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As with so many good things in life, the CPA certification is not free. Even after you earn your degree, you’ll have to meet a few other CPA requirements that will cost you money, such as passing the CPA Exam. And unless you’re one of the fortunate few whose firm covers some or all of your CPA Exam costs, you’ll have to pay a handful of CPA Exam fees that will add up to 4 figures before you can say “certified”.
However, this news shouldn’t scare or frustrate you. Instead, you must keep in mind that the CPA certification is well worth every penny you spend because it pays for itself with dividends for the duration of your career. Therefore, you should use this heads-up to develop a budget that accounts for all the CPA costs you may encounter. Because you’re an accountant, I’m sure you’ll be able to adequately prepare your funds once you learn all about the cost of the CPA.
To take the U.S. CPA Exam, you’ll fund some CPA U.S.A. fees. And, you’ll send your money to some of the CPA partners that charge these CPA fees.
Together, these organizations will charge you quite a bit in CPA certification costs, but I promise they’re not trying to swindle you. They just all deserve a piece of the pie for the part they play in helping candidates earn the CPA.
How much is the CPA Exam? Well, we can only answer that question by reviewing a series of CPA Exam costs.
When you apply to take the CPA Exam, you must pay an application fee and an examination fee. Depending on your state, you may also have to pay a registration fee at some point. The boards can charge whatever they want for these fees, but 50 out of 55 adhere to NASBA’s examination fee schedule.
You must pay an initial application fee to your state board. To give you a sense of how much this fee will cost, I’ll discuss some examples.
Of the jurisdictions that follow NASBA’s fee schedule example, the application fee ranges from a mere $10 (thank you, West Virginia) to a monstrous $245 (no thank you, Montana). Of the jurisdictions that developed their own fee schedule, the lowest application fee is $150 (a tie between Oregon and the U.S. Virgin Islands). And though their application fees may be high, some of these rogue state boards actually charge lower examination fees than their NASBA-influenced counterparts.
And then, there’s Wisconsin, which is in a league of its own. Wisconsin has combined its application and examination fee to charge $412.40 for one section (slightly less than Montana) and $1,106.60 for all 4 sections (that’s entering good CPA review course territory).
This is a one-time fee, but you’ll have to pay it again if your state board rejects your application or if you let your Authorization to Test Notice (ATT) expire.
The examination fee covers the cost of sitting for each CPA Exam section. The NASBA examination fee schedule that guides the majority of state boards is:
The NASBA totals include these individual CPA test costs:
AICPA (development and scoring)
Security Fee/Digital Photograph
NASBA (database and reporting)
Only 5 state boards don’t let NASBA determine their examination fees, and for some, this considerate move saves candidates money. For others, it’s an opportunity to jack up the prices (I’m still looking at you, Wisconsin).
Also, candidates testing at international locations may have higher examination fees, depending on the jurisdiction.
Fifty-two out of 55 state boards also charge a registration fee. You’ll have to pay this CPA Exam cost if you ever need another NTS.
Thirty-seven state boards have a flat fee that candidates pay no matter how many CPA Exam sections they are scheduling. And, the range for flat registration fees is $30 to $150 (New Hampshire is literally trying to give Wisconsin a run for their money). The remaining 15 state boards have tiered CPA registration fees, the most expensive of which comes from Wisconsin (of course).
We’ll use Wisconsin’s tiered registration fee structure as an example so you know the most that you would have to pay.
I know we’ve seen a lot of dollar signs so far, but we’re not done yet. There are a few other CPA fees you’ll have to compensate for in the process of taking the CPA Exam and earning the CPA.
The CPA Exam is a long, challenging test. So, you don’t need to make it any harder on yourself by taking it on alone. Instead, to pass fast and avoid the hassle of combing through the CPA Exam Blueprints yourself, you should invest in a CPA review course. While a review course will cost you up front, it will save you time and money in the long run by helping you avoid CPA Exam section fails.
