How to Become a CPA and Get CPA License in 4 Steps

An individual with an accounting background can effortlessly calculate and interpret ROI, guiding marketing decisions. In operations, cost analysis and financial forecasting become second nature to someone trained in accounting, making them invaluable assets. As we’ve outlined in the article How to Become a CPA Accountant, applying for the CPA exam is a little gross margin vs contribution margin: what’s the difference bit complicated. First, you will need an Authorisation to Test (ATT), and then you will receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA. Fortunately, there are a number of states that allow nonresidents to take the CPA Exam. However, some states stipulate that a CPA candidate must be a resident for at least six months before sitting for the exam.

  • Getting a CPA in each state mandates different requirements for taking the CPA Exam and becoming a licensed CPA.
  • When some people hear the word “accountant” they picture endless spreadsheets and people bent over calculators, furiously adding up stacks of receipts.
  • 2,900+ accounting firms, corporations, alliances, government agencies and universities choose Becker.
  • When faced with a daunting tax season or ethical dilemma, their adept time management and unwavering integrity shine through.
  • Starting January 1, 2022, California will allow students to sit for the CPA Exam up to 6 months before graduation.

Be sure to take your time studying and practicing for the exam, and review the CPA exam blueprints offered by AICPA. First, you must apply for the Uniform CPA Examination through NASBA’s website. Once your application is approved, you will receive a notice to schedule your exam. CPA licenses expire every other year at midnight on the last day of the licensees’ birth month. 2,900+ accounting firms, corporations, alliances, government agencies and universities choose Becker.

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You can use this list to learn more about your state’s specific CPA requirements and to see if your state offers any CPA requirement exemptions. Since each state enforces distinct CPA requirements, earning the CPA license from certain states might be easier for you than from others. You are allowed to pursue a CPA license in any state, even if you don’t live there. If you’re looking to take your accounting career to the next level, a CPA designation may be what you need.

  • Most CPAs devote at least 40 hours per year to continuing education.
  • This exam would typically include content from the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct, but some states may also have their own mandatory ethics exam that is specific to that state.
  • CPA requirements vary by state, but in most cases, CPAs must meet strenuous educational requirements, pass a qualifying exam and demonstrate at least two years of public accounting experience.

CPAs perform accounting tasks, such as tax preparation and financial planning. They may also assist in mergers and acquisitions or international trade. If you are more interested in private accountancy such as industry than in working in public accountancy, then you might not be interested in getting a CPA.

You’ll often need to complete a certain number of CPA hours and pass renewal exams every several years (3 years is a common timeframe) in order to continue to be a licensed CPA. After you pass the CPA exam, your state may have other requirements you need to pass before you can get your CPA license. These can include background checks, work requirements, and additional paperwork to fill out. As mentioned in step 2, it’s important to gain relevant work experience, even when you’re still in school. Internships or part-time jobs in accounting will be a huge boost to your resume, as many companies can be reluctant to hire a full-time employee with no relevant work experience. Additionally, some states require a certain amount of work experience before they issue you your CPA license (although you can take the CPA exam without work experience).

Requirements to Take the CPA Exam

As a CPA, you have demonstrated advanced accounting competencies. Therefore, you can take on additional duties related to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that not all accountants can perform. Many CPAs earn additional certificates to bolster their career prospects. Accountants can pursue certificates from professional organizations, such as the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Institute of Management Accountants.

If you are still in school, choose your courses wisely and make sure you pass your accounting and business courses so you can meet the 150-hour rule. If you have graduated, begin the process of taking the CPA Exam by narrowing down your list of state board options. For example, most states nowadays are fine with general accounting work from private industries, government, and even academic teaching positions.

That could mean doing a double major, taking additional college classes, or earning a master’s degree. The main requirement to be a CPA is to have at least 150 hours of full-time or part-time college credit. Coursework for CPA degree programs includes material like management accounting, non-profit accounting, bookkeeping, business administration, cost accounting, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About CPAs

At some schools, the accounting programs are five years so that you’ll complete all your CPA requirements without having to enroll in an additional program. Other schools have programs where you can earn both a bachelor’s and master’s in accounting in five years. These often cost more and are more intensive because you’re fitting two degrees into five years, but by the end you’ll have a graduate degree in accounting. Having a master’s in accounting isn’t required to become a CPA, but it can make it easier for you to get a job and increase your salary. According to the AICPA, all future CPAs must complete a total of 150 college-level credit hours from a nationally or regionally-accredited school.

So, as long as you work in a relevant field, you can get a license for one of these states. Furthermore, each state expects the 150 credit hours to include a certain number of accounting hours, but this number varies from state to state. This content has been made available for informational purposes only.

The Traits of a Successful CPA

Again, it’s important to look at your individual state to see what you need. Getting your CPA license is a great way to improve your career options and income potential. To help you plan out your next steps, we’re providing you with an overview of the prerequisites you may need for the CPA Exam and the steps to obtain your license after you pass. This is not a big deal, since most CPA candidates are usually at least 21 years old by the time they qualify for their license. We have in-depth guides on the rules and requirements for each individual state.

Many students find the FAR section the hardest to pass because it covers the most information, so it’s recommended that you take that section first to get it out of the way. You take each part of the exam individually, in any order that you like. Once you pass your first exam section, you have 18 months to pass the other three. As an undergrad, you’ll take classes in many business and accounting topics, such as economics, finance, marketing, business law, and more.

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Depending on an accountant’s experience level, industry and location, they may make even more. Accountancy encompasses many specializations to suit professionals’ different interests and goals. For many professionals, accountancy provides a challenging and fulfilling career.

The scores are weighted based on difficulty, but they are not curved. If you are already close to graduating, NASBA recommends looking through every state’s qualifications and picking one that matches your needs. Make sure that you meet the state residency requirements as well. NASBA also offers a research engine called the Accountancy Licensing Library, which generates a report of which states’ CPA schooling requirements best align with your education. Accountants are responsible for balancing financial accounts, performing other types of financial recording keeping and data production.