CPA Requirements by State
Exam and License Requirements to Become a CPA

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Wondering how to become a CPA in your state? Each state and jurisdiction has a different set of CPA requirements that must be met to sit for the exam and obtain licensure. Hence, it is of the utmost importance that you understand and fulfill your state’s unique eligibility criteria. Let's look more in-depth at the CPA Exam and license requirements by state and jurisdiction, grouped by NASBA CPA Examination Service (CPAES) jurisdictions and State Board of Accountancy jurisdictions.*

*State Board of Accountancy jurisdictions (non-NASBA jurisdictions) are highlighted in bold.

CPA Exam and License Requirements by Jurisdiction

One thing to keep in mind when considering CPA requirements is that candidates can apply to sit for the CPA Exam via two different entities: State Boards of Accountancy or NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy). The entity you will apply through depends entirely on which state or jurisdiction you plan to obtain your CPA license in. If you’re applying through CPAES, you will apply directly through the NASBA CPA Portal. If your jurisdiction does not fall under CPAES, your application will be handled and processed through your State Board of Accountancy.

NASBA Jurisdictions Non-NASBA Jurisdictions
  • The application process is generally more streamlined for jurisdictions that fall under CPAES, as CPAES simplifies the application process for candidates.
  • There are no third-party companies or organizations involved in evaluating credentials and documents during the application process.
  • CPA Exam costs and fees vary less from state to state. Initial application fees, individual exam section costs, registration fees, and re-examination fees remain relatively consistent.
  • Candidates in NASBA jurisdictions can learn more about CPA Exam and license requirements directly from CPAES.
  • CPAES collaborates with each relevant State Board of Accountancy to set regulations and requirements.
  • The only other time CPAES communicates with state boards is when candidates receive their CPA licenses.
  • Every state must decide whether to participate in CPAES. States that choose to remain independent have the ability to manage their own costs and provide candidates a broader range of options.
  • Many independent jurisdictions outsource credential examination and other administrative services to third-party companies and organizations.
  • CPA Exam fees vary considerably among jurisdictions, particularly for initial application, registration, and re-examination fees.
  • Candidates in non-NASBA jurisdictions will need to directly contact their State Board of Accountancy to determine their eligibility to sit for the CPA Exam.
  • The State Boards of Accountancy only communicate with NASBA to process fees and issue Notices to Schedule (NTS).
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Universal CPA Requirements

Regardless of your jurisdiction, you will need to meet several types of CPA Exam and license requirements. We encourage you to keep them in mind, in addition to other standard policies and programs, as you take steps to obtain CPA licensure. Examples include:

Education Requirements
Work Experience
Application & Exam Fees
Residency or Citizenship Requirements
Ethics Exam
Participation in International Exam Program
Education Requirements
Application & Exam Fees
Residency or Citizenship Requirements
Participation in International Exam Program

Social Security Number Requirement

Most states require your Social Security number (SSN) for identification purposes during the licensure process. However, some jurisdictions offer exemptions. If you do not have a SSN, check the requirements of your state’s licensing agency to determine your eligibility.

Citizenship, Age, and Residency Requirements

  1. A number of states and jurisdictions have an age requirement to sit for the CPA Exam. Those states and jurisdictions require CPA candidates to be at least 18 years of age before scheduling the CPA Exam.
  2. A handful of jurisdictions require their CPA candidates to be U.S. citizens. While most do not have this requirement, we encourage you to check with your state’s licensing agency to determine your eligibility.
  3. Some jurisdictions require their CPA candidates to be residents in order to attain licensure. In many cases, this requirement is defined as having a physical residence, being an employee, or having an office in the state.

Education Requirements

Generally, state boards require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree or higher with 150 semester hours from a state-accredited college or university to sit for the CPA Exam. While some jurisdictions allow candidates to sit for the exam after 120 hours, 150 hours is the benchmark for licensure. Your concentration should be in accounting or business, with a specified number of credit hours dedicated to courses outlined by your jurisdiction.

Pass the CPA Exam

The passing standard for the CPA Exam is the same in every jurisdiction. You must score a minimum of 75 in each section within an 18-month timeframe.