You’ll find many different CPA review courses on the market, with prices just shy of $1,000 to well over $3,000. And if you’ll be footing the bill, you don’t want to pay any more than you have to. But no matter who’s paying your CPA course fees, you must remember that a CPA review course is not a splurge: it’s essential. So, knowing that self-study CPA review courses can offer as much if not more value than live courses for much less, you should base your purchase decision on your preferred learning style and the quality of the course.
Even if your firm provides free study materials, you should do your research to make sure that you’ll get the right CPA Exam prep for you. Your company will probably pay for whichever course you prefer, so take the time to shop around and let them know if you’d like to switch to something more capable of guaranteeing your CPA Exam success.
And then, when you’re ready to purchase your CPA review course, look for CPA review discounts so you can save some money. If you’re relying on your own personal CPA budget, then you can really benefit from CPA review discount links and promo codes. But, your firm will also appreciate it if you find them a way to keep some cash. So, don’t forget to take advantage of my great offers on popular courses such as Wiley CPAexcel, Becker CPA Review, Gleim CPA Review, Roger CPA Review, Surgent CPA Review, NINJA CPA Review, Yaeger CPA Review, and others before you start your CPA Exam studies.
Most state boards require CPA candidates to have 120 credit hours of education in order to sit for the CPA Exam. If you need to take some additional accounting courses to meet this CPA education requirement, you’ll have to spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. ‘Cause college just ain’t as cheap as it used to be.
To complete the CPA Exam qualification process, international candidates must have a foreign credential evaluation agency evaluate their transcripts. Prices for this service range from $85-$550 depending on how quickly you need the evaluation completed.
If the Prometric center where you’ll test isn’t just right up the road, then you’ll need to allow for all kinds of travel and accommodation expenses. For international and out-of-state candidates, these CPA Exam costs could include airplane tickets, bus tickets, taxis, hotel rooms, and meals. Plan to shell out big bucks for all that.
To ensure that you’re an honest and respectable person, 35 of the state boards require you to pass a CPA ethics exam along with the CPA Exam, because practice testing makes perfect. Twenty-six of these state boards use the AICPA’s Professional Ethics course to fulfill this requirement, and that course costs $149 for AICPA members and $189 for non-members.
Once you pass the CPA Exam and meet the remaining CPA requirements, you’ll have accomplished and paid for so much. But, to prove that you really, really want to be legally considered a CPA, you’ll also have to pay for the CPA license. As always, the price varies based on the state in which you register, but you’ll probably pay between $50-$500.
As a CPA, you can’t let everything you learned for your education and exam requirements slip away. And, you’ve got to stay up to date with the latest changes in the industry. Insert CPE or continuing education. I feel like a broken record saying this, but once again, how much CPE you need will depend on your state. Most states require you to complete 40 hours of CPE a year, and one credit hour of CPE can cost anywhere from $20 to $125. You do the math.
Now, we can get to the grand total for your CPA Exam fees as part of your CPA costs. Check out these final figures:
CPA Fee Structure
CPA Price Without a Section Retake
Price With a Section Retake
Registration Fee + Examination Fee
$75 + $208.40
So, is the CPA certification the most expensive accounting certification? No, but the cost of the CPA is up there.
The CPA Exam fees definitely come to more than the CIA exam fees, the CMA exam fees, and the EA exam fees. One of the only other accounting certifications to put up similar costs is the CFA exam. But the many benefits of the CPA, such as the CPA salary, will more than compensate you for your financial investment, so you shouldn’t let the CPA Exam price deter your dreams of becoming a CPA.
In the process of meeting the other requirements and maintaining the license, you’ll incur additional CPA certification costs along the way. However, you can take a few steps to cut your CPA Exam costs before you get started.
As you can see in the table, one of these steps is to pass each section the first time. Another good move would be to learn everything you can about the exam so you have the knowledge you need to save money. So, to discover all the details about the exam and how to pass the first time, take my free CPA course. Remember, “free” means it won’t cost you anything, so sign up below!
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try.Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight.Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!