Becoming a CPA is one of the most rewarding experiences that you will have in your public accounting career. Once you get your certificate in the mail from your state board, you’ll instantly feel a huge sense of accomplishment and pride that you were able to set your mind to something and conquer it. It’s also one of the most financially beneficial decisions you can make. That’s not to say that it’s easy, however.
Becoming a Certified Public Accountant takes years of education and professional accounting experience as well as months of hard dedication to pass the exam. It’s completely worth it though. You’ll find that after you put those three letters behind your name, people will look at you differently. You will have earned the respect of your coworkers, colleagues, and even your boss. Plus, you should get a pretty sizable raise after passing the CPA exam. 🙂
- 1.Becker CPA Review Course Endorsed by Big 4 Accounting Firms
- 2.Surgent CPA Prep Course Best Technology + Save $1,200
- 3. Wiley CPAExcel Review Course Best Instructor Support
- 4.UWorld Roger CPA Review Courses Best for Engaging Video Lectures
- 5.Gleim CPA Review Course Most Task-Based Simulations
Furthermore, most CPA firms won’t even hire non-certified individuals for any financial accounting positions at or above the senior role. Thus, having your license will give you way more opportunities than you would ever have without it. Having CPA certification is like being part of a club of professionals who are all experts in their field. It sounds a little cheesy, but it’s true. There are tons of other benefits and reasons why you should become a CPA, but chances are if you are on this page, you have already made up your mind.
The CPA designation is not a federally issued license. Instead, it’s issued by each state individually. Thus, every state has its own set of rules and requirements that you will need to fulfill in order to become certified. You should check with your state board to see what the specific requirements are for you. Let’s talk about the process of becoming a CPA and the broad steps that you need to go through in each state to get your CPA license.
How do You Become a Licensed CPA?
Steps to Become a Certified Public Accountant
#1 Fulfill the Educational Requirements
Every state has it’s own educational requirements to take the CPA exam and to become a CPA. Some states allow you to take a section of the exam before you graduate from college, but most require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree in order to sit for the exam.
These degree programs must typically be in accounting or business and must also include a core set of coursework. Typically, CPA candidates must have at least 24 college credit hours in auditing, taxation, and accounting education as well as 30 credit hours of business-related course like finance, business law, and management. Again, these requirements vary by state, so you should check with the state board where you want to sit for the exam.
Some states go beyond the traditional 120-credit hour accounting degree requirement and require candidates to have 150 semester hours to simply sit for the exam. This is the exception to the rule, however. The majority of states will let you sit for the exam with only a qualified bachelor’s degree.
Almost all states, however, do require you to earn 150 credit hours in order to get your license.
#2 Apply to Take the CPA Exam
This seems like a simple step, right? All you have to do is apply to take the exam. Well, the CPA application process is actually kind of complicated. First, you will need to get your educational requirements verified by your state board of accountancy. Once approved, you will be able to formally apply for the exam.
After your application is received and accepted, you will be issued a Notice To Schedule (NTS) that allows you to schedule and take a section of the CPA exam. You will need to get a new NTS for each section you take.
This is a pretty simplified version of the application process. There are a lot of rules and hoops you will need to jump through in order to actually sit for the exam. I wrote a full tutorial about how to make it through the CPA examination application process here. Check it out.
Get Discounts On CPA Review Courses!
10% off McKissock Real Estate Continuing Education
Save $1,200 off Surgent CPA Ultimate Pass
Save $800 off Wiley CPAexcel Platinum Review Course
Gleim CPA Premium Review Discount – Save $500
Save $465 – Fast Forward Academy CPA Discount
Save $250 off on the Becker CMA Advantage Bundle.
Save $550 off on the Becker CMA Pro Bundle.
Save $400 off Wiley CMAexcel Platinum Review
Becker CPA: Payment Plans for the #1 Rated CPA
UWorld Roger CPA Review Save $570 off Premier!
UWorld Roger CPA Review Save $400 off Premier!
Lambers CPE: 20% off 2-Year & 10% off 1-Year
Surgent EA Ultimate Pass Review Coupon – Save $300
Surgent EA Premier Pass Coupon – Save $140
$509 off Surgent CMA Ultimate Pass Review!
Gleim CMA Premium Review Discount – Save $160
New Year Sale! Save 22% OFF PPI2PASS SE Review
New Year Sale! Save 22% OFF PPI2PASS PE Review
New Year Sale! Save 22% OFF PPI2PASS FE Review
Save $300 off School of PE PE/SE/FE Engineering Courses
Save 30% OFF Aceable Agent Premium Real Estate School
Up to 30% OFF Mbition Real Estate Appraisal, Home
Save 25% off The CE Shop Real Estate
Save 20% OFF Prep Agent Real Estate Course!
10% Off AYPO Real Estate
Save $1,000 off Surgent CPA Premier Pass!
Save $700 off Surgent CPA Essential Pass!
PM PrepCast CAPM Discount
$200 off Surgent CMA Review Premier Pass
$100 off Surgent CIA Review Course
New Year Sale! Save $200 off Wiley CIAexcel Review
Get $400 OFF CMA Exam Academy!
Save 70% on Grey Campus Self-Learning Courses
Save 10% on Grey Campus Self-Learning Courses
Save 10% on Grey Campus Live-Online and Live
Save 20% on Grey Campus Live-Online and Live
The Agile PrepCast Elite for PMI-ACP Discount
Surgent EA Premier Pass Coupon – Save $140
Get Gleim EA Review
Lambers EA – Save $300 & 1-Year FREE CE
Lambers EA 1-Year FREE CE
Brain Sensei $50 OFF PMP Course!
