What are Some Common Requirements for Being Allowed to Take the CPA Exam?

cpa examFor those who aspire to become an certified public accountant, taking the CPA exam may be a greatly anticipated or somewhat dreaded event. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for the examination.

One of the most preliminary ways in which an aspiring accountant should prepare is to determine what the requirements for taking the exam are early on and to remain aware of any potential updates.

Know the Requirements

It is important to note that the requirements to qualify for taking the CPA exam vary from state to state. Therefore, prospective accountants must consult the individual state in which they intend to become licensed to determine eligibility. Each state has a Board of Accountancy that is able to provide more information.

Although there are some differences among state requirements, most now require completion of 150 hours of post-secondary education from an institution that is regionally accredited. This requirement generally equates to completion of an undergraduate and a master’s degree. Many states also require completion of a certain number of hours in courses that cover specific accounting and business law topics. In most states, a student may complete a master’s degree in accounting or taxation and a bachelor’s degree in another field that may be unrelated; however, students should verify specific requirements regarding degrees and course of study with their state accountancy board. Students who do not meet the core course requirements based on their field of study may consider getting a master’s degree in accounting or taking other accounting courses in a non-degree granting program, in which case students should be prepared to show the relevant state accountancy board transcripts as proof of having completed the necessary accounting courses.

Exceptions to the Rule

There a few states in which students will find that the common 150 course hour requirement is not in place. Pennsylvania requires students to complete 120 hours of undergraduate education. Of the 120 hours, 24 semester hours must be from accounting courses, including three hours of general accounting and three hours in business law, auditing, finance, or taxation. Those who qualify with only the minimum 120 hours of coursework must also have an additional two years of experience before they are allowed to take the CPA exam. Similarly, those who wish to take the exam in Vermont must also complete a minimum of 120 hours of undergraduate course work. Of the 120 hours, 30 semester hours must be comprised of general accounting, business, finance, and/or managerial courses. California, Colorado, Delaware, and New Hampshire have all recently announced plans to move to the 150 hour education requirement.

Sitting for the Exam

After students are certain they have met the education requirement, they must schedule their exam. Applicants in certain states are required to apply through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, or NASBA. Planning ahead and scheduling an exam date during the first month of a testing window can reduce stress and allow extra time for last minute changes.

While the idea of taking the CPA exam may seem stressful, planning ahead and ensuring all qualifications are met can greatly reduce the potential for stressful situations. After the registration process is complete, exam participants may spend the remainder of their time before the test date preparing to successfully complete the exam.

Additional Resources: CPA Exam: How To Apply; CPA Exam Requirements.