How Long Does It Take to Become a CPA?

Congratulations! You have taken and passed all four sections of the CPA Exam. (1) Are you a licensed CPA? (2) Can you put the three letters CPA behind your name on your brand new business cards? The answer to the first questions is most likely no. Concerning the second question, until you become a licensed CPA, you definitely should not consider putting the letters CPA on your business cards.

CPA Licensing: Time Varies by State

You may be wondering if there is a set of uniform education, examination, ethics, and experience requirements to become a CPA. After all, that is a great question. You just finished taking the Uniform CPA Exam, meaning the exam was the same regardless of where you took it. However, CPA licensing is not performed at a national level; it is administered at the state level, meaning state licensing procedures tend to vary from state to state. You can find up-to-date information about CPA licensing at your specific State Board of Accountancy website. However, the AICPA has developed a centralized website (www.thiswaytocpa.com) to assist aspiring CPAs navigate the nuances of each state licensing process.

‘Show Me’ an Example

For example, if you were considering becoming a licensed CPA in the Show Me State, Missouri, you would need to verify that you meet its unique requirements. In particular, This Way to CPA indicates that for Missouri, you would need to be at least 21 years old and a resident of the state of Missouri. In addition, you would need to have a social security number, a bachelor’s degree with 150 hours, 33 hours in accounting, one year of accounting work experience, and a completed written ethics exam. So how long will it take for you to become a licensed CPA in Missouri? Assuming you have met the education requirements to sit for the CPA Exam in the first place, the major time constraints that you could encounter would be age and work experience. If you are younger than 21 years old, then the constraint you face is time itself. However if you are like most candidates wanting to become licensed in Missouri, then you will need to wait a year after working in the accounting profession to qualify as a licensed CPA. Therefore, if you are like most candidates, you can stick to the following formula:

5 years of school + 1 year to pass the Exam + 1 year of work experience = 7 years to become a CPA

While every state’s licensing requirements are different, you can expect that it will take about 5 years of college plus 1 or 2 years of working and studying to become a CPA.  To figure out your specific requirements, please review www.thiswaytocpa.com or your State’s Board of Accounting Website.  And as always, remember to breathe.

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