What Happens After I Pass the CPA Exam?


If you’re getting close to passing the exam, you’re probably wondering what’s next. Every state or jurisdiction is different, but here’s a general overview of what to expect.

Step 1: Verify that You Have Met the State Requirements 

There may be requirements you are unaware of, such as a minimum age, experience in public accounting, or residency. Most states have a work experience requirement (typically a year). An overview can be found on thiswaytocpa.com. You can click on the name of each state on this site for a more detailed summary of the requirements. I would suggest going directly to your State Board of Accountancy website as this site only provides a summary. Links for most states can be found on nasba.org. Alternatively, many states’ Department of Licensing (or similarly named state agencies) will have links. 

Step 2: The Ethics Exam

A majority of states require you to take an ethics exam. Many of those states will only accept the AICPA Ethics Exam. The online version of the course is $159. A $30 discount is offered if you have an AICPA membership; unfortunately, membership is a minimum of several hundred dollars to join for the first year and you must have 150 credits completed. You need a 90% to pass and the exam is entirely multiple choice. Some states issue their own ethics exam. For example, California has the Professional Ethics for CPAs (PETH) exam, and Washington State requires the AICPA Ethics Exam and a state issued ethics exam. 

Most people suggest buying the online version of the course since many ethic exams are typically taken remotely and online (it’s easier to search through a digital document than a hard copy). I spoke to several CPAs, and all said the ethics exam they took was tricky and not to be taken lightly, though most said they spent only a few days studying.  

Step 3: Apply for the Certification

Your state likely has an online application process. They may require you to submit documentation such as a signed statement from a supervisor or licensed CPA that can attest to your work or additional educational or exam records. You may have to complete an in person interview with the board. I checked on licensing fees for several states, and of those, all were a few hundred dollars or less.

Step 4: Check Your Status Online

Once you’ve been issued a license, look yourself up on cpaverify.org, or your state’s license verification website. Take a moment to bask in the glory.

Step 5: Stay Certified

Check your state’s CPE requirements on learningmarket.org (click on the name of the state after you perform the search) and don’t forget to pay the license renewal fees. 

Yes, the process to become certified can be tedious and long, but there’s a reason why CPAs garner so much respect from the industry. Hope you guys found this useful and helpful as you learn what to expect after passing your CPA Exam! 

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