First of all, you’ll need to understand that the CPA license is granted by State Board of individual states and jurisdictions in the United States instead of the government at the federal level. Therefore, there exist a total of 55 slightly different CPA exam requirements among the different jurisdictions in the US.
In general, the various State Boards of Accountancy require CPA candidates to have at least a Bachelor degree, but a Master’s degree with 150 credit hours is preferred. A minimum number of accounting and business courses is also required.
Once you fulfill the education requirement, you are qualified to sit for the CPA Exam. While the CPA exam requirement varies by state, the exam itself is the same for all: This is a tough 14-hour exam divided into 4 sections, covering financial accounting, auditing, tax and regulation together with business law, information systems and ethics. The exam is offered in a computerized format so candidates can actually take the 4 sections separately and at any given time during the testing window.
How To Become A CPA Without Accounting Experience
After passing the CPA exam, most candidates have to fulfill the working requirements ranging from one to five years depending on the degree obtained and the relevancy of work.
However, there are two states – Colorado and Massachusetts – that you can actually get a full CPA license without any relevant experience. In fact, there is no need of any working experience at all!
For Colorado, as long as you fulfill the full 150 semester units requirement, you can go through the “education in lieu of experience” option to get licensed in the State of Colorado. For Massachusetts, in addition to the 150 hour requirement you’ll need a graduate degree in accounting, finance, taxation or business to obtain a “non-reporting license” without working experience. This license allows the aspiring CPA to do everything except attestation and signing of the audit report.
There are some drawbacks in getting the CPA qualification this way. For example, certain restrictions may apply if you want to practice in a CPA firm outside the state.