How to Become a CPA

Brandi Glass
May 229 min read
Focused Woman working using Laptop

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) offer invaluable financial services to people, businesses, and organizations. Most companies and businesses in the US need these professionals to ensure compliance with laws and to manage their finances.

If you want to know how to become a CPA but don’t know where to start, read on. We’ll go over what CPAs do, the benefits of entering this field, salary ranges, and the qualifications you need to start on this multifaceted career path.

What is a CPA?

Certified Public Accountants, commonly known as CPAs, are professionals who meet their state’s educational and experiential requirements and have passed the Uniform CPA Exam.

CPAs receive their license from their state board of accountancy. They must adhere to ethical and professional standards once they start their careers.

What Does a CPA Do?

CPAs play a significant role in the financial world by offering numerous services to people, businesses, and large-scale organizations. They assist with financial planning, tax preparation, audit and assurance, and forensic accounting. CPAs also serve as business consultants, providing invaluable financial management, budgeting, and strategic planning advice.

How to Become a CPA

Now it’s time to look at how to become a CPA. First, you must tackle multiple steps that vary slightly depending on your residence. However, the general process includes:

  • Get a bachelor’s degree in accounting or an accounting-related subject
  • Obtain additional educational credits depending on state requirements
  • Gain 1-2 years of work experience supervised by a licensed CPA
  • Prepare for and pass the CPA Exam, a four-part test that includes Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG)
  • Take an ethics exam depending on your jurisdiction
  • Apply for a CPA license once you complete all requirements

How Long Does It Take to Become a CPA?

It takes around 5-8 years to become a CPA. A bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete. Depending on credit hour requirements, you may also need additional courses or pursue a master’s degree, racking up another one or two years.

You also need 1-2 years of relevant work experience supervised by a licensed CPA. Preparing for the CPA exam takes a few months to a year or more, depending on your study pace. The CPA exam takes 16 hours to complete, divided into four sections. You don’t have to take it all simultaneously but must finish all sections within 18 months.

How Long is CPA Training?

You need 1-2 years of training under a licensed CPA to complete the training requirements of this profession. It’s an excellent time to understand the job’s basics and experience what it will be like to become one once you complete your requirements.

A Day in the Life of a CPA

A Person Counting Us Dollars

On a typical day at a business or company, you will start by reviewing emails and updating your schedule to accommodate meetings and deadlines. The bulk of your day, when it’s not tax season, includes reconciling accounts, analyzing financial reports, or preparing budgets.

During the day, you’ll likely discuss financial strategies, tax implications, or audit findings with your peers. During tax season, you will be pretty busy preparing tax returns for individuals or businesses, ensuring compliance with tax regulations, and identifying potential savings.

If your work is mainly in auditing, your day consists of visiting client sites to review their financial records. You may also test internal controls and assess compliance with accounting standards and regulations.

CPA Salary: How Much Does a CPA Make?

The average CPA salary in the United States is $73,464 a year. However, the range is quite broad, depending on your state.

CPA Salary Ranges

A CPA salary in the US ranges between $70,235 and $461,014. The more qualified you are and depending on your place of work, the more likely you are to receive a higher salary.

CPA Salary Entry Level: Roughly $22 - $37.00 an hour.

How Much Does a CPA Make an Hour?

  • If your salary is $70,235 a year, you can expect to make $36.73 per hour if you work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year.
  • If your salary is $110,000 annually, your hourly rate is $55.00 if you work 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year.

Is Becoming a CPA a Good Fit for Me?

Working as a CPA may be ideal if you like math, analyzing financial data, and have above-par attention to detail. CPA requirements also call for excellent communication skills. Your job involves speaking to clients or management to offer financial guidance and ensure accurate financial reporting.

A CPA career may be rewarding if you like problem-solving, critical thinking, and working with numbers. Additionally, being a CPA offers numerous opportunities for growth and specialization, including tax planning, auditing, financial consulting, or forensic accounting.

Where Can a CPA Work?

One of the great things about working as a CPA is that you can work in various settings, which offer diverse opportunities for professional growth and specialization. Some places you can work include:

  • Public Accounting Firms
  • Private Corporations
  • Government Agencies
  • Nonprofit Organizations
  • Educational Institutions
  • Starting an accounting practice
  • Working as an independent consultant
  • Banks and investment firms
  • Forensic Accounting firms

The versatility of your CPA requirements and credentials gives you a wide range of employment options across various industries and sectors.

How to Apply for CPA Jobs

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The most essential step to apply for jobs is to have an updated, well-formatted CPA resume from Rocket Resume.

Building a resume on Rocket Resume’s platform is simple, with easy-to-use tools that help you highlight your goals, CPA schooling, and achievements. You can also check a CPA resume example online to see what the CV should look like before choosing a template.

After you choose a CPA resume from Rocket Resume, answer the prompts to professionally highlight your education, work experience, and relevant skills. Rocket Resume CVs also help you emphasize your CPA designation, including the specializations or industry-specific knowledge you possess. This information is all in one place, with a proper format that passes Applicant Tracking Systems without glitches that prevent it from reaching the recruiter’s hands.

The next step is applying for jobs through social media platforms and company websites. You can also set up job alerts with relevant keywords to receive notifications when new positions become available.

Once you follow these steps, it’s time to prepare for your interview. Come to the company prepared by researching its history, and get ready to discuss your experience, skills, and accomplishments.

Following these steps can increase your chances of finding and securing a CPA job that aligns with your professional goals and interests.

CPA Resume Template

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does CPA stand for?

CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant. To become one, you must obtain a CPA license, have a bachelor’s degree, complete accounting and business-related courses, and have 1-2 years of relevant job experience.

What is a CPA license?

