How to Become a CPA


Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the United States is a prestigious and rewarding career choice that offers numerous opportunities in the fields of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting. CPAs are in high demand for their expertise and integrity, providing job stability and excellent salary prospects. The journey to earning your CPA license involves education, examination, experience, and ethical standards. 

This guide provides a detailed roadmap for navigating the process of becoming a CPA in the United States.

Understand the CPA Role

Before embarking on the CPA journey, it's essential to understand what CPAs do. CPAs are trusted financial advisors who help individuals, businesses, and organizations plan and reach their financial goals. They perform a range of accounting services, including auditing financial statements, preparing tax returns, and offering strategic financial advice.

Meet the Educational Requirements

The first step towards becoming a CPA is meeting the basic educational requirements. 

Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

A key educational requirement is to earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Your degree should include a substantial number of accounting-related courses. Most states require a minimum of 24-33 semester units in accounting subjects.

Complete 150 Semester Hours

In addition to a bachelor's degree, most states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of education, which is 30 hours more than the typical 120 hours required for a bachelor's degree. Most states also require a minimum of 24-33 semester units in business related subjects.

Many candidates meet this requirement by pursuing a master's degree in accounting. If you do not wish to pursue a master's degree, you could consider programs, like those offered by UCSD Extended Studies Professional Accounting Certificate, as an alternative to meet your core accounting and business CPA requirements.

To find your state's requirements, visit your state's board of accountancy website or check the NASBA website. 

Prepare to Pass the CPA Exam

The CPA Exam is a rigorous four-part test administered by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). Each part focuses on different areas of accounting knowledge and skills:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD) covers auditing procedures, generally accepted auditing standards, and other standards related to attest engagements.
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) focuses on financial accounting and reporting frameworks used by business entities, not-for-profit organizations, and government entities.
  • Regulation (REG) covers ethics, professional and legal responsibilities, and federal taxation.
  • Core + Discipline licensure offers three disciplines to choose from:
  • Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR)
  • Information Systems and Controls (ISC)
  • Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP)

Learn more about the 2024 CPA Exam

Gain Relevant Work Experience

Most states require CPA candidates to gain a certain amount of work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA. The experience requirement typically ranges from one to two years and should involve accounting, auditing, attest, or tax work.

Meet Ethical Standards

Ethics is a cornerstone of the CPA profession. Candidates must demonstrate a commitment to ethical standards, which will be evaluated in the REG section of the CPA exam. It is advisable to visit your state's board of accountancy website to verify the specific ethics requirements for your state.

Apply for the CPA License

Once you have met all the educational, examination, experience, and ethics requirements, you can apply for your CPA license through your state's Board of Accountancy. The application process involves submitting proof of your qualifications and paying any applicable fees.

Maintain Your CPA License

CPAs must adhere to continuing professional education (CPE) requirements to maintain their license. The specific CPE requirements vary by state, but typically involve completing a certain number of CPE hours annually or biennially. CPAs must also stay current with changes in accounting standards, tax laws, and other relevant regulations.

Becoming a CPA in the United States is a challenging yet highly rewarding endeavor. The process requires an investment of time and effort, but the professional and personal benefits are substantial. As a CPA, you'll be equipped with the expertise and credentials to advance your career in various fields of accounting and finance.

Embarking on this journey requires careful planning and dedication, but with the right preparation and commitment, you can achieve the prestigious CPA designation and enjoy a fulfilling career as a trusted financial advisor.

Seek Guidance

If you're ready to embark on your CPA journey or need guidance along the way, reach out to experts within the UC San Diego Extended Studies Accounting Programhttps at

Posted: 6/14/2024 9:35:24 AM with 0 comments

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