7 answers

How do I obtain my CPA?

Asked Oak Park, Michigan

I want to major in accounting and I do not know what route to go about inorder to obtain my CPA license. #accounting #cpa

7 answers

Rachel’s Answer


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.

  1. 150 credit hours (a certain number must relate to business/accounting, some states have more specific requirements, e.g. particular courses)
  2. Pass all 4 exams, FAR/AUD/BEC/REG (some states have an additional ethics exam)
  3. 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/

Heather’s Answer

Hi Tayla,

This may not specifically answer your question as I think the previous responses have really been great. However, I wanted to mention something that I think is really important outside of the actual process to obtain the license. If you plan to start working at a Big 4 Firm, I would strongly recommend that you complete all or most of the sections before you start full time. Many people struggle to fit studying in with working full time in public accounting, especially when 2-4 months of your year you are probably working long hours (ie busy season). While you are studying, I would also suggest really focusing to finish them as quickly as you can. This will decrease the overall time spent on the entire exam, which you will really love once you get to that point.

Good luck and I hope this response gives you some good advice!

Jason’s Answer


Hi Tayla,

Rachel provided a great response. I would just like to add that I have my CPA license in New York. This is one of the states where you can sit for you exam after earning 120 credits without having earned a degree. I was in an integrated program where I earned both my BS and MS in accounting at the end of five years therefore I didn't have a degree when I began sitting for exams.

If you are looking to sit for an exam before earning a degree you should talk with the state Board of Accountancy about the possibility of taking the exam in a different state and transferring it after you have received your license. This was possible for some of my friends in college. Note taking the exam for a different state doesn't require you to be located in a different state when taking the exam.

Jason recommends the following next steps:

  • This link provides the requirements for sitting for and earning a license in New York: https://www.nysscpa.org/professional-resources/becoming-a-cpa-in-new-york#sthash.toAd1mCL.dpbs
  • You should research the requirements in the state(s) where you are looking to work and identify any unique requirements the state may have.

Haley’s Answer

Different states have different educational requirements before you are eligible to sit for your CPA exam. I would recommend researching Michigan's requirements and making sure that your college classes are targeted to meet these requirements. I found that it was beneficial to start taking CPA exams after finishing some courses in grad school, as the material was fresh in my brain. You can apply for your CPA license through NASBA, and they will either approve or deny your application, depending on if the requirements for your state have been met. Once you're approved, you can apply for the exams. You will need to pass 4 parts of the CPA within 18 months. After you pass the exams, you will need to start the process to become licensed. This includes a different set of requirements that are specific to your state board of accountancy.

Leeza’s Answer


That is a great question and Rachel did a great job explaining the process. The requirements slightly vary by state. Overall, you will need to complete the following steps:

  1. Complete the educational requirements
  2. Pass four sections of the CPA exam
  3. Pass the Ethics exam
  4. Work under a CPA for a year

Since requirements vary by state, it is best to research your state's requirements with the respective public accountancy board. Also, the following website provides state specific resources that I found helpful. https://www.accountingedu.org

Good luck!

Jennifer’s Answer

Updated Boston, Massachusetts

Hi Tayla,

My colleagues all provided great steps to follow to make sure you follow the correct guidelines to ensure you are eligible. Once you follow their steps, I have a few steps to add. Talk to someone who has recently undergone the exam. The exam changed recently and it would be good to get the most recent take on the applicant's experience. Next make a schedule CPA exams offer odd issues like blackout dates and a restriction on the number of times you can take an exam in a given testing period. Try to find a buddy or a mentor to help you plan out your timeline. Lastly, choose your preferred testing source. Whether you're going through an organized system or hoping for the best, you should do your research on pros and cons.

Good luck

Mikayla’s Answer

Updated Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Hi Tayla,

Obtaining your CPA varies state by state. I would advise going to your state's website/googling CPA requirements in your state and reading up on the speicific requierments. Additionally, it's beneficial to leverage your resources such as your professors and ask them questions. They may not have the most up-to-date information, if they obtained their CPA a while ago, but may be able to point you in the right direction.