How to Become a CPA

The road to becoming CPA begins when you earn a college degree in accounting with 150 hours of coursework. Then you face the challenge of the Uniform CPA Examination.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) created the CPA Exam. Prometric administers and scores the exam.

It is, however, individual states and territories that issue CPA licenses, and they have different requirements for education and residency. Check with your own State Board of Accountancy as you plan your application strategy. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam are also among in the jurisdictions issuing licenses.

If you live in one of the states on this NASBA jurisdiction list, you may apply through NASBA’s online application system, CPA Central. Your state board will provide details on licensing and application fees. You may be required to pay some or all of the exam fees when you apply. Go here to access AICPA’s list of states.

Plan to Pass in 18 Months

Once you receive Your Notice to Schedule, you may schedule the examination. You will have 18 months to successfully complete all four parts of the CPA Exam. You must take the entire exam again if you don’t pass the four sections within those 18 months.

All sections start with three testlets of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) followed by a fourth testlet of either task-based simulations or a written communication task such as creating a letter or memo. The sections are Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC).

One glance at the Content and Skill Specification Outlines (CSOs/SSOs) provided by AICPA at CPA Examination Content will convince you to invest in a review of course material. CPA Exam review courses range in price from $500 to $3,000. Take advantage of course providers’ free demos to choose one that fits your budget and learning style. AICPA provides insight into the mechanics of the CPA Exam at AICPA tutorial and sample test.

The CPA score release timetables will help you organize your review of test material as well as plan testing schedules. Score release becomes the focus of your attention once you’ve taken the test and await the results. Timetables can be found on AICPA Insights and on AICPA’s website.

Score Retrieval Looms Large

If your State Board of Accountancy uses NASBA’s online score retrieval service, you may find your CPA Exam score on the NASBA website here. NASBA also provides directions on receiving scores for those who don’t live in a NASBA state.

You will receive your CPA certificate once you pass the exam. Then you’re ready for licensing. See more on the different requirements states have for licensing on AICPA’s certification section.

If you’re interested in how to become a CPA, you’re going to want to start here: “The Candidate Bulletin: Roadmap to CPA Success.”

While you may only skim through it on your first read, you will find yourself returning to it repeatedly for specifics once you are on the road toward your CPA designation. The Candidate Bulletin is found on the NASBA web page CPA Exam. Here you will also find answers to frequently asked questions about how to become a CPA.

Another excellent source is The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Become a CPA web page.