CPA Application Process

Updated on March 22, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byWallstreetmojo Team
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

CPA Application Process

CPA Application Process is something that often leaves aspirants with a lot of questions. The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination is a license issued by 55 states and territories in the USA. After obtaining the CPA license, you can practice as a certified financial advisor.

Over the course of your career, it will help you take up diverse roles such as a public accountant, financial consultant, tax advisor, CFO, auditor, controller or a federal officer, etc. depending on your skills or experiences. The license is one of the most coveted ones in the field of accountancy in the world.

To be eligible for the CPA exam you will need to ensure that you ace the CPA Application Process. The CPA exam is a reliable and valid measure of the abilities of a candidate. It is administered by AIPCA. To be eligible for the examination, you will need to be declared eligible by one of the jurisdictions as each has its own set of requirements. After successfully clearing the exam, you can practice as a CPA.

Here is a table containing important details regarding the CPA examination.

RoleAuditor, Controller, Tax accountant, Chief Financial Officer, Senior Manager of Finance.
ExamThere are four papers to be completed over an 18-month window.
Eligibility CriteriaGraduation degree or equivalent
150 hours of credit
Some states have an experience requirement of 1-2 years
Recommended Study HoursAICPA recommends 300-400 hours of study for the CPA exam, which leaves around 80-100 hours per section.
Program Completion CriteriaSuccessfully pass all four papers.
What do you Earn?A CPA with a year of experience earns around $66,000 a year. The average salary in the USA is $119,000.

The CPA exam application process is different from one state to another, but most of the steps remain the same. If you follow the steps properly, you could be approved and scheduled for the first CPA exam in 4-6 weeks. But if you forget any bit of information, it could become a time-consuming and stressful procedure.

To spend less time worrying about the application getting approved and more time preparing for the exam, follow the below-mentioned steps to ensure that you correctly follow the CPA application process.

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First and Foremost, Check Your Eligibility

You will need to qualify for the CPA exam before you proceed with your application. The first step you must take is to ensure that you have met all the state requirements to sit for the exam. There are some main factors to be kept in mind.

  • Some states require 120 credit bachelor’s degree, while many require 150 credit college degree to be eligible for this exam.
  • Check if you have completed the relevant accounting and business course.
  • You can sit for an exam in a state where you do not currently live.
  • Other factors include age, citizenship and experience, which all vary as per states.

If you have met all the exam qualifications mentioned by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the local state boards, you are eligible to begin the application process. International students can also take this examination. The examination is offered in English, and applicants need to meet the same eligibility criteria and follow the same steps as the US applicants. The examination is offered in Japan, Brazil, Ireland, England, South Korea, Scotland, Germany, Egypt, Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates.

CPA Application Process

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How to Apply for the CPA Examination?

Follow the below-mentioned step-by-step process to apply successfully for the CPA examination.

#1 – Send the official transcripts to the State Board

This is the second important step in the CPA application process after checking your eligibility. Before you begin to fill the application form, you will need to send all the college transcripts to the state board of accountancy. Remember, you need to send ALL the transcripts. This includes each transcript from every school you went to, all transcripts from junior college and community colleges. You also need to send transcripts of the universities you attended, even for a single semester.

#2 – Submit the exam form and fees

  • After the transcripts have been submitted to the state board, you need to proceed with the form. Fill in the exam application and provide details by answering a few personal and educational questions. After completing the form, please send it in with the application fees. There are different fees based on the state but mostly ranging between $100-$200.
  • Once you send it, you will need to wait for a few weeks to get the authorization test. Remember that you can only apply and register to take the examination in one state at a time.

#3 – Get the authorization to test

  • After the board has approved your application, you will receive authorization to test (ATT). It is a document that will allow you to sign up for the exam section in the state. The document is only valid for 90 days, so you need to decide which section you want to take first before its expiration.
  • After 90 days, the application fee will expire, and you will have to pay again to get a new valid document. Once you are sure of the section, you will need to log in to NASBA. Thereafter, you will need to make the fee payment for the section of the exam you are opting for.
  • The charges will be different for each state, but it ranges from $180 to $250 for a section. Hence, for all four sections, you need to make a payment of $1,200 on average. I would highly recommend that you do not sign up for all the exam parts at once if you want to make the best out of the CPA exam and application process.
  • After the fee payment process completes, applicants are issued a notice to schedule (NTS) document. NTS is a legal document that allows you to sit for the exam and take the exam in your state. Once you get the NTS, you will get 6 months in most states to schedule your CPA exam dates. It is usually cheaper to pay for all the sections together.
  • However, unless you are sure that you will ace all four sections in one go, accountancy experts suggest applying for a comfortable number. One at a time will also do. The reason being, you get around 6 months in most states to schedule your exams. If you book all four, you’d have to appear for all the exams in those 6 months otherwise you will lose the fee money. A period of six months will leave very little time to give dedicated attention to every section.

#4 – Get the notice to schedule (NTS)

  • It will take about 4 weeks to receive the notice to schedule in the mail. You will need to use this document to log on to the Prometric website to schedule the exam date. Once again, remember that the NTS is valid only for 6 months, and you can use it to schedule the section you paid for in the next 6 months.
  • Some states have different windows for NTS. California, Louisiana, Hawaii, and Utah will give you 9 months from the date of the NTS issue. Virginia, North Dakota, and South Dakota will give 12 months, and Texas has 90 days from the date of application.

#5 – Schedule the exam

Using the NTS, you can log on to the Prometric test centre website to schedule the exam date. Fill in the exam section ID from the NTS and the testing centre’s location that you want to take the exam at. If you do not know what centres are nearest to your location, you can search for one on the application itself.

Follow the steps mentioned below.

  • Log on to the Prometric website and schedule for the exam.
  • Choose the state/jurisdiction where you want to take the test.
  • Enter the details of the exam section and the first four numbers of your last name.
  • Choose the location, date, and section of the exam you want to take.

Rescheduling Fees

  • The CPA application process also allows for rescheduling. If you want to cancel or reschedule your exam, you may do so. If you cancel or reschedule around 30 days or more in advance, there will be no penalty. But if you decide to reschedule within 5 days of your appointment to appear for the exam, you will need to pay the full fee for the section on the Prometric website. You cannot reschedule it 24 hours before the exam. You will only have the option to reapply.
  • Prepare well for the examination, and remember that you can submit the applications at any time during the year, irrespective of the testing windows.

This article is a guide to CPA Application Process. Here we provide a step-by-step guide to applying for the CPA exam, process, eligibility, and fees. You may also have a look at the following useful articles –