditions:
- Be located in academia, private sector, public sector, or government
- Last for at least 1 year but be completed in less than 5 years
- Take place under the supervision of a CPA with an active license
- Experience earned in academia must occur over at least four academic semesters of teaching at least six credit hours over the course of a semester
Regardless of what setting the practical work experience takes place in it must involve at least one of these skills approved by the state board:
- Reviewing, auditing, and compiling financial statements
- Other auditing activities including operational audits, compliance audits, reporting, or reviews of internal controls
- Preparing income tax or non-profit tax returns
- Doing financial forecasts and analyses
- Offering management advisory services including forensic auditing, business valuation, and fraud examination
Have the supervising CPA complete the Verification of Qualifying Experience form found in the CPA examination packet. Both you and the supervisor sign this form before submitting it to the state board and it must detail your accounting hours while working under this supervisor.
Apply for a Michigan CPA License
The final step before becoming a licensed CPA is to apply for licensure. You can't skip this or the rest of the work would be a waste. Before starting the process, review the previous steps and verify that you have met the minimum policy requirements for education, exam, and experience. Then follow these steps to complete the application process:
Use the online license application portal to complete the Michigan license application. First-time users must register with the system before accessing the documents.
Complete the Education Evaluation form resource to verify that you have met the minimum educational requirements. If you have a master's in accounting or master's in business administration with at least 12 semester hours of accounting coursework this form is not necessary.
Include certified copies of your exam scores if you took the Uniform CPA Exam in a state besides Michigan.
Send an official copy of your college's transcript and payment via check or money order to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, P.O. Box 30670, Lansing, MI 48909. All other documents are submitted electronically through the online portal
Wait for the state board to review your application and award/deny a CPA license.
If you have a CPA license in another state (excluding Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) it's possible to transfer it to Michigan. Applicants must have earned 150 semester hours of education, passed the Uniform CPA exam, and worked at least one year as a CPA. Then they can apply for licensure as follow:
- Complete the Application for CPA Certificate and License/Registration by Reciprocity: US Jurisdictions Only. Do the same for the Certification of CPA Certificate and Grades form.
- Send all applicable forms along with a check or money order to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs address listed above.
Keep Up With Continuing Education
A Michigan CPA license must be renewed every two years. As a condition of renewal, all active CPAs must meet minimum requirements for continuing professional education (CPE):
CPAs must complete at least 40 hours of CPE every year with certain conditions:
- At least 8 hours must be in accounting and auditing subjects
- A maximum of 20 hours may be earned through self-study
- A minimum of 2 hours must be in professional ethics
- Only one year of CPE requirement (eg. 8 hours of auditing) may be carried over from one year to the next.
CPE hours are offered though a number of programs and outlets, but they must meet certain conditions set by the state:
- Group programs must include written certification of attendance.
- Non-credit college courses count as 1 hour. College courses for credit count for 15 hours.
- One hour of working as an instructor, speaker, teacher, or discussion leader is equal to 3 hours of CPE. Instructing cannot make up more than 20 hours of CPE per year.
- Self-study programs must provide a certificate of completion.
All CPE earned must be focused on an approved accounting subject. The list below is comprehensive but not complete.
- Management Advisory
- Business Law
- Business Valuation
Keep records on all completed CPE going back 4 years. Records must include the place/time of the program, a description of the content, title/sponsor of the program, and written verification of attendance.
Accountant Career Concentrations & Salaries in Michigan
Accountants are typically stereotyped as primarily working during tax season, and for good reason. However, tax accountants work hard all year long. Many of their corporate and individual clients need to file quarterly taxes and so there is often no single tax season. Learn More
Governmental or Non-Profit Accounting
This is a terrific specialty, especially for budding accountants. That's because current rules allow students to defer their student loans when they work for a government agency or non-profit organization. Once that debt has been worked off, accountants can enter graduate school and proceed to their next level of success. Learn More
The world of finance is always eager to take on someone skilled in accounting. The level of detail required for accounting translates very well to financial analysis. This concentration also opens the door to a career as a financial advisor and an MBA with a finance focus can help you land a position as a Chief Financial Officer. Learn More
While IT and accounting may seem like very different disciplines, there is a huge demand for IT professionals who can audit high-tech systems. Career options can include risk management, auditor, and management consultant, among others. Some accountants who specialize in IT might even find a career in cyber security.
Michigan is known as one of the biggest automotive manufacturing hubs in the United States. Because it’s the home to so many major corporations, the need for financial analysts and accountants is significant. In southern areas of the state like Detroit and Lansing, accountants and auditors account for nearly one out of every hundred jobs held. Accountants who are fortunate enough to work in the Warren area have it the best, bringing in a mean annual salary of $86,010. The accounting jobs in Michigan aren’t going anywhere, either--the state boasts a projected job growth outlook of 13.6 percent through 2024.
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Michigan Accounting Frequently Asked Questions
How much do accountants make in Michigan?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for accountants and auditors is $75,000 per year. This is a bit more than the national average salary that the BLS reports, which is $71,000. By comparison, Michigan bookkeepers, accounting, and auditing clerks earn an average salary of $40,000. The national average wage for that employment sector is $41,000.
What are the educational requirements to sit for the CPA examination in Michigan?
Candidates for the CPA examination in Michigan must have completed, or be within 60 days of completing, 120 hours of undergraduate credits that culminate in at least bachelor’s degree. To attain a Michigan state CPA license, however, students must have a total of 150 semester hours that include 30 hours in accounting and 39 hours in general business subjects. Students with an MBA or a graduate-level accounting degree must have 12 graduate semester hours in accounting.
How many accounting jobs are there in Michigan?
Michigan currently employs more than 35,000 accountants and auditors. The vast majority of those professionals work in the Detroit area, with smaller pockets in Grand Rapids and Lansing. Bookkeepers, by contrast, have slightly higher numbers (37,000), with almost half of them working in the Detroit area. The Lansing and Grand Rapids areas are also hotbeds of bookkeeping employment.
Can I get an online accounting degree in Michigan?
Yes, Michigan students can complete an online degree in accounting. The University of Michigan at Flint, for example, offers accounting students an online degree option for a master's degree in accounting. Though there aren't many other online opportunities for Michigan accounting students right now, there are still many online accounting programs available elsewhere in the nation that are available from any convenient Wi-Fi connection.