The CPA exam is a rigorous test that requires a lot of preparation and even more so for international students. It’s important to know what you’re getting into and have some strategies prepared to meet the challenges of earning the CPA. So let’s get started by breaking down the requirements for licensure and how they apply to international students.
- What is CPA licensure?
CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant, which means that an individual has passed all four parts of an exam administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This designation allows CPAs to practice public accounting as well as provide tax services, financial advice and other consulting services related to business management or finance matters such as auditing financial statements or preparing budgets for companies in need of assistance managing their finances efficiently.
The CPA Exam
The CPA exam is comprised of four sections, each four hours long: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Each section is tested separately in its own four-hour exam, and each exam has 5 testlets (groups of test questions) made up of multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, or written communication tasks. The minimum passing score for each section is 75.
Navigating the Education Requirements
Before you can take the CPA exam, you must meet certain education requirements. These requirements vary depending on your state and whether or not you have earned an undergraduate degree in accounting or finance. If your undergraduate degree is from outside the United States, there are several steps that must be taken before applying for credit toward your CPA exam.
If you have already received credit for an international degree through a transfer program at an accredited college or university in the United States, then congratulations! You’re halfway there! However, if this isn’t true for you yet (or if it turns out that none of those options apply), don’t worry–there are still ways to earn credit for what was learned abroad through other means:
- Taking exams through CPA Review Courses – Some companies offer exam preparation courses where students can sit down and take practice tests under proctoring conditions with real-time feedback about their performance based on their answers compared against those of other test takers who’ve taken similar exams before them.
- Taking CLEP Tests – The College Level Examination Program gives students who want more flexibility than traditional classroom learning but less pressure than taking full-fledged classes another option by allowing them access via online tests.
- Taking International Exams Through Other Organizations – Many countries outside North America have their own version of standardized testing which may allow foreign students studying abroad to earn credits toward their degree without having attended any classes within those countries’ borders
Obtaining Professional Experience
The CPA exam is a rigorous test that requires students to have a certain amount of professional experience. The AICPA requires all applicants to have at least 150 hours of experience under their belt before taking the exam. This means that you need to start working as soon as possible after graduation if you want to be eligible for taking it within two years of finishing school.
The good news is that there are many ways for international students to obtain this experience while studying in the United States or Canada:
Preparing for the CPA Exam
The AICPA offers guidelines for international students who are planning to take the CPA Exam. These guidelines include:
- Taking an approved course in accounting and business law that can be completed within 12 months of applying for the exam (or within five years if you’re taking it in Canada)
- Obtaining a minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4-point scale or its equivalent in your country, as well as passing all required courses with grades no lower than C-
- Meeting English language proficiency requirements
- It may be necessary to have your foreign transcript evaluated by the state board that you are looking to become licensed in. NASBA offers these evaluations and will let you know how many credits you already have and what you still need to fulfill your educational requirements. https://nasba.org/products/nasbainternationalevaluationservices/
Registering for the CPA Exam
Before you can register for the CPA exam, you must meet eligibility requirements. These include:
- Being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Having graduated from an accredited college or university
- Obtaining at least 150 semester hours of education (or its equivalent) from an accredited institution. There are great online resources such as cpacredits.com that provide accredited courses affordably and flexibly for students who need extra courses to fulfill this requirement.
- Some states and territories do not have a residence requirement so if you do not have U.S. residence you can still take the CPA.
Completing the Licensure Process
Once you’ve passed the CPA Exam, it’s time to apply for licensure. In most states, international students must complete an application and submit it along with proof of educational credentials, a valid passport and visa information (if applicable), copies of transcripts from all colleges attended in the United States or abroad and any other relevant documentation requested by state boards.
If you have questions about the licensure process or need help navigating through it, there are many resources available to assist you–including your professors at school who may be able to offer advice based on their own experience as CPAs working in public accounting firms.
Maximizing Your Professional Experience
The CPA exam is a long, challenging process. It’s important to take the time you need to study and prepare, but you also want to make sure that your professional experience is as strong as possible. To do this, consider working with a mentor who can help guide you through the process of applying for jobs and internships in accounting firms or other organizations.
- Find an internship or job at an accounting firm: Accounting firms offer great opportunities for students who are looking for work experience before taking their CPA exams because they provide valuable insight into what it’s like working in that field–and they’re often willing to hire interns who are studying towards becoming CPAs! If there aren’t any accounting firms near where I live/work/study (or whatever), then how do I find one?
There are several ways:
- Go online–the internet has everything these days! Check out websites like LinkedIn and Indeed (which lists both full-time positions as well as internships). You could also try searching “accounting firms near me” on Google Maps; this will give results based on location rather than name alone.* Do some research –talk with professors about which companies might be hiring right now; ask friends who have worked at different places before which ones might be good fit for someone like me; call up companies directly asking if they’re hiring anyone right now…there are many ways available but none better than talking directly with someone knowledgeable about what goes down inside those doors every day.”
The CPA Exam is a huge accomplishment, and one that will help your future career. But it’s not easy. You’re in for a long journey with lots of studying, test prep, and thoughtful work. That being said, it is doable and thousands of students each year successfully navigate this journey and achieve the professional success that this milestone helps them to reach.