CPA Requirements by State – Exam and License Requirements, CPA Ethics, etc.
In this section you will find the different CPA requirements set by the different States. These include education requirements, the CPA exam requirements, work experience requirements, CPA license requirements as well as CPA ethics requirements.
There may be different requirements for you if you are not a US Citizen, but don’t worry, I will guide you through that process as well.
The CPA requirements in the United States can get rather confusing because the CPA license is granted by individual State Boards of Accountancy which are based in each State and operate independently.
So if you are confused or need help at any point, feel free to ask your questions and leave your comments using the form below at the end of this section.
There used to be a time where a traditional 120 credit hour Bachelor’s degree was sufficient to meet the CPA requirements. However, most States now require 150 credit hours of education. Because Bachelor degrees take only 120 credit hours to obtain, many aspiring CPAs pursue a one year Masters program (30 hours) after obtaining a Bachelors degree.
But you may not have to! I will show you a way you may be able to get a CPA certification without getting the 150 hours of college education.
If you are going to get your 150 hours anyway, I usually recommend a Master’s in Accounting or a related field if you did your Bachelors in Accounting. Because the CPA exam is quite challenging, I usually recommend that an aspiring CPA start preparing early by following a relevant curriculum in college.
Many colleges and universities have a curriculum specifically for those who want to become CPAs, often in form of a 150 credit hour 5 year program.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you plan on working in public accounting, the requirements that will apply to you are the requirements of the State in which you plan on practicing accounting. But if you simply want a CPA certification to advance in your current career in corporate accounting and finance, or any other field outside of public accounting, then you can plan your approach in a way where you can exempt yourself from some of the requirements. You can do this by selecting a State that has requirements that fits your education and work background.
Here are the Basic CPA Requirements State Boards of Accountancy Require for the CPA License
- US Citizenship
- 21 years of age when sitting for the CPA exam
- Bachelor’s degree from a US accredited college / university
- A concentration of credit hours in accounting courses
- Completed or in process of obtaining 150 credit hours of accredited education in a relevant field such as tax and accounting
Not everyone meets all these requirements. However, it is still possible to get your CPA license. I will show you how.
If you meet all these requirements, keep reading. If you don’t, scroll to the bottom and start reading after the list of all the States.
I am a big fan of 5 year programs, as I went through one in a top 10 business school myself. However I understand that this route is not for everyone because of either cost, personal interest or other circumstances.
Therefore, you can obtain a Bachelor’s degree in a discipline of your choice, and provided that you take the minimum accounting course requirements, can then move on to take another 30 credit hours of education in any field to prepare for a CPA career.
The additional 30 credit hours can also be in form of a one year Master’s of Accounting program if you so choose. Many also pursue the CPA certification after earning an MBA, which is usually a two year program, giving them more than the required 150 credit hours of education.
Another popular route is to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and then complete a one year program in a specialized field such as corporate finance, taxation, or a similar (but not the same) related field of study.
Finally, there are students that don’t take spring and summer semesters off and continue taking classes throughout. Others come into college with credits from advanced courses taken in high school. These students are positioned to complete 150 credit hours of education in just 4 years and are able to fulfill the CPA requirements to take the exam and pursue the career.
Whichever route you take or have already taken, my recommendation to you is to immediately sit for the Prometric CPA exam. I say this because the CPA exam is mostly based on the education you obtain during your CPA curriculum. It is best to take the CPA exam while the information is still fresh in your mind.
Believe it or not, your education is going to be more helpful in terms of passing the CPA exam than any amount of practical work experience obtained in the real world. It is often said that you are the best CPA right before and right after you take the CPA exam.
From the time you complete your education to the time you take the exam, consider taking a CPA course to prepare you for the rigor and type of questions asked on the CPA exam. Statistics prove that those who take a formal CPA course are exponentially more likely to pass the CPA exam than those who don’t (90%+ to be more precise). Even if you don’t end up taking a formal CPA course, consider going through the review materials available online or in various books and publications.
But enough about CPA education for now. Here is a list of the specific CPA requirements you need to meet organized by State:
How to Get the CPA Title If You Don’t Meet the Requirements Above?
- What if you’re not a US Citizen?
- What if you don’t have 150 hours of relevant education?
- What if your bachelor degree is not focused in accounting?
- What if you are not 21?
- What if you don’t plan on practicing in public accounting?
Don’t worry, there is a solution for most of these. Let’s go over them together….
