California is the most popular state to register for the US CPA exam, representing 15% of total candidates.
Since Jan 1, 2014, the state board’s rules have changed such that 150 credit hours and accounting concentration are required to obtain the California CPA license.
California strictly requires a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for the CPA license. For those who are not familiar with SSN, it is a government issued ID given only to US citizens, residents, and those allowed to study or work in the US.
What’s confusing is that California does allow candidates with SSN to sit for the exam, so technically, you can still apply and think about transferring your exam credits to other states. However, I strongly recommend you try another state because there is a lot of risk in the transfer. You can check out this page for state boards popular to international candidates.
(i) General Educational Requirement
* You need to ask your school to send (1) your current transcript; (2) a letter from the registrar stating that you are enrolled in a master’s/150-credit-hour program, that you have already fulfilled the bachelor portion of this program, and the date you are expecting to complete all courses.
(ii) Accounting Courses
(iii) Business Related Courses
California state board does NOT consider ACCA membership (and professional qualifications other than these) equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. However, it *may* count some coursework towards the 150 credit hour requirement. There are many factors involved, including when you took the ACCA courses.
California State Board (CBA) is kind enough to clarify the situation upon my email inquiry (Aug 2012):
We will consider coursework from the ACCA, to the extent that the ACCA program is equivalent to coursework for academic credit at a U.S. nationally or regionally accredited degree granting institution. However, the ACCA syllabus itself is subject to change over time.”
The only way to find out for sure is to obtain a foreign credential evaluation report from agencies accepted by CBA.
BCOM + CA Holders
Here is CBA’s reply regarding the CA certificate:
In response to your question, the evaluation of foreign education is conducted by a case-by-case basis and the CBA relies heavily on the U.S. equivalency determinations made by the CBA-approved foreign credential evaluation services. If a candidate has a question regarding the U.S. equivalency of specific education they should be advised to contact one of the CBA-approved services. The CBA does not provide a blanket acceptance of any education.”
In other words, you have to go through the evaluation agencies to find out. For next step, you have two choices:
Apart from the 24 accounting credits and 24 business course credits, you need the following additional courses for the license:
a) Accounting Study Subjects
b) Ethics Study
The state board does not have pre-evaluation service, but they provide this self-assessment worksheet to determine your eligibility for the California CPA license.
150 credit hours + 1 year of experience is the only way to get the license effective Jan 1, 2014.
(i) Experience from public accounting
Here is a useful piece of information from reader Natasha if you obtain the experience outside of the US:
The only other thing that I noticed is that when the licensing procedure is proceeding, at certain point of time, the Board will require the candidate to present in front of the board (I think they use the words “appearance before the CPA Qualification Committee (QC)”) if the working experience is acquired outside of the US.”
(ii) Experience from non-public accounting / private industries
(iii) Special Note to Out-of-State Supervisor License Verifications
If your experience is obtained outside of California, the state board requires written verification from the out-of-state licensing body with which the supervisor holds a valid active license to practice public accountancy.
*Launched in Apr 2016* The NASBA Experience Verification service is now available to those who do not have access to an active U.S. CPA for verification.
The CA State Board only accepts the Professional Ethics for CPAs (PETH) from the California CPA Education Foundation. The exam has to be taken within 2 years after the submission of the license application.
Non-US citizens and residents are welcome to apply. There is no minimum age requirement.
Social security number or ITIN is not required to sit for the exam, but mandatory to obtain the license.
* There is a temporary fee reduction from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2016.
CPE required for license holders. Click here for California CPA CPE requirements.
Almost all the information on this page is extracted from these very useful and informative handbooks prepared by California State Board:
California Board of Accountancy
2000 Evergreen Street, Suite 250
Sacramento, CA 95815-3832
The CPA exam requirements can be overwhelming especially if you are not a “typical” candidate. I encourage that you read these posts for background information
Once you have made up your mind to take the CPA exam, you are most welcome to join our community by signing up to my free course. I talk about the procedure, pass rates, review courses, strategies for each exam sessions and other tips to help you pass on your first attempt.
I have two versions designed for candidates with different background:
|For US Candidates
(Those with US degrees, or
graduate/live/work in the US)
|For Intl Candidates
(Those who study abroad, or
graduate/live/work outside of the US)
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites
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