How to Become a CPA

How to get your CPA license

The path to becoming a CPA can seem overwhelming - after all, there are several steps in the process including education, experience and other specific requirements. The steps to getting a CPA license can be complicated, but we’ve created a four-part guide to help make the process of how to get a CPA as simple as possible, so you know what to do and when to do it.

If you’re interested in becoming a CPA, read the FAQ section below, which answers some of the most commonly asked questions about how to become a CPA.

Read on to find out how to become a CPA in four simple steps. 
 

Step 1: Verify your state’s CPA licensing requirements

The first thing you will want to do on the road to becoming a CPA is to check the board of accountancy in your state or jurisdiction to verify your eligibility for the examination, since these state boards will ultimately license you.

Getting a CPA in each state has different requirements for taking the CPA Exam and becoming a licensed CPA. These variances can include residency or experience requirements, requirements for semester hours in accounting and more.

Find a full list of requirements by state and territory here

Step 2: Complete your degree and gain experience

You will need to complete educational requirements specified by the state in which you plan to obtain your license.

As you research how to get a CPA, you must have a plan to meet the credit-hour requirement, which is 150 hours in many, but not all, states. Some CPA candidates complete the 150-hour requirement as undergraduates, while others take the additional hours they need through graduate school programs.

In addition to the required college coursework, some states have additional experience requirements that students must fulfill to be eligible to sit for the CPA Exam. Most states require a year of experience working under a licensed CPA before you can be licensed, and other states require more experience. Find out what your state requires here.

Step 3: Pass the CPA Exam

The CPA Exam consists of four sections that will test your knowledge of accounting standards, the legal requirements of the profession and much more. Three organizations, including the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and Prometric, have a contractual agreement to administer the CPA Exam.

Becker offers a variety of preparation options for students at any point in their career:

Self-study

Designed for students who need flexibility in their study schedule. This online option allows you to study when and where it’s most convenient for you, and is perfect for accountants looking to study for the CPA Exam while working full-time.

LiveOnline

Allows you to engage with professors in real time from the comfort of your own home via webinar-based learning programs. This track is for students who enjoy a bit more structure, but prefer studying at home.

Live 

Featuring in-person review sessions in your area, this is designed for students who require more structure and thrive in traditional classroom settings.

Ready to schedule your Live or LiveOnline courses? Get started today.

Becker also offers a variety of additional study materials, from flashcards to Final Review to supplemental multiple-choice questions, to help get you ready for exam day. 

Step 4: Finalize your certification

Passing the CPA Exam does not give you automatic license to begin practicing as a CPA. Some states may require an ethics exam, while others require licensed CPAs to participate in continuing professional education (CPE) annually to maintain their certification.

Becker’s got you covered there too! Explore Becker's CPE courses.

How to Become a CPA: FAQs

Demand for accountants is expected to grow 6% annually through 2028, and CPAs are considered to be the most qualified accountants in industry. Here are some important facts about how to be a CPA.

What is the minimum qualification for CPA licensure?

Becoming a CPA requires you to meet education requirements, gain work experience and apply to take and pass the CPA Exam. The process is challenging, but there are many benefits of getting a CPA license. Specific qualifications are set by your state's board of accountancy, so be sure to check their requirements.

How long does it take to become a CPA?

The CPA Exam includes four tests, and you must pass all four within an 18-month period. The clock starts with your first passing mark. As of July 1, 2020, testing windows will be replaced by continuous, year-round testing, allowing candidates to move through the exams as quickly as their preparation allows.

How do I become a CPA without a degree in accounting?

If you've followed a nontraditional path to accountancy, you may be wondering, "Do I need an accounting degree to be a CPA?" We've got great news: you do not need an accounting degree to obtain a CPA license. 

All jurisdictions require aspiring CPAs to have 120 or 150 credit hours to sit for the exam, depending on the jurisdiction, and 150 credit hours for licensure. Candidates generally need at least 24 semester hours in accounting, but some states allow fewer than 24 semester hours.

Many candidates earn degrees in business administration or finance, and then take additional hours to comply with the education requirements.

How can I get a CPA without a master's degree? 

You do not need a master's degree in order to become a CPA. At a minimum, you only need to meet your state's education requirements. Most states require a bachelor's degree, not a master's. If you're considering pursuing a master's degree in Accounting, here is a guide to help inform your decision.

How hard is it to become a CPA?

Most CPA candidates spend 200 to 400 hours of time studying for the CPA Exam. Candidates may spend 20 to 25 hours per week preparing for the exam over a period of months. Becker’s study planner will help you structure your time studying for maximum efficiency on your journey to becoming a CPA.

How do you become a CPA as an international accountant?

The US CPA license is issued at the US state or jurisdiction level. Non-US resident CPA candidates who meet the board of accountancy CPA eligibility requirements in one of the 55 US jurisdictions will qualify as US CPAs.

If you meet the requirements and want to take the CPA Exam, keep in mind that the exam must be taken in English. The Prometric test centers currently offer the CPA Exam internationally in Bahrain, Brazil, Kuwait, Japan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. India will start offering the CPA Exam in the summer of 2020.

Can I become a CPA online? 

If you're wondering how to become a CPA online, you should start by checking your state's CPA licensure requirements. All states require a set amount of work experience and education. If you're able to earn your educational requirements and experience hours online, you can become a CPA online. Becker offers LiveOnline and self-study preparation options, so you can prepare for the rigorous CPA Exam online. 

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