Roadmap to Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (US CPA)

Roadmap to Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (US CPA)

Being a Certified Public Accountant is one of the most prestigious professional designations an accountant can hold. Accounting education and professional experience are key components in becoming a CPA. Moreover, CPA status has a large impact on your career’s success.

The task of a certified public accountant (CPA) includes preparing taxes, preparing government audits, bookkeeping, and financial planning. The individual has to meet strict requirements to become licensed by their state Board of Accountancy. Typically, they find jobs with large corporations and non-profits, as well as small, independent businesses and groups.

Obtaining a CPA license involves the following steps:

Know the minimum requirements of your state board

A thorough understanding of the minimum requirements to become eligible for the CPA exam in your state is imperative. Ensure that you choose the right major and course work while in college by contacting your state's licensing board.

Obtain a degree

The minimum educational requirement to become a Certified Public Accountant is a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting or Finance. According to each state, there are different requirements.  Most states require candidates to have completed at least 150 college credits in accounting, auditing, and taxation, as well as courses related to business. Such courses may include finance, management, and business law.

Gain relevant experience

Candidates should have a minimum of two years of full-time professional experience in an accounting role where they work under the direct supervision of a licensed CPA, as determined by your state's board of accountancy.

Taking the CPA exam

Getting a CPA license requires one to apply to the state board, where one must pay an application fee. Since state application fees differ by state and are not refundable, make sure you have already met all standards for eligibility.

As soon as your CPA application has been approved, the state Board of Accountancy will send you a Notice to Schedule (NTS) so that you can schedule your appointment for each part of the exam. The remaining sections of the CPA exam may be taken within 18 months of taking the first section.

CPA exam preparation

Each section of the CPA exam is a four-hour exam. Four sections are covered in the exam: 

  • Auditing and attestation
  • Financial accounting and reporting
  • Regulation, and 
  • Business environment. 

In order to pass the CPA Exam, it is necessary to study intensively for each part of the exam and be well-prepared for it. A candidate should focus on no more than one or two sections at a time because each section requires thorough preparation.

A CPA Exam section is divided into several testlets, which contain either task-based simulations or multiple-choice questions. The test is scored using a weighted scoring system, so questions or tasks with higher difficulty will result in more points.

Prepare for the CPA test and the ethics test

Getting certified as a public accountant requires passing both the CPA and Ethics Examinations, developed by the AICPA and graded by them. Each section of the CPA Exam is scored on a scale of 1-99, with a minimum of 75 points needed to pass.

A certificate of completion will be awarded after you pass your CPA exam. Nonetheless, this certificate does not provide a license to practice as a CPA, and you must fulfil other requirements to become licensed.

Obtain and maintain your license

In order to become a CPA, you will need to meet all requirements and pass the CPA Exam as well as the Ethics Exam. The only thing left is to apply for your license, which involves paying a licensing fee as well as proof that you met the requirements and that you will receive your license in the mail. Once you are licensed, you will need to take continuing education courses annually in order to maintain your license.

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