3 CPA Requirements for the Aspiring Public Accountant

Rob Browne
Rob Browne  |  October 10, 2019

So you want to be a CPA?

It’s no secret that a position as a certified public accountant is a desirable one. And especially after reading up to learn what is a CPA and understanding some of the basic accounting principles, it’s natural that you’d feel inclined to launch a career as a CPA.

This article takes you through what is required if you are to be a CPA.

How to become a CPA in 3 steps

These three steps describe the road to becoming a certified public accountant. It requires hours of intense studying and work experience, but also the thrilling reward of passing the CPA exam. Let’s take a look:

1. Earn a Bachelor’s or an Associate’s degree


Educational requirements for becoming a CPA can vary depending on the state or country in which you’re planning to become a certified public accountant. However, for your own benefit, it is advised to take at least some accounting coursework and earn a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree to establish a firm base of accounting knowledge in your career. 

Taking courses in basic accounting, accounting theory, and taxation can prepare you to enter the accounting workforce and set you up for effectively studying for the CPA exams when it’s time to take them. 

TIP: Learn all about what accountants do in our handy guide!

2. Gain work experience


After completing accounting coursework, it’s time to gain some real-world accounting experience. State CPA boards typically require CPA candidates to complete two years of work experience. Being in the accounting industry is a valuable way to be able to find work, as all types of companies and fields of work need accountants. Be it public or private accounting, all work experience is good experience when it comes to fulfilling your two years of accounting work. 

This type of work can include reviewing financial documents, preparing tax returns, and advising clients on the financial health of their businesses. This experience proves important in putting firsthand experiences to the principles learned in one’s accounting education and CPA exam studying. 

cpa requirements

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting jobs are expected to increase by 6% over the next ten years. For any accounting job seekers, this is a promising statistic that incentivizes anyone interested in gaining experience in accounting and moving forward with a career in the industry.

3.Pass the CPA exam


The final, and arguably most challenging, step to becoming a certified public accountant is taking the CPA exam. The American Institute of Certified Public Accounting has developed a series of four exams, each of which is four hours long. These four parts are Auditing and Attestation, Financial Accounting and Reporting, Regulation, and Business Environment and Concepts. In order to become a CPA, one must pass all four sections of the exam within an 18-month testing window. 

The sections can be taken in any sequence, at any point during the 18-month window. However, you cannot take a single section more than once. If you fail one section of the test, you will have to wait until the next window opens to retake it. 

The test is made up of multiple-choice questions, task-based questions, and written communication tasks. More difficult questions are weighted more heavily than others. Due to the level of difficulty of the test, it’s recommended that test takers study somewhere between 100-200 hours per section of the test to ensure they pass. Review courses and online study plans are widely available for the CPA exam, as well as practice test books and personal tutors.

Start your journey

After the completion of your CPA exam, you’ll receive a congratulatory letter from your state board and can move on to being a certified public accountant! As you launch your career as a CPA, be sure to check out G2’s guide to the best accounting software for your business.

See the Highest-Rated Accounting Software →

Rob Browne
Author

Rob Browne

Rob is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 Crowd writing about all things marketing. Originally from New Jersey, he previously worked at an NYC-based business travel startup.