Now that you’re ready to pursue licensure for the highly respected Certified Public Accountant credential, there are two key components that you must complete: apply for and pass the CPA exam and apply for CPA licensure. Some mistakenly assume that these are one and the same, however applying to take the exam and applying for licensure are two distinct processes that are governed independently.
What Organizations Are Involved in the CPA Exam and CPA Licensure?
Navigating through the steps required to sit for the CPA exam and apply for CPA licensure in 2015 can be complicated, so it’s helpful to first acquaint yourself with the various boards, agencies, and organizations involved in the process.
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA): developed the CPA exam and is responsible for its content and scoring.
- National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA): the membership association of boards of accountancy. For the Uniform CPA Examination, NASBA acts as the central clearinghouse in the CPA exam process.
- State Boards of Accountancy: each of the 55 US jurisdictions, which include the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, has its own board of accountancy. Each board sets its own exam and licensure eligibility requirements, required forms, deadlines, and fees for each jurisdiction and has the statutory authority to grant CPA licensure.
- Prometric: handles exam registration, scheduling, administration of the exam itself and runs all authorized testing centers. Are not responsible for the dispersion of the license.
Applying to Take the CPA Exam
In order to apply to take the Uniform CPA Examination, candidates must meet all CPA Exam eligibility requirements established by the applicable board of accountancy in their jurisdiction.
Once your jurisdiction determines you are eligible to take the exam, they will send your information to NASBA, which in turn will send you a payment coupon with your exam fee(s). Once you pay the exam fees, NASBA will send you a Notice to Schedule (NTS). This is a critical component, as you will not be admitted to the testing center without an NTS. The NTS must also list your information accurately. Contact your board of accountancy as soon as possible if any information on the NTS is incorrect. After you receive your NTS, you can then contact Prometric to schedule your exam.
Applying for CPA Licensure
Passing the CPA exam is only one of the requirements you must satisfy before applying for CPA licensure. Known as the “Three E’s”, examination, education, and experience constitute the main requirements to apply for CPA licensure. Although all jurisdictions require candidates to pass the CPA exam, there is no national licensure process in the US. Each jurisdiction’s board of accountancy sets their own education and experience requirements and some also have additional requirements, such as ethical standards. As a result, passing the CPA exam is not sufficient by itself to qualify for licensure in any jurisdiction, though it may be the most difficult.
Since each board of accountancy has the statutory authority to grant CPA licensure, all licensure applications must be submitted to the appropriate board and all communication to the candidate will come from the board. Once you pass all four sections of the CPA exam, most boards of accountancy require candidates to submit specific forms demonstrating that they meet the remaining requirements for licensure. For jurisdictions that require an ethics exam, you should plan to take the exam before applying for licensure. Once the board verifies that you have satisfied all testing, experience, educational, and other requirements, the board will most likely grant you a CPA license. Keep in mind that boards may have deadlines in which you must apply for licensure once you pass your CPA exam. Though we make it a point to provide up to date and accurate information, it is suggested candidates consult their board of accountancy for specific information on deadlines and fees.
Steps to Apply for the CPA Exam and CPA Licensure
To review, below are the steps required to apply for both the CPA Exam and CPA licensure. Remember that the CPA Exam is only one of the requirements for licensure and that deadlines, fees, and specific eligibility requirements are set by each jurisdiction’s board of accountancy.
- Determine CPA exam eligibility requirements for your board of accountancy.
- Apply to take the CPA exam with your board of accountancy.
- Once your exam application has been approved, pay your exam fee to NASBA, obtain your NTS, and schedule your exam with Prometric.
- Once you pass all four sections of the CPA Exam, verify CPA licensing eligibility requirements with your board of accountancy.
- Satisfy any remaining requirements, such as ethics courses, and apply for CPA licensure with your board of accountancy.
- Congratulations! Your board of accountancy will grant you a CPA license.
If you are beginning your research and planning on applying for the CPA exam on your journey to becoming a CPA, we can help ensure that you satisfy your state's individual CPA Exam requirements.
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