California CPA requirements

 

Wondering how to get your CPA license in California? The first thing you’ll want to do on the road to becoming an accountant in California is to check the state of California’s requirements, since the California board will ultimately license you. This page serves as a resource for how to become a CPA in California and is current as of May 2021. Always consult with your state or jurisdiction’s board of accountancy for the most current information. Read on to find out how to obtain a CPA license in California.

CPA Exam requirements - California

Getting a CPA in each state mandates different requirements for taking the CPA Exam and becoming a licensed CPA. In order to be eligible for the CPA Exam, California requires candidates to meet certain education and experience requirements.

Education CPA Exam requirements - California

In order to take the CPA Exam in California, you must meet a set of education requirements. First, you need to have a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university. You must also have 150 semester units in designated course subjects.

Semester unit requirements

Becoming an accountant in California requires 150 semester hours in various subject areas, including:

  • 24 semester units in accounting subjects
    • Accounting
    • Auditing
    • Taxation
    • Financial reporting
    • Financial statement analysis
    • External and internal reporting
  • 24 semester units in business-related subjects
    • Business administration
    • Business management
    • Economics
    • Finance
    • Business law
    • Marketing
    • Statistics
    • Mathematics
    • Computer science and information systems
    • Business-related law courses offered at an accredited law school
    • Any accounting subjects in excess of the 24 units needed to fulfill the accounting requirement
  • 20 semester units in accounting study, including:
    • Minimum 6 semester units in accounting subjects (see above)
    • Maximum 14 semester units in business-related subjects (see above)
    • Maximum 9 semester units in other academic work relevant to business and accounting (maximum 3 units from any one area): skills-based courses, foreign language/cultural and ethics studies and industry-based courses
    • Maximum 4 semester units in internships/independent studies in accounting and/or business-related subjects
    • Completion of a master of Accounting, Taxation, or Laws in Taxation is equivalent to 20 semester units of accounting study.
  • 10 semester units in ethics study
    • Minimum 3 semester or 4 quarter units in accounting ethics or accountants’ professional responsibilities
      • The course(s) must be completed at an upper division level or higher, unless completed at a community college.
    • Maximum 7 semester or 11 quarter units in courses in any of the following subject areas:
      • Auditing
      • Business, government and society
      • Business leadership
      • Business law
      • Corporate governance
      • Corporate social responsibility
      • Ethics
      • Fraud
      • Human resources management
      • Legal environment of business
      • Management of organizations
      • Morals
      • Organizational behavior
      • Professional responsibilities
    • Maximum 3 semester or 4 quarter units in courses from the following disciplines: philosophy, religion, theology
      • Course title must contain one of the following words or terms, or the sole name in the course title is the name of the discipline: introduction, general, fundamentals of, survey of, introductory, principles of, foundations of

How to get CPA license in California

In order to earn a certified public accountant license in California, applicants must meet the following requirements: 

  • Applicants are required to furnish their fingerprints for purpose of conducting a criminal history record check with the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. 
  • All applicants must complete a minimum of 12 months of general accounting experience. This includes providing any type of service or advice involving the use of accounting, attestation, compilation, management advisory or tax/consulting skills. 
  • All applicants are required to complete and pass a CBA-accepted ethics examination within two years of submitting a CPA license application. 

CPA license renewals

California requires CPA license renewals every two years. CPA licenses expire every other year at midnight on the last day of the licensees’ birth month.

California CPE requirements

California requires all CPAs to complete 80 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) in the two-year licensing period.

Licensees who plan, direct or approve any financial or compliance audit report on any governmental agency must complete a minimum of 24 hours of qualifying continuing education in the area of governmental accounting or auditing, or related subjects, during the two-year license renewal period. Licensees who provide audit, review, other attestation services or who issue compiled financial statement reports must, during the two-year license renewal period, complete a minimum of 24 hours of qualifying continuing education in the area of accounting and auditing related to reporting on financial statements.

Fees

Initial Application

$250

Hard-copy fingerprint process

$49

Biennial license renewal

$120

Application for retired status

$75

Retired-to-active status

$50

CPA Exam California: FAQs

How do I become a CPA in California?

If you’re interested in learning how to get the CPA in California, first be sure you meet the education and experience requirements listed above. Afterwards, start preparing to take the CPA Exam.

How to get your CPA license in California without an accounting degree

You do not need an accounting degree to be eligible to sit for the CPA Exam. California requires 24 semester units in accounting subjects and 20 semester units in accounting study, but many CPAs major in other business studies and then take additional hours to comply with the education requirements.

How long does it take to become a CPA?

The CPA Exam includes four sections and you must pass all four within an 18-month period. The clock starts with your first passing mark.


More resources on how to become a CPA in California:

Education

Initial license FAQ

CPA license renewal

Fees

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