CPA Ethical Exam Requirements

Many states require CPA candidates to pass an ethics exam before getting their license. As you pursue your CPA license, be certain to check with your jurisdiction’s licensing agency.

Work Experience Requirements

Most jurisdictions require one to two years of work experience in accounting or related services. The experience can usually be full-time or part-time (so long as the required hour total is met), but must be done under the supervision of a licensed CPA. Eligible employment includes work in public accounting, government, industry, or academia. Check your jurisdiction’s licensing agency for allowed timeframes, as these can vary.

Final CPA Certification Requirements

Once you have satisfied all licensing requirements, you can begin the application procedure to obtain your CPA license and practice as a CPA. Apply for the license and pay the initial licensing fee. If your state is a two-tiered state, you will earn your CPA certificate from your board after passing the CPA Exam, and official licensure from NASBA after meeting your state’s other requirements. After getting your license, you are permitted to practice as a certified public accountant in your jurisdiction.

The International CPA Examination Program

NASBA has introduced an International CPA Examination Program to include all international candidates seeking to participate in the CPA Exam. Non-U.S. candidates can take the Uniform CPA Exam through any U.S. jurisdiction that takes part in this program. Currently, the majority of states allow international candidates to take the exam.

Additionally, international candidates must meet the CPA Exam and licensure requirements of the state in which they will take the exam. Rules and regulations are the same for both U.S. and non-U.S. candidates. However, non-U.S. candidates need to get their credentials evaluated by the board or a third-party agency approved by the board. International CPA candidates should expect to take the CPA Exam in English, as it is not offered in any other language.

How to Keep Your CPA License Active

Congratulations! You’ve now achieved CPA licensure. To maintain your CPA license, you will need to comply with continual renewal and education requirements set by your jurisdiction’s licensing agency. The purpose of license renewal is to ensure CPAs are current in their knowledge and take advantage of opportunities for professional development.

CPA License Renewal Requirements

All CPA licenses expire after a certain period of time. There is a license renewal process in every state that allows you to renew your CPA license and continue your practice. To renew your license, you must follow your state-required procedures and pay the renewal fees. If you fail to renew your license by the given deadline, it will be considered inactive. In addition, the state will impose an activation fee for the expired license.

CPA Continuing Professional Education Requirements

During the CPA license renewal process, you will be required to complete Continuing Professional Education (CPE). Each jurisdiction requires their CPAs to complete a specified number of CPE credits per renewal cycle. These requirements vary, so check with your licensing agency for more information.

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Most states require 150 semester hours for the exam and license procedure. Some states allow candidates to sit for the CPA Exam with only 120 semester hours. However, they must complete the 150-hour requirement before applying for licensure.
Taking additional courses in the summer or during the school year will help you reach the 150-unit requirement once you graduate. Doing so will give you an edge in recruiting since many firms look for candidates who have completed, or will soon complete, 150 units. Finally, consider getting a master’s degree in accounting to obtain the 150 credit hours required to become a CPA.
Finding the best state to become a CPA depends on your career and lifestyle goals. Each state has its own unique CPA licensing criteria, and the benefits of having a CPA certification in one jurisdiction may exceed those in another. Read about different jurisdictions to see which one works best for you. You should also consider what geographical location you prefer, as well as some places of employment you might want to apply to.
There are various ways to meet the work experience requirement to become a CPA. Most states will count part-time work and internships for their experience requirements. Experience requirements can also be met in non-public accounting firms. Check with your jurisdiction’s licensing agency to see how you can meet their requirements.
The reciprocity rule between states allows CPAs to work in different states, even if they are only licensed in one. The importance of the reciprocity rule is that CPAs get more flexibility to work with clients in different geographical locations.
To begin with, know that passing the CPA Exam does not necessitate genius-level intelligence. It’s more of a test of discipline. You will unquestionably succeed on the CPA Exam if you devote yourself to your studies and keep your sights set on the future. A key element for success is having a solid study plan and sticking to it. Always make progress toward your goals and remember why you started.


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