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What are the Requirements to Become a CPA?

By K T Solis
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs, are respected professionals who must meet strict state and licensing requirements in order to be acknowledged as the highest of all accounting professionals. When someone wishes to become a CPA, he can ultimately enjoy a vast array of job responsibilities. Certified public accountants perform a variety of tasks, including accounting, tax preparation and planning, auditing, and financial planning. They work in accounting firms, corporations, government organizations, and small businesses. Some even work as independent consultants. No matter where a CPA works, she is expected to follow an uncompromising code of ethics.

Although requirements to become a CPA differ among states in the U.S., they share some requirements in common. To become a CPA, a person must earn a bachelor's degree in accounting, with about 150 semester hours in subjects approved by the State Board of Accountancy. Required courses include classes in Accounting, Business Law, Finance, Business Statistics, Economics, and Liberal Arts. He must also gain on-the-job experience as an accountant.

In addition to these requirements, a prospective CPA must receive a passing score on the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA exam). The exam is designed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This computerized exam is comprised of four sections, including Auditing & Attestation, Financial Accounting and Reporting, Regulation, and Business Environment and Concepts.

In order to register for the CPA exam, an applicant should apply with the state where she intends to practice. The State Board requires an applicant to submit forms, transcripts, and fees to its office. The tests are administered in test centers throughout the U.S. Exam fees cost around $800 to $950 US Dollars (USD).

After the completion of the CPA exam, the accountant must also pass an ethics examination to become a CPA. Upon earning certification as a CPA, the person must complete specific hours of professional development every one or two years in order to stay up to date on all aspects of certified public accounting. CPAs can only practice in the state where they received their certification.

What is the advantage of earning a CPA instead of remaining a regular accountant? First of all, CPAs enjoy higher salaries than their non-certified counterparts. In large accounting corporations, a CPA earns between $35,000 and $48,000 USD a year. CPAs who work in smaller corporations earn an average of $29,500 to $40,750 USD. They also become members of an elite group of accountants who are sought after by people who wish to hire an accountant for their personal or business needs.

A student who wishes to become a CPA needs to earn an accounting degree, gain several years of experience as an accountant, pass rigorous CPA and ethics exams, and commit to ongoing professional development. Despite the stringent requirements, becoming a CPA is a valuable investment in the future. The prospect of commanding a higher salary than regular accountants and becoming universally respected by the business world, influences many to work toward earning that coveted certificate in public accounting.

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Discussion Comments

By anon347094 — On Sep 03, 2013

I am from India and completed my graduation in accounts and finance in 2011. I have more than a year's experience in a CA firm. Am I be eligible to become a CPA?

By anon280448 — On Jul 17, 2012

I am a Nigerian. I have an HND in accounting and MBA in financial management and also have 13 years in financial institution in Nigeria. What do I need to do in order to take the CPA exam?

By anon265323 — On May 01, 2012

I am an indian. I have a B.Com degree and an MBA in financial management (done under distance education). I have about 28 years of experience working in a major nationalised bank in India. Can I take the CPA exam and clear it.

By anon54250 — On Nov 28, 2009

My boyfriend is going to get his CPA soon! I never knew what a CPA truly was until now.

By jibran — On Jun 22, 2009

Is it necessary to go to the US for the exam or can you give this exam in India?

By anon29266 — On Mar 30, 2009

What are the requirements to become a CPA in India?

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