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How Many Years Does It Take to Be A CPA?
To become a CPA, there are several things you will have to do to gain your license, including schooling and relevant job experience. When it comes to the length of time it will take to get your CPA, you should expect to commit about 7 years of time to earn your license.
Each state has different requirements, so you may find that where you live may have more or fewer prerequisites. Your particular timeframe can also vary depending on how heavy of a workload you take on.
For instance, if you spend part of your college career only going to school part-time, you’ll need to factor that into your expected timeline and expect a little more time to prepare.
What Steps Are Involved in Becoming A CPA?
There are a few steps you will need to take in order to earn your CPA license. First, you need to start with school. At the minimum, you will need a bachelor’s degree in accounting, although many states now require that you also have a master’s degree (or 150 college credits).
Next, you’ll want to look for an accounting internship or part-time job, so you can gain some on the job knowledge. After that, you will take your exams.
Upon passing your exams, you will work towards obtaining your license. In most states, this means you need to work under a CPA for at least a year or two. After completing the work experience requirement, you can get your CPA license.
Alternatively, you can always work under a CPA for a year or two first, then pass the exams and get your license after. Either order is generally fine.
Educational Requirements to Take the CPA Exam
The first thing you will need to do is get a college education. As previously mentioned, you will need a bachelor’s degree with 30-40 hours focusing on accounting, business law, auditing, and tax. It is important to know that some states require that candidates hold a master’s degree, or at least 150 credits.
While you are in college, it is a good idea to start building up your resume as well. In addition to maintaining a high GPA, you might want to join student organizations such as the IMA or an accounting club.
Anything you pursue in your free time in the areas of math and accounting will be beneficial for you and your future as a CPA.
Study & Pass the Four Sections of the CPA Exam
Now that you’ve completed your college education, you will need to study for and pass the entire CPA exam. The four sections are Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).
Due to the difficulty of the exams and importance of passing, many students enlist the help of a CPA prep course to ready themselves. If you fall into that category, be sure to check out our list of best CPA prep courses here. The CPA exam section specifics are as follows:
- AUD: 4 hours, consists of 72 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations. This section covers ethics, professional conduct, terms of engagement, assessing risk, materiality, written representation, reporting, and several other subjects.
- BEC: 4 hours, consists of 62 multiple-choice questions and 4 task-based simulations, as well as 3 written communications. This section covers regulatory frameworks, financial valuation methods, and decision models, financial risk management, systems development of maintenance, and more.
- FAR: 4 hours, consists of 66 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations. This section covers the conceptual framework, general-purpose financial statements, special purpose framework, inventory, income taxes, foreign currency, leases, and more.
- REG: 4 hours, consists of 76 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations. This section covers ethics and responsibilities, legal duties, estate and gift taxation, contracts, gross income, loss limitations, and more.
Take the AICPA Ethics Exam
Once you have passed all 4 sections of the CPA exam, most states require candidates to pass the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) ethics exam, covering the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct and Accounting Rules.
While most states utilize the APCPA, some states administer their own similar type of ethics exam, so be sure to check your state’s requirements. The AICPA ethics exam is a take-at-home test. It comes with a textbook and the exam is administered either on paper or online.
Many view the AICPA as a fairly easy exam, as you are able to use your textbook as needed, and ample time is given for answers.
The recommended time to prepare for the AICPA ethics exam is 10 hours. The test consists of 40 multiple-choice questions, with a score requirement of 90% to pass.
If you opt for the online version, you will receive your grade immediately after submission. The paper test is mailed back to the testing center and takes a few weeks for the results to be delivered to you.
Work Experience Requirement
After you have completed and passed all of your educational and testing requirements, you will be able to start working towards obtaining your license. While there aren’t any work requirements prior to taking your exam, you won’t be able to become certified without the necessary field experience.
Before you can obtain the official CPA title, you will need to work under a licensed CPA, with the amount of time required varying from state to state. In most places, you have to work 1-2 years in the field before you can be licensed.
Conclusion: How Long Does It Take to Get Your CPA License?
Generally speaking, you should plan to spend at least 7 years becoming a CPA. Factors that can affect this estimated 7-year length can include work schedules, family commitments and the amount of time needed to get your college degree.
In any case, putting in the time will indeed pay off in the long run, as you achieve your goal of becoming a CPA.