Congratulations! You’ve passed all four parts of the Uniform CPA Exam. (Or perhaps you will soon – don’t worry you’ve got this!) That is no small feat, especially given its high difficulty and low pass rates of between 46.37%-61.76%. But as we all know, passing the exam is just the first step. Applying for licensure itself is next. But where do you start?
1. Take a break – you’ve earned it!
Its tempting to keep the momentum going, but it is important to reward yourself too. Maybe take a holiday someplace with some friends, or even if you just want to crash and relax for a couple of weeks, its good to give yourself time to unwind so that you can reenergize yourself for the next part.
2. Missing Credits
Some states, such as Indiana and Mississippi, only require 120 semester hours to sit the exam. This means that you might still have another 30 semester hours to complete before you can apply for licensure.
Although many students opt to go the MBA route to complete these requirements, many others may feel that it isn’t worth the financial and time investment. This is especially true where they feel that their time might be better spent working towards fulfilling their experience requirements rather than sitting in class.
You might therefore consider taking online or part-time courses, where their state allows them to do so. This is why we have highlighted a number of alternative ways in which you could earn semester hour credits in this article.
CpaCredits.com also offers a number of courses that are accredited through recognized accredited institutions. Of course, you should first confirm that your state board recognizes online courses.
3. Gain Experience
All states have an experience requirement in order to qualify for licensure. This varies from anywhere from 1,500 hours, as in the case of Hawaii and Illinois, to 4,000 hours, as in the case of Nebraska.
The minimum amount of time in which to complete these requirements is one year, although the state boards often allow for them to be completed part-time over the course of up to three years. In some cases, they even allow for five years. You can find out more about this here.
4. Ethics Exam
Many states require an ethics exam as a prerequisite to applying for the CPA exam. Most of these states have specified that the applicant take the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct Course and corresponding exam. These states require candidates to get a score of at least 90% to qualify for licensure. Furthermore, they will also only have a certain number of attempts to pass the exam before they are barred from reapplying.
However, it is highly unlikely that you will fail, as the exam is open book and requires the candidate to answer 40 multiple choice questions. As long as you take the time to read through the questions carefully, you should be fine.
Then there are the states who have their own unique CPA exams, such as California’s Professional Ethics for CPAs (PETH) exam. Then there are other states, like Ohio, that require a 3-semester hour college course in ethics in lieu of an exam.
5. Apply for a CPA License
Once you have completed these steps, you will need to determine whether it is the Board or NASBA who processes license applications. We have compiled a full outline here. These next steps are those most commonly required by Boards:
- Request that the Registrars of all accredited and colleges that you attended submit official copies of your transcript to the processing body
- Request that official proof of your having met the Ethics requirements of the board be submitted to the licensing body
- Submit proof of meeting the experience requirements, usually through the submission of a state-specific ‘Experience Verification’ form
- Submit a recent 2×2” photograph of yourself in passports-tyle, meaning of just your head and shoulders
Other common requirements
- Where US citizenship is required, submit proof of citizenship or proof of being a resident alien
- Where state residency is required, submit proof of residency, usually in the form of a valid state issued photo-identification such as a drivers license, business permit or certificate of enrollment at a local college
- The submission of three signed testimonies of character witnesses whom you are not related to. This is to prove that you are of good moral character
- Submit your fingerprint and agree to a criminal background check
Although this may seem daunting, it is all part of the CPA journey and is part of why the license is regarded with such high esteem. This is also why the pay reflects this. You’ve already completed the hardest part. So, hang in there and keep on going!
6. Getting a Job
Once you have received your license, you will be able to work as a public accountant and many more job options will be available to you.
The first step to a new position, would be to check if there is an opening for a position where you fulfilled your experience requirements. Since they know you, they will likely be more open to hiring you than looking into a new external hire.
Another first step for many people is to try get an auditing position at a Big Four company in order to acquire a broad skill set before they pursue careers in other sectors. Of course, you might also discover that you enjoy auditing and just stick with it.
Otherwise, searching the websites of local firms, reaching out to recruitment agents on LinkedIn and searching for listings on Indeed.com and similar platforms might also turn up a position of interest. If you acquired your CPA internationally, then you might find this piece on seeking overseas CPA jobs helpful.
Good luck out there! We’re sure you’ll do great.