I did not get my degree in the US. How do I know if my coursework fit the educational requirements?”
For the CPA exam, a bachelor degree in a 4-year university is the minimum requirement to sit for the exam.
For international students, this can be tricky as they aren’t sure whether the degree from their local countries are qualified. Solution: foreign credential evaluation agencies that specialize in evaluating your transcripts on behalf of the state boards.
Here is an overview on what evaluators do and how to pick the right one for your application.
Note: Illinois and Texas state boards evaluate the transcript themselves (both domestic and foreign). Candidates from these two states do not need to go through these third-party evaluation agencies.
For those who slower internet connection or prefer to reading vs watching to get the information, here is the text version with links on the foreign credential evaluation agencies.
How to Select Foreign Credential Evaluation Agencies
Before you contact an evaluation agency, you need to select the state in which to register for your exam. There are two reasons:
- Each state has its own list of approved evaluation agencies — you don’t want to pay for a report that is not recognized by the board.
- Each state board has slightly different qualifying rules. Therefore, the agency needs to know which rules to apply to when reviewing your transcripts.
Once you settle on a state and get the list of approved agencies, you can pick one based on:
- Evaluation fee
- Turnaround time
1. Evaluation Fee
The fee ranges from $100 to $300 — price difference is generally correlated to turnaround time. For example, FACS is one of the most affordable agency charging $100 for most states, but it takes 4-8 weeks with no rush service.
State boards generally require a “course-by-course” evaluation. This is different from the “general evaluation” that some agencies are offering. You need to read the fee schedule carefully when comparing the fees.
They may also have rush services available but expect to add at least $100 to the price tag. With proper planning, you can usually avoid to pay this extra cost.
2. Turnaround Time
The number of days required to produce a report also varies considerably. Most agencies have a 2 week turnaround time, but can vary from 5 business days to 8+ weeks.
The evaluation process is both an art and a science. Some evaluators can possibly give you more credit hours than the others.
Having said that, the evaluation result should not be substantially different as evaluators run the risk of getting disqualified by the state boards. Because of this, I personally do not recommend an agency based on how “lenient” it interprets your transcripts.
I do recommend agencies that have better customer service, because a friendly evaluator makes your life much easier during the exam application process. I ran a little experience and you can take a look at my findings at the end of this post.
Tips on Foreign Credential Evaluation Process
1. Submitting The Documents
Most evaluation agencies require the candidates to send in the original or official transcript . By original, it refers to the copy issued by your school that is sent to you in a sealed envelope; by official, it means a copy (either the original or certified copy) sent directly from your school to the agency.
In most cases, this requirement is set by the state board. For example, California state board asks the evaluators to issue report only if the candidate supplies the original copy.
I understand that in some countries it is impossible to have the school sent an extra copy for this purpose. In this case, customer service is very important because a good evaluator can suggest a way to work around this issue instead of insisting on getting what is officially required.
Special note: if your current name is different from the name on the transcript (e.g. maiden name), then you need supporting document to show the reason of name change, e.g. a marriage certificate.
2. Translation of Documents
If your transcript is issued in a language other than English, a word-for-word translation is required.
You can explore whether there is an in-house translation service at the evaluation agency. If not, you can either get it translated by an official/governmental agency (as in China), or you can contact a translation service that is a member of American Translators Association (ATA).
3. Extra information to expedite the process
Another thing to help the agency is to send in your course outline/syllabus so that the agency has full information on the content of your qualifications.
4. Estimating the Turnaround Time
I list out the estimated turnaround time for each foreign credential evaluation agency below (click on the links for details). Please note that the time counts only when you have submitted all the required documents.
For rush service, it is counted in business days. For example, a 2-day rush service is 2 business days.
5. Tracking The Progress
Some evaluation agencies have a convenient online tracking system, while others may have an email notification service whenever your application is moved to the next stage. A few have no updates and you have to call them to check. You may take this into consideration if it is important for you keep track of the progress.
What if I Don’t Know Which State to Register?
NASBA International Evaluation Service (NIES) offers an “UNDECIDED STATE EVALUATION” that helps you identify qualifying states based on your education.
Please note that NIES’ suggestion does not take experience requirement in the consideration, so think through carefully whether you can fulfill the experience requirement (now or at a later date) before registration.
You may also want to chat with Leslie-Anne Rogers, who specializes in the CPA exam qualification service for more than 15 years.
List of Evaluation Agencies
I mentioned about a little experiment I ran on these agencies. This is what I did: I sent out the same email message to all evaluators and asked them 2 questions on behalf of the candidates. I recorded the time as well as the detailness/ usefulness of the reply.
Prompt and Personal Reply
Evaluators accepting attested / certified photocopies of transcripts:
- Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI)
- Education Evaluators International (EEI)
- Educational Perspectives
- Education Records Evaluation Service (ERES)
- Foundation for International Services (FIS)
- EDUCES (Global Education Credential Evaluation Service)
- SpanTran Evaluation Services
Evaluators accepting original and/or official transcripts only:
- A2Z Evaluations
- Academic & Credential Records Evaluation & Verification Service (ACREVS)
- American Education Research Corporation (AERC)
- Academic Records Evaluation Center (AREC)
- Center for Educational Documentation (CED)
- Global Education Group (GEG)
- International Education Research Foundation (IERF)
- Center for Applied Research, Evaluation and Education (IESCAREE)
- Josef Silny & Associates (JS&A)
- NASBA International Evaluation Services (NIES)
Prompt but Generic Reply
- Academic Evaluation Services (AES)
- Academic and Professional International Evaluation (APIE)
- Foreign Academic Credential Service (FACS)
- Foreign Credentials Service of America (FCSA)
- World Education Services (WES)
Slow Reply / Hard To Reach
Either no reply after follow-up email, or email address not available
- Foreign Credential Evaluator
- Foreign Educational Document Service
- Foreign Transcript Evaluation Service
No Longer Offer Service For CPA Exam / Licensing Application
- Education International
- Evaluation Service Inc (ESI)
Please note that this list is based on my own experiment only, and I am always collecting more data points from readers to improve my analysis.