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CPA Requirements You Should Know

By DeVry University

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.


November 29, 2021

5 min read

Whether you’re just getting started in the accounting field or preparing to pursue the next level in your career, earning your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license may help you meet the qualifications for exciting roles that may not be available to those without this professional designation.

Before you can become a CPA, however, there are certain testing and licensure eligibility requirements that you must meet, beginning with the CPA exam and prerequisite education.

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 4 sections:

    • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
    • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
    • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
    • Regulation (REG)

Sections of the test are taken individually, and you are allowed 4 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 4 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. Take time to review the CPA requirements for your state 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 4 key areas. Before taking the CPA exam, you must check with your state or jurisdiction’s board of accountancy to ensure you’ve completed the required credit hours and coursework for your jurisdiction. Requirements for taking the CPA exam and gaining licensure include:

1. CPA 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 a 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 great way to boost your skillset while helping you work toward this requirement.

At DeVry, our Graduate Certificate in Accounting Certification Preparation is an excellent complement to your bachelor’s degree and a great way to prepare for the test, with Becker Professional Education’s CPA Exam Review built right in.1  

Keep in mind that some states may also have additional course requirements, such as ethics classes, for their CPA candidates.

2. CPA Experience Requirements

In addition to meeting the educational requirements for CPA certification and licensure, there are also professional experience requirements to consider. Many states require 2 years of public accounting experience. While some states may accept non-public experience, the number of years required can vary. Before you pursue your CPA license, be sure that you’ve thoroughly reviewed the requirements for your jurisdiction.

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 their 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. CPA 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 18 years old. Some areas also require evidence of residence in your jurisdiction for at least 6 months.

Evidence of residence typically includes one of the following:

    • Permanent resident for 6 months
    • Owning a place of business within the state for 6 months
    • Employment within the state for at least 6 months

4. CPA 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?

We think so! While the path to becoming a CPA requires planning and dedication, it can be a great way to help you meet the qualifications for certain jobs. A CPA license is evidence of your commitment to pursuing quality and excellence in your profession and it can also signal to your employer or clients that you have the knowledge and skills to support their accounting needs.

CPA License Renewal

Once you’ve earned your CPA license, it’s important to know that the license is subject to expiration and will have to be renewed according to the license renewal requirements in your jurisdiction. Each of the 55 license-granting jurisdictions in the United States (that’s the 50 states plus Washington DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Mariana Islands) maintains its own requirements for CPA license renewal, which typically include payment of a fee and completion of a certain number of hours of continuing professional education (CPE).

You may be asking, “Why does the license expire?” By requiring accountants to renew their CPA licenses periodically, the public can be assured that a licensed CPA is up to date with the industry’s best practices and regulations.

How often will your CPA license have to be renewed? Again, this varies by jurisdiction. Most states require renewal every 1 to 2 years, with a fee of $50 - $150 and proof that you’ve completed 40 hours of CPE.

Prepare to Pursue Your Career as a CPA at DeVry

At DeVry, we offer an array of undergraduate and graduate online accounting programs taught by knowledgeable and experienced faculty. Our Graduate Certificate in Accounting Certification Preparation is just one example of how we can help you advance your skills while preparing to pursue your CPA license.

Our 6 academic sessions per year allow you to start when you’re ready and learn at your own pace, finishing on a regular or accelerated schedule that meets your goals. Classes start soon!

1Credits 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.

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