As discussed previously, passing the CPA exam is a daunting challenge, yet it is only a step along the journey toward one ultimate goal – to become a Certified Public Accountant. A successful exam preparedness plan begins with researching what is required to be a licensed CPA in your chosen state and then crafting a plan of attack to fulfill all of the state’s licensure requirements.
I cannot stress enough the importance of these initial steps. I began my CPA journey with a misunderstanding about the educational requirements needed for licensure, and it hindered my progress by more than a year. My failure to plan correctly wreaked havoc upon my financial planning, affected my timeline for taking the CPA exam, and delayed starting my career in public accounting.
Only a state’s Board of Accountancy has the authority to grant a CPA license so that an accountant may practice in that state. Therefore, the first step in the planning process is to decide where you would like practice, as the requirements vary for each state. Even though there is variation, nearly all states require some version of the following three general pre-requisites:
- Completing a program of study in accounting at a college or university
- Passing the Uniform CPA Exam
- Obtaining work experience in public accounting*
*Some states will waive the work experience requirement in lieu of completing a Master’s degree. Click here to view your state’s requirements.
Some of these requirements must be completed in a specific order, so it is important to closely review them for your chosen state. I strongly recommend you create a detailed plan that sets a date for completion for each requirement.
Another important planning point is to recognize that many states have differing educational requirements to sit for the CPA exam or to qualify for CPA licensure. Florida statutes require 120 semester hours to sit for the CPA exam and 150 semester hours to obtain CPA licensure (click here for detailed educational requirements). Early preparation allows you to coordinate needed classes with your exam study schedule. Begin planning as soon as possible; you cannot even submit an application to sit for the CPA exam until after you have successfully completed an undergraduate degree program, and it often takes several months to receive approval from your state’s Board of Accountancy.
Example: A candidate could plan to take a graduate-level Auditing course during fall semester (August – December) and schedule to sit for the AUD section of the CPA exam in early January. Even better, many universities have begun to enhance their graduate-level accounting courses by including a CPA exam prep course as part of the class curriculum. I took graduate-level classes in this “blended” style while studying for both FAR and AUD and can report the classes greatly helped me prepare for those sections.
I would strongly encourage you to seek help from a knowledgeable source if you encounter any difficulties in understanding the requirements for CPA licensure for your state. A couple of excellent local resources include the following: the chair of the accounting program at your university, a member of your local FICPA chapter (if you’re in Florida), or a newly licensed CPA (especially those in public accounting).
Remember that no two candidates’ paths toward obtaining CPA licensure is the same. Your goal won’t change, but those initial plans often need to be revisited and tweaked a bit along the journey.
Florida: Overview of Requirements for CPA Exam / CPA Licensure
In Florida, the requirements for CPA licensure include:
- Pass all 4 parts of the CPA examination
- One year work experience
- Educational Requirements: 150 semester hours – including 36 hours in upper-level accounting & 39 hours in business (comparative to a BSBA in Accountancy + 4 masters-level accounting classes).
In Florida, the requirements to sit for the CPA exam include:
- Submit an application, official transcripts and pay a $50.00 application fee
- Be of Good Moral Character (as outlined in Section 437.306(2)(b), F.S.)
- Educational Requirements – 120 semester hours – including 24 hours in upper-level accounting & 24 hours in business (comparative to a BSBA in Accountancy).
About the Author
Nicole is a staff accountant in the Tax & Accounting Services Department of Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund. Her primary areas of concentration include preparing individual and entity tax returns. Prior to joining Saltmarsh, Nicole served as a Site Coordinator for the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.