How Long Does It Take to Become an Accountant?

There are a lot of benefits to becoming an accountant. Some may look at it as an outlet for their business savviness, while others seek this position because of the competitive pay scale. There is also no lack of job potential when in a financial field. Whatever the reason you are seeking to becoming an accountant, the question is: how long does it take? 

There are four main types of accounting you can pursue: public, internal auditing, government, and management. The base amount of time to become an accountant in any of these fields is the same; it’s the continuing education that will vary based on your goal of accounting expertise focus. 

Starter Education: 4+ Years

Without any prior college credits, the most basic education is a four-year Bachelor’s Degree. If you are returning to school and already hold a Bachelor’s Degree or other college credits, depending on the college or program you select, you may be able to enter an accelerated program. The length of completion can also depend on the credit load. Typically to become an accountant at the entry level you’ll need between 120-150 college credits. The requirements vary based on the state you live in. Your first step is selecting the school you wish to attend, then find out the exact credit requirement from there. 

Continuing Education: 4-7+ Years

Once their four-year degree is complete, a lot of graduates choose to increase their accounting expertise by continuing their education. You can complete a Master’s Degree or a PH.D. The required time investment varies depending on the continuing education classes you would need to take. The doctorate route typically takes the longest, as additional research and dissertation that needs to be completed. 


Annual certifications are an industry standard in the path to become an accountant. Once your basic degree is completed, the typical next step is to complete courses to take the CPA exam. You can still graduate with an entry level accounting degree and start your career, but most employers will seek out the additional certification. Gaining the certifications also selects the area of accounting you will choose to pursue. 

Becoming an accountant yields a standard expectation (and requirement by most states) to complete additional courses and certifications. These are solely to stay up to date on new laws, regulations, and programs to help you and your profession. Many accountants will continue their education while working in their career to ensure their state certifications are met while also having the chance to propel their expertise and title. This route is almost a two-for-one deal; you continue your certifications and gain a higher degree. You will be able to find out your states requirements through the college you select to attend.

While there is no finite timeline for how long it takes to become an accountant, a longer investment can add to your credibility and expertise.  As any employer or client would agree, constantly learning and growing is only going to help everyone involved. 

For more career insights, please browse our advice section or reach out to one of our expert recruitment consultants today. 

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