How to Become a CPA

How to become a CPA

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

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

Read on to find out how to become a CPA. 
 

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 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 become 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 Insititute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and Prometric, have a contractual agreement to deliver 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? Visit our Getting Started page.

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 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.

How do I become a CPA?

Becoming a CPA requires you to meet education requirements, gain work experience, apply to take and pass the CPA Exam. The process is challenging, but can benefit your career.

How long does it take to become a CPA?

If you’re wondering how to become a CPA and the time commitment required, you need to understand the exam test windows.

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?

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 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 a 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 in Bahrain, Brazil, Kuwait, Japan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. India will start offering the CPA Exam in the summer of 2020.