Becoming a CPA in the state of California is the best thing that you can do to propel your career forward in public accounting or finance. Unfortunately, the California CPA requirements are somewhat difficult to navigate, but you will be happy you did. Ultimately, you will be able to take on more responsibilities, get promotions that were formerly out of reach, and earn a higher salary as a certified public accountant in California.

Typically, it takes a lot of work and isn’t the easiest thing to do in the world. However, becoming a CPA in California is extremely doable and you’ll be happy that you did. Don’t be afraid of pursuing the CPA certification. I know the CPA exam and license certification process can be confusing, but it’s not that hard. Just follow and these steps.

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7 Easy Step to Become a CPA in the state of California

1) Determine If You Eligible to Sit for the CPA Exam in CA

California CPA Requirements

There are a few general requirements that California requires every candidate to have just to qualify to take the CPA exam.

  1. Candidates must have a valid Social Security Number
  2. Candidates must fulfill all education requirements prior to sitting for the exam.

CPA Exam Tip: Note that California CPA candidates are not required to be a certain age or to be US/CA residents.

2) Fulfill CA CPA Exam Education Requirements

What are the Education Qualifications to Take the CPA Exam in California?

The state board of California requires all candidates to complete a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business in order to sit for the exam. Furthermore, your degree program must also include the following credits in order to qualify:

  • 24 Semester Units of Accounting Subjects
  • 24 Semester Units of Business-Related Subjects
  • 20 Semester Units of Accounting Study
  • 10 Semester Units of Ethics Study

Only a bachelor’s degree is required to take the exam itself. However, you will need 150 credit hours to become certified and get your full license in California.

3) Study for the CPA Exam in CA

How to Study for the California CPA Exam

Truthfully, studying for the CPA exam is probably the hardest part of taking it. Ultimately, you need to be disciplined and set a study schedule. Otherwise, you’ll probably never get through the entire exam!

It’s a common recommendation for candidates to study using a CPA review course for at least 100 hours for each CPA exam section. A lot of people ask if they can pass the exam without using a CPA study guide. The answer is, yes it’s possible although not very likely.

Sure, if you take the exam 10 times, you will probably pass it without using a review course, but it’s not worth it. The fastest way to pass the exam is to find a CPA review course that works with your study style, budget, and schedule.

I’ve reviewed all of the top review course providers. Check them out to see which one is right for you.

4) Take the CPA Examination in CA

How to sit for the CPA exam in California

The California CPA requirements are similar to those of other states. You will need to:

  1. Sign up for an online California Board of Accountancy account
  2. Submit your transcripts to the CBA
  3. Fill out and mail in your application with fees
  4. Get your Authorization to Sit (ATT) after your education and application has been approved
  5. Sign up for your NASBA Notice to Schedule (NTS)
  6. Schedule your exam sections with a Prometric Testing Center located in the following cities:
    1. Alameda
    2. Camarillo
    3. Fair Oaks
    4. Fresno
    5. San Bruno
    6. San Francisco
    7. San Jose
    8. Glendale
  7. Wait for NASBA and the CBA to report your score.

This is a pretty brief list of what you need to do in order to sit for the exam. Here’s a full detailed guide on the CPA exam application process.

5) Fulfill the CA CPA Work Experience Requirements

What are the Work Experience California CPA Requirements?

In order to get certified and become a certified public accountant in California, you will have to work under a licensed CPA for a minimum of one year including 500 hours of audit or attestation work.

You will also need to complete 150 college credit hours of coursework.

6) Complete the California Professional Ethics Exam (PETH)

Does CA require a CPA ethics exam?

Yes, California CPA requirements include its own ethics exam aside from the AICPA exam. You must pass the 50 multiple-choice question test with at least a 90 percent or higher.

The exam and its study materials cost $150 and can be purchased from the CBA.

If you fail the exam the first three times you take it, you will be able to call the CBA and get a special price on more exam attempts.

7) Apply for Your California CPA License

How to apply for a CPA license in California

Once you have passed all four sections of the CPA exam, completed your education qualifications, fulfilled your work experience requirements, and passed the ethics exam, you will need to apply for CPA licensure.

This application process is pretty simple. Since the state board already has your college transcripts and exam scores, all you have to do at this point is:

  1. Send work experience documentation to the state board
  2. Submit your official CPA license application
  3. Submit a 2” x 2” photo of yourself to the state board
  4. Submit your fingerprint packet request
  5. Submit your criminal conviction disclosure
  6. Send in your application fees

If you are an international candidate, you might want to contact the state board directly for instructions. The fees vary depending on if you are a US resident and a CA resident.

California CPA Exam and Licensure Fees

How much does it cost to become a CPA in California?

There are several different fees that you will have to pay in order to get your CPA license in the state of California. They can be split into two different categories: exam and license fees.The total cost to take all four sections of the CPA exam in California is $585 plus the initial $250 application fee. The re-examination registration fees vary depending on the number of sections. The total cost to get a CPA license in California is $585 including a $120 annual renewal fee.

California CPA Exam Fees

CPA Exam SectionFees
Initial Application Fee$100
Auditing and Attestation (AUD)$193.45
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)$193.45
Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)$193.45
Regulation (REG)$193.45
Total Fees:$873.80

California CPA License Fees

Initial Application Fee$250
Ethics Exam$150
Fingerprint Notary$65
Annual License Renewal$120
Total Fees:$585

Additional California CPA Resources

You can visit the following sites to get more information about becoming a CPA in California.

California Board of Accountancy (CBA)

California Society of CPAs


Kenneth W. Boyd is a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the author of several of the popular "For Dummies" books published by John Wiley & Sons including 'CPA Exam for Dummies' and 'Cost Accounting for Dummies'.

Ken has gained a wealth of business experience through his previous employment as a CPA, Auditor, Tax Preparer and College Professor. Today, Ken continues to use those finely tuned skills to educate students as a professional writer and teacher.