CPA License Requirements

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a US State Board-issued license that assures exceptional service standards in the accounting profession. The license can be awarded by any of the 55 US jurisdictions on passing the Uniform CPA Exam and fulfilling the state-specific education and experience requirements. Though the CPA ExamCPA ExamA Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a US state board-issued license to practice the accounting professionread more is the same for all, the other requirements may vary as per the state board. 

Known as the four E’s, the CPA licensing requirements can be classified as follows:

  • Exam – Score at least 75 points on a scale of 0-99
  • Education – Bachelor’s Degree with 120-150 credit hours
  • Experience – 1-2 years 
  • Ethics exam (If required by state board)

Besides, states’ licensing requirements may also vary over citizenship, residency, participation in international programs, and social security. Therefore, remember to check with your state board before submitting the CPA licensure application. 

Note that the licensure process for international CPA candidates is the same as that of the US-based ones. However, the international candidates must meet the eligibility requirements of the preferred US jurisdiction for successful licensure.

In this article, we will discuss the following topics

What is a CPA license?

A CPA license symbolizes the highest degree of competence and knowledge in the accounting profession. A license holder is a well-qualified professional who upholds the credibility and integrity of the profession. 

Kindly note that a CPA Certificate and a CPA license are two different terms. You avail the former after passing the CPA Exam. However, it does not permit you to practice the profession. In contrast, the latter is issued on completing all state-specific requirements after clearing the CPA Exam. The license allows you to work as a CPA. 

Besides, you must fulfil the state-specific Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements for license sustenance every 1-3 years. 

Education Requirements for CPA License

To take the CPA Exam, you must have 120 hours of education equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. This is mandatory in all states. Apart from that, you may need 30 hours of additional education. This requirement may vary by state. Let’s discuss the standard requisites in detail. 

US-based Candidates

All the state boards (except the US Virgin Islands) require at least 150 semester hours of education at an accredited college or university for licensure.  

It includes

  • 30 semester hours in accounting subjects 
  • 24 semester hours in business administration subjects
  • At least 15 semester hours in upper-division or graduate-level accounting

That is to say, CPA licensure demands an initial 120 credit hours as an undergraduate and additional 30 hours, total amounting to 150 credit hours. 

International Candidates

The education requirements remain the same (150 credit hours) for international candidates. 

Moreover, NASBA offers International Evaluation Services (NIES) for students who have studied outside the US. It provides an online application for non-US-based candidates to meet the individual state requirements. 

Just visit the NASBA Requirements webpage and know the country-specific details. 

NIES ParticularsDetails
Supporting US Jurisdictions53
Fee$25-$350 (varies as per the evaluation service)
Required Education Documents (General)Documentation for international post-secondary education (each year)
Complete set of official English translations for non-English documents
Transcripts and degree certificates (Diplomas)
Syllabi & course descriptions
Education Verification OptionA paid alternative for students whose university can’t issue official educational documents.
Deadline for Application Status Update1-year (after that, your application will be closed with no refund, and any official/replaceable documents will be destroyed)

Uniform CPA Exam Requirements

The Uniform CPA Exam is an American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)-administered computerized set of tests designed to evaluate your competency as a newly licensed CPA. This is a primary requirement for the CPA license.

AICPA collaborates with the National State Board of Accountancy (NASBA) and State Boards of Accountancy to conduct the exam. The exam remains the same for all state boards. However, your eligibility to sit for the exam varies by state. 

US-based Candidates

You must pass the four CPA Exam sections, each four-hour long, within 18 months. You should score at least 75 points in each section on a scale of 0-99. 

A majority of state boards require you to earn at least 120 credit hours to sit for the exam. However, please check with your jurisdiction for exceptions. Also, you must take up the exam in English only. 

Moreover, CPA Exam questionsCPA Exam QuestionsThe Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam includes three types of questions, that is, multiple-choice questions (MCQ), task-based simulations (TBS), and written communication tasks (WCT). Understanding the nature of these questions and practicing them is essential in designing strategies to respond quickly and more consist of various types, namely, multiple-choice questions (MCQs), task-based simulations (TBSs), and written communication tasks (WCTs). 

International Candidates

As mentioned above, CPA Exam remains the same for both US and non-US based candidates. However, the latter need to pay an additional fee amount to sit for the exam.

