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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the accounting and auditing industry is expected to grow by 4% between 2019-2029—keeping pace with the average growth rate over all occupations.

These benefits are enticing, however the path to getting certified is a rigorous one. It includes meeting education and work requirements as well as dedicating time to studying so you can pass all four parts of the CPA exam. But if you create a plan and stick to it, you can earn your CPA license.

How Do You Become A Licensed Certified Public Accountant?

You become a CPA by meeting the CPA requirements set out by your state’s board of accountancy. There are multiple steps that need to be taken to earn the CPA designation and while the requirements are similar in every state, they do vary.

What Are The Steps To Become A CPA?

There are three main steps to becoming a CPA, and they involve meeting a minimum level of education and work experience and passing the CPA exam.

These three main requirements are known as the 3 E’s.

1. Education
2. Experience
3. Exam

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You may also be required to pass an ethics exam depending on which state you are getting certified in.

1. Meet The Educational Requirements

Each state can have different education requirements, but in general, to qualify you will need to:

1. Earn at least a 4-year bachelor’s degree with a minimum number of accounting and business credit hours.
2. Earn a total of 150 higher education credit hours.

2. Meet The Experience Requirements

Again, professional work experience requirements can vary from state to state, but in general, CPA candidates need to complete 1-2 years of relevant and verified accounting experience.

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3. Pass The CPA Exam

There are 4 parts to the Uniform CPA Examination, and you will need to pass all 4 sections to become a licensed CPA.

These sections include Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Most of the exam sections are comprised of multiple-choice questions (MCQ’s) and task-based simulations.

Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

Multiple Choice Questions: 72
Task-based Simulations: 8
Free AUD Exam Questions

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

Multiple Choice Questions: 66
Task-based Simulations: 8
Free FAR Exam Questions

Regulation (REG)

Multiple Choice Questions: 76
Task-based Simulations: 8
Free REG Exam Questions

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

Multiple Choice Questions: 62
Task-based Simulations: 4
Written Communication Tasks: 2
Free BEC Exam Questions

When preparing for the CPA exam, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a test prep provider. Wiley has the best CPA review course on the market because it saves you time with bite-sized lessons and adaptive review that makes sure you only study what you need to. 90% of students that use Wiley CPA pass the CPA exam.

Wondering what CPA career path is best for you?

Download our free guide all about CPA career paths now.

4. Schedule Your CPA Exam Test Date

There are a few steps you’ll need to go through to apply for the CPA exam.

These steps include:

Checking your eligibility to take the CPA exam.
Submitting a CPA exam application and fees.
Receiving Authorization to Test (ATT).
Verifying the information on your Notice to Schedule (NTS).
Scheduling your CPA exam section.

If you are an international candidate wanting to take the U.S. CPA exam either in the U.S. or at an international testing center, Wiley provides free CPA exam eligibility assessments for international candidates.

5. Pass The AICPA Ethics Exam

After passing all sections of the CPA exam, you’ll need to pass the AICPA ethics exam.

This is a short self-study course with a take-home test and is a basic refresher on professional ethical rules and regulations. While not mandatory in all 50 states, the ethics exam is required in most (and encouraged in all).

6. Pay Fees and Get Your License

Once you have met all of the CPA requirements and have passed the exam, you can apply for CPA certification through your state board of accountancy, pay the application fee, and get your license!

Becoming A CPA In Summary

When it’s all said and done, how long does it take to become a CPA?

From start to finish, meeting all of the education, exam, and experience requirements previously discussed, it can take about 7 years to become a CPA.

This factors in 4 years to acquire your bachelor’s degree, an extra year to complete your additional credit hour requirements, and 1 to 2 years of qualified work experience (and taking the exam within that timeframe).

If you’re already on that path, and you’re ready to start studying for the CPA exam, enlist the help of the best CPA test prep provider in the industry.

Wondering what CPA career path is best for you?

Download our free guide all about CPA career paths now.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) On How To Become A CPA

Learning what a CPA is and how to get a CPA are good places to start when looking into how to become a CPA. Here are some frequently asked questions about becoming a CPA.

  • A CPA is a Certified Public Accountant. But what is a Certified Public Accountant? CPAs are accounting professionals who have been granted a license by their state board of accountancy for meeting certain education and work experience requirements and passing the CPA exam.

    This means they have demonstrated a deep understanding of and a minimum level of skills in auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, accounting regulations, and business environments and concepts.

  • Yes. The CPA exam is a computer-based test, but the exam has to be taken at a Prometric center in person. Becoming a CPA does require meeting education, examination, and experience requirements. So, if you get your education through an acceptable accredited online program and can meet the experience requirements through appropriately CPA-supervised online work, you can become a CPA online.
  • If you don’t have an accounting degree, you can still become a CPA, you will likely just need to catch up in the following areas:
    • Earning the minimum number of accounting credit hours
    • Earning the minimum number of business credit hours
    • Obtaining relevant experience

    Visit our free resource on how to become a CPA without a degree in accounting for more information.

  • Yes. You will need to obtain the required 150-credit hours, but you do not need to earn a master’s degree to become a CPA.