The CPA requirements are a mixture of:

  1. Education
  2. Experience
  3. Exam
  4. Ethics

Certified Public Accountants are licensed by each state. Subsequently, the CPA requirements vary slightly by state.

CPA Education Requirements

The main CPA education requirement is 150 semester hours. The CPA degree requirements are a Bachelor’s degree. There is usually a CPA education requirement to sit for the CPA exam (eg – 120 hours) and another education requirement to receive the CPA license (150 hours).

CPA Course Requirements

For example, the CPA course requirements in Florida requires 36 semester hours of accounting courses for the CPA requirement. These upper level accounting courses that should include Taxation, Auditing, Financial, Cost/Managerial and Accounting Info Systems.  However, you can sit for the exam with only 120 hours.

By contrast, in California, 24 semester units of accounting courses are required. In addition, California requires 24 semester units of business-related subjects, 20 semester units of accounting study, and 10 semester units of ethics study.

One can combine accounting course work with other disciplines.

Another way to satisfy the CPA course requirements is to take a Masters in accounting.  Each state determines how many of those credit hours must be in accounting or other business related fields.

CPA Requirement: Work Experience

The main CPA requirement is work experience. The CPA designation uses an apprenticeship model.

The number of years required greatly varies between states. The work experience is usually one year and must be approved by your state Board of Accountancy.  The work experience must be under the instruction of a currently licensed CPA.

It is a common misconception that one work in public accounting in order to fulfill the work requirement. For some states, even jobs in academia can qualify.

For most states, they count your work experience before and after the exam.

Most States allow part time employment. However, your window of employment may be capped at 3 years. The State boards do not want you to string out your work experience.

Examples of Work Experience

Here are some examples of relevant work experience:

  1. Attest services including audits, compilations, reviews, and other assurance and engagements, in accordance with professional standards.
  2. Professional accounting services or professional accounting work in one or more of the following categories:
    • Issuing reports on financial statement(s)
    • Providing management or financial advisory or consulting services
    • Preparing tax returns
    • Providing advice in tax matters
    • Forensic accounting services
    • Providing internal auditing services

CPA Exam Information

The third part of the CPA requirements is successful completion of the CPA Exam. The four hour exam is generally a split between multiple choice questions and task based simulations.  It is a four part exam that you take as individual sections.

  1. Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  2. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  3. Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  4. Regulation (REG)

CPA Exam Test Dates

The first two months of each calendar quarter is a testing window.  March, June, September and December are closed. For example in Q1 you would have to take the test in January or February. CPA exam eligibility does not require that you take the 4 sections of the CPA exam in any particular order. Some students might start with the AUD section and other students might save the FAR section for last.

CPA Exam Fees

Another CPA requirement is the payment of all CPA Exam fees which will vary by state.

Application Fee – $50-$200 depending on state

CPA Test Cost – $193.45 per section

CPA Registration Requirements

One of the most important CPA registration requirements is to pay the CPA Exam Registration Fee of $63. You can get a discount on the registration fee if you sign up for multiple sections when you register for the CPA exam. For example, if you commit to taking the AUD exam on January 8 and the FAR exam on April 16, you would get a discount on your registration fee.

CPA Exam Requirements

You need a score of 75 or greater for each section of the CPA exam.

In addition, you must pass all 4 sections within 18 months. Once you pass one section the clock starts ticking from that date. You can lose credit for a passed section of the CPA exam if you go over the 18 month limit.

CPA Exam Studying

When studying for your CPA exam, it is highly recommended that you buy some sort of supplemental CPA study guide that will help you through the process.  Study materials can cost thousands of dollars. After making a large investment into passing the CPA exam, you definitely want to pass it on your first attempt.  We offer a CPA study bundles that include both practice exams and condensed study notes.

CPA Exam Day

The test day has finally arrived. Your heart is racing and your mind is jumbled with accounting jargon. Most candidates have no idea what to expect on the actual exam day. A Prometric testing center is most likely different from any type of testing center that you have ever encountered. Some candidates have taken the GMAT which would be a similar experience.

First of all, most CPA students are surprised that cheating is taken seriously at the testing center. There have been cases of cheating particularly at international testing locations. Thus, when you enter the testing center you can expect to be fingerprinted, swiped with a metal detector and having your ID checked. This is obviously a lot different than taking a college exam.

Most CPA candidates also get distracted with the noise in the testing center. Oftentimes, a staff member will enter and exit the room and this can break your concentration. You most likely tried to find a quiet place to study for the CPA exam but on the actual exam day you might be shocked at how noisy the room can be.

The last recommendation is to arrive to the Prometric center about 45 minutes before your test start. There is always a long lineup of CPA students that arrive about 15-20 minutes before the exam. Thus, you want to beat the rush by arriving 45 minutes before the start time of the exam.

In April 2018, AICPA rolled out some user interface changes for the CPA exam.

To get an idea of what the new exam looks like, take a sample test on the AICPA website.  

You should use a 23″ screen in order to get a true representation of the new interface.

Here is a summary of the AICPA user interface changes:

  1. Larger computer screens. You will now have a 23″ inch screen to work with.  The implications of this are that the screen is big enough for you you to use a split screen. Get comfortable practicing simulations with authoritative literature on one side and the simulation on another side.  With the previous user interface you would have to flip back an forth between the question and your workspace.
  2. Previously, AICPA was using a proprietary spreadsheet application. The current spreadsheet on the exam is Microsoft Excel. This should not be a big change for most students. The spreadsheet works the same as it does on your desktop. All the formulas are available. If you are not familiar with Excel you have even more reason to learn it now.
  3. Improved Search Functionality For Authoritative Literature. You will have access to the Authoritative Literature for all task based simulations. The search function has improved. It is not at a Google level but it is much better.
  4. Highlight. You will be able to highlight text in the exhibits. For someone like me who likes to highlight material this is a helpful change.
  5. General Design Improvements. For example, the clock is bigger in the new exam. There are navigation tabs at the top. It is much more intuitive than previous incarnations of the CPA exam.

The user interface changes are not drastic. They are not a game changer. However, you should spend 20 minutes playing around with a sample test in order to be better prepared for test day.

CPA Exam Scores

Your exam scores are sent quarterly from the NASBA to your State Accountancy Board during the 3rd week of January, April, July and October. 

The application review process begins after the scores have been received. You can expect the review process to take three weeks.

CPA License Fees

The license fees are usually $100 per year.  Like any professional designation, there are continuing education requirements.

International Students

It should be noted that the fees and CPA test requirements are different for International students.

Ethics Exam

The final CPA license requirement is the ethics exam.  The Ethics exam is much easier than the CPA exam. It is not a major stumbling block for most candidates.

Not every state requires the successful completion of the Ethics exam.

The Ethics exam consists of multiple choice questions. Usually it is a short exam of only 40 questions. It is convenient because you can take it online. It is what’s known as an open book exam. You can refer to your textbook or CPA review materials.

Most states have AICPA administer the Ethics Exam. Other states like California have their own Ethics Exam. You would surprised to learn that some states such as New York do not have an Ethics exam as part of the CPA requirements.

Requirements To Become A CPA

These are the four major requirements to become a CPA. The most important thing to remember is that CPA requirements vary by state. For example, some states might require 2 years of work experience while other states only require one year of work experience. Just remember the 4 E’s are the basic requirements to become a CPA.

  1. Education
  2. Experience
  3. Exam
  4. Ethics