Now, candidates can take the CPA Exam in any of the 17 designated international locations. This includes India, Nepal, Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Israel. 

However, they must have a valid passport or national ID to apply for the exam at an international location. 

International Qualification Examination (IQEX)

IQEX is for accounting experts who are the members of non-US professional associations. These associations must have entered into Mutual Recognition Agreements with the US International Qualifications Appraisal Board (IQAB) on behalf of the US accounting profession. 

Kindly note that IQEX is not a substitute for the CPA Exam. Instead, it is used to test areas particularly associated with the US accounting practice.

Let’s view the details.

IQEX ParticularsDetails
Content (Topics)Ethics, Professional & Legal Responsibilities, Business Law, & Taxation (US Accounting)
Eligibility RequirementsCPA Australia
Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (CAANZ)
CPA Canada (CPAC)
Hong Kong Institute of CPAs (HKICPA)
Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)
Instituto Mexicano de Contadores Publicos (IMCP)
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
South African Institute of Chartered Accountants
Exam Fees$835
Refund PolicyNo refund (Request an NTS extension or partial fund in extreme cases)
Applicants with disabilitiesUpon qualification, exam administration accommodations are available in accordance with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Experience Requirements for CPA License

Similar to education and exam, the experience requirements for CPA licensure are also the same for both US-based and international candidates. 

A majority of US jurisdictions require a year of work experience (around 2000 hours) in public accounting. However, it may extend to two or more years for a few states.  In addition, a licensed CPA must verify the experience certificates.

Many jurisdictions also permit non-public accounting experience. However, the number of years of experience required is usually higher than that needed for public accounting.

Moreover, some jurisdictions have a one-tier system under which candidates must pass the CPA exam and meet the experience requirements to attain both the CPA certificate and the license.

While other jurisdictions have a two-tier system under which you receive the certificate on passing the exam and the license on gaining the relevant experience. Kindly check with your state board for further details.

NASBA Experience Verification 

For getting your experience certificate verified, NASBA offers an Experience Verification service. It provides you with access to an interview with a licensed CPA to sign off on the experience requirement. 

It is available for both domestic and international CPA aspirants. Also, the service incorporates an extensive authentication of the candidate’s work experience.

CPA Ethics Exam

A few state boards require you to prove yourself as a respectful and honorable citizen to earn an accounting license. Hence, check with your BOA for the CPA Ethics Exam accordingly.  

Most of the state boards approve the AICPA’s Professional Ethics self-study course for licensure. However, some state boards offer state-specific ethics courses or exams. 

Here are the details.

When to TakeAfter you pass the CPA ExamUsually within 2 years of passing the examWithin 1 year of purchasing the AICPA ethics material
What to Study (State-Specific)AICPA Professional Ethics Self-Study Course, orState-board specific Ethics Exam/Course
How to Study & Qualify  Sign-up for the courseGet an ethics textbookGo through the specified study materialAttend the exam
Exam Type/ Format/ Questions  Timed & open bookMCQs Online/on-paper
No. of Attempts3- 6 attempts (may vary by states)
Minimum Passing Mark90
Result TimelineOnline – Immediate ResultPen-and-Paper- email the answer sheet and wait for a few weeks

Continuing Professional Education (CPE)

Once you fulfil all the requirements and attain your CPA license, you must ensure that it stays active. For this, CPAs must undertake CPECPAs Must Undertake CPEAs a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you need to acquire Continuing Professional Education or CPE credits for sustaining your license. This ensures that you are actively involved in improving your know-how of the profession by engaging in learning more. It helps to sustain your professional expertise and industry know-how. It also enhances the quality of services rendered.

The newly licensed CPAs must comply with all applicable CPE rules and regulations of their respective state board. Typically, CPAs must indulge in learning activities and earn 40 credits every 1-3 years (varies by state). For this, they can pick a self-study course or any free and paid CPE courses provided by NASBA and AICPA.

Now that you know all about the CPA licensure requirements start prepping up NOW! Focus on your goals since the start of your college and boost your skills with time.

Once you have cleared the CPA Exam, acquire the additional education and experience requirements and take the ethics exam as soon as possible. This will help you earn the reputed title in no time and enjoy its benefit over a lifetime!

A Guide to CPA License Requirements. Here we discuss all the aspects of the CPA License Requirements that will help you earn the reputed title in no time. You may also have a look at the below articles to compare CPA with other examinations –