If You are Not a US Citizen
There are only two States that do not award the CPA certification to non US citizens:
Alabama and North Carolina
In addition to these, there are 10 other States that require you to be a resident of the State before granting you the CPA certificate. So if you plan on obtaining your CPA certificate in any one of these 10 States, make sure you are clear about how each state defines “residency”. You can click on each State’s link in the chart above to find out more. These 10 States are:
Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island
And finally, there are three other US territories that have slightly modified requirements:
Guam, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands
If You Cannot Meet the 150 Credit Hour Education Requirement
There are still six 120 credit hour CPA States, which means they don’t require you to have 150 semester hours of education to get your CPA. These States are:
California, Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont
But there is a catch. Each of these States has a little bit more strict of a requirement when it comes to your work experience. You can click on each state in the chart above to learn more. But in summary, here are the CPA requirements of each:
- California – You need 2 years of work experience in accounting if you don’t have 150 credit hours of education
- Colorado – You need 12 months of work experience in public accounting under direct supervision of another CPA
- Delaware – Same as California, but if you only have an Associates Degree, then you need 4 years of accounting related working experience. That’s a lot of accounting experience!
- New Hampshire – You need 2 years of public accounting experience under direct supervision of another CPA
- Pennsylvania – You can sit for the CPA exam with 120 credits, but still need 150 credits to get the CPA certification
- Vermont – Same as New Hampshire
What you have to weigh here is the opportunity cost of getting the work experience vs. the cost involved in taking additional classes and getting your 150 credit hours.
There are tons of accredited colleges and universities all over the country where you can take full time or part time classes to get the 150 credit hours necessary to become a CPA.
What course(s) should you take? Any course really that is accounting related. There are many community colleges that are accredited who allow you to take courses from home online. Community colleges are also relatively much cheaper compared to universities.
The bottom line is that the 120 credit hour CPA States want more work experience, and if you don’t have the work experience you have a ton of options to fulfill the additional educational requirements! But if you already have the work experience, you can easily get your CPA certification in one of the 120 hour CPA States.
If You Possess a Non Accounting Degree
So what if you don’t have an accounting degree. Get some additional credit hours focused in accounting. Look at it this way. You need 150 hours of education anyway, so why not get those additional 30 hours of education in accounting related courses?
There are tons of courses available through accredited community colleges and universities, many of which allow you to take them online. Just make sure the courses are from an accredited educational institution and approved by the State Board of Accountancy in the State you are in.
Really, the key here is to validate whether the courses you will take are going to be accepted by the State in which you are going to apply for your CPA license. I always recommend the best way to be sure of this is to ask both the State Board as well as the school whether the courses you are contemplating taking meet the CPA requirements of that State.
The best way to contact a State Board is through the links above in the chart.
If You are Under 21 Years Old
Not a problem. Just wait till you’re 21! Just kidding. Here are 19 States that only require that you are 18:
Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Washington DC
There are 2 States that require that you are only 19:
Alabama and Alaska
There are 2 States and 2 US territories that require you are 21:
New Hampshire, Missouri, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
If you didn’t see your State on this list, then you are in for a nice surprise. The rest of the States DO NOT have minimum age requirements! Go celebrate…
If You Don’t Want to Practice Public Accounting
Not everyone wants to be in public accounting. For example, you may want to work in corporate accounting and finance, or as an internal auditor. If that’s the case, you may just want a CPA certificate so that you can show more credibility and commitment to your profession. However, if you are not going to practice in public accounting, then you don’t need a CPA license (there is a big difference between the two.
So in this section I will share with you the work requirements you need to get your CPA certificate, and not necessarily the full CPA license which you may not care for anyway.
Do keep in mind however that the work requirements are defined differently by each State Board of Accountancy. For example, some require public accounting experience while others are ok with just any work experience. Some require supervision by a CPA license holder while others don’t.
So to be absolutely safe and sure, I highly recommend contacting the State Board and clarifying what their definition of work experience means. You can find the link to each State Board in the chart above.
Here is a list of States that have a little more lenient work experience requirements when it comes to getting your CPA certificate. Note that this is specific to CPA certificates, not full CPA licenses.
States that do not require any work experience:
- Colorado - you need 150 credit hours of education however
- Illinois – you need 150 credit hours of education however
- Massachusetts – you need a graduate degree however
States that only require 1 year of work experience:
- Colorado – if you have less than 150 credit hours of education
- Vermont - if you have a graduate degree or 150 credit hours of education
- Pennsylvania – if you have a graduate degree or 150 credit hours of education
- Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Texas, Washington DC
States that require 2 years of work experience:
- California – if you have less than 150 credit hours
- Georgia – only accepts public accounting experience
- Indiana – no caveats!
- Maine – only accepts public accounting experience
- Pennsylvania - if you have less than 150 credit hours
- Vermont - if you have less than 150 credit hours
States that require MORE than 2 years of work experience:
- Delaware – you need 4 years if you only have an associate degree
- Georgia – you need 5 years of non public accounting experience
There is a lot of information in this section and I understand it can be overwhelming. I am here to answer your questions. Please use the form below to ask your question. If you see a question from a community member that you feel you can help with, please use the form to help each other out…