CPA Requirements

Each of the 50 U.S. states have different requirements for certifying someone as a CPA or Certified Public Accountant. The general requirements, however, are pretty similar in all states and jurisdictions. The requirements can be divided into different categories which have been discussed as follows:



Education Requirements

Each state has a ‘State Board of Accountancy’ that outlines the rules and education required to become a CPA. Some states still accept a 120-credit bachelor’s degree, mostly required in accounting, to qualify an individual to sit for the CPA Exam, but most require a complete 150-credit college degree program. Following are some general educational requirements as outlined by State Boards of Accountancy:


  1. 120 semester credits from university or college whose accreditation is accepted by the specific state.

  2. Certain number of business and accountancy courses

  3. Minimum bachelor’s degree


You will need to check specific requirements and list of accredited universities to check if you qualify. Sometimes a measure of flexibility is allowed for capable and promising students. For instance, someone who has completed the undergraduate program with outstanding grades from a noted university and then continued to earn an MBA degree may be allowed to sit for the CPA exam.


The CPA Exam

Once the jurisdiction or state board of accountancy approves of a candidate’s educational credentials, the candidate will then be allowed to sit for the CPA exam. The CPA exam is known to have very low pass rates. Almost only half the people who sit for the exam clear it. It is highly recommended that students study accounting at a university or college with a rigorous and thorough accounting program. 

Although many suggest that you sit for the exam as soon as you meet the academic requirements, it is best to give yourself time to prepare for the tough exam. The exam is based is on academics mostly and so be sure to take the test while all that you learned during your accounting courses is still fresh in your mind. Many recommend taking up a CPA review course before sitting for the exam. There are a number of online courses and review materials available online also. 



Ethics Exam 

Once you pass the CPA Exam, you will be required complete an ethics course or take up an ethics exam before you can get a CPA license. Every state has different requirements regarding ethics, so be sure to check learn about the requirements in your state or jurisdiction by going to the State Boards of Accountancy website. 



People usually think of auditing when they think of CPAs- the process of testing, examining and verifying a certain company’s financial records. However, for the most part, logging audit hours is what CPAs are required to do to ‘pay their dues’, at least that’s what they had been required to do until only recently. Audit experience is no longer required in most states. However, if you are planning on working at a publicly held company in the United States then you may at some point want to log around 500 hours of auditing or attest experience in order to get the authority to sign attest reports. It will also add to your marketability as a professional.



source: Statement of Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Programs as of 12/7/2011


For in-depth information on CPE Requirements and Standards - please click here to download the Statement of Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Programs.




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