California CPA Requirements
Exam and License Requirements To Become a CPA

California CPA Requirements

See what you need to become a CPA in California.
Is California the golden gate to a successful career in public accounting? Being a CPA in California is the best decision you can make as a current or prospective accountant. It is not necessary to be a resident of California (CA) or a citizen of the United States to become a CPA. However, California has additional education, experience, and ethics requirements that are unique. We’ll dive into these requirements to help you become a CPA in California and maintain your CPA license.

Semester Units

Year of Experience
In Application Fees
Residency or Citizenship
Mandatory State Ethics Exam
Participates​ in International
Exam Program

Semester Units


Year of Experience

In Application Fees
Residency or Citizenship
Mandatory State Ethics Exam
Participates​ in International
Exam Program

California CPA Requirements

In order to become a CPA in California, you must complete a bachelor's degree program that requires at least 150 semester hours of coursework. These 150 hours must contain 24 hours of accounting subjects and 24 hours of business subjects. The rest can be covered by 20 hours of accounting study and 10 hours of ethics.

Social Security Requirement Yes
Age, Citizenship, and Residency Requirements
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • No U.S. citizenship required
  • No in-state residency required
Good Moral Character Yes
Education Requirements for Licensure 150 hours (including B.A.)
Pass the Exam Score 75 in each section
Ethics Exam Requirements Yes
Work Experience 1 year of experience
International CPA Examination Program Yes
Social Security Number Requirement

As per the state requirements, candidates will not be issued a license if they fail to disclose, or are unable to submit, their Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Citizenship, Age and Residency Requirements
  • You are not required to become a U.S. citizen to become a CPA in California.
  • The minimum age requirement is 18 years, but there is currently no upper age limit.
  • California CPA candidates are exempt from the state residency requirement, keeping the requirements to a bare minimum.
Educational Requirements

The California Board of Accountancy (CBA) determines the educational and credit requirements for a CPA candidate in the state of California. This is in accordance with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates may submit an application for the CPA Exam if they fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher from a national or regionally accredited U.S. educational institution or equivalent foreign education.
  2. Candidates currently enrolled in a bachelor’s program from a nationally or regionally accredited U.S. educational institution, or with equivalent foreign accreditation, post their master’s program (e.g., a person pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in commerce once they have received their bachelor’s and master’s degree in information technology).
  3. Candidates enrolled in a contingent educational program nationally or regionally accredited by the U.S. (for bachelor’s students at the end of their course).

Visit the CBA's website to learn more about the state's accounting standards for licensure in California.

Below is a list of all the requirements you need to meet to take the CPA Exam in California, according to the California Board of Accountancy (CBA).

Educational Requirements to Sit for the CPA Exam in California
Credit Requirements 120 semester hours
Minimum Degree Bachelor’s degree
Additional Degree Requirements Must include:
  • 24 semester hours in accounting subjects
  • 24 semester hours in business-related courses

For CPA licensure, candidates must provide evidence of 150 semester hours of college education with 24 semester hours each in accounting and business-related subjects.

Work Experience Requirements

The CBA requires that you have some work experience prior to getting your CPA license. Although the prerequisites are quite simple, they change based on the kind of work you will do. Your work experience can be either full-time or part-time. However, it is important to note that 170 hours of part-time work is equivalent to one month of full-time work. You will need:

  • At least 12 months of accounting experience under a licensed CPA
  • At least 500 hours of attest-related experience to sign attest reports
CPA Ethical Exam Requirements

If you are applying for your first California CPA license, you must pass the Professional Ethics for CPAs (PETH) exam. Even if you have a license from a different state, you must pass the PETH to apply for a California CPA license. To understand the ethics exam requirements, you need to know the following:

  • The exam contains 50 MCQs without a time limit
  • You have six attempts to pass the exam with a 90 percentile or more
  • PETH questions are usually situation-based questions, meaning the order is random
  • After paying the exam fee, you must complete the exam within one year
  • Your PETH exam results are valid for two years
The International Examination Program

International candidates must meet a set of eligibility requirements to become U.S. certified CPAs. Most State Boards of Accountancy require individuals with foreign academic credits to have their credentials evaluated. Evaluations must be performed by members of the National Association of Credentials Evaluation Services (NACES).

Steps to become a US CPA:

  • Choose a U.S. jurisdiction
  • Contact the Board of Accountancy
  • Submit your application and pay the fees
  • Once approved, schedule your CPA Exam section(s)
  • Pass all four sections of the CPA Exam within 18 months
  • Once you meet the licensure requirements, you may apply for your CPA license

To learn more about the international CPA requirements, read through the state-specific requirements and exemptions for foreign candidates.

The NASBA Members Page has a list of recognized foreign credential evaluation services in every jurisdiction.
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California CPA Exam & Licensing - Cost and Fees

The initial application fee for the CPA Exam in California is $100, and the fee for each section is $238.15. The application fee is paid to the state board, and the exam section fee is paid to the NASBA. The state board levies a re-application fee of $50.

California CPA Exam Fees
Initial Application Fee $100.00
Auditing and Attestation (AUD) $238.15
Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) $238.15
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) $238.15
Regulation (REG) $238.15
Total $1,052.60

After passing the CPA Exam, gaining experience, and satisfying other requirements, you can apply for a CPA licensure in the state with a fee of $250, and hard-copy fingerprint processing fee (non-California residents) of $49.

California CPA License Renewal Requirements

If you wish to renew your CPA license in California, you must submit the license renewal application through the CBA Connect Portal. Along with this, you will need to pay a renewal fee of $250, which is mentioned in Part B of the license renewal application. Renewal requests will be handled within 24 to 48 hours. If your renewal application is found to be incomplete, or requires staff review, you will be notified through your CBA Connect account. Following the processing of the license renewal application and payment, licensees will be mailed a pocket identity card with their new license expiration date.

California CPA Continuing Education Requirements

As a prerequisite for active status license renewal, you must have completed at least 80 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) in the two-year period surrounding license renewal. A signed declaration that appears on the renewal application and indicates that the licensee has completed the required CE, as well as the statement required by the CBA, must be submitted.

A licensee who does public accounting, as defined in Section 5051 of the Business and Professions Code, must have an active license. There is no transfer of continuing education credits from one two-year period to the next.

A licensee renewing an active license must complete a minimum of 20 hours in each year of the two-year license renewal period, with a minimum of 12 hours in specialized subject areas like:

  • Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Taxation
  • Financial planning
  • Regulatory review

California CPA Exam: Exam Dates, Score Release and Scheduling

The CPA Exam is held year-round, and candidates can schedule their exam based on their preferred date and location. CPA Exam score release dates are announced by the AICPA every two years. After satisfying the California CPA requirements, candidates are eligible to apply for the Uniform CPA Exam. This guide will help you understand the application process.

  1. Submission of the CPA Exam Application

    California CPA candidates can register for the state board’s website. They must submit their education transcripts, application, and application fee of $50 to the board.

  2. Obtain Authorization to Test (ATT)

    The board will review your application and send an approval letter confirming your eligibility. You will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) indicating that you can now take the CPA Exam.

  3. Notice to Schedule (NTS)

    Upon payment confirmation of the examination section fee, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA, allowing you to schedule your exam. You must bring your NTS with you to the Prometric exam center.

  4. Schedule Your Exam With Prometric

    You can then schedule your CPA Exam sections via the Prometric website. Here you can easily find the exam dates and locations that meet your individual needs.

  5. Pass the CPA Exam

    Candidates must pass the four sections of the CPA Exam in an 18-month window. A passing score on each exam section is 75 or higher.

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