How To Get a CPA License: Step-by-Step Guide

This article provides an elaborate guide on how to get a CPA license, including some of the requirements depending on states, and how long it takes to get it.

Whether you are an accounting student or looking to advance your career, you may be interested to know how long it takes to become a CPA. Many factors need to be considered when looking at this question.

The path to becoming a CPA can seem complicated. After all, there are several steps in the process, including education, experience, and other specific requirements that vary from state to state.

To make this journey easier for you, we have created this guide, where we will elaborate on how to get a CPA license and how long it takes to get it. Read on to find out!

What Is a CPA?

A certified public accountant (CPA) is a title for licensed accounting professionals. They are concerned with accounting tasks like producing reports accurately reflecting business dealings. Earning the CPA credential distinguishes you by signaling dedication, knowledge, and skill. This helps enforce professional standards in the accounting industry.

A CPA can help companies choose the best action to minimize taxes and maximize profitability. They are also concerned with tax reporting and filing for individuals and businesses. The Board of Accountancy provides the CPA license for each state.

A certified public accountant can allow accounting professionals more flexibility and mobility in their careers. Based on reciprocity laws, CPAs can become licensed in many states. Across industries, CPAs are looked at for their reliability, industry knowledge, and credentials. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) underlines these five popular sectors in CPAs’ work:

  • Public accounting
  • Business and industry
  • Government
  • Education
  • Non-profit

Nonetheless, earning a CPA designation can grant opportunities in nearly every industry.

How To Become a CPA


Earning a CPA is an assurance of quality, showing that you have met the profession’s highest standards of competence and achievement. The path to becoming a CPA varies depending on where you live. The following are the first steps you need to think about:

  1. Education: The CPA designation requires a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, or accounting. Most states include 150 credit hours in college-level accounting courses. These requirements can be met by CPA accounting candidates, even as undergraduate students.
  2. Experience: Some states have experience requirements that those interested must fulfill. They can change from state to state. For example, some states demand a year of work experience under the supervision of another CPA, while some require two years of public accounting experience.
  3. Exam: The CPA exam may be the most challenging requirement, and you have 18 months to pass all of them with a minimum score of 75. Each section takes four hours and includes multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. The scores are weighted based on difficulty, but they are not curved. This exam consists of four sections:
  • Auditing and Attestation
  • Business Environment and Concepts
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting
  • Regulation

How To Get a CPA License

Now that you have a general understanding of what is required to become a CPA, let’s dig into the details of how to get a CPA license.

Check your state’s requirements


Firstly, you will want to check your state’s requirements. Every state has various requirements for taking the CPA exam and becoming a licensed CPA. These can include residence or experience requirements, semester hours in accounting, and more. You must check your state’s board of accountancy or jurisdiction to confirm your eligibility.

Additionally, you must complete the educational requirements specified by the state. For example, if you are wondering how to get a CPA license in California, here is what you need:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • 24-semester units in accounting subjects
  • 24-semester units in business subjects
  • 150-semester units of education
  • Passing the CPA Exam
  • Passing the Professional Ethics Exam for CPAs
  • One year of general accounting experience supervised by a CPA

Different from California, in Florida, to be eligible to take the CPA exam, you should complete 120 semester credit hours. These semester-hour requirements include 120 semester or 160 quarter hours. And no bachelor’s degree is required to sit for the exam.

But, if you are interested to know how to get a CPA license in Texas, then you will need the following:

  • Do a background check of the criminal history.
  • Hold a higher degree from a board-recognized United States university.
  • Complete 150 semester hours of college credit.
  • Complete 30 semester hours.
  • Complete 24 semester hours.
  • Complete a 3-semester-hour board-approved ethics course.

Pass the CPA exam

Three organizations, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), and Prometric, have a contractual arrangement to administer the CPA Exam.

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Once you are eligible, it’s time to apply. First, you must complete the application through NASBA’s CPA Central and submit the required documentation for verification. You’ll then receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS), allowing you to schedule your CPA Exam section, valid for six months. You can schedule your exam through Prometric.

The CPA Exam consists of four sections that will test your knowledge of accounting standards, the legal requirements of the profession, and much more. Each CPA exam section strictly assesses the minimum technical knowledge and skills required for initial licensure. You’ll take one section at a time.

To pass the exam, you will need a minimum score of 75 and will have 18 months to do so. Once you’ve passed all four sections, verify whether your jurisdiction requires a separate ethics examination before applying for your license.

Finalize certification


Passing the CPA Exam does not mean you are automatically a CPA and can start practicing as one. You’ll have to fulfill some additional requirements depending on which state you choose for your license. For example, you may need to complete extra education hours, pass an ethics exam, complete years of experience and verify it.

Renew and maintain your licensure

Businesses and companies hire licensed CPAs because they want to guarantee that a trustworthy person with industry expertise handles their finances. Hence, renewing your CPA license is vital to the industry.

All 55 license-granting jurisdictions in the U.S. have established their own CPA license renewal regulations. Many require renewal every one to two years, where you will have to pay a fee of $50 to $150. Additionally, you will need to prove that you’ve completed approximately 40 hours of CPE per year.

Some states will require participation in continuing professional education (CPE) annually in order to maintain your certification.

How Long Does It Take To Get a CPA License?


When it comes to the time it will take to get your CPA, it generally takes around seven years to become a CPA.

Most states require 120-150 credit hours to sit for the CPA exam. If we do the math, that is around 4-5 years of schooling. The CPA exam includes four tests; you must pass all four within 18 months. The clock starts with your first passing mark.

After the CPA exam, you must meet other state requirements, such as at least one or two years of experience and an ethics exam. Additionally, most states demand two years of accounting work experience to earn licensure.

Your particular timeframe can also vary depending on the workload you take on. For example, if you spend part of your college career only going to school part-time, you’ll need a little more time to prepare.


The CPA credential is considered the gold standard certification in the accounting profession. So, if you want to obtain your prestigious credential to earn a competitive salary or become more marketable, this is your time to start. Find the right degree program, be sure you are taking enough accounting courses, and reduce how long it takes to get a CPA degree by being prepared.

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