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CPA Certification: Requirements, Cost and Where To Get It

CPA Certification: Requirements, Cost and Where To Get It

The requirements for CPA certification may appear intimidating at first, but obtaining a CPA license can provide a welcome boost in terms of salary and job security. Since a CPA credential is the only approved license for those in accounting and auditing, it can be an attractive certification for many employers. 

Exploring CPA certification costs, programs, and other steps in the process can help future CPAs on their journey to success. 

History of the Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA) was established in 1887 for the purpose of creating consistent accounting and auditing standards across the USA. It was renamed the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in 1957. The first CPAs were licensed in the year of 1896. 

Currently, the employment of accountants and auditors is projected to increase by 7% percent from 2020 to 2030. Meanwhile, the 2020 median pay rate in the United States is estimated to be approximately $73,560 per year or $35.37 per hour for accountants and auditors. 

Requirements For CPA Certification

The first step of the CPA certification process is to read up on your state’s licensing requirements. Depending on which state and district you live in, you may have specific requirements for CPA certification related to age, ethics exams, residency, and credits. 

However, the common requirement for CPA certification across all states and jurisdictions is 150 college credits and passing the Uniform CPA Examination. 

Educational CPA Requirements

One of the main steps in the CPA certification process is to earn 150 college credits, made up of 30 credits in accounting and 24 in business administration. In addition, a minimum of  15 credits need to be at the upper-division or graduate level. 

However, since a bachelor’s degree is usually made up of 120 credits, a potential CPA will need to earn 30 more through a master’s degree or graduate certificate to earn 150 in total. 

Professional CPA Requirements

The next step in the CPA certification process is to take part in a work experience requirement for a public or private accounting firm. Depending on your state, this may need to be a public accounting firm and/or one that provides supervision under a licensed CPA. Although the specified duration varies per state, it is usually around two years in length. 

While you can take this requirement either before or after the exam, it needs to be completed before you obtain your license. 

The Cost to Become a CPA

Depending on a number of factors, CPA certification costs can vary per state. In addition to this, there is a combination of education fees, application fees, registration fees, and exam fees to consider.  

Costs Pre-Exam

Although it varies, you can expect to pay around $20,000 at a public college for undergraduate education and around $40,000 for an MBA. These costs can be higher depending on the state in which you choose to study and whether or not you choose a private college. 

You may also need to take a professional review course either online or in-person to help you pass the CPA exam, which can cost between $1,500 to $3,000. However, this cost might be offset by financial aid from your university. 

CPA Exam Cost

Unfortunately, one of the major difficulties during the CPA certification process is the high cost of exams. Each section costs around $250, and there are four sections in total. This means that you’ll need to pay an extra $1000 in order to retake the exam if you fail, in addition to any application fees you’ll need to pay. 

Costs Post-Exam

After you have passed all the sections of the CPA exam, you need to take an ethics exam. This can cost around $160 or be cheaper if you get a discount. The good news is that it is easier than the CPA exam. 

The last step of the CPA certification process is to apply for the certificate itself through your state’s accounting board. This will cost another $160 or so. 

Overall Cost

Ultimately, you should expect to pay between $3,000 to $5,000 in addition to your undergraduate expenses and/or master’s expenses before becoming a CPA. While this might be higher than you’d expect, becoming certified can significantly improve your job prospects in the future. 

Where To Get A CPA Certification

You will need to choose the state that you want to be licensed in and reach out to the Board of Accountancy and CPA society for details on their certification requirements. Another useful resource is the CPA Central, which provides a user-friendly online application for first-time, re-examination, and pre-evaluation (where available) candidates. 

They also provide online score retrieval, application status and history, and other useful links for exam takers. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding the basics of the CPA certification program can help you get started as soon as possible. 

Is it hard to get CPA certified?

It can be a challenge to go through the CPA certification process since the overall pass rates are slightly below 50%. The financial costs can also be rather high. However, it is a highly rewarding process that can open up career opportunities for many individuals. 

How many years is a CPA course?

Depending on your qualifications, it can take around 7 years in total including an undergraduate degree, extra credits, and work experience requirements before you can become a CPA. 

Is a CPA certification worth it?

The CPA certification cost and the process can be quite challenging, but it means that you can access more job opportunities in the future and potentially raise your expected income as well. 

CPA Certification In A Nutshell

Although the requirements of the CPA certification program can be extensive, the demand for accountants in the future is expected to increase due to economic growth and globalization. Because of this, a licensed CPA will be able to encounter many career paths and rewarding opportunities in the future. 

Learn more about other certification requirements for career growth on Reliable Certified today! 

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