You BEAT the CPA exam! Whew!!! Now take that big breath of relief, celebrate, and let your friends and family know that it’s all over. Finally, all those countless and agonizing hours of uniform CPA self-study have finally paid off. But now what’s next? Of course, the license application process for becoming a Certified Public Accountant isn’t all that clear cut and yes, you’ll be paying more fees before you land that lucrative accounting firm career.
So let’s break it down and make that process a little bit easier. Here are the next steps to obtain your license.
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Completing the CPA Licensing Requirements
First off, you must prove that you have met the requirements for obtaining a CPA license. Just like the requirements to sit for the CPA examination, requirements to obtain a license to professionally practice your accounting services vary from state to state. Hence, if you live and work within the US, you are required to get your license in the state you live and practice.
Refer to your state’s Board of Accountancy website to ensure that you have met the appropriate requirements. Also, refer to the basic State Requirements summary chart to ensure you are able to remain in good standing and pursue license renewal in the future.
1. Education Requirements
In most states, you are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and 150 semester hours of education (applicable to candidates passing after December 31, 2013). Educational requirements in each state vary, but you are required to have a specified number of accounting, business, and ethics units or credit hours. See your State Board of Accountancy website for the specific unit hours required in each area of study.
2. CPA Experience Requirements
Most states usually require that you have one or two years of accounting experience under the supervision of an active CPA. Your supervisor must hold a valid active license to practice public accounting in the US and is required to sign off on your experience forms.
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3. CPA Ethics Exam
Most parts of the United States also require you to take and pass an ethics exam to obtain CPA licensing. Furthermore, many Boards will accept the AICPA’s comprehensive ethics course and exam or your specific state Board of Accountancy will specify where else you can fulfill this public accountancy requirement (example: California residents must fulfill this requirement through CalCPA).
Please note that every state has different CPA certification requirements and the process can be confusing without any universal rule among the states to obtain licensure. Once you’ve determined that you’ve met your state’s requirements, fill out the application and send in any other form or fees that go along with it. Also, your state Board of Accountancy should include all the necessary forms that must be submitted.
Once these steps are completed and have been processed by your state BOA, you’ll be receiving your license in a few weeks. Hint: You’ll be listed as a CPA with an official license number on the license lookup before getting your actual license in the mail. Also, if you’re lucky you’ll get that gigantic CPA certificate to hang up somewhere. It’s completely obnoxious but be proud of it and flaunt it. You’re a CPA now and everyone should know it!
I was licensed in the state of California, so I’ll go through that process just as an example:
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1. Education requirements
I have a Bachelor’s degree and was able to sit with 120 units. I passed all four exams before December 31, 2013, and was able to obtain my CPA title with only 120 units. (However, that rule has since changed and California applicants are required to have 150 units completed.) These units must include 24 semester units of accounting subjects, 24 semester units of business-related subjects, 20 semester units of accounting study subjects, and 10 semester units of ethics. My transcripts were already sent over to the California Board of Accountancy in order to sit for the exams and I was already approved. Check! Step completed.
One year of general work experience and 500 hours of attest experience completed under a supervisor with an active CPA license. Supervisor certified my experience, completed, and signed off on the Certificate of General Experience and Certificate of Attest Experience forms. Check! Step completed.
Took and completed the ethics exam through CalCPA which is an approved course through AICPA (most states require the AICPA comprehensive ethics course and exam available through their website). Certificate of completion was submitted electronically to the California Board of Accountancy. Check! Step completed.
Once these three steps were completed, I was able to submit all the necessary forms. Transcripts and ethics exam results were already on their way. I filled out the application and sent it with the Criminal Conviction Disclosure form, Live Scan background check ($74), $250 application processing fee, and both the Certificate of General Experience and Certificate of Attest Experience were sent in by my supervisor. At that point, it was all in the hands of the BOA for pending approval.
Note: Fill out your forms completely! I left the end date of my job time range blank since I was still a current employee and received a deficiency in my application. Consequently, I had to get my boss to amend it and say that I was “current” and resend it back in. Picky picky! Three weeks later, I got the official approval that I met all the requirements and had to send in the $120 initial licensing fee. Another two weeks after that, I got my giant license in the mail with my official license number.
Please note: These are just the requirements for a CPA in California. If you are in another state some of these forms and requirements may not be applicable. This is only an example! Refer to your state Board of Accountancy for other requirements that must be completed or submitted (live scans, criminal conviction forms, oaths, etc).
Top 3 Steps To CPA Licensure
|1||Education – Most states require at least a Bachelors Degree.|
|2||Experience – Typically 2 years minimum|
|3||Ethics – Most states also require you to take and pass an ethics exam|