The licensing procedure, as designed by UAA and followed by all accounting and tax preparation authorities in the state, consists of three essential E’s- Education, Exam and Experience. In order to acquire a practicing license from the governing authorities, a public accountant must complete a 150-credit hours accounting bachelor’s degree program, pass the CPA exam and have some field experience.
Every state in the USA has its own state board of accountancy which follows the model designed by UAA to certify accountants. Prior to the implementation of the three E’s model, every state board had different educational requirements. Some boards required students to complete 120-credit hour accounting programs while others required 150-credit hour accounting programs. After the implementation of the three E’s model, accounting students in most of the states in the USA are required to complete 150-credit bachelor’s degree program to appear in the CPA exam.
Though extensive educational requirements vary with different state boards, most boards require the following:
- A minimum of bachelor’s degree with majors in accountings.
- Sound academic profile.
- A minimum of 150 credits from an authentic university or college whose affiliation is accepted by the state government.
- A specified number of extensive accounting and business courses.
Though most colleges and universities in the USA offer both bachelor’s degree and 150-credits programs, accounting students who are planning to pursue their career as a CPA are required to go for 150-credits programs. They cannot take the CPA exam with a simple bachelor’s degree in accountings.
Infamous for its low success rate, CPA exam is undoubtedly the toughest part of acquiring a certificate from the accountancy board. State boards first determine the academic profile of students appearing in the CPA exam and only allow students with 150-credits degree to sit in the exam. However, it is recommended for students planning to purse career as a CPA to make the most of their high school and college years to prepare for the exam. Though there are a number of institutes from where students can get help for test preparation, it is recommended to consult CPAs for exam preparation. They have taken the exam before and can help candidates with expert advice.
All state boards require a few years field experience for candidates to become CPAs. Prior to 2007, it was easier for fresh graduates to get jobs and acquire professional experience needed for licensing, but due to increased complexity and ever changing requirements of tax filing and tax payment, fresh graduates must need to acquire additional courses and training to get good jobs and eventually become certified public accountants.
CPAs might require renewing their licenses annually or biannually (as required by the state board of accountancy).