CPA License Requirements

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Each of the 55 US jurisdictions has its own Board of Accountancy that is responsible for licensing the CPAs who practice in that state/jurisdiction. And, just like the requirements for the CPA Exam, the licensure requirements differ slightly per state so be sure to check with your specific Board of Accountancy.

How to Get a CPA License

Education Requirements

Generally, each state board requires a total of 150 semester/225 quarter units from a college or university whose accreditation is accepted by the state. Many colleges and universities try to meet this units requirement, by offering Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in Accounting, with a mix of accounting, business, and general education classes that will count towards CPA licensure. In order to meet the unit requirement for licensure, candidates may choose to enroll in an MA, MBA, or 5 year integrated BA/MA program; however, these options are not necessarily requirements in your state as you may be able to attain the extra units through a minor, BA elective courses, or community college classes. Check your state’s CPA Exam education requirements.

Passing the CPA Exam

By now you’ve read all about the CPA Exam. Successfully passing all four parts of the CPA Exam is a key requirement needed for obtaining your CPA license. Upon passing the CPA Exam, you will receive your CPA certificate but this is not a license to practice. You still have a few more steps to go.

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Experience Requirements

Most states require at least one to two years of public accounting experience. While, non-public accounting experience is also widely accepted, the number of required years is generally higher. Work experience will count before, during, or after passing the CPA Exam as long as it was done under the management of a licensed CPA. Most states will count part-time work and internships by hours, as well. Make sure to have the appropriate experience forms filled out by your employer based on the sector of accounting you have chosen, such as attestation or tax. In order to maintain your CPA license, most State Boards require CPAs to take a specified number of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours within a certain period of time. Check your State Board for more information.

*February 2017 Update: NASBA announced that they will now be conducting a new service to help make the CPA credential more available to both domestic and international accounting professionals worldwide. Learn about the new Experience Verification service here.

Ethics Requirements

Most states require a CPA applicant to complete an Ethics course or Ethics exam before licensure. The exam is often administered online at home and a passing score is considered a 90% or better. This exam generally must be completed within two years of passing the CPA Exam. Check your State Board for details.

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