How Do You Get A CPA License?

“I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.” – Elvis Presley.  

The end goal of taking the CPA exam is to become a licensed CPA. But it’s easy forget that there are requirements outside of the exam that also have to be met. I know. The horror! Luckily, you’ll probably knock several of them out while you’re planning for, and taking, the exam. Read on to find out the answer to the question “How do you get a CPA license?”


Where Will You Work?

The very first thing you want to do is determine where you want to get your license. You should consider where you want to work, or where it’s likely you’ll work. For example, I live in Northern Kentucky but I would most likely practice in Cincinnati, Ohio. So the best option would be to get an Ohio CPA license.

Every state’s licensure requirements are different, so check out your State Board of Accountancy’s website and see what the requirements are for you state. Or you can check out the NASBA run Accountancy Licensing Library which explains the licensing process across all states. In general, you’ve got the four E requirements: education, experience, exam and ethics.


The (General) Requirements

Education: Duh. I mean, you probably wouldn’t be happy if you found out your brain surgeon decided to forgo college. And people aren’t going to be happy if their tax professional did either. To stick with our theme, education requirements are a no-brainer. All 55 jurisdictions require you to meet the 150 semester hour requirement. Each state is different concerning the amount of hours that must be obtained in accounting and business related courses, so be sure to check your State Board of Accountancy’s specific requirements.

Experience: Each state varies in the experience requirement, but you’ll likely have to complete at least one year to be a licensed CPA. Believe me, experience is going to be incredibly helpful. All the things you learned in school that seemed to make no sense will all come together seamlessly when you actually start working.

Exam: Your favorite part! Seriously though, the CPA exam is the necessary evil that will allow you to get your CPA license.

Ethics: I’m not done yet?! Not in most states; many require an ethics exam. Some states have their own courses and exams and others use the AICPA’s comprehensive ethics course and exam.


Actually Getting Your CPA License

Once you’ve met the requirements listed above for your state, you’re all set to get those three letters! You’ll need to go to your State Board of Accountancy’s website and fill out the application to become licensed. You’ll likely have to send in college transcripts to confirm your hours, and scores from the exam to prove you passed.

After sending in all of the necessary information, you have to play the waiting game. But once you are licensed, you’ll receive your fancy license in the mail and you can start signing your name with CPA at the end (and obviously ask for a raise)!

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