It depends on your state, so I'd start by checking the requirements in your state. However, I think in every state there are a few common requirements, listed below.
- 150 credit hours (a certain number must relate to business/accounting, some states have more specific requirements, e.g. particular courses)
- Pass all 4 exams, FAR/AUD/BEC/REG (some states have an additional ethics exam)
- Work for a year under a CPA
They also do a background check, and there are fees you'll need to pay at various stages of the process.
In order to sit for the exam in most states, you need your bachelors degree so most people start taking the exams after they graduate from undergrad. To get to 150 hours, some people do grad school but you don't need to have all 150 hours just to sit for the exam. You can also get to the 150 hours without grad school if you have a minor or another major or just take a lot of classes. Personally, I went to grad school and used that time to take the exams before I started working at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Also, you need to apply to sit for the exam, and, depending on your state, that can take a while (it took about 6 weeks in CA for my application to be fully processed). So, I'd suggest applying right away after graduation. After that you'll receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) and you'll be able to schedule whatever exams you'd indicated you'd be sitting for in your application. Your NTS is good for 9 months, and if you don't take your exams in that time frame, or if you need to retake an exam, you need to apply for another NTS.
Of course, you should also consider how long you'll need to study for each part of the exam; it varies widely by personal preferences/study habits, but hopefully after college you know yourself well enough to know how long it might take to you to study. You can also re-schedule your exams within the NTS window, but if you wait until you're near when you scheduled you'll likely have to pay a fee. To prepare for the exams I'd suggest using Becker, Roger CPA, or some other review course. I used Becker and it was very useful and I always felt prepared when I took my exams.
Also, if you are hired by a firm, they will pay for (or reimburse) all your CPA fees and provide you with a review course. All told it's a few thousand dollars (Becker is expensive!). In order for them to pay for it or reimburse it you need to have paid after you'd been hired.
Rachel recommends the following next steps:
- Look up the CPA requirements in your state; there are many websites with this info, but you can try this link if you like https://www.efficientlearning.com/cpa/resources/state-requirements/