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CPA Exam and Licensure

The path to becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)  is a combination of educational requirements, exam passage, and work experience. The CPA designation is the highest credential you can have in the accounting field. Becoming a CPA takes years of education and professional accounting experience as well as months of hard dedication to pass the exam. Additionally, certain parts of this process are dictated by state specific rules and regulations – so we encourage all MAC students to review the requirements in the state they wish to become licensed in.

The steps to become certified are:

Every state has it’s own educational educational requirements to take the CPA exam and to become a CPA. Some states allow you to take a section of the exam before you graduate from college, but most require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree in order to sit for the exam. These degree programs must typically be in accounting or business and must also include a core set of coursework. Typically, CPA candidates must have at least 24 college credit hours in auditing, taxation, and accounting education as well as 30 credit hours of business-related course like finance, business law, and management. Again, these requirements vary by state, so you should check with the state board where you want to sit for the exam.

Before sitting for the actual exam, you must first apply to sit for the exam. First, you will need to get your educational requirements verified by your state board of accountancy. Once approved, you will be able to formally apply for the exam. After your application is received and accepted, you will be issued a Notice to Schedule (NTS) that allows you to schedule and take a section of the CPA exam. You will need to get a new NTS for each section you take. (The governing body for this process is known as the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) , which you should check out to get more information.) After you get the official okay to sit, it’s time to start studying and preparing for the exam. The exam is scored on a scale of 1-99. Candidates must get a score of 75 or higher in order to pass each section. The CPA exam is tested during four test windows throughout the year. You are able to take all of the sections one time per testing window, but it’s probably not a great idea to go overboard scheduling them all in the same window.

Although the specific amount of time varies from state to state, in order to become licensed, after passing the exam, one must work under the guidance of a licensed CPA.  For more information, refer to NASBA  to see how many hours you need and to verify any experience you’ve already gathered. Once you have obtained your CPA license to practice, you will need to take continuing professional education courses annually to retain your license.