If you want to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), then you probably know that you need to pass the CPA exam.
You might not be sure exactly what prerequisites there are for taking the exam in the first place, though. Maybe you’re not sure whether you need an accounting degree or whether you need to be an American citizen.
Plus, you might not be too sure what happens after the exam. Do you get your CPA license right away, or do you need to take some extra steps?
Here’s everything you need to know about the requirements for taking the CPA exam and becoming a CPA.
#1: You Need to Actually Pass the Exam
Before going any further, it’s important to point out that you do need to actually pass the CPA exam in order to become a CPA.
Even if you’ve done an accountancy-related degree and have a ton of experience, the CPA exam can be tough. It consists of four separate papers, and the AICPA recommends spending between 300 – 400 hours studying in total. That’s about six months if you study for two hours a day, every day.
This means it’s crucial to use one of the best CPA prep courses. Picking the right course for you could make a huge difference in how well your exam goes, so make sure you look through some options and choose the course that fits how you like to study.
You’ll also want to stay focused on your goals, even though you may have lots of distractions going on.
#2: To Take the Exam, You Need to Meet Certain Requirements
Before you can take the CPA exam, you need to meet some specific requirements. These include:
- You have to be at least 18 years old
- You need to have completed a bachelor’s degree or 120 college credit hours from an accredited and recognized institution
Some states also require:
- That you have a social security number (most states require this)
- That you’ve completed an accountancy-related degree, or have done a certain level of accounting-related and business coursework (most states require this)
- That you’ve done 150 college credit hours (not 120) – though in this case you won’t need to do an extra 30 hours after passing
- That you’re a US citizen. You might be surprised that most states don’t require this.
As the requirements do vary from state to state, it’s important to check exactly what your state requires before starting on your journey to becoming a CPA.
#3: After You Pass, There Are Some Further Steps
You might think that passing your CPA exam should make you a licensed CPA straight away – but there’s actually quite a bit more you need to do.
In some states, you need to sit an additional ethics paper.
After that, you need to complete 30 semester hours on AICPA-specified modules. This is the equivalent of taking a Master’s degree. (Note: you won’t need to do this if you did 150 instead of 120 credit hours to be able to take your exam in the first place.)
And following that, you need to complete a certain amount of work experience under an experienced licensed CPA. This varies from 1,800 to 2,080 hours, which is the best part of a year of work.
Again, you’ll want to check the specific requirements for your own state.
Becoming a CPA takes time and work, but it could lead to a genuinely satisfying career. Make sure you’ve met all the prerequisites, study hard for your CPA exam, and you could be well on your way.
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