Steps to Becoming a CPA


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Becoming a CPA is often a challenging journey, but one that reaps big rewards for those who choose to pursue it. Learn information on requirements for certification and answer some of your most frequently asked questions.

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  • Currently six jurisdictions do NOT have the 150 hourrequirement in place: California, Colorado, Delaware,New Hampshire, Vermont and the Virgin Islands.
  • According to the CPA Examination Mission Statement, the purpose of the Exam is "To admit individuals into the accounting profession only after they have demonstrated the entry-level knowledge and skills necessary to protect the public interest in a rapidly changing business and financial environment.“Auditing and Attestation (AUD). This section covers knowledge of auditing procedures, generally accepted auditing standards and other standards related to attest engagements, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). This section covers knowledge of general business environment and business concepts that candidates need to know in order to understand the underlying business reasons for and accounting implications of business transactions, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR). This section covers knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles for business enterprises, not-for-profit organizations, and governmental entities, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.Regulation (REG). This section covers knowledge of federal taxation, ethics, professional and legal responsibilities, and business law, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.(19 states allow candidates to sit at 120 hrs, but require150 for certification. They are: AK, AZ, CT, FL, GA, HI,ID, IA, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NC, NJ, PA, RI,SC, VA)
  • State SocietiesState societies are membership organizations that help members to keep current in state issues, participate in continuing education programs, enhance the accounting profession, and moreState BoardsA state board of accountancy establishes the educational requirements and determines the eligibility of candidates for attempting the CPA Exam. A state board of accountancy also controls the licensing of CPAs and the renewals of the licenses.AICPAThe AICPA helps you enter the CPA profession and stay there, by connecting you to the people and information you need to succeed. It advocates on your behalf to regulators, legislators and the general public, letting them know how essential CPAs are to society. It provides continuing education opportunities to make smart accounting professionals even smarter. It launches websites like this one to provide all the tips, insight and data you could ever want to know. The AICPA also develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination. It’s all part of the AICPA's plan to build accountancy’s reputation as a profession of individuals who are educated, ethical, and focused on serving the common good.
  • There are exceptions and variations to every bullet on this slide depending on the state/jurisdiction. This depicts a summary only.
  • There are exceptions and variations to every bullet on this slide depending on the state/jurisdiction. This depicts a summary only.
  • The are many details included in this presentation. These are not meant to confuse you but rather to help you understand the differences among each jurisdiction. Remember to keep it simple for yourself by concentrating on the 3 E’s for your state. Typically, 150 hours of qualifying education, passing the CPA Exam and gaining 1-2 years of public accounting experience will get you to the CPA credential.
  • Steps to Becoming a CPA

    1. 1. What Does It Take to Become a CPA?? Presented by ThisWayToCPA: AICPA’s new website for college students and CPA exam candidates
    2. 2. What Is a CPA? • Stands for Certified Public Accountant • Trusted financial advisor who helps individuals, businesses, and other organizations plan and reach their financial goals • All CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs
    3. 3. To Become a CPA • 3 E’s are required for licensure: – Education – Exam or Uniform CPA Examination – Experience • State Boards of Accountancy determine the laws and rules for each state/jurisdiction • Visit ThisWayToCPA for state requirements
    4. 4. Education • Requirements vary by state/jurisdiction (see state requirements) • • Most states now require 150 semester hours Number of accounting hours (in the 150 total) is dependent on state requirements
    5. 5. Uniform CPA Examination • • • • • • • Computer-based format Consists of 4 sections – Auditing and Attestation (AUD) – Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) – Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) – Regulation (REG Same test no matter where it is taken Passing score is 75 on a 0-99 scale Question types include multiple choice, simulation and written communication Eligibility to sit for exam depends on state (see state requirements) Click here for more exam information
    6. 6. Experience • • • A candidate is an applicant for a CPA license Many states require the candidate to have 1 – 2 years experience under a CPA Additional requirements vary by the candidate’s: – Education – e.g., Graduate degree vs. 150 hours of undergraduate – Employer(s) – e.g., Public accounting firm vs. industry – Type of work – e.g., Tax professional vs. auditor
    7. 7. Licensure • Licenses gives the right to practice public accounting • Some states require Ethics exam (see state requirements) • Must comply with rules of professional conduct • Licensure timeline
    8. 8. Maintaining the License • Continuing Professional Education (CPE) – Typically 40 hours per year – Types (e.g., computer-based vs. group/classroom learning) of CPE vary by jurisdiction – May need Ethics training and compliance – Subjects vary depending to type of license and area of employment • Renewal every period
    9. 9. AICPA Membership Become an AICPA Student Affiliate Member! AICPA membership provides: • National membership organization for the profession • Support for the diverse membership and efforts to build the future of the profession • Advocacy with standard setters and state boards • Professional excellence in terms of professional ethics, training, peer review • Discounts and affinity programs (even for students!)
    10. 10. State Society Membership • State CPA Society vs. State Board of Accountancy – Society is a membership organization – Board sets policy • How do State Societies and AICPA differ? – National vs. state/jurisdiction – Work closely together in many cases
    11. 11. Let’s Review Most requirements are determined by the state/jurisdiction in which you hope to practice. In general, this is a summary of the steps to CPA licensure. Education Exam Experience • Bachelor’s degree • 150 semester hours • Apply to sit based on state requirements • Pass all 4 parts with a 75% or higher • 1-2 years in accounting • Under a CPA
    12. 12. Review Continued Again, this is a summary of the steps to maintaining a CPA license. Requirements do vary by state/jurisdiction. • Meet state/jurisdiction 3 E’s requirements License • Other requirements (e.g., ethics exam) Continuing Professional Education • 40 hours of CPE per year • Renew license every 1, 2 or 3 years • Join state society, AICPA and volunteer Beyond • Specialize in one or more areas (e.g., CFF)
    13. 13. Tips • Understand your state/jurisdiction’s requirements • Take it one step at a time! • Focus on the education requirement first • Become eligible to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination • Study for (and pass!) the CPA Exam • Gain the required experience
    14. 14. What Is ThisWayToCPA? • AICPA’s new website for college students and CPA exam candidates • A virtual warehouse chock full of the information (and motivation) you need to pursue a career in accounting • Includes features like Find Your Fit, CPA Profiles, and an online community
    15. 15. Resources • ThisWayToCPA (AICPA website for college students) at • AICPA web site for CPA candidates at • Start Here, Go Places. (AICPA website for high school students) at • NASBA web site at