How to Become a CPA
How Do I Become a CPA?
Technically, CPA requirements vary by state, although the majority of states adhere to extremely similar and uniform standards. The general requirements for a CPA are as follows:
- A bachelor's degree
- A total of 24-semester units in accounting
- A total of 24-semester units in business
- 150-semester units of education
- Pass the four-part CPA Exam
- Obtain a passing score on the AICPA ethics exam
- A year of accounting or accounting-related experience confirmed by a licensed CPA
Planning, discipline, and commitment are necessary for CPA Exam success. To achieve this, it is highly recommended that candidates use a top CPA Exam review course with proven results. A reputable course will provide candidates with a comprehensive study plan that is adaptable to individual needs and access to high-quality study resources that will prepare candidates to understand and master CPA Exam topics.
According to the AICPA, successful candidates spend 300–400 hours preparing for the four-part CPA Exam, which can be condensed to just a few months (we recommend at least 3 months), or spread out over several months.
The application process for the CPA Exam is extensive and cumbersome. The first step is to have the state board of accountancy confirm that all CPA Exam requirements have been met. Then you can submit your application to sit for the CPA Exam.
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) will issue a Notice To Schedule (NTS) when the board approves an application. Once approved, candidates can arrange to sit for their first exam section.The CPA Exam is a comprehensive test composed of four sections, given individually over a total of 16 hours, and must be completed within an 18-month window. The four exams cover a wide variety of topics taught in most university accounting programs.
Note: Candidates are issued only one NTS per individual exam section, and each NTS has a set validity of 6 months in most states. If an NTS expires, candidates will need to reapply and repay associated fees.
What are the CPA License Requirements?
The CPA license is the certification that allows you to practice public accounting. It is administered by the 56 US State Boards of Accountancy. The certification is the gold standard in the accounting profession and helps support the professional standards required of CPAs in the accounting industry. However, CPA license requirements are a little different from CPA Exam requirements. We have listed the essentials to obtaining a CPA license.
In addition to passing each section of the CPA Exam, a candidate may be required to pass the AICPA ethics exam as well. This is a fast-paced self-study course that concludes with a quiz. While not required in every state, it is a prerequisite in most states. Check with your State Board of Accountancy as you work toward your CPA certification if you are required to pass an ethics exam.
Having appropriate work experience is another CPA license requirement. Most employers require at least one to two years of experience in public accounting. While experience at a non-public accounting firm is often recognized, the number of years required is typically higher. Working under the supervision of a certified CPA before, during, or after taking the CPA Exam will count toward your experience.
Most state boards require CPAs to complete a particular number of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours within a given time frame after they have received CPA licensure. For further information, you can contact your state board.
International applicants who fulfill all of the CPA requirements for one of the State Boards of Accountancy can become CPAs in the United States. Most states and jurisdictions in the United States do not require international candidates to be citizens of the United States. However, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico are among the states and jurisdictions that require US citizenship.
Note: International CPA candidates must be able to take the CPA Exam in English. For more information about CPA Requirements for International Candidates, visit our international candidate resource page.
Similar to CPA Exam Requirements, state-specific CPA license requirements also vary. Each state in the United States has its own protocols and licensing requirements. In order to obtain a CPA license, you should first review the state's specific requirements. For information on how to apply for the CPA license in a given state or territory, please select the corresponding location from the list below.