By DeVry University
If you’re looking to pursue a career in accounting, or advance your career if you’re already working in the field, you might consider earning your CPA license.
While this type of credential can take hard work and dedication to earn, there are benefits that come with being an official CPA, or Certified Professional Accountant, including the opportunity to pursue career paths that may not be available to those without this professional designation.
There are certain CPA licensure requirements that you must meet before becoming a CPA, starting with the CPA Exam.
What Is the CPA Exam?
The CPA Exam is a professional credentialing exam that tests an accountant’s competency in a number of different areas and their ability to offer professional accounting services to the public.
The CPA Exam is divided into four sections:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
- Regulation (REG)
Each section of the test is taken individually, and you are allowed four hours to complete each one. Each section must be passed with a minimum score of 75 (out of 99.) While there is no set order or timeline for taking the sections, all four must be passed within an 18 month window.
CPA Licensure Requirements by State
While the CPA Exam itself is uniform, licensing and education requirements may vary by state. As you make plans to take the CPA Exam, take time to review the CPA requirements for your area and ensure that you are on track to meet them.
CPA Licensure Requirement Categories
Depending on the state or territory you live in, you’ll be required to meet criteria in four key areas. Before taking the CPA Exam, candidates must check with their state or jurisdiction’s board of accountancy to ensure they’ve completed the required credit hours and coursework for that jurisdiction. Requirements for taking the CPA Exam and gaining licensure include:
1. Educational Requirements
Many states require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, at minimum, to become a CPA.
Every state also requires at least 150 credit hours. Earning a Bachelor's in Accounting can be a great way to develop your skills and start earning the required credit hours you’ll need. However, additional education may be required depending on the number of credit hours built into your chosen bachelor’s degree program.
If that’s the case for you, earning a graduate degree may be a good way to meet the 150 credit hour requirement. While having an official master’s degree is not explicitly required to become a CPA, you may find that a Master's in Accounting or an MBA with an Accounting Specialization might be a good fit for your goals and to help you work toward achieving the 150 credit hour requirement.
Bear in mind that some states may also have additional course requirements, such as ethics classes for their CPA candidates.
2. Experience Requirements
In addition to meeting the educational CPA licensure requirements, there are also professional experience requirements to consider. Two years of public accounting experience is required in many states. However, some states accept non-public experience, but the number of years required can vary. Before you pursue your CPA licensure, ensure you’ve thoroughly reviewed the requirements for your area of residence.
Requirements for licensure can follow either a one-tier or two-tier system, varying by jurisdiction. With one-tier systems, candidates must pass the CPA Exam and fulfill the experience requirements to earn both your CPA certificate and licensure. Two-tier systems allow candidates to earn their CPA certificate upon passing the exam, but their license is given after their experience requirements have been met.
3. Age and Residence Requirements
Most states don’t have a minimum age requirement for the CPA Exam, but many jurisdictions require that test takers be at least eighteen years old. Some areas also require evidence of residence in your jurisdiction for at least six months.
Evidence of residence typically includes one of the following:
- Permanent resident for six months
- Owning a place of business within the state for six months
- Employment within the state for at least six months
4. Ethics Requirements
Depending on the state you reside in, you may be required to take an ethics exam. This exam would typically include content from the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct, but some states may also have their own mandatory ethics exam that is specific to that state. Annual ethics exams are also mandated by some states to ensure ethical requirements are reviewed on a regular basis.
Is a CPA License Worth It?
The answer to this question depends on you and your career goals. The path to becoming a CPA requires planning and dedication, but it can also be rewarding. A CPA license is evidence of your commitment to pursuing quality and excellence in your profession. It also can signal to your clients that you have the knowledge and skills to support their accounting needs.
Get Started at DeVry
At DeVry, we offer an array of undergraduate and graduate online accounting programs to help you start on the path toward your goals*. Classes start every 8 weeks and are taught by knowledgeable instructors who are experienced in their field of study.
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*Credits and degrees earned from this institution do not automatically qualify the holder to participate in professional licensing exams to practice certain professions. Persons interested in practicing a regulated profession must contact the appropriate state regulatory agency for their field of interest. For instance, typically 150 credit hours or education are required to meet state regulatory agency education requirements for CPA licensure. Coursework may qualify for credit towards the State Board of Accountancy requirements. However, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the state board of accountancy for the jurisdiction in which they are applying to determine whether they have completed the appropriate credit hours and coursework to qualify to take the CPA exam. Employees of DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management are not in a position to determine an individual’s eligibility to take the CPA exam or satisfy licensing. New York students should contact the NYSED Office of Professions regarding professional licensure.