Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the factors influencing career intentions toward becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by students who are studying at the accounting schools in Japan. This paper focused on students' work experience, prior major/s at their undergraduate level, gender, attitude toward the opportunity cost of becoming a CPA and their perceptions of the CPA profession. Design/methodology/approach – The sample comprised students studying at 13 accounting schools in Japan. A questionnaire was given to these students in order to empirically examine the relationship between these influential factors and their career intention, with particular reference to those who intended to pursue a CPA career. Those studying in these accounting schools generally consist of two type of students; those who want to become a CPA and those who merely want to brush up on their accounting skills and do not wish to sit the CPA entrance exams. A total of 349 effective responses were analysed. Findings – Findings indicate that students who have work experience and major in disciplines other than accounting or business are more reluctant to become a CPA. This is in direct contrast to one of the objectives for the CPA reform scheme in Japan, which is to extend the diversity of CPA candidature. Originality/value – This paper is the first study undertaken in Japan to successfully provide a new dimension on the factors that influence career intention of students aspiring to become a CPA.