What are the CPA Exam requirement exemptions? And how can you qualify for CPA USA exemptions? Many financial professionals have multiple qualifications and credentials. It’s not uncommon, for example, to pursue a CPA plus another certification like the CMA or CFA®. And I often receive questions about CPA exemptions for ACCA and CIMA members, too. Therefore, I’m sharing this guide for all CPA exemptions.
My readers frequently ask me, “Can I use my existing qualification to get waivers and exemptions for the CPA Exam?” For example, if you want to do the CPA after ACCA, can you take any shortcuts? Although the availability of CPA exemptions is limited, I’m here to answer your questions. Therefore, this article will give you some advice to follow on the few available CPA USA exemptions, such as the availability of the IQEX Exam for some candidates.
(And please note that this article is about the US CPA Exam and not the CPA Canada designation.)
The CPA credential is granted by the 55 Boards of Accountancy in the United States (one in each state and territory). Although the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) and NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) assist in writing, administering, and scoring the CPA Exam, the State Boards set the CPA license requirements in their jurisdiction. So, it’s up to the State Boards to make decisions about CPA exemptions.
Most State Boards have stopped giving exemptions to future CPAs with other professional qualifications. Therefore, CPA USA exemptions are becoming harder to come by. This includes CPA exemptions for ACCA holders and CAs in countries such as India and Pakistan. Still, if you have certain qualifications, you may be able to take a shorter version of the CPA Exam. Plus, if you already have another advanced accounting certification, you may be well on your way to meeting the CPA work obligations and education requirements.
If you are a member of certain accounting bodies that have signed reciprocal agreements with their US counterparts, you could meet certain CPA exemption criteria. Members of these accounting bodies can take a much-shortened version of the CPA Exam, known as the IQEX.
The IQEX, or International Qualification Examination, is an exam for members of international accounting associations who wish to gain the USA CPA credential. It only covers concepts specifically related to accounting practices and standards in the United States. The IQEX is the same as the Regulation section of the Uniform CPA Exam, which is 1 of 4 sections that all other candidates must pass to become a CPA.
If you are a member of the following accounting bodies, you could be eligible for the CPA Exam exemptions and take the IQEX instead:
Please proceed to my IQEX page for further details if you are a member.
Otherwise, follow the standard procedure to meet the educational, exam, and experience requirements of the CPA certification.
Many accounting certifications have an academic component to them. That is, they expect their candidates to have certain degrees or a certain number of higher education credits. For the CPA, most State Boards require at least 150 hours of college courses (basically, a U.S. master’s degree) to take the exam and 150 hours to get your CPA license. Therefore, you need 150 credit hours to sit for the CPA Exam and become licensed in virtually every CPA jurisdiction.
So, even if you have another credential that includes an educational course as part of the overall path to that designation (like a CA), your State Board might not count those hours toward your CPA education requirements. Many State Boards have started to consider certain education hours in these types of credential-based learning courses as an “experience qualification” rather than an “education qualification.”
But in a few cases, you *may* still get accounting credits recognized. I’ve listed some examples below.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants awards the ACCA designation. Once you enroll in the ACCA program, you must pass up to 13 exams to get the designation. However, depending on your work and education history, you can use the ACCA exemption calculator to determine if you’re exempt from any of these 13 exams.
In the past, the California State Board, or CBA, sometimes accepted ACCA coursework as part of their CPA educational requirements. However, as of January 1, 2017, CBA requires CPA candidates to have 150 hours of higher education. CBA does not consider ACCA membership equal to a bachelor’s degree. But if you hold an ACCA, some of your coursework might count toward the 150 hours you’ll need for the CPA license. Because the ACCA syllabus has changed over the years, you may or may not have your ACCA courses counted depending on when you took the ACCA exam. The only way to find out if you’re eligible for ACCA exemptions for the CPA USA is to get a credential evaluation report. (An ACCA exemptions calculator won’t help you here—you need an evaluation report.)
In the past, I also heard that Alaska might have granted some ACCA exemptions for CPA candidates and accepted an ACCA credential as extra accounting credit hours toward the education requirement. However, I read through the Alaska CPA regulations, and I cannot verify this with the state board. According to Alaska’s regulations, all CPA candidates must have a bachelor’s degree (or an equivalent) and 150 hours of education credits with a concentration in accounting. Plus, the regulations clearly state that all applicants must pass the Uniform CPA Exam and do not mention any AICPA exemptions for taking the exam.
