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Things to Consider Before Sitting for the CPA Exam

Written by AnonymousJune 3, 2011

Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) has many benefits. For starters, this credential is required to become a partner at a CPA firm, to start your own firm, or to become an internal auditor. Next, it’s illegal to use the CPA designation if you haven’t passed the CPA exam and paid for (and received) your license. Finally, without the CPA credential, advancement opportunities are limited. As an accountant, you’ll be limited to entry to mid-level positions. In many cases, you’ll have to work under the supervision of a CPA.  

CPA licenses attest to the competence of the licensees. By passing the CPA exam, CPAs have demonstrated their knowledge of accounting principles and practices, including current state and federal laws and regulations. (CPA licenses are issued in all states.)

Before sitting for the exam, there are several things to consider:

Boards of Accountancy expectations. One of the main concerns of accountancy boards is the moral character of the individuals that sit for the exam. Boards judge moral character by performing a criminal background check and checking the status of other professional licenses. Denial of examination privileges for other licenses will be considered as well. Many boards also require applicants to submit certificates of good moral character from people that aren’t related to them.

Education requirements. A bachelor’s degree is required to sit for the CPA exam. A degree in accounting or business with an accounting focus will help you satisfy the requirements to sit for the exam. In most states, 24 semester hours must be in accounting and 24 must be in business-related courses.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework. This is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor's degree. California, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the only States that don’t require 150 semester hours for certification.

Experience requirements. Work experience is required to sit for the CPA exam, but not just any work experience. State accountancy boards require at least one continuous year of experience working under a CPA or with a relevant employer. Your employer(s) will be required to sign an experience affidavit.

Application and exam fees. Sitting for the exam isn’t free. Most states charge exam fees according to the fee schedule set by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). The exam fee covers computer seat time, grading, and security measures. Single section fees are:

  • Auditing (AUD): $392.25
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC): $185.30
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR): $207.15

Single section fees are effective as of December 4, 2010. Check NASBA.org for updates. In addition to the exam fee, you’ll have to pay an application fee. Fees vary greatly from state to state and range from $30 to $200.

Your CPA license must be renewed every two to three years and continuing education is required to maintain it. Most states require 40 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) per year. At least 10 percent of all required CPE hours must be in accounting and/or auditing.