If you have a head for numbers, being a certified public accountant is one of the best professions to choose. CPAs are never out a job because people have to get their taxes done every year and not everyone is capable of or wants to take care of this messy and complicated process on their own. They’re also highly respected and sought after by large corporations and small businessmen. They’re well paid and they lead comfortable lives. However, the path to becoming a CPA is not that smooth — it involves hard work and considerable effort, but if you’re willing to stick it out, here is how you can become a CPA.
Obtaining your CPA certification
Earn an Undergraduate degree
You’ll need to earn an undergraduate degree (four years) that involves accounting and other business oriented subjects — each state has different requirements, so check with your state’s certification as to the number of hours of each subject you need to take in college. In general, you will need 150 semester hours to qualify to take the CPA exam.
Take a CPA exam prep course
In your final year of college, start preparing for your CPA exam with a review course; there are many such courses on offer and you can choose the one that’s suitable for you based on cost and other factors.
Choose a state where you want to take your exam
Decide which state’s office you want to apply to — you have 54 choices, the 50 states, and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. So choose where you want to take the exam. You can move to another state once you’ve passed the exam in one state. Your CPA status will be acknowledged, but you will however have to meet education and experience prerequisites of the new state.
Complete the state CPA exam application form
Find out where you can download the CPA exam application form for the state you wish to apply to, get the form, fill it out, and send it to the address listed on the application. Make sure you’re well within the stipulated last date and that you send your application through certified post with receipt. Before you send out your application, retain a Photostat copy of it to be on the safe side.
Pass all four portions of the exam
You need to pass all four portions of the exam in order to qualify to be a CPA:
- business environment and concepts
- financial accounting and reporting
- business regulations
You don’t have to take all exams in one go, but the longer you delay them, the longer it takes to become a CPA.
Satisfy other requirements
Once you’ve passed all four exams, check with your state to see what else you need to do. You may need to take another short exam and/or you may be required to have work experience of around 2,000 hours under a registered CPA before you can be licensed. Once you meet the requirements for licensure, fill out the relevant application form and send it in to your local state department for approval.
Maintaining your CPA certification
Now that you’re a CPA, you must work on retaining your licensure through continuing your education and gaining CPE credits, at least 40 per year. You can do this by attending workshops and seminars conducted by CPAs. You must renew your license every two years.
For more detailed information, check out the AIS CPA website.
Contributor’s articles are written by members of the personal finance community. Each article was reviewed Moolanomy’s editorial team before its publication.