How to Become a CPA Steps & Certification Requirements

You should plan on building up your academic stamina in terms of how long you can study at a stretch. Amy Boyington is an Ohio-based freelance writer with degrees in English and education. As a lifelong learner herself, Amy enjoys researching and writing about colleges, degrees, and careers to help others navigate their educational paths. After all, the pass rates for each exam section range from about 40% to 60%, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA®)—not the best prognosis. The CPA exam is difficult and time-consuming, but passing it is the most important step of CPA licensure.

And at the end of the day, becoming a CPA is worth it to many professionals. If CPA seems like a tall order, various accounting certifications exist that don’t require a degree. Generally, you’ll need a minimum of one to two years of professional experience in an accounting or finance role under the supervision of a CPA. This ensures you possess not only the skills required for the CPA exam but also the practical acumen needed in the accounting field. Accounting internships undertaken in school do not normally qualify toward experience-based CPA requirements.

However, some are former CPAs with advanced business administration or financial management degrees and experience. These C-suite professionals supervise and direct their organization’s financial activities. In either case, remember that having a CPA license expands employment opportunities. For example, some law enforcement agencies hire CPAs to investigate financial crimes.

  • As with educational requirements to become a CPA, experience requirements can vary by jurisdiction.
  • Preparing for the CPA Exam may not be quick or easy, but with the help of Becker, you’ll have the tools, resources and support you need to pass.
  • Hawaii requires 18 credit hours of accounting coursework and has relatively loose experience requirements.
  • However, those who pass the test need to acquire experience before qualifying for full licensure.

Most small businesses may never need to file SEC-audited or reviewed financial statements, so your job prospects in small business environments can still be excellent even without the CPA credential. However, public companies must produce audited statements by law—hence the name Certified Public Accountant. So, while you do not need your CPA to get a job, you can do more if you do have your certification. There are plenty of job duties in public accounting roles in which you don’t need CPA certification.

Jobs For Certified Public Accountants

One difference in accounting education that is important for students to know is the increased number of credits required for CPA certification. Officially, you need only a bachelor’s degree to be eligible to sit for the accounts payable turnover ratio CPA exam, but you must have 150 semester hours of college education. That’s 30 more credit hours, or an additional year of full-time study, compared to the 120 credit hours traditionally required for a bachelor’s degree.

  • These senior professionals supervise accountants and work with top executives in directing organizational finances.
  • Several other online resources are available to help you study for the CPA exam, although it’s important to ensure courses and materials are up to date and designed or taught by credentialed instructors.
  • Keep track of exam application deadlines, and think about when you should schedule study sessions.
  • Fresh out of college, you can use your accounting degree to find entry-level work as a junior accountant, auditor, budget analyst or estimator.
  • The ethics exam is an exam that covers the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Code of Professional Conduct and Accounting Rules.

The educational and experience requirements for CPA licensure typically take at least 5-6 years to complete. Candidates from non-accounting backgrounds and those who earn their degrees on part-time schedules face longer timelines. Most states require CPAs to complete continuing education credits annually to maintain their certification. CPAs can pursue continuing education through professional organizations and colleges, both in person and online. CPA candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree and additional educational qualifications. But most states require aspiring CPAs to earn 150 credits — or about 30 credits beyond a typical bachelor’s program.

As such, CPAs often enjoy better job security, even in job roles where the credential isn’t necessary. Often, a company’s private accountants are the ones who put together financial reports that a CPA then reviews and files with the SEC. At the moment Maine, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Alaska don’t require you to have an accounting degree. Keep in mind that you don’t actually have to take the exam in the state that you are planning to become certified.

If you are seriously considering getting your CPA license, you will need to prepare for the exam. I’ve used and reviewed all the top courses and analyzed which one will work for you based on your study style, budget, and schedule. Chartered Financial Analysts typically work in the finance and investment industry determining where hedge funds should invest their capital.

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Only CPAs are legally able to file these reports with the SEC, according to the BLS. Without this credential, you will never be able to hold a professional role which includes filing these reports. Collaborate with your study group members to decide which materials you’ll use, whether you’ll host meetings in person or online, and how often you’ll study so everyone can stay on track.

Historical pass rates sit around 50% for each of the four sections on the CPA exam. The time commitment for these credentials varies, but most require candidates to have at least six months of professional CPA experience. Many employers value the specialized skills demonstrated by these certificates. Many CPAs earn additional certificates to bolster their career prospects. Accountants can pursue certificates from professional organizations, such as the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Institute of Management Accountants. The sections below explain licensure, credentialing, and continuing education processes for aspiring CPAs.

CPA Exam Guide: Everything You Need To Know About the New Exam In 2024

Massachusetts requires 21 credit hours of accounting classes and has extra rules about which courses must be included in these 21 credit hours. Once you have the educational requirements completed, you’ll need to study for, register, and take the CPA Exam. The CPA Exam is a four-part exam that covers Auditing & Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). The exam takes approximately sixteen hours to complete and you must pass each section of the exam with a score of 75 or higher.

Getting Your First Accounting Job

You can take the exam at any Prometric testing center in the country regardless of whether it is in your state or not. As you approach the exam, be aware of the additional preparation time you may have to invest in order to address your specific weaknesses and build that into your preparation strategy. The path to CPA for non-accounting majors might seem more challenging, but  take stock of your situation and create a plan tailored to your life. The CPA exam consists of four sections, testing candidates on topics like taxation, financial planning, auditing and accounting technology.

The big difference is that although some of us might have run a physical marathon, we’ve all run an academic marathon in completing our college education. During college, we’re conditioned to handle the prolonged duration and high intensity required to be successful. The CPA Exam is difficult for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the breadth of tested material. Whether due to professional specialization and/or the length of time away from college, non-traditional candidates are likely to have pronounced strengths and weaknesses.

The Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, also known as the Uniform CPA Exam or CPA Exam, is for accountants pursuing CPA licensure. Many employers seeking highly trained accountants require a CPA license, which involves rigorous coursework and skill testing to earn. Earning the CPA credential opens doors to high-paying, advanced accounting careers in numerous industries. The 2024 CPA exam comes with a few changes compared to previous years, so make sure to stay in the know if you plan to sit for the exam in or after 2024. In addition to the CPA examination, many states require candidates to pass an ethics exam, such as the AICPA Ethics Exam, to ensure their moral suitability for the profession. This often includes understanding the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) code of conduct.

Business Environment and Upper-Level Courses

After taking the CPA Exam, some candidates in certain jurisdictions will have to take the ethics exam. The ethics exam is an exam that covers the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Code of Professional Conduct and Accounting Rules. It examines how well a future CPA would handle professional ethics questions they may encounter during their time working in the accounting profession.

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