Please directly contact the state board and provide your personal information to determine a possible Alaska CPA exemption for ACCA holders.
In any case, it doesn’t seem that any state boards will consider CPA exemptions for ACCA coursework to be equivalent to a 4-year bachelor’s degree. And it’s unlikely that you’ll get any CPA USA exemptions for the ACCA qualification. In other words, if you have a 3-year bachelor’s degree for your ACCA credential, you may still need another degree to take the CPA Exam and become licensed.
Unlike the lack of CPA exemptions for ACCA, there can be CMA USA exemptions for ACCA members. In particular, ACCA members do not need to meet the CMA education requirements.
However, I don’t know of any CFA exemptions for ACCA members if you’re pursuing the Chartered Financial Analyst credential.
The Indian Chartered Accountant credential, or CA, is a popular designation for accounting professionals living and working in India. However, it’s not uncommon for CA holders to pursue the CPA, too, depending on their career path. There can be several advantages to pursuing both the CA and CPA.
So, can you get an exemption in CPA after the CA? A few state boards (e.g., Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Maine, Montana) used to give credits to Indian CA certificates as fulfilling part of the educational requirements for the CPA license. But as far as I know, all state boards have stopped giving CPA exemptions for CA holders. Put another way, the CPA USA exemptions for the CA India no longer exist. Likewise, candidates cannot receive CPA USA exemptions for the CA Pakistan, either.
A reader once told me that Virginia gave her credit for her CA certificate. However, I don’t see anything in the Virginia Board of Accountancy regulations that would allow that. Understandably, the state board cannot give me a blanket answer, but you may contact the VA state board about any possible CPA exemption for CA holders. Please note that the Virginia state board strictly requires a social security number to get the CPA license, an issue for international candidates.
Here’s a rundown of other potential CPA Exam exemptions.
The CMA, or Certified Management Accountant, is a popular certification because it is considered the gold standard in management accounting. But what’s the process for the CPA after CMA? Well, unfortunately, there aren’t any CPA exemptions for CMA holders.
To be specific, since 2010, the IMA, the administrator of the CMA exam, has stopped allowing candidates to claim any CMA CPA exemption for those who already have a CPA license.
In fact, the IMA only allows one CMA USA exemption. CMA candidates need a bachelor’s degree, but this education requirement is waived for candidates who are already members of the ACCA. And no other ACCA exemptions for CMA candidates are available.
Sometimes, accounting professionals pursue the CPA in addition to the CFA, or the Chartered Financial Analyst credential from the CFA Institute. However, they definitely have different focuses. The CPA is considered the “black belt” in accounting, but the CFA is the gold standard in finance and investments.
Similar to the CMA credential, I have not identified any exemptions given for CFA coursework. Therefore, CFA exam exemptions do not exist for the CPA Exam.
It’s not unusual for accountants to consider the CPA vs the CIA (Certified Internal Auditor). The CIA certification is the only globally recognized internal audit credential, so it proves you belong to a distinguished group of auditors with a high level of skills.
The level of entry for the CIA exam is a little easier than the CPA exam since candidates only need an associate’s degree or higher for the CIA program. The CPA designation, by contrast, requires 150 hours of higher education (basically a master’s).
Furthermore, CIA exemptions for CPA candidates are not available, and vice versa. That is, if you’re already a CIA, you’ll still need to meet all of the CPA work, exam, and education requirements.
I have a little good news, though, if you’re a CPA wanting to pursue the CIA. If you are a CPA, then you probably have a master’s degree or at least a bachelor’s and extra coursework. Therefore, you’ve already met the CIA education requirements. Now, you just need to pass the exam and make sure your work history lines up with the CIA requirements.
If you earn your CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants), you join an elite cohort of globally recognized management accountants. Although the CMA is more common in the US, the CIMA qualification is more sought-after in the UK and the commonwealth countries. Candidates must pass a series of CIMA exams, which have higher pass rates than the CPA Exam.
However, if you already have a CIMA certification, unfortunately, you don’t qualify for any CIMA exemptions for the CPA Exam. That is, the AICPA and the 55 Boards of Accountancy don’t recognize any CPA USA exemptions for CIMA holders.
