Becoming a CPA isn’t for just anyone.
Before you can even take the exam, you need to meet a certain level of qualifications. Then on top of that, those qualifications vary by state. And on top of THAT, they occasionally change from time to time.
I know, it’s a complete and total headache. Luckily, we’ve made it easy for you.
I’ve helped over 24,712 CPA hopefuls in every state pass their CPA exams, so I know what is required by each state and what qualifications are general across the board.
And if you’re curious about whether or not you qualify in your state, we’ve got the answer. Let’s take a look at the ultimate and easy guide to CPA requirements.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- How Hard is the CPA Exam?
- CPA Requirements By State
- Yes or No: Is Getting a CPA Worth It?
- How Do You Qualify for the CPA Exam: General Requirements
- Can I Take The CPA Exam Without An Accounting Degree?
- What Classes Count Towards CPA Requirements?
- When Can I Take the CPA Exam?
How Hard is the CPA Exam?
Every now and then I get first time CPA hopefuls asking me, “So, just how hard is the CPA exam?”
Well… let’s just say there’s a joke in the CPA community that CPA stands for “Couldn’t Pass Again”. The exam is notoriously difficult—in fact, many licensed CPAs say it’s one of the most difficult things they’ve ever done in their life, even long after their exam days are over. The data supports this, with the average passing rate for the exam hovering at about 50%.
The CPA exam is made up of four parts:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
- Regulation (REG)
Each part of the exam is roughly four hours long and to make things even more difficult, you have to pass all 4 parts within 18 months of each other or start over entirely. It’s so difficult, in fact, that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) recommends that students study between 300-400 hours for it.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “that’s a lot of hours”, you’re not wrong. I thought the same thing too when I was trying to get my CPA back in 2008. Between three kids, my wife, and a full-time job, I didn’t have the time to spend 400 hours studying insanely complex material.
That’s when I reached out to the CPA community for tips and boy, did they give back. With feedback from thousands of CPA exam successes, I put together this handy ebook (check it out—it’s free!) about the 88 things you need to know for the CPA exam as well 14 time-tested study tips to get the most out of your study seshes.
You’ll also get access to:
- My hand-picked study plan that’s been proven to help students study smarter, not harder…
- What exactly you should be studying for and the fastest study techniques for each portion of the exam…
- And how to pick out the perfect CPA review course that’s right for your skill level, study style, and budget.
Oh and by the way… Did I mention it’s completely 100% free? 🙂
Good luck and happy studies!
CPA Requirements By State
Yes or No: Is Getting a CPA Worth It?
It’s the question everybody asks—is getting a CPA worth it?
As someone who is a licensed CPA and has watched countless other finance professionals get theirs, I’m going to go with a resounding yes. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s just a few of the perks that come with getting your CPA.
1. More Money
Let’s start with the most obvious benefit—accountants with CPAs make more money.
A lot more, in fact. Smart Pro recently conducted a study that concluded that accountants with CPAs make roughly $40,00 more per year than their non-CPA wielding counterparts.
2. More Career Opportunities
Another nice bonus of getting your CPA is that you have more opportunities than accountants who don’t. Because the CPA exam is so extensive, passing it is a major sign to employers that you are an elite accountant, putting you ahead of accountants who don’t.
In addition, being a licensed CPA is usually a prerequisite to moving up the ladder in your career. If you want to someday apply for senior positions, you’re going to need your CPA.
3. Job Security
CPAs are already in high-demand, but that demand is steadily increasing. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2026 the number of accountants will increase by 10% and make up 1.4 million members of the U.S. workforce.
This means that regardless of what happens with the economy, there will constantly be a need for high-level CPAs.
How Do You Qualify for the CPA Exam: General Requirements
Ready to become a CPA? While each state maintains its own requirements to take the CPA exam, there is a single requirement needed regardless of what state you are in—your level of education.
The minimum requirement to take the CPA exam is a bachelor’s degree with at least 150 hours (also known as the “150-hour rule”) of coursework. However, even that can vary state by state in a sense.
While all states require at least 150 hours of coursework to become a licensed CPA, some will allow you to take the exam provisionally if you have at least 120 hours of coursework. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from the 150 hour requirement. It just means that you have to complete it at a later date before earning your CPA.
Can I Take The CPA Exam Without An Accounting Degree?
Yes, you can—in certain states.
As of now, most states demand a degree in accounting to take the CPA exam. However, Maine, Louisiana, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Alaska are the exception to this requirement.
That doesn’t mean you get a free pass, however. To make up for the difference, several of these states have strict work experience requirements in place to make sure the level of quality doesn’t go down.
Additionally, several of these states maintain that candidates must take a certain number of accounting classes at varying levels. We’ll go more into detail about what those requirements look like in our state-by-state breakdown.
What Classes Count Towards CPA Requirements?
So you know you need 150 hours of credits to qualify for the CPA exam, but what does that mean? Well, these hours are often completed by doing one of the following:
- Taking a 4-year bachelor’s degree as well as one year towards a master’s
- Taking a 4-year accelerated program towards a bachelor’s degree that gives you the required 150 hours
- Taking a 4-year bachelor’s degree as well as 30 hours of non-degree courses
If you received your degree in accounting, then you don’t have to worry about whether or not your classes count towards the CPA requirements in your state—your school will make sure you get the appropriate credit hours.
If you majored in a field other than accounting, however, there’s a good chance you will need to take additional accounting and/or business courses to satisfy your state’s requirements. What courses you’ll need to take will depend on what state you plan on taking your exam in.
When Can I Take the CPA Exam?
As of now, NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) allows qualified candidates to take the CPA exam during these times:
- January 1 – March 10
- April 1 – June 10
- July 1 – September 10
- October 1 – December 10
More good news for candidate hopefuls is that the board now allows continuous testing, which means you can take retake failed exams year-round. As soon as you get your score back and are able to apply for your next exam, you’re good to go.
Whenever you’re ready to schedule your exam, check out the Prometric scheduling tool.
CPA Exam Requirements By State
To access the detailed CPA Exam requirements for your state click the appropriate link below: