It is not a secret that I want to become a CPA. The reason I went back to school to pursue a Master of Accountancy is to meet the NJ CPA requirements. The application process, however, has been quite the challenge for me. Not because the information on the website is not clear, but because I’d get conflicting information whenever I call for a status update. I will premise this blog by saying your experience may not be similar to mine. The CPA requirement for each state is nuanced and therefore if you’re not in NJ your application process may not be like mine. However, I’m sharing my journey to CPA so that others don’t make the same mistakes I have.
Before we get into my journey to CPA tips from my experience here are facts about the CPA:
What Is A CPA?
CPA (certified public accountant) is a designation awarded to accountants who have met the minimum requirements to be a licensed accounting professional. It should be noted that while all CPAs are accountants all accountants are not CPAs.
How To Become A CPA?
Becoming a CPA is a rigorous process. This is why less than 50% of accountants are CPAs. There are three components to meeting the requirements to become a CPA. Firstly, candidates must achieve 150 semester hours. Keep in mind that the requirements to achieve a bachelor’s degree is 120 semester hours. Therefore, undergraduate students who hope to obtain their CPA must take additional semester hours to be CPA eligible. This could be done by pursuing a dual degree at their university or pursuing a master’s program after graduating. There are several universities in the U.S. that offer a 5-year accounting program that is aimed at ensuring their students meet the 150 semester hours requirement to obtain their CPA.
The second component is the examination requirement. Currently, the CPA examinations consist of four parts designed to test accounting knowledge and competencies. They are Audit and Attestations (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG). Candidates can take these exams in any order and must achieve a score of 75 (out of 99) to pass.
Finally, there is the experience component. Once candidates have achieved the education and examination requirements, they then need 1 year of experience working under a CPA.
CPA Exam Application
CPA application requirements may vary by state. When visiting the NASBA website, candidates will be asked to select the state they intend to get licensure in. From there they will be able to see the specific requirements for their state. Generally, you’ll be required to submit your transcript so it can be determined if you meet the minimum accounting and business semester hours requirement.
CPA NIES Evaluation
If you attended university outside of the U.S. you are required to get your credentials evaluated before applying for your CPA exams. Don’t be fooled like I was. Even if your degree is from an accredited University in the U.S. if you had any credits transferred from your country of origin you still need to get an internal evaluation BEFORE applying for your exams.
Also keep in mind that NASBA has their own international evaluation services. Therefore, you do not need to have a 3rd party such as World Education Services (WES) to evaluate your transcripts. Also, if English is not the official language of your country you may need to pay an additional fee to have your transcript translated to English. For more information on the CPA click here [AICPA].
My Journey To CPA
Here are a few tips I wish I know before I started my journey to CPA:
Know Your State Requirements
Each state has their own requirements that CPA candidates must meet in order to apply for the CPA. For example, to gain licensure in Kansas, applicants must meet a residency requirement while NJ candidates do not. Kansas requires 30 semester hours in accounting while NJ only requires 24. These details are important to know as they can save you time and money.
Make A List
Before you even start your application make a list of everything that you’ll need to complete the application. This way you’ll not forget something important and end up extending the application timeline.
Know Your Status
Are you an international student? Or are you a domestic student? Because I graduated from a U.S. university, I thought I was a domestic student. It turns out I am an international student. I found this out months after thinking I had completed my CPA application. International students are required to complete a separate evaluation before applying to take the CPA exams. So, if you attended a foreign institution and had credits transferred to your U.S. university, you need to have your foreign transcript evaluated.
Once you’ve met the CPA exam eligibility requirements, apply to sit the exam. Getting all your application documents could take weeks, especially if you’re an international student. Getting your application evaluated could also take weeks. Then you have to wait another couple of weeks before you receive your notice to sit (NTS). Save yourself frustration down the line by starting your CPA application as soon as you are ready to sit the exams.
Want to learn more about a career in accounting? Click here [Qualities You Need To Thrive In Accounting] and [Questions To Ask Before Accepting A Job Offer]. If you want to know more about my journey to CPA just ask below!
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