Furthermore, the CMA is awarded by the IMA (Institute of Management Accountants), which has a strong relationship with the ACCA. And although there aren’t CPA America exemptions for ACCA members, an agreement between the IMA and the ACCA allows ACCA members to automatically qualify to take the CMA exam. However, if you’re part of the ACCA, you’ll have to meet the education and work benchmarks and take the CPA Exam to become a Certified Public Accountant. (It’s hard to keep all of these abbreviations straight!)
Just like many other professional qualifications that lack a CPA accountants exemption, you don’t qualify for any CPA exemptions if you have your MBA. Still, it’s possible that much of your MBA coursework will meet the CPA education requirements.
Technically speaking, in this article, I’m talking about exam exemptions and not so much about work experience waivers. But if you are looking for ways to avoid the working experience requirements, there’s at least one jurisdiction for your consideration. Most states expect CPA candidates to have 1 or more years of relevant professional experience. Plus, that experience must be verified—or sometimes even directly supervised—by an active CPA. But Guam is an exception.
Guam has a state board of accountancy that offers both an “active” and “inactive” license. You don’t need to accumulate experience to obtain an inactive license. Of course, keep in mind that an inactive license restricts your professional abilities and you may need an active one to land the job you want.
Massachusetts used to offer a “non-reporting” license. Consequently, you didn’t need experience for this license if you had a graduate degree. However, the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy stopped granting the non-reporting license as of May 19, 2017.
No. There is no ACCA exemption for CPA candidates. So to do the CPA after ACCA, ACCA members must take all four sections of the CPA Exam to earn the credential.
You can absolutely do the CPA USA after the ACCA credential despite the lack of CPA USA exemptions for ACCA. But depending on your career goals and where you plan to work, you might not need both credentials.
And keep in mind that without exemptions in CPA after ACCA, ACCA holders still have to meet the education, work, and exam requirements of the CPA license. Even if you have the right number of education hours and can have your relevant experience properly verified, you’ll still have to take the CPA Exam. So, an ACCA to CPA USA route may or may not be worth it for you because of the lack of exam exemptions.
Although the California Board of Accountancy gives not give any special exemptions for the CPA Exam, it does sometimes grant exemptions for CPA CPE (continuing professional education) in cases of emergencies or active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces. The California CPA exemptions for CPE requirements are available on the board’s website.
Are CPAs exempt from courses required for the CFA credential? No. You cannot receive any CPA Exam exemptions for holding the CFA credential. And since CPA exemptions for CFA candidates aren’t available, you’ll have to meet all of the CFA requirements.
Yes. In fact, some CMAs get the CPA to further widen their career opportunities. But again, you still must meet all of the requirements for the CPA license; you won’t get any exam exemptions if you are a CMA holder.
The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, or IFoA, grants some exceptions to its requirements for the actuary exam for holders of certain accounting credentials. However, IFoA does not have an agreement with the AICPA, NASBA, or any of the state boards of accountancy. Therefore, CPAs are not exempt from the IFoA actuary exam.
The Society of Actuaries does offer some exemptions for their exams if you have a credential from certain professional bodies. However, SOA does not have partnerships with the bodies that grant the CPA license. So generally, CPAs are not exempt from the SOA exam.
No. You don’t get any CPA exam exemptions if you have a Master’s of Business Administration.
Plus, if you have an MBA, you should double-check your academic courses against the education requirements for your state. Some state boards want a certain number of hours in accounting and related courses. Depending on your MBA program, you might need to take a few more accounting classes.
CIMA, or the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, grants several credentials like the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (Cert BA) and the CIMA Professional Qualification. Since 2021, CIMA has been offering the CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant) designation in partnership with the AICPA. However, despite this partnership, there are still no exemptions between the CIMA and CPA USA. That is, you cannot convert a CIMA to a CPA USA.
So if you hold a CIMA credential and want to pursue the CPA, you’ll still need to take the CPA Exam and meet the education requirements. You won’t be eligible for a CPA Exam experience exemption, either.
No. There is no CPA Exam exemption for holders of the CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) credential from the Institute of Internal Auditors.
The Institute of Certified Management Accountants, or ICMA, has decided to give some exemptions to CMA candidates who are already members of the ACCA. Usually, CMA candidates must have a bachelor’s degree. However, if you are an ACCA member, the ICMA will waive that requirement.
The CPA designation has the highest standard in educational requirements. And really, CPAs are proud of their educational achievements. Therefore, it is best to live up to this standard by fulfilling the requirements and passing the CPA Exam. In order to do that, a good understanding of the rules is essential. Here are some articles for your further reading:
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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!