What To Do After Passing the CPA Exam
The “Four Es” to becoming a licensed CPA are “Education, Experience, Ethics and Exam.” Now that you checked “Pass the CPA exam” off your list and fulfilled the requirements to get this far, it’s time to complete the other three “Es” as they apply to licensure before landing your first official job as an accountant.
Education: How Many Hours To Become A CPA
Many states require at least a bachelor’s degree to sit for the CPA exam, but 150 credit hours – an additional 30 hours – are typically needed to become a certified CPA. The requirements vary somewhat from one state to another but can be found at each state’s Board of Accountancy (BOA) and may include:
- Specific coursework, primarily in Accounting and Business
- A grade of C or higher in Accounting and Business classes
- A professional review of coursework for foreign applicants
The Goal Posts May Have Moved – But You Can Get There!
Most states and territories have adopted the 150-hour requirement, according to the AICPA, due to “Significant increases in official accounting and auditing pronouncements and the proliferation of new tax laws.” Increased expectations of employers and the complexity of business practices have also raised the standard, making a bachelor’s degree alone inadequate preparation for CPAs entering the field.
Experience: How Much Accounting Work Experience Is Necessary?
Typically, 1 –2 years of working under the supervision of a CPA is required to obtain a CPA license, but the type of work required may include public accounting, experience in a governmental agency, taxation or auditing. Some states allow self-employment and part-time work to be used to meet the “experience” requirement.
Additional CPA Experience Details Include:
- The experience may be acquired before, during or after passing the CPA Exam.
- Some states establish a time period in which the work experience must be completed.
- Part-time hours can be accumulated to meet the total required hours of experience.
- Hours worked in a different state or country may also count.
Ethics: Are You The Right Fit For the Career?
Some states require an ethics exam, specific college classes that meet the ethics requirement or other proof of being an upstanding citizen. In addition, a CPA must practice in accordance with established rules of professional conduct.
What Comes After the “Four Es?”
Many resources and opportunities are available through memberships in organizations such as:
- The AICPA:
A Student Affiliate Membership or Exam Candidate Affiliate Membership can be obtained prior to taking the CPA Exam to enjoy benefits including scholarship opportunities, discounts, industry-related information and more. An Associate Membership is available for those who have passed the CPA exam but have not yet been licensed, and, of course, a Regular Membership is available for CPAs “in good standing”.
- State CPA Societies:
Whereas the AICPA is a national society, each state has a CPA society with resources and information pertinent to that state, including many continuing education opportunities.
In general, a CPA is required to meet the licensing requirements in the state in which he or she will practice, but special rules apply to foreign CPA license applicants. In addition, mobility privileges often allow CPAs to practice in other states without the need of obtaining a license in those states.
Maintaining Your License
Ongoing learning in the form of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) classes and training programs are offered at many colleges, are held at businesses and are available via CPA Societies – such as self-study courses offered by the AICPA. Typically states require 40 hours of CPE per year, and the topics and coursework differ by state, by type of employment and more. In many cases, the CPE required classes are designed to keep CPAs current on updates pertinent to their field of practice such as changes in regulations, ethical practices, tax laws, and technology.
Combining different fields of study to develop a specialization is a great step to improving your marketability as a career candidate and boost your salary. Do you work in public or private accounting? Are you more interested in government, industry or non-profit? Should you combine Accounting with IT, business management or another degree? What size business or organization suits you, or would you like to set up your own firm? The AICPA has a great tool to help navigate the many career choices available to CPAs.
For Those Who Haven’t Passed Yet
Would you like help passing the CPA Exam, or do have more questions about CPA licensure? Check out the resources at “Your Path To CPA Licensure” at MDS CPA Review and get free access to the student resources here.