Being licensed as a CPA indicates that an accountant has mastered all of the elements of the profession, and both clients and employers recognize it as an assurance of skill, quality, and dedication to the profession. CPAs are considered to be among the most trusted and well-vetted professionals in business and financial consulting.
Becoming a certified public accountant is a long process, with applicants required to meet the three E’s before they apply for a state license:
- Examination (Uniform CPA Examination)
Before applicants can take the Uniform CPA Examination, they must receive an endorsement from their jurisdiction’s licensing board, which includes qualifying through education and, for some states, by meeting citizenship, residency, and age requirements. (Experience requirements do not have to be met to qualify to sit for the CPA exam.)
Qualifying for the Uniform CPA Examination: Education Requirements
The first step to qualifying to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination is meeting the education requirements set forth by the appropriate state board of accountancy.
Accountants should become familiar with state-specific requirements to ensure all education requirements are met. State boards of accountancy, which are guided by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), are responsible for setting the licensing standards for CPAs that practice in their state or jurisdiction.
150 Semester Hours vs 120 – The standard educational requirement for licensure in all 55 U.S. jurisdictions (U.S. states and territories) is 150 semester hours of college credit from an accredited college or university. This is obtained by earning a bachelor’s degree then going on to complete the minimum graduate-level coursework or a full master’s program. However, a number of states only require the base bachelor’s degree (120 semester hours) in order to sit for the CPA exam.
While all jurisdictions currently – or soon will – require 150 semester hours of education for licensure, some states allow applicants to sit for the exam prior to completing post-bachelor’s coursework. For example, in Alaska, applicants must possess at least 150 semester hours (including a bachelor’s degree) to qualify for licensure, but they can be within 18 semester hours of the 150-semester hour requirement to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination. In Hawaii, for example, applicants may qualify to sit for the exam if they are within 120 days of earning their bachelor’s degree.
Distribution of Semester Hours – In addition, specific educational requirements regarding total business and accounting semester hours within the total semester hour requirements also exist.
For example, in Florida, applicants must possess, within their 120-semester-hour requirement, at least 36 semester hours in upper-level accounting in the areas of cost/managerial, accounting information systems, taxation, and auditing.
Another example, Georgia requires that applicants possess at least 30 semester hours in accounting above the undergraduate level within their 120-semester hour requirement.
Qualifying for the Uniform CPA Examination: Additional Requirements
There are additional requirements for sitting for the Uniform CPA exam of which applicants should be aware. Some jurisdictions have few minimum requirements, while others have strict requirements regarding age, residency, and citizenship that must be met.
For example, California has no age, citizenship, or residency requirements, while applicants in Nevada who want to receive a notice of eligibility to sit for the CPA examination must meet a residency requirement. In Ohio, applicants must be at least 18 years old, while in Puerto Rico, applicants must be at least 21 years old.
Jurisdictions that require citizenship to qualify to take the Uniform CPA Examination and qualify for licensure include:
Jurisdictions that have a residency requirement include:
• Idaho • Nevada • Rhode Island • Kansas • Ohio • U.S. Virgin Islands • Louisiana • Oklahoma • Washington D.C. • Mississippi • Pennsylvania • West Virginia • Missouri • Puerto Rico • Wyoming • Nebraska