A CPA license is a credential awarded by a state board of accountancy to people who meet educational and experience requirements and pass the Uniform CPA Exam.

How much does a CPA cost?

You can expect to pay roughly $4,032 for the exam application fee, the cost of each section, and prep. The application fee costs $200, and each part of the exam costs about $208, amounting to $1,032. However, exam prep incurs additional expenses, with review courses costing up to $3,000.

How to get a CPA license?

You need a bachelor’s degree, additional credits, work experience and to pass the CPA exam and Ethics exam (if applicable). You must also submit your application for licensure to the appropriate governing body in your jurisdiction.

What is a CPA salary?

You can earn between $70,000 - $460,000 a year working as a CPA. A CPA starting salary is at $48,000 a year, while some sites report that an average CPA starting salary is $52,000. This number depends on your experience, state of residence, and place of work.

How hard is the CPA exam?

CPA exam requirements are notoriously difficult. You cannot pass the CPA exam without studying and preparing well for each section. It is one of the more demanding professional exams to tackle in your personal and professional career, with less than a 50% pass rate.

That is why it is crucial to dedicate ample time for CPA schooling and revision to make sure you understand the CPA exam requirements before sitting for the exam.

How many CPAs are in the US?

According to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, 665,612 actively licensed CPAs are in the United States as of 2022.

How to become a CPA in California?

According to the California Board of Accountancy, the following are requirements for CPA certification in California:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • 24 units in accountancy subjects
  • 24 units in business subjects
  • Passing the Uniform CPA and the Professional Ethics exams
  • One year of work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA
  • Applying for and receiving the California CPA license

How to become a CPA in Texas?

According to the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants, you need the following requirements for CPA certification in Texas:

  • A board-recognized bachelor’s or graduate degree
  • 30 semester hours of accounting-related subjects
  • 20 semester hours of business courses
  • Pass the Uniform CPA exam
  • One year of work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA

How to become a CPA without an accounting degree?

Although all states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree as education requirements for CPA licensure, the following states allow you to get a CPA without explicitly having an accounting degree:

  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • Alaska
  • Massachusetts
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii

As a rule of thumb, always check the education requirements for CPA licensure in your state before starting the process.

How to become a CPA in Florida?

To become a CPA in Florida, you need:

  • 160 quarter credits divided into accounting, business, and business law
  • Pass the Uniform CPA Exam
  • One year of work experience under a licensed CPA
  • Apply for and receive the Florida CPA license

How to become a CPA in New York?

In New York, you must complete the educational requirements and a program approved by the NYSED, pass the CPA Exam, and have 1-2 years of experience under a licensed CPA.

How to become a CPA in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, you need:

  • A bachelor’s degree, including 150 course hours in accounting
  • Pass the CPA Exam
  • One year of work experience under a licensed CPA
  • Take an Accountancy Law course on the North Carolina Accountancy Statutes and Rules, including the Rules of Professional Ethics and Conduct
  • Apply for and receive the CPA license

How hard is it to become a CPA?

Being a CPA comes with patience, dedication, and much studying. If you do not study well for your CPA exam, you will likely not pass. It can be challenging to become a licensed CPA if you do not enjoy finance, mathematics, business, and accounting.

How to become a CPA online?

You must check your state requirements to determine if becoming a CPA online is possible. You may be able to get the bachelor’s degree online, but work experience may need to be in-house.

How to become a CPA in Virginia?

To be a CPA in Virginia, you need:

  • An accredited bachelor’s degree or higher with a concentration in accounting
  • Taking core business and accounting courses
  • Passing the CPA exam
  • Applying for ad receiving the Virginia CPA license

How to become a CPA in Colorado?

To become a CPA in Colorado, you must complete the CPA exam, put in 150 semester hours, including a bachelor’s degree, complete 1,800 hours of work experience, and complete an ethics exam.

How to become a CPA in Georgia?

To become a CPA in Georgia, you need:

  • A minimum of 150 semester hours in an accounting field
  • 2,000 hours of work experience supervised by a licensed CPA
  • Pass the CPA Exam
  • Apply for and receive a license

How to become a CPA in Pennsylvania?

To become a CPA in Pennsylvania, you need:

  • A bachelor’s degree in accounting
  • Take and pass all four parts of the CPA Exam
  • 1,600 hours of work experience under a licensed CPA
  • Apply for and receive your Pennsylvania CPA license

How to become a CPA in New Jersey?

To become a CPA in New Jersey, you need:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution
  • 24 semester hours in accounting and 24 in business
  • 1,750 hours working under a licensed CPA
  • Pass the CPA exam
  • Apply for a New Jersey CPA license

How to become a CPA in Massachusetts?

To be a CPA in Massachusetts, you need:

  • 150 semester hours from an accredited institution
  • Pass all four sections of the CPA exam
  • 2,000 hours of work experience in non-public accounting
  • Three character references addressed to the board
  • A CORI Permission form
  • Apply for and receive a Public Accountancy License

How to become a CPA in Michigan?

To become a CPA in Michigan, you need:

  • 150 semester hours of accounting college experience
  • 2,000 hours working under the supervision of a licensed CPA
  • Pass the CPA Exam
  • Apply for and receive a CPA license

How much does it cost to become a CPA?

It may cost between $4,000 – $5,000 to receive your license after taking the CPA exam, course revisions, and paying the fees. This cost does not factor your university/college expenses, which vary between institutions.

How many years to become a CPA?

Becoming a CPA takes about 5-8 years, factoring in university/college semesters, studying for the CPA exam, and working the required hours under the supervision of a CPA.

Finding the right job may take time, but having a professional CPA resume from Rocket Resume helps you find a position that matches your goals and ambitions.