Qualify & Apply for the CPA Exam

Qualify & Apply for the CPA Exam

In order to take the CPA Exam, you must first meet a specific set of requirements. We’ll walk you through the necessary qualifications you must have to sit for the Exam. Then, once you’re well-versed in what’s required of you, continue on to learn your state’s CPA Exam application process.

How to Qualify for the CPA Exam

To sit for the CPA Exam, you’ll need to ensure you’ve covered the qualifying requirements for sitting for the CPA Exam. Each state and jurisdiction have its own educational requirements to take the Exam so be sure to check your jurisdiction’s specific CPA Exam requirements.

Typically, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Accounting is required and if your degree isn’t in accounting, most states require an additional 15 credit hours or less to sit for the Exam. Also, it’s important to note that most State Boards of Accountancy require a minimum of 150 hours of post-secondary education.

A bachelors’ degree normally provides 120 credit hours, so in order to obtain an extra 30 hours some CPA Candidates choose to complete a Master’s in Accounting (MAcc) program or take additional classes from an accredited university. (If you are in a provisionary state you may be able to sit for the exam a few months before completing all education units but will have to prove that you are close to completion).

Knowing what you need to do to schedule your first CPA Exam section can be overwhelming. But we're here to help! Get step-by-step guidance on how to qualify & apply to the CPA Exam here.

How to Apply for the CPA Exam

In general, the application process for the CPA Exam follows a few basic steps:

  • Apply to sit for the CPA Exam. Navigate to the NASBA website and choose your jurisdiction to begin the Exam process. Depending on your location, this is done through either your State Board of Accountancy or NASBA CPA Examination Services (CPAES): http://nasba.org/stateboards.
  • Submit transcripts and application fee. Based upon the requirements of your state board of accountancy, you will submit your University transcripts and pay the associated application fees.
  • Receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) or approval to take the CPA Exam. Your ATT is only valid for 90 days, so make sure to register for your exams promptly.
  • Choose the CPA Exam section(s) you’d like to start with and pay required CPA Exam fees to NASBA. It’s important to note that once you sign up to sit for a section with NASBA, you’ll have 6 to 12 months access before access and fees are forfeited.

  1. Apply Online
  2. Send transcripts to State Board
  3. Receive Authorization to Test (ATT)
  4. Select Exams and pay NASBA Fees

As soon as your CPA Exam application has been processed by NASBA and it’s decided that you are eligible to sit for the CPA Exam, you're ready to schedule your CPA Exam.

Qualifying and Applying for the CPA Exam Q&A

The eligibility requirements for the CPA Exam vary by jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction has specific requirements regarding education, experience, and residency. Refer to your jurisdiction’s application materials for additional information regarding the CPA Exam requirements for your area.

The conversion of quarter units to semester units in terms of the 150-hour requirement is 225 quarter units.

You can obtain 150 units in order to meet the CPA Exam education requirements and/or CPA licensure requirements in two ways:

  • Complete a master’s degree program.
    OR
  • Earn the necessary units by taking additional classes from an accredited college or university. 

Each state/jurisdiction requires that a certain number of the credits be from accounting courses. 

Depending on your jurisdiction, you will either need 120 or 150 semester units to be eligible to sit for the CPA. Most states/jurisdictions now require or will require 150 semester hours of education for CPA licensure. Contact your state board to know the requirements to apply for licensure.

No, you do not need to be an accounting major in order to become a CPA. If you do not have a degree in accounting, then you must obtain the required accounting credit hours and meet the total college credit hour requirement. The number of hours required varies by state. Therefore, visit your state board’s website to know the eligibility requirements.

Yes, you can use Community College credits to reach the education requirement for the CPA Exam and/or licensure as long as the Community College is an accredited institution.

You can send university transcripts yourself, however, the transcripts need to be in a sealed envelope unopened from the university. The advantage of sending them yourself is that you will know exactly when they are mailed.

Qualifying and Applying for the CPA Exam Q&A - International Students

Whether you have to be a US citizen in order to sit for the CPA Exam depends on the requirements of the state/jurisdiction in which you plan to become licensed. The states/jurisdictions that require you to be a US citizen are Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana and North Carolina.

The International Qualification Examination (IQEX) is for accounting professionals who are members of non-U.S. professional associations and have entered into mutual recognition agreements with the U.S. International Qualifications Appraisal Board (IQAB).

Through a mutual recognition agreement (MRA), qualified professional accountants from another country can practice in the United States without having to completely re-credential. Similar recognition is given to U.S. CPAs who wish to practice in that same country. The exam covers ethics, professional and legal responsibilities, business law and taxation related specifically to U.S. accounting practice.

Once you decide in which state/jurisdiction you would like to become licensed, you should contact the State Board of Accountancy for further information on their requirements. You may be requested to send a copy of your university transcripts to that state in order for them to verify your educational qualifications.

  1. Select which state in which you would like to become a CPA.
  2. Research and complete the state’s qualifications for citizenship, residency, and education requirements to sit for the U.S. CPA Exam. Each state is different and may have specific requirements. However, the most important thing you will need to have is following: A bachelor’s degree and completion of a minimum of 150 credit hours in business or accounting.
  3. After you have met the educational requirements, contact the Board of Accountancy or CPA Examination Services (CPAES) through NASBA, depending on your jurisdiction. Get application materials, submit completed applications and pay required fees.

For more information about taking the US CPA Exam as an International student, download our eBook

For CPA Exam applicants who have completed education outside the United States,The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) offers academic evaluation services. These services are available for CPA examination and licensing only.