How to Become an Accountant or CPA in Tennessee

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What is Accounting?

Becoming a CPA Certified Public Accountant is the same in Tennessee as in many other states. To pass the CPA exam, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy requires that you complete a minimum of a bachelor's degree, take the CPA exam, and complete the continued education and training.

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Online Accounting Education in Tennessee

  • Check college or university accreditation

    To become a Certified Public Accountant, you will first need to confirm that the institute you’re attending, or plan to attend, is properly accredited.

    The Tennessee State Board of Accountancy only recognizes degrees from junior colleges, colleges, and universities that are accredited programs by the following organizations:

    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
    • Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
    • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
    • North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
    • Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
    • Western Association of Schools and Colleges

    If your educational institute is not accredited by one of the above organizations, you may still qualify to become a CPA in Tennessee if:

    • Enroll in a graduate program at an accredited institution.
    • Complete 15 semester hours of graduate classes (must include nine hours of graduate-level accounting courses, three hours of graduate-level tax courses, and not duplicate any previously courses taken).
    • Have undergraduate (foreign) transcripts evaluated by a Board-approved service such as Foreign Academic Credential Evaluators, Inc. or Global Services Associates, Inc.
    • Submit the completed evaluation of foreign transcripts to the Florida Board of Accountancy.
  • Take the right courses

    CPA candidates in Tennessee must earn a baccalaureate or higher degree and complete a total of 150 credit hours of accounting and business courses to become a Certified Public Accountant.

    Your program must include:

    • At least 30 credit hours of accounting courses
    • A maximum of six credit hours can be from internships
    • At least 24 credit hours of general business courses in one or more of these categories:

      • Algebra, Calculus, Statistics, Probability
      • Business Communication
      • Business Law
      • Economics
      • Ethics
      • Finance
      • Management
      • Technology / Information Systems
      • Marketing

      Accounting hours, excluding elementary courses, above the minimum can be substituted for the general business requirements. Additionally, at least 24 credit hours of junior, senior, or graduate level accounting courses are required.

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Online Associate Degree in Accounting (AS)

Earning your associate degree in accounting is only the beginning of a new career. While it will earn you access to entry-level positions, it will often require either a bachelor’s or a lot of experience to earn you promotions and higher-level positions within a company. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is required for becoming a CPA.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Accounting (BS)

A good bachelor’s accounting degree program is required for becoming a CPA. It introduces you to both conceptual and applied learning of business information and accounting. This program can be a good introduction to a master’s program, but it also may be the last degree you ever need to earn. You could become a CPA and only require continuing education from then on, or simply work your way up through a company’s ranks with a bachelor’s degree and experience.

Online Master's Degree in Accounting (MS or MC)

Earning a master’s degree is no easy task. Whether you choose to earn a general accountancy degree or focus in on a particular specialty, you’ll need to have the focus and patience to earn your degree without unnecessary delays. These programs also offer various options for concentrations, which can propel your career even higher.

Online PhD Degree in Accounting (PhD)

A PhD accounting program offers statistics and programming, followed by your dissertation. You can work with faculty members who research auditing, taxation, financial accounting, and disclosure. This degree will prepare you to teach accounting and remain in academia or create policy for some of the largest corporations in the world.

Online Accounting Degree Programs

If an online degree in accounting is the only way you’ll be able to find the time to complete your courses, then Tennessee colleges have the programs you need. Whether that’s for an associate or another degree, check with your prospective schools to see what courses, or whole degree programs, they offer in an online or hybrid format.

How to Sit for the Tennessee CPA Exam

  • Complete the education requirements

    You can apply to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam prior to completing the education requirements as long as you:

    • Becoming a CPA requires you to have a baccalaureate or higher degree from an accredited educational institute
    • Complete a minimum of 18 credit hours or 27 quarter hours of junior, senior, or graduate level accounting courses. Hours attained from internships do not satisfy this requirement.

