For many years, becoming a CPA meant passing the CPA exam and working for a CPA firm for two years. But recently, some of that has changed. Here’s what you need to know about those changes and what they could mean for you.
Big changes have occurred in the experience requirement. Historically, the two years of experience needed to include specific expertise in auditing demonstrated by the completion of 1,000 hours of auditing experience. Although this requirement was reduced slightly over the years by allowing some of the auditing hours to be met by working on compilations and reviews, the requirement to have “seniored” at least one, albeit small, audit engagement remained.
Today, that is no longer the case. All states and licensing jurisdictions have adopted some form of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA). This Act reduces the minimum experience requirement to one year instead of two AND expands the types of qualifying experience. The UAA now states that ANY type of work involving accounting or business skills satisfies the experience requirement. The Act defines qualifying experience as work that includes “the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax or consulting skills.” The work may be performed in a wide range of settings including government, business, academia, or CPA firms. Qualifying work needs to be verified by a current CPA.
This means that you may have already met or could easily meet the experience requirements to become a CPA. The previous requirement for auditing experience created a significant hurdle for many. For example, tax specialists working for CPA firms had difficulty meeting the auditing requirement if their firms did not also provide auditing services. Others providing accounting-related services in business and industry were faced with the need to quit their jobs and take often lower-paying jobs at the entry level in CPA firms. The expansion in qualifying work experience removes the auditing requirement obstacle and means, among other things, that you’re less likely to have to leave your current job (or take a lower paying one) to become a CPA.
Of course, you still have to pass the CPA exam. To be able to sit for it, you will need 150 semester hours of college credits with at least a bachelor’s degree and an accounting concentration. If you have already passed the exam, you may simply need to determine how to verify your experience.
Be careful! Each State Board of Accountancy may have adopted a slightly different version of the UAA. In California, for example, candidates are able to meet the experience requirements with one year of “general” accounting experience, using the UAA definition, but academic experience is excluded. Florida requires one year of work experience in business, government, public accounting, or academia obtained after the requirements to sit for the exam are met. Nevada continues to require two years of experience and that the experience be obtained in public accounting although the auditing requirement has been eliminated. Similar “tweaking” of the UAA may have occurred in each State Board’s requirements to sit for the exam. Check your State Board’s website to see the specific requirements established or visit our CPA Exam Requirements by State resource.
The changing requirements for CPAs under the Uniform Accountancy Act present expanded opportunities to become a CPA. You may be able to qualify through work in business, government, or academia.
Candidates with education from outside the U.S. will generally also need to have their transcripts evaluated by an approved evaluator of the state for which they are applying. If you have questions about CPA requirements & eligibility to sit for the exam in your jurisdiction, Wiley CPAexcel offers U.S. CPA Exam qualification advice and support for international candidates.