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Certified Public Account in Melville, NY

Basic requirements you need to know in order to get a CPA license

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Requirements for becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) vary from one state to another. The CPA license is issued by the board of accountancy of each of the 54 U.S jurisdictions (50 states and 4 jurisdictions). A candidate becomes eligible for the exam by meeting a list of specific requirements which are determined by the board of accountancy of the jurisdiction where it is applying from.

In this article, Adam Greene CPA will share a list of requirements that every candidate should keep in mind when taking the CPA exam.

1  . Academic Requirements

In the U.S every state has a Board of Accountancy, which is in charge of issuing the license that certifies public accountants (CPAs) who are going to practice in that one state. Every single Board of Accountancy has its own rules and parameters in order to issue a CPA license. In some states, having a 120-credit bachelor’s degree in accounting is enough, but as a general rule, most states now require to complete a 150-credit college degree program in accounting to earn the right to sit and take the CPA exam.

Some general requirements that almost every U.S. state demands, in order to be suitable to take the test, are listed below:

  • A 150-credit college or university degree whose accreditation is accepted by the state’s Board of Accountancy.
  • A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
  • A specified number of accounting and business courses.

You can find a detailed list of requirements for each state by clicking here.

In some states you can still take the CPA exam by having a bachelor’s degree in accounting, however, based on recent changes in the general requirements for taking the exam, you will be more likely to become a certified accountant if you have coursed the 150-credit program. Keep in mind that there are some Colleges and Universities with high-quality accounting degree programs that offer both options – the one with fewer credits and the one with the 150-credit program. Choose wisely if what you really want is to become a CPA.

2. Grading standards.

In order to become a candidate to take the CPA exam, you should keep in mind that you will be expected to have above average grades in your accounting courses. Most of these courses are difficult and require you to understand and work with often complex financial concepts. Statistics show that less than 50% of students who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program in accounting actually earn a 150-credit degree in accounting and make it to the CPA exam.

If by all means, your main goal is to become a Certified Public Accountant, you should start preparing while still in high school. Many high school offer alternatives to start a “College Track”, you can enroll in more than one Advanced Placement (APs) or Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO). Taking one of these options will definitely give you an advantage over other candidates.

3. Academic Requirements Exceptions

Sometimes the State Boards of Accountancy allow a measure of flexibility when it comes to coursing the 150 college credits needed in order to sit for the CPA. Below you can find three examples of some of the most common exceptions:

  • If you have obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting from a college or university known for its outstanding undergraduate program and you attended another prestigious institution to earn an MBA degree.
  • If you have obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting from a college or university known for its outstanding undergraduate program and you attended another prestigious institution to earn a graduate degree in taxation.
  • If you finished you 150-credit degree in less than four years because you earned some credits in high school due to the AP or PSEO.
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4. Taking the CPA Exam

Usually, you should sit for the CPA exam as soon as you meet all the state Board of Accountancy academic requirements. The main reason to this is that you still have all the information from your accounting courses fresh in your mind.

As a recommendation, you should take a review course before taking the CPA exam, this will help you be better prepared. Remember that the CPA Exam is infamous for its low pass rates with a success rate average below 50%.

5. Other requirements

Ethics: After successfully passing the CPA Exam, every applicant must take an ethics course and/or exam in order to get its CPA license is issued. This requirement also changes from one state to another. It is recommended that you check your state’s ethics requirements at the State Boards of Accountancy.

Work Experience: The amount of time required for earning the CPA license also varies from one state to another. Nevertheless, in each state you should find an accounting position that can provide you with the experience required to get your license issued.

Renewing your CPA License: In some states, you can be required to renew your CPA license every one or two years. Usually, most states require accountants to take Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours to maintain a CPA license.


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