How Do You Apply To Be A CPA?

Applying for your actual CPA license can be more convoluted than the exam itself. I naively thought that the second I passed the CPA exam, I would have a certificate and license en-route to my house from the Pennsylvania Board of Accountancy the next day. Unfortunately, I was very wrong. From the time I passed the exam, to the time I received my license was almost 15 months later, due to all of the requirements and stipulations that must first be met.

Baseline CPA Requirements

The first step to applying for your CPA license is making sure you meet all of these requirements in order to apply for your license in the state where you have taken the exam.

  • Education: All 55 US jurisdictions require you to meet the 150- semester hour requirement, obtained through both undergraduate and graduate level courses. Although some states don’t require you to have 150 credit hours to sit for the exam, you must meet this requirement to apply for your CPA license.
  • Experience: This requirement varies from state to state. It is crucial to make sure you understand your specific states requirement before applying for your CPA license through the state board. For me, Pennsylvania requires that you having 1600 hours AND one year of experience. This can be in any type of service involving accounting (i.e audit, tax or advisory). Again, it’s important to check your states specific requirements at the AICPA Website as some states require specific time periods of experience in public accounting vs working in private industry.
  • Passing the exam: To apply to be a CPA you must have completed and passed all parts of the CPA exam in the state you plan on working in (duh!).


Actually applying

Once you meet all of the above criterion, you can find the application more on the NASBA Site. The application itself was long, almost 7 pages. In Pennsylvania, I was required to have another CPA I knew or have worked with fill out sections of the form and mail the form in to the state board for me. The part of the application the fill out attests you having met the experience requirement.  As the board already had my transcripts from when I applied to the CPA exam, showing I had met the education requirements, as well as my scores from the exam, showing I had passed, this was the only requirement still needed for me to meet.

After applying, it took me almost 2.5 months to receive my certificate in the mail! You can keep track of your application process online through a confirmation email the state board will send you upon receipt of your application. Definitely a long wait but worth it when you finally get that piece of paper saying you’re officially a certified public accountant!

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