What Level of Education/Certification Do I Need to Get a Job with the IRS?

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With competitive salaries and valuable benefits, it’s no surprise that so many people aspire to work at the IRS.

Here are some of the many perks you’ll enjoy by choosing a career with this respected federal agency:

  • Federal health, dental, and vision insurance
  • Long term care insurance
  • Flexible spending accounts
  • Federal retirement plans
  • Life insurance
  • Training and continuing education

However, like all federal agencies, the IRS has strict requirements for education and work experience. All prospective candidates must meet these prerequisites before their application will be considered. Let’s take a look at what certification and educational requirements must be met before you can get a job at the IRS.

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What minimum qualifications will the IRS consider?

The IRS has an in-depth GS Schedule that showcases the minimum requirements for each job tier. All IRS positions are assigned a rank ranging from GS 1 to GS 15.

As you might expect, the most basic positions have minimal education and/or certification requirements while advanced jobs can require as much as a PhD. When browsing the IRS job board, it’s important to make note of the GS ranking for every position you’re interested in. Then, you can reference the GS Schedule (and in most cases, the job posting) to see if you meet the minimum qualifications for the position.

First, let’s examine the educational requirements for the GS tiers of the IRS. This information was taken directly from the GS Schedules page on the IRS website:

  • GS 1 and GS 2: High school graduation or equivalent
  • GS 3: High school graduation or equivalent + 1 year of college
  • GS 4: 2 years of college
  • GS 5: 4 years of college (For some positions, a CPA certification will be accepted as well)
  • GS 6: None – These positions are generally clerical and hire based on past experience
  • GS 7: One year of graduate-level education
  • GS 8: One year of graduate-level education or superior academic achievement
  • GS 9 and GS 10: Master’s degree(or equivalent graduate degree) or 2 full years of graduate education or B. or J.D. (for related fields only)
  • GS 11: D. (or equivalent doctoral degree)or 3 full years of progressively higher level graduate classes or LL.M. (for related fields only)
  • GS 12 through GS 15: None – Candidates are evaluated on past experience alone

In general, most people with a Bachelor’s of Accounting are going to be interested in jobs ranked GS 5 or higher. However, earning a college degree isn’t the only way to get a higher-level position with the IRS. Certifications are an accepted form of qualification for some tiers as well.

For many higher-level positions, a CPA certification is an accepted prerequisite. However, all states except for Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Georgia require a bachelor’s degree to earn a CPA, so this method of qualifying for an IRS job without a 4-year degree will only be possible for a limited number of people.

It’s important to keep in mind that experience is required for many upper-level IRS jobs as well. To learn exactly what each position requires, candidates will have to investigate the individual job postings—but many require at least a year of accounting or auditing experience along with these educational and certification requirements.

What are the requirements for the most common IRS jobs?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the GS ranking system, let’s take a look at some of the most common IRS jobs and what qualifications they require. Generally, these are the positions that come to mind when most people think of the IRS.

IRS Revenue Agent

Many accountants aspire to work as an IRS Revenue Agent. These detail-focused professionals spend most of their time examining tax returns, business records, and other documentation. Their goal is to ensure that both small businesses, large corporations, and individual people are paying their taxes accurately and on-time.

This position hires new applicants at the GS 5 level and is one of the most sought-after positions in the IRS. Interestingly, a bachelor’s degree is not required, only four years of college. If you haven’t attended four years of college, a CPA is accepted as an alternate form of qualification as well. The IRS also specifies that “a combination of education and experience that included at least 30 semester hours in accounting” will be accepted, which means that they take real-life work experience into account as well.

You can learn more about a career as a Revenue Agent on the IRS website here.

Criminal Investigation Special Agent

Criminal Investigation Special Agents are federal law enforcement officers who focus on financial crimes. They investigate breaches of tax law by both businesses and individuals. Applicants to this position must be under 37 years old and willing to travel anywhere in the United States.

There are a multitude of ways you can qualify to be a Criminal Investigation Special Agent, including:

  • Completing four years of college or earning a bachelor’s degree in any field with a focus on accounting, finance, economics, business law, tax law, or money and banking.
  • Having 3 years of accounting and business experience with a clear focus on auditing, bookkeeping, and automated systems
  • Earning a CPA certificate
  • Having a combination of the above qualifications (These applicants will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis)

Learn more about working as a Criminal Investigation Special Agent for the IRS here.

Tax Law Specialists

IRS Tax Law Specialists work with both taxpayers and IRS employees to offer counsel, implement new policies, and more. This position is also a great path to becoming an IRS Executive, according to the Tax Law Specialist page on the IRS website. The IRS employs specialists in many different areas, including healthcare, investment, criminal tax, and more.

Here are the prerequisites to becoming an IRS Tax Law Specialist:

  • US Citizenship
  • A four-year degree
  • Legal or tax accounting experience involving federal tax laws

While most applicants start at the GS 5 pay grade, people who possess a JD or LLM certification may be eligible to start at a higher tier.

Program Evaluation and Risk Analyst

Program Evaluation and Risk Analysts work closely with IRS senior executives and other upper management professionals to design and implement new policies. They develop business plans and procedures that will be implemented across their entire division.

As you might expect, this GS 9 level job has strict education requirements, and most candidates have at least a master’s degree in accounting, business, marketing, or a related field. However, no degree is technically required, and two full years of graduate-level courses will be accepted as an alternative. Equivalent work experience can be substituted as well.

Learn more about working for the IRS as a Program Evaluation and Risk Analyst here.

DQ Staff February 2020