Can College Students Take and Pass the CPA Exam

If you are an ambitious college student who wants to start a career as a CPA immediately after college, you probably wonder if you can take and pass the CPA exam in college. The answer is yes, kind of.

Every state has different CPA exam requirements that you must meet in order to sit for a section of the exam. Some states are stricter than others, but many do allow you to sit for the CPA examination while you are a student in college.

Although it’s pretty much impossible to pass the entire exam as a student, you can definitely try to knock out one or two sections before your graduation date. Let’s take a look at a few of the possibilities and considerations you should be aware of.

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Is it Possible to Sit for The CPA Exam as a College Student?

State CPA Exam Requirements

The first thing that you need to look at is your state board requirements. Most states require that you have a bachelor’s degree before you can even sit for a single section. That’s kind of annoying, but it’s not as bad as the states that require you to have 150 college credit hours simply to sit.

There are several states that allow you to sit for an exam section before graduation as long as you have completed certain classes and only have a few courses left in your degree program. In other words, seniors with one to two semesters left are the only college students who can qualify. Sorry Juniors and Sophomores.

That being said, the CPA exam typically takes candidates 9-15 months to complete. You most likely won’t be able to do this during your senior year of college, but taking one section and getting ahead of the game is definitely doable.

If you are a senior in college who wants to apply for the CPA exam, the best thing that you can do is contact your state board and see if they allow exam dates before graduation.

Don’t Wait Too Long to Take the CPA Exam

If you are fortunate enough to live in a state that allows candidates to take the CPA exam before college graduation, it’s definitely worth doing. The general rule of thumb is that you should try to sit for the exam as soon after college as you can.

Remember, the exam is an academic test. Although it has real-world application, it mostly covers theoretical accounting concepts that tend to be left in the classroom. The longer you are out of school, the more difficult it will be to remember all of these academic topics.

Also, right out of college you are still used to listening to lectures, studying, and absorbing information. The longer you are out of the classroom, the more you lose these student skills. It sucks!

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Don’t Wait Too Long Between Exam Sections

If you are awesome enough to take and an exam section in college, don’t wait too long to take the next section. Life gets crazy after college. You’ll start your first job and have a whole new set of responsibilities. Before you know it the 18-month window will be closing in and you could lose the first section you worked so hard to pass in college.

Word of advice: Take them as soon as possible and get them out of the way quickly. You won’t regret it.

College Students Get Free Money

Yup, that’s right. There are a lot of different scholarships and financing opportunities that you can take advantage of being a college student. Organizations like the AICPA, your state board, and your state CPA society all offer scholarships that will help pay for the costs of taking the CPA exam.

CPA review companies also offer HUGE discounts for students who want to start studying for the exam before they graduate. This is a sweet deal because you don’t even have to take the exam to get this type of financial help. Just sign up for a course while you are a student and you can get up to 20% off the regular price of the course. Pretty awesome!

Should You Take the CPA Exam While in College?

Yes, you should take the CPA exam as soon as possible. If you can pass one section in college, you will be that much more ahead of your post-graduate peers when you start your first job.

Getting your CPA license early will help you get promoted faster and start making the big bucks. I’d recommend looking at review courses at the start of your senior year in college, pick one out, and start studying in your last semester.

This way you will be prepared to sit for a section at the end of your college career or right after graduation. Nothing says you mean business like putting one passed CPA exam section on your resume for your first job.

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.