    You can submit your application to sit for the CPA exam prior to completing your degree, assuming you provide material proof that your program will be finished by the time you actually sit for the first examination. A Certificate of Enrollment and a certified transcript from your college or university will satisfy this requirement.

  • Apply to take the Uniform CPA Exam

    You can apply to take the Uniform CPA Exam online. You’ll need to create a user account to proceed.

    Application materials include:

    • Application fee of $170.
    • Examination fees of $208.40 for each section of the exam you intend to take: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).
    • Official transcript(s) sent directly from your college or university to CPA Exam Services (CPAES).
    • Notarization Form, submitted by you to CPAES.
    • Photograph Form, including a 2x2 image of your head and shoulders only taken within the last three months, submitted by you to CPAES.
    • International Evaluation, sent directly from the evaluation service if you received your education outside of the United States.
    • Testing Accommodation Request form, if applicable, submitted by you to CPAES.

    All supporting documentation should be submitted with your application or sent to the following address:

    CPA Exam Services – TN
    PO Box 198469
    Nashville, TN 37219

    After your materials have been received, expect it to take two to four weeks for your application to be processed.

  • Schedule your Uniform CPA Exam date
    Once your Uniform CPA Exam application has been processed, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS). Your NTS will indicate which sections of the examination you’re approved to take and will instruct you to schedule your exam date(s) via Prometric. Be advised that Prometric does charge exam service fees.
  • Take the Uniform CPA Exam in Tennessee
    Now it’s time to take your Uniform CPA Exam. To be considered for Certified Public Accountant licensure in Tennessee, you must receive a score of 75% or higher on all four exam sections within an 18-month rolling period. You’ll be notified via email once your scores are available to view online.

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Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Requirements

  • Complete education requirements

    In order to maintain your CPA license in Tennessee, you must meet the state’s CPE requirements. Within each two-year period, you must complete the following:

    80 CPE credits

    • A minimum of 20 hours per year is required
    • At least 40 hours must be in technical subjects
    • At least 20 hours must be in Accounting and Auditing if performing attest services
    • At least 20 hours must be in the area the court deems you an expert
    • A maximum of 20% of hours may be obtained through a magazine reading program
    • At least two hours of Board approved state specific ethics courses

    CPE technical fields of study include:

    • Accounting
    • Accounting (Government)
    • Auditing
    • Auditing (Government)
    • Business Law
    • Economics
    • Finance
    • Information Technology
    • Management Services
    • Regulatory Ethics
    • Specialized Knowledge
    • Statistics
    • Taxes

    CPE Non-Technical Fields of Study include

    • Behavioral Ethics
    • Business Management and Organization
    • Communications and Marketing
    • Computer Software and Applications
    • Personal Development
    • Personnel / Human Resources
    • Production

    The Tennessee State Board of Accountancy randomly selects 10% of renewing CPA licenses each year for a CPE audit. If you are chosen, you must submit documentation proving CPE completion.

Become an Accountant in Tennessee

Complete experience requirements

To qualify for a Certified Public Accountant CPA license in Tennessee, you’re required to work professionally in an industry, government, academia, or public practice for at least a year (a minimum of 2000 hours). During this time, you must provide services or advice using accounting, attest, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills. Your work experience must be verified by a licensed Certified Public Accountant.

Getting Your CPA License in Tennessee

  • Verify you’ve met the requirements

    In order to become a CPA in Tennessee, you must meet the following requirements:

    • Earn a baccalaureate degree or higher from an accredited educational institute and complete a minimum of 150 credit hours to include:
      • 30 credit hours in accounting – 24 must be either junior, senior, or graduate level courses
      • 24 credit hours in business
    • Pass the Uniform CPA Exam
    • Pass the AICPA ethics exam with a score of 90% or higher
    • One year of professional work experience
  • Apply for your CPA license
    Once you’ve passed the Uniform CPA Exam and the AICPA ethics exam, the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy will be notified. At that time, they will send Certified Public Accountant license instructions to you. This will include a verification form for your licensed CPA employer. Additionally, you’ll need to pay an initial CPA license application fee of $100.

