The US CPA Exam Requirements are rather confusing in a way that the CPA certificates / licenses are granted by individual states and jurisdiction rather than the US as a whole.
If you are planning to work as an auditor or other capacity in a public accounting firm, then you should go straight to the state where you plan to work for the registration (the information and contact for each state board is listed below).
However, if you want to become a CPA for enhancing your credentials only (e.g. you work in finance and accounting department of a corporation, or in the banking / consulting field), the slightly different requirements actually allow candidates to choose a state that fits their education or working experience.
I am going to guide you through the entire process by asking a series of questions.
If you have specific queries please feel to drop a note in the comment section at the bottom of this article and I will try my best to address any questions that you may have.
First Question: Are You A “Conventional” Candidate?
That is, are you:
- A US citizen;
- In the accounting concentration;
- Studying in a US accredited college or university;
- Working towards a 150-semester hour degree program or a Master degree in accounting, taxation or business administration;
- You will be 21 or over by the time you sit for your CPA Exam; and
- You plan to work in public accounting (i.e. working in an accounting firm) after graduation.
If the answer is YES to all…
You are qualified in almost all states, but you should register in the state where you plan to work as a public accountant. You can now go directly to your state for details:
If the answer is NO
No worries, as there are lots of way to work around it. Please see if any of the following applies:
- You can’t fulfill the 150 hour rule
- You are not an accounting major
- You don’t plan to work in public accounting after passing your CPA exam
- You are not a US citizen
- You fulfill all the CPA educational requirements before the age of 21
How to Pick A State And The Respective CPA Exam Requirements
Can’t wait to start your career? Here are the states that don’t require the 150 semester hours:
The catch is, the state boards may ask for more or stricter working experience in the (public) accounting field:
- California: 2 year of general accounting experience for those without the full 150 credit hours
- Colorado: 1 year of strictly public accounting experience AND under direct supervision of an active CPA licensee
- Delaware: 2 years of general accounting experience for Bachelor degree holders; 4 years of experience for Associate degree holders
- New Hampshire: 1-2 years of strictly public accounting experience AND under direct supervision of an active CPA licensee
- Vermont: 2 years of public accounting experience or equivalent for Bachelor degree holders
You can try to make up the credit hours by taking extra courses at any accredited college and universities. Here is a guide on how you can get the extra credits for the CPA exam requirements.
The best way to approach this is to take a-la-carte accounting classes in accredited educational institutions. There are many courses available either online or offline but please do check with the institution to see if their courses are qualified for your preferred state.
The State Board may ask your transcript to be evaluated by an approved evaluation agency. Different state has a different approval list so it is best if you can go to their website to get the details. I have listed the State Board’s website and contact numbers in the respective posts (see the links above for each state).
In other words, you may have difficulty fulfilling the working experience requirement.
The State Boards generally require 1-2 accounting working experience before you can get the full CPA license. There are, however, certain states that do not require any working experience as long as you are going for only the CPA certificate (vs license), or that you fulfill a higher level of education requirement.
(i) No experience required:
- Colorado (if fulfill 150 credit hours), Illinois (need 150 hours), Massachusetts (if graduate degree)
(ii) 1 year of experience:
- Connecticut, Colorado (if <150 credit hours), Washington DC, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania (if fulfill 150 credit hours or masters), Texas, Vermont (if fulfill 150 credit hours or masters)
(iii) 2 years of experience:
- California (if < 150 credit hours), Georgia (public accounting only), Indiana, Maine (public accounting only), Pennsylvania (if <150 credit hours), Vermont (if <150 credit hours)
(iv) More than 2 years of experience:
- Delaware (4 years if associate degree)
- Georgia (5 years if non-public accounting)
- Related working experience is defined differently in different states. Some demand only public accounting experience (which largely means auditing) but some are fine with non-public accounting experience
- The experience has to be verified by an active CPA license holder (CPA certificate holder doesn’t count)
- Some states required CPA candidates to work under direct supervision of a CPA license holder.
This is simple. Avoid the following states where CPA certificate or license is granted to US citizens only:
- Alabama | North Carolina
Also, please beware of the following states where the certs are granted to their local residents only. The way they define “residency” is different — if it happens to be the state of your choice, please click below and find out the details.
- Arkansas | Idaho | Kansas | Louisiana | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Nebraska | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island
Finally, please note that these 3 jurisdictions have specific requirements on citizenship and/or residency:
- Guam | Puerto Rico | Virgin Islands
I guess this is not the problem for the vast majority of candidates, but if you are super-kid, please check out the following:
(i) States with minimum age requirement of 18:
- Arizona | Delaware | Washington DC | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Kentucky | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Minnesota | New Jersey | New Mexico | North Carolina | Ohio | Pennsylvania | South Carolina | Wisconsin | Wyoming
(ii) States with minimum age requirement of 19:
- Alabama | Alaska
(iii) States with minimum age requirement of 21:
- New Hampshire | Missouri | Puerto Rico | Virgin Islands
The rest of the states have no minimum age requirements.
Would You Like To Learn About How To Apply?
For quick questions and comments, you can always drop me a note over at my Facebook page.
If you are getting serious in getting the CPA qualification, I have two mini-courses designed for candidates with different background:
For US candidates (US citizens/residents with US degrees, living or working in the US) who want to learn about how to study for the CPA exam, please click on this US flag.
For other candidates who wants to learn about how to pick the right state and how to apply, please click on the United Nations flag.
* Photograph courtesy of Loving Earth @ flick via Creative Commons