These are the requirements to either qualify as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the state of California or to gain a California CPA license. While each state has its own set of requirements, in this article we will be focusing solely on The Golden State. On top of passing the CPA exam, which is far from easy, you must also meet certain requirements, such as meeting the educational and work requirements.

We have listed all of the relevant information below, as well as the contact information for the California Board of Accountancy (CBA). We recommended confirming all information with the CBA to make sure you qualify, and to verify that the charges have not been updated since this piece was published.

Age

There are no minimum age requirements to sit the California CPA exam.

Residency

There are no state or US residency requirements to sit the CPA exam.

Citizenship

There are no US citizenship requirements to sit the California CPA exam.

Educational Requirements

Candidates require bachelor’s degree or higher from a college or university that is recognized by the board to sit the exam, as well as 24 semester hours in both accounting and business-related courses. However, they will need to meet the 150-credit hour requirement to apply for licensure. These must include the following:

  • Accounting: 24 credits
  • Business: 24 credits
  • Accounting study: 20 credits
  • Ethics: 7 credits + 3 credits in accounting ethics or accountants’ professional responsibilities (10 total)

Note:

  • Each class must be at least 50-minute class hours to be considered acceptable Continuing Education (CE) requirements. This can be calculated according to the sum of the segments. So, you can accumulate hours in increments of at least 25 minutes and add them together to equal a full 50-minute class hour. Preparation time cannot be counted towards this.
  • Online Courses are dived into Webcast Courses and Self-Study Courses. The requirements for eligibility are outlined here. These only apply to extra credit requirements.
  • The CBA only accepts educational qualifications that are granted from a US regional institutional accrediting agency or a national accrediting agency.

Foreign Educations

Accountants who graduated from international institutions may apply to have their transcripts evaluated by of the CBA-approved foreign credentials evaluation services stipulated on this list. Official evaluations must be mailed to the CBA directly from the foreign credentials evaluation service in the sealed envelopes in which they came. If approved, the applicant will be allowed to apply for the CPA exam.

Work Experience

California requires applicants to accrue at least 12 months’ worth of work experience before they can apply for CPA licensure. This can also be fulfilled on a part-time basis where 170 hours will be considered equal to one month of full-time work. This can be acquired through providing any type of service or advice involving the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills.

If an applicant is performing attest services as part of the general experience, it must be performed under the supervision o f a licensee who has satisfied the attest experience requirement. Qualifying experience may be gained through employment in public accounting, private industry, or government.

Ethics

California requires first-time applicants, out-of-state license holders, and reissuance of cancelled licenses to undergo a Professional Ethics for CPAs (PETH) exam. It consists of 50 multiple choice questions and requires a pass rate of at least 90%.

How to Apply for the California CPA Exam

  • Open an online account with the Board
  • Demonstrate completion of minimum of 500 hours in attest work experience
  • Submit official copy of transcriptions from your school through either:
    • requesting official, paper transcripts to be sent from your school to the CBA
    • obtaining official, sealed transcripts and submitting them with your application
    • order an electronic transcript to be sent to the CBA through a CBA-approved provider
    • foreign applicants will need to include the assessment from the international transcript evaluation service as well as any official translations of those transcripts, where relevant
  • Submit to a criminal background check including federal fingerprint clearance

Fees

Initial Application Fee$100.00
Auditing & Attestation (AUD) Exam (NASBA)$226.15
Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR) Exam (NASBA)$226.15
Regulation (REG) Exam (NASBA)$226.15
Business Environment & Concepts (BEC) Exam (NASBA)$226.15
Total$904.60

Reapplication fee is $50.

The Eligibility Application Fee will need to be paid again with each re-attempt.

The CPA license fee application is $250.

All fees are non-refundable, but most exams can be rescheduled. 

Locations

Any Prometric Testing Center

How to Apply for a California CPA License

The California Board of Accountancy processes their own CPA license applications. In order to apply, you will need to:

  • Submit their online application form
  • Request that the Registrars of all colleges and universities that you attended submit official copies of your transcripts directly to the Board
  • Submit the Experience Verification form to the Board
  • Pay the $250.00 application fee
  • Once approved, pay the $250.00 license fee

Applying for Exam from Out-of-State

Reciprocal Application

Interstate license reciprocity

California recognizes interstate reciprocity for those Boards it considers to be substantially equivalent to its own. These are detailed below. Other applicants will need to apply individually for evaluation by National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s (NASBA) CredentialNet to verify substantial equivalence. Those who are found substantially equivalent will be able to submit an Application for CPA Licensure. This also entails a $250 application fee, as well as a $100 transfer fee.

Practice Privilege

California allows for CPA license holders from other jurisdiction to apply a practice privilege permit on condition that:

  • Their license is considered to be substantially equivalent to that of California’s
  • Their license is valid and in good standing with the issuing Board
  • California is not their primary place of business
  • They will stop practicing as a CPA in California should their license expire in the issuing state
  • They have continually practiced as an accountant in another state for at least four of the last ten years

Substantially equivalent US states and jurisdictions

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

International license reciprocity

California allows those who have either passed NASBA/IQAB’s International Qualifications Examination (IQEX) of the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), or the Canadian Chartered Accountant Uniform Certified Public Accountant Qualification Examination (CAQEX) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to submit a Type-E Application form. This will grant them a CPA License for California if accepted. The application fee is $250, and the fingerprint processing fee is $49. Other foreign license holders will need to follow the same procedure as those of ‘Foreign Educations’ mentioned above.

NTS Validation Period

You will receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) within seven business days of paying the exam fee for a particular section. You will then have nine months in which to schedule the exam, or the NTS will expire. So, make sure that you will be ready to write the exam within that time frame, or you will need to pay the fee again when it expires.

License Renewal Requirements

Active license holders

California’s Board of Accountancy requires licenses holders to renew their license every other year within 30-days of their License Expiration date. Each license is valid until the last day of their birth month in the second year since it was issued. For first time license holders, this means it may not be a full two years before the license will need to be renewed. Bear this in mind when you are applying for your first license.

In order to qualify, you must complete you will need to complete a total of 20 hours of continued professional education (CPE) within that two-year timeframe. Then, you must submit the license renewal application form and pay the fee.

The subject requirements are:

  • At least 40 hours in technical subject matter
  • At least 20 hours in each year of each license renewal period (incl. 12 hours in technical subjects)

Renewal Fee: $150

Inactive license holders

To renew an inactive license, you will need to meet the educational requirements as stipulated above, as well as:

  • A two-hour Board approved Regulatory Review course if more than six years have passed since your license’s expiration
  • A four-hour ethics course
  • 24 hours of governmental accounting and auditing CPE if the licensee was involved in the planning, directing, or conducting substantial portions of field work, or reporting on financial or compliance audits of a governmental agency while in the practice of public accountancy within the 24 months preceding the conversion to an active status
  • 24 hours of Auditing and Accounting (A&A) CPE if the licensee participated in the planning, directing, or performing substantial portions of the work, or reporting on an audit, review, compilation, or attestation service of a non-governmental entity while in the practice of public accountancy within the 24 months preceding the conversion to an active status
  • 8 hours of Preparation Engagement CPE if the licensee assisted in a preparation engagement as their highest level of service while in the practice of public accountancy within the 24 months preceding the conversion to an active status
  • A fingerprint requirement
  • A sole proprietor/peer review requirement
  • Redo the Professional Ethics for CPAs (PETH) exam

State Board

California Board of Accountancy