California CPA Requirements
Exam and License Requirements To Become a CPA

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Considering a career as a CPA in California? You’re in the right place. Below, we’ll walk you through the exam and licensure prerequisites, as well as the scheduling process and other crucial details.

Understanding California CPA Requirements

Becoming a CPA in California requires passing all four parts of the CPA Exam, having accounting experience, and meeting other criteria, such as age, citizenship, and residency requirements. Below is a comprehensive overview of these requirements.

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 PETH Exam
Work Experience 1 year of experience
International CPA Examination Program Participant

Educational Requirements

The California Board of Accountancy (CBA) determines the educational and credit requirements for a CPA candidate in California as per the standards set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates may apply 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 must 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 you to gain work experience before getting your CPA license. Although the prerequisites are pretty 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 essential 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.

Ethical Exam Requirements

If you apply 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
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California CPA Exam & Licensing - Cost and Fees

The initial application fee for the CPA Exam in California is $100. Please note that the fee specified below is subject to change as the fee for the new CPA Exam sections hasn’t been announced yet. However, the tentative fee for each section is $254.80. 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
Exam Section Fees  $1,019.20
Total: $1,119.20

*Pass the three core sections - AUD, FAR, and REG, and one discipline section - BAR/ISC/TCP

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 a hard-copy fingerprint processing fee (non-California residents) of $49.

License Renewal Requirements

To renew your CPA license in California, you must submit the license renewal application through the CBA Connect Portal. You must pay a renewal fee of $280, as mentioned in Part B of the license renewal application. The renewal requests are processed 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. After processing the license renewal application and payment, licensees will be mailed a pocket identity card with their new license expiration date.

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 years surrounding license renewal. A signed declaration appears on the renewal application and indicates that the licensee has completed the required CE, and the statement required by the CBA must be submitted.

A licensee who does public accounting must have an active license, as defined in Section 5051 of the Business and Professions Code. Continuing education credits are non-transferable 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

Once you meet the CPA Exam requirements, there are other important details to consider in becoming a CPA including target exam and score release dates, as well as, the scheduling process for the California CPA Exam. Here’s a brief overview to guide you through these steps.

Exam Dates and Score Release

California CPA candidates can sit for the CPA Exam based on the CPA Exam and score release dates. However, AICPA has temporarily halted the continuous testing for the 2024 CPA Exam to account for the standard-setting analyses and activities.

Important Update: With the January 2024 launch of the new CPA Exam, some candidates with conditional credit may be impacted by limited opportunities to test and delays in score reporting. Accordingly, the California Board of Accountancy (CBA) has approved CPA Exam credit extensions to assist candidates in transitioning to the new CPA Exam. Source: CPA Exam Credit Extensions

The following are the extension provisions:

  • All exam credits that expired between January 30, 2020, and December 31, 2023, are once again valid and extended until June 30, 2025. 
  • All exam credits valid on December 31, 2023, are extended until June 30, 2025.
  • All new exam credits earned beginning in January 2024 will be valid for 30 months, replacing the previous time frame of 18 months.

Scheduling the CPA Examination

Each state has a slightly different application process. Hence, here's a quick guide to applying for and scheduling the California CPA Exam.

California CPA candidates can register for the CPA Exam on the state board’s website. They must submit their education transcripts, application, and application fee of $100 to the board. Upon successful payment, a Unique Identifier Number (UID) is issued to all the first-time candidates, available on your state board account. It will be located next to your name and username. If you’re reapplying, your UID will retrieved automatically from the existing account.

As a participant in the International CPA Examination Program, international candidates or those who’ve completed their education outside the United States can apply for the California CPA Exam.

The board will review your application and send an approval letter confirming your eligibility. You will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) indicating you can now take the CPA Exam. Remember, you cannot simultaneously have more than one ATT open for any exam section in California or other states.

Upon payment confirmation of the examination section fee to NASBA, a Notice to Schedule will be issued by the body within four business days, allowing you to schedule your exam. You must bring a physical copy of the NTS to the Prometric exam center.

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

You must score 75 or higher in each CPA Exam section within a rolling 30-month period to pass the CPA Exam.
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