Brain Sensei $50 OFF CAPM Course!
10% off Exams PM PMP & CAPM Courses
Save $300 off Edumind PMP/CAPM Review
Save $300 off Edumind PMP Review
Save $100 off Dooey.org PMP/CAPM/PMI-ACP/Lean Six Sigma Review Courses!
Edumind ARE Review 65% off
Save $300 off Blueprint LSAT 12-month Self-Paced
LSATmax only $67/month
Save 10% off LSATmax Review
10% OFF Alpha Score LSAT Coupon Code
Princeton Review Ultimate LSAT Coupon – Save $250
Save 10% off Wize LSAT Exam Review
Save 10% off LSAT Lab
Save $120 On Kaplan LSAT
10% OFF ExamsPM Offer (PMP or CAPM Certification)
$87/month Master of Project Academy PMP and CAPM Courses!
Save $320 off Velociteach PMP, CAPM, PMI-ACP Classes
Save 10% off Crushendo Bar Prep Products
Save 10% off Bar Prep Hero Bar Review Products!
Save 10% or up to $100 off Quimbee Bar
Princeton Review Ultimate GMAT Test Prep Promo Code –
Save $90 on Kaplan DAT
Save 10% off Wiley CFP Review Course
Save 10% off Wiley CAIA Review Course!
Save 10% off Wiley CMT Review Course
Save $200 off Prep Expert PSAT 4-Week Course!
Save 20% off Analyst Prep CFA/FRM Review
Princeton Review CFA® Coupon – Save $200
Save $300 off Wiley CFA Platinum Review Courses.
$48 Off Gleim CIA Review Discount
10% off Achievable Series 7 Exam Review
Save 20% Off Surgent SIE Essentials Pass
10% off Achievable SIE Exam Review
Save 10% off Series Exam Prep at Securities Institute
Save 20% off Securities Training Corporation
Save 10% off ExamFX Securities Exams
UWorld Roger CPA Financing Offer
Surgent CPA 5-Day FREE Trial Offer
Princeton Review Ultimate ACT Test Prep Promo Code –
Princeton Review Ultimate DAT Test Prep Promo Code –
$400 Off Prep Expert SAT Courses!
$200 Off Prep Expert SAT Courses!
$200 Off Prep Expert ACT Review Course!
$200 Off Prep Expert ACT Review Course!
20% off OnCourse Learning Continuing Education
Save 20% Off All New License and Exam Prep
Save 20% off OnCourse Learning Mortgage Education
#3 Get a Review Course and Start Studying
Steps 2 and 3 can really be interchanged. It’s always a good idea to start studying before you actually apply for the exam, so you can get ahead of the game. But, let’s be honest. That rarely happens. Most people aren’t disciplined enough to pursue an accounting program without a deadline. That’s why a numbered them this way. Set up a deadline for yourself and start studying. 🙂
One of the most important career choices you will make in your CPA journey is which CPA exam prep course you will use. Choosing the right course could mean passing all four sections on your first try. Picking the wrong one might mean wasting tens of hours studying for a section just to end up failing it in the end.
You should look for a CPA review course that matches your learning style, study schedule, and budget. I’ve tested and reviewed all of the most popular ones out there. Check them out to see which one is right for you.
#4 Pass the CPA Exam
After you are all signed up to take the exam and have your review course ready to go, it’s time to pass the exam. The exam is scored on a scale of 1-99. Candidates must get a score of 75 or higher in order to pass each section.
The CPA exam is tested during four test windows throughout the year. You are able to take all of the sections one time per testing window, but it’s probably not a great idea to go overboard scheduling them all in the same window.
Most people recommend that you study for about 6 weeks for each section, so it’s probably not a good idea to take more than two sections per testing window.
After you pass you first exam section, you will have 18 months to pass the next three. If you don’t pass all four in an 18-month window, your first passed exam will expire and you will have to retake it.
This sucks, but it happens. One thing to keep in mind is that you aren’t allowed to retake the same section multiple times in one testing window. Thus, if you fail it once, you will have to wait until the next window to retake it.
#5 Pass the AICPA Ethics Exam
Once you sign up for it, you will be mailed an ethics textbook that describes the ethical duties and obligations that CPAs are required to uphold. All you have to do is read the book and take the ethics exam online.
The CPA ethics exam isn’t mandatory in all states, but it’s pretty common. You should check with your state board about this step, but most likely you will need to do it.
#6 Fulfill Your Work Experience Requirement
Once the CPA exam and the AICPA ethics exam are out of the way, you will need to focus on your work experience. All states have different work experience requirements. They range anywhere from 6 months to 2 years of experience under direct supervision of a CPA. For more information, refer to NASBA’s Experience Verification section to see how many hours you need and to verify any experience you’ve already gathered.
Some states also have duties that must be performed during your work experience. For example, some states require candidates to have at least 1 year of auditing experience. Other states allow you to skip auditing as long as you fulfill a different set of required duties.
#7 Pay Your Dues and Get Your License
After you complete your work experience, all that is left to do is pay your state board its licensure fees and wait for you certificate to come in the mail. 🙂
Congrats, Now You Are a CPA!
As can see, it’s a long road to get your certification and state license to practice publicly. It has to be for a reason. CPAs are the best of the best. Before you can call yourself a CPA, you have to prove that you are a disciplined, ethical, and hard working person. Consider this journey a vetting process that you have to go through to get into the club.
It’s completely worth it. After you have your license, you will be respected as a professional and have doors open to you that you never thought of before. It’s a long journey, but you won’t regret it.