Requirements to Take CPA Exam Share Basics But Vary by State


Boards of Accountancy continue to move toward more uniformity in licensing CPA candidates, and the process in all 55 states and jurisdictions now consists of the same basic steps.

All CPA candidates must pass the Uniform CPA Exam. You’ll find the CPA Exam is the same no matter where you sit for it.

There’s still a lot of difference, however, in state eligibility requirements for taking the CPA Exam. Because you’ll get your CPA license from an individual state, you should start by finding out that state’s specific requirements. Contact your state Board of Accountancy and CPA society for details.

Also recognize that there’s an important distinction between requirements to sit for the exam and requirements to become certified.

In addition to fulfilling a state’s specific educational requirements to qualify for the CPA exam, a candidate must also meet the state’s rules regarding the issuance and maintenance of a CPA license. Some states also require a state-specific ethics exam in addition to the CPA Exam. Some states require residency or citizenship. Each state has its own set of fees.

States generally require submission of transcripts for approval from International candidates educated outside the U.S.

So, again, check with your state before you make your first move.

AICPA and NASBA Guide You to Individual States

You can find State Board of Accountancy contact information from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) here.

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy also provides specific information on each state’s eligibility requirements to sit for the CPA exam at this link.

States qualify CPA candidates within the general framework of education, exam and experience.

The difference in education requirements between Boards centers on the number of credit hours required in each of the core areas of ethics and law, accounting, and business. Your accountancy board will tell you what coursework you must complete before sitting for the CPA Exam.

All CPA candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in accounting, although the bachelor’s does not necessarily have to be an accounting degree. The majority, but not all, of the state boards have adopted a requirement for the equivalent of five years full-time study. This is known as the 150 hour rule.

Qualification Focuses on the Three Es

Most states require candidates to complete the required extra year of 150 semester hours through either a graduate program or continuing education before sitting for the exam. Some states allow candidates to take the exam upon finishing a standard 120-semester hour bachelor’s program with specific credits in accounting and business courses. Those states usually withhold certification until the CPA candidate earns the additional required 150 credit hours.

Most states and jurisdictions require at least two years public accounting experience for certification. Many also accept non-public accounting experience in government or industry. In that case, they typically require more years of experience.

In addition, all CPA candidates must work under the supervision of a licensed CPA to gain field experience. One year of general supervised experience is standard.

Some states require candidates to pass the CPA exam and meet the experience requirements to obtain both certificate and license. Others award the certificate when the candidate passes the exam and then requires the candidate to fulfill the experience requirements before licensing the candidate to practice in public accounting.

The differences between states when it comes to requirements to take the CPA Exam can be dizzying. Focus on the one state where you are planning to obtain your CPA license, and save your energy for the monster test.


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