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Potential Careers for Accounting Graduates

  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Accounting Major, Dual Concentration-International Business
    This type of accounting program offers a BS-BA in an accounting major, many of which include full-time internship programs. Accounting students are encouraged to participate in at least one internship.
  • Plant Accountant
    To work in this position, you must hold at least an associate degree and have some accounting experience. You will support a controller or finance director in the analysis of overhead spending, accounts payable and receivable, tracking of company assets, payroll processing and monthly closings for financial reporting. You’ll also work cross-functionally with other departments for organizational improvement.
  • Military Accountant
    This position is located in the Military Reports Division Military Eliminations and Cash Reports Branch. Expect to work on weekends during the end of quarters and the year. You’ll review and analyze the programs and procedures used in receiving, controlling, validating, recording, and reporting each accounting transaction affecting asset, cost, revenue, liability, and proprietary accounts.

Tennessee Average Accountant Salary

Tennessee is a southern state that's consistently listed as one of the fastest growing in the nation. A quick look at how well its accountants are doing is an indication of great things. The state estimates that it will add 1,130 new accounting jobs between 2012 and 2022. Accountants are needed in highly regulated areas such as Memphis' shipping sector, and the booming entertainment industry in Nashville always needs accountants. Controllers in small Memphis firms earn around $100,700 and the average earnings in Nashville are $68,760. C-level accountants in Memphis work hard to attain their CPA credentials and position, and they take home $359,575. If you are looking for a great state in which to launch an accounting career, Tennessee is it.

City Annual Median Wage
Chattanooga $47,400
Knoxville $45,200
Johnson City $46,700
Memphis $53,000
Nashville $51,300
Entry Level Mid Career Late Career
$45,900 $52,500 $53,800
  • Tennessee Average Cost Estimator Salary: $61,600
  • Tennessee Average Auditor Salary: $52,100
  • Tennessee Average Budget Analyst Salary: $50,400
  • Tennessee Average Credit Analyst Salary: $52,400
  • Tennessee Average Financial Analyst Salary: $59,600
  • Tennessee Average Personal Financial Advisor Salary: $57,800
  • Tennessee Average Financial Examiner Salary: $87,900
  • Tennessee Average Tax Examiner, Collector, or Revenue Agent Salary: $49,000
  • Tennessee Average Tax Preparer Salary: $47,400
  • Tennessee Average Actuary Salary: $58,200
  • Tennessee Average Forensic Science Technician Salary: -
  • Tennessee Average Payroll and Timekeeping Clerk Salary: $39,300

Tennessee Accounting Frequently Asked Questions

If I want to advance as an accountant in Tennessee, is a certification or master’s degree better?

If you’re considering going back to school, remember, a degree takes time. Your degree level lets your supervisors compare you to other accountants, but so might your experience. You may only need a certificate to give you that last little bump to the next level, but you will have to make that decision based on your career goals.

What is the average pay of an accountant in Tennessee?

Even at the beginning of your career, you may earn a good annual salary as an accountant. An accountant’s average early-career salary is around $40,000. However, their mid-career salary increases to $51,000 and above and their later-career salary averages around $63,000.

What is the job outlook for accountants in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, the job outlook is positive for accountants, but not quite as good as it is nationally. The state percentage of growth is 1.89%, whereas nationally, the growth rate is 4%. However, more complex tax regulations and a good economy overall increase the demand for accountants, and they are needed in every industry.

I work and have a family. Can I earn an accounting degree in Tennessee totally online?

Most colleges and universities do offer online courses or degree programs, which should be equally as challenging and high-quality as their on-campus counterparts. If you have an undergraduate degree in a different business discipline and you need an accounting degree, an online option should be available. Check with your prospective schools to find what options are available to you.

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