The CPA exam application process is complicated. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that each state has its own set of educational, ethics and work experience requirements. This causes confusion in three ways.
First, there are some state accountancy boards that have NASBA run their exams, and sometimes even the licensing process itself, on their behalf. Second, there are some state boards that prefer to control most of this process themselves. And third, there are some boards who use a mixed approach, where they might require the submission of transcripts to NASBA’s CPAES but will then require the applicant to apply for CPA licensure through the board, including the submission of transcripts.
As we will see below, the Virgin Islands is the only exception to this, as their accountancy board processes the exam applications themselves, but then requires license candidates to apply for licensure through NASBA’s licensing service. In this article, we will clarify the process of submitting transcripts to help you understand what you need to do, wherever you are.
Which States Outsource to NASBA and Which Process the Applications Themselves?
Here, we have opted to divide the states into two groups; those whose applications are processed by NASBA, and those that are processed by the state themselves. In each instance, we will stipulate where the license is processed. This is especially important to know for two-tier states, as they require contacting the colleges and universities to have them resubmit official copies of your transcripts to whichever authorizing body is responsible for the license’s issuance.
What’s the Difference Between a One-Tier State and a Two-Tier State?
All states require the completion of 150 semester hours of education as a prerequisite to apply for CPA licensure. However, not all states require the full amount of semester hours to sit for the exam and will allow the applicant to sit with fewer semester hours. Those that allow applicants to sit the exam with fewer credit hours are called two-tier states.
A one-tier state is a state that requires the applicant to have fulfilled their 150 semester hours requirement at the time of sitting for the exam. It is called ‘one-tier’ because the number of semester hours required for the exam and licensure is the same. However, some states might allow for you to sit for the exam if you are within 120 days of completing your degree or credits requirement.
A two-tier state is a state that requires at least 120 semester hours to take the exam and 150 semester hours to apply for licensure. Therefore, for two-tier states whose exam applications are processed by NASBA, and the license applications are processed by the state, all transcripts will need to be resent by the college and university registrars to the state board.
On the other hand, two-tier states whose exam applications and license applications are both processed by the state board, will only require the applicant to submit copies of transcripts proving the completion of the outstanding semester hours. There are some exceptions to this. Applicants from states who completed part or all of their CPA exam in another state without applying for licensure, will need to request that official copies of all of their transcripts be sent to the new board of choice, as they will want to verify that both the educational requirements and semester hour requirements have been fulfilled. This will also apply when they are planning on completing their CPA exam in the new state. Additionally, some states may allow for you to sit the if you are within 120 days of completing your degree or credits requirement.
CPA Exam Processed Through NASBA
|State/Jurisdiction||License processed through NASBA|
|District of Columbia||No|
CPA Exam Processed Through the Board
|State/Jurisdiction||License processed through the board|
|Virgin Islands||No – Through NASBA|
International Transcript Evaluation
International transcripts will almost always need to be evaluated by a board-recognized international credentials evaluation service, such as the NIES. This often applies even where the applicant is applying for international license reciprocity based on IQAB’s Mutual Recognition Agreements ( MRAs) agreement or IQEX exam. As always whether the MRA would be accepted and whether all members of the agreements are recognized will vary from state to state. Both the credentials evaluation and license conversion costs are expensive, so it is best to confirm the educational requirements with the board beforehand if possible. If you can find out whether credentials from your institution have been accepted by the board in the past, then would also be useful in determining whether you should invest in an evaluation for that state.
Fortunately, CpaCredits.om offers a FREE pre-evaluation service for both international and national transcripts. They generally provide feedback within 24-48 hours, which can help save you money by firstly telling you whether your credentials are substantially equivalent to a specific state board, and secondly which requirements still need to be met.
Where Do I Send My Transcript Once the Official Evaluation is Complete?
The same rules will apply as above. You will need to request that the evaluation service send an official copy of the transcript to the relevant body along with a translation if the transcript is not in English.
What Should I Do Once my Transcripts are Accepted?
This depends on whether you are applying for the CPA exam or licensure.
How to Prepare for the CPA Exam
The Uniform CPA Exam is the same for all states and is taken through the Prometric testing centers. Therefore, once you have applied for the exam, either through NASBA or through a state Board, you will need to book the exam through the Prometric site. Although it is tempting to book all four parts close to one another, this might not be the best idea due to their difficulty. All boards require that the four parts be passed within 18 months of each other, so there is plenty of time to look over the content, pass rates and MCQ samples before planning out your study schedule and booking your exams. You must also bear in mind that most states only permit a 6-month window to take or rebook an exam date once it has been paid for. So, make sure to give yourself enough time to prepare, or you might end up needing to pay twice with a reapplication.
How to Apply for CPA Licensure
We have broken down the license application process for each state separately. They can be found by clicking on their page links through our CPA Requirements by State page. Generally, though, you should not submit your outstanding transcripts to the board (or NABSA, where applicable) unless you have fulfilled the experience and ethics requirements as well. This is because the board usually requires that all the documentation be submitted together. It also prevents documents from going missing, being misfiled, or being destroyed due to state policy for retaining documentation.