MBA, MSA and MST: Do They Make a Difference on CPA Exam Performance?

Document Type

Book Chapter


CPA exam; performance; graduate degree; new CPA licensure model; first-time exam takers; regulators


Emerald Publishing Limited

Publication Source

Advances in Accounting Education: Teaching and Curriculum Innovations, Vol. 26

Rights Management

Copyright © 2023 Emerald Publishing Limited


This study empirically investigates whether graduate degrees (MBA, MSA and MST) earned by candidates affect their performance on the CPA exam. By examining more than half million first-time exam sittings taken during the period 2005–2013, the authors find that candidates with a graduate degree performed better on each section of the CPA exam than those who only have an undergraduate degree. In addition, the authors find that the type of graduate degree also has an effect on the CPA exam performance. While candidates with an MBA degree generally performed better on the BEC section than those with an MSA or MST degree, those with an MSA degree performed best on the AUD and FAR sections; and those with an MST degree exceled on the REG section. This study contributes to the existing literature on the determinants of CPA exam success. In addition, this investigation provides valuable insights to candidates, academics and regulators. The findings of this chapter should be useful for academic administrators as they revise their accounting curricula to prepare for the new CPA licensure model. Furthermore, the results of this study should benefit accounting regulators in determining education requirements for future CPAs.