The CPA course refers to the educational requirements and exam process to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The CPA license is a prestigious credential and considered the gold standard in accounting professions. Obtaining the CPA license involves meeting educational requirements, work experience hours, and passing the Uniform CPA Examination. This article provides an in-depth look at the CPA course and exam.
Overview of the CPA Course
The CPA course is administered by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and governed by each state’s board of accountancy. While the exam itself is standardized across all jurisdictions, each state has its own set of eligibility requirements in terms of education and work experience. At a high level, the key steps to becoming a CPA are:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in accounting
- Complete the required accounting credits and business credits
- Gain the necessary work experience in public accounting or business
- Pass the Uniform CPA Examination
- Apply for your license in your state of practice
The eligibility requirements ensure that CPA candidates are adequately prepared with education and experience before sitting for the exam. The CPA course is rigorous and designed to produce competent accounting professionals.
Educational Requirements for the CPA Course
At minimum, you must have a bachelor’s degree to be eligible for the CPA exam. This counts for 150 semester hours of college education. Many states also require these hours to include a certain number of upper-level accounting courses and business courses.
Typical requirements are 24-30 semester hours in accounting topics such as financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and management accounting. You will also need 24-30 semester hours in business-related courses like business law, economics, management, marketing, statistics, and finance.
Some students meet the 150-hour requirement through a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program. Others complete a bachelor’s degree first, then take additional undergraduate or graduate courses to fulfill the accounting and business credit requirements. Check your state’s unique CPA course educational requirements.
CPA Exam Work Experience Requirements
In addition to education requirements, CPA candidates must complete 1-2 years of qualified work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA. This hands-on experience ensures you can apply your knowledge in the real world before becoming licensed.
The experience can be obtained through employment in public accounting firms such as the Big Four, regional or local firms, or in private industry and government. Typical qualifying experience includes:
- Auditing, reviewing, compiling, and analyzing financial statements
- Preparing taxes and providing tax advice
- Management advisory services including budget analysis, asset management, and business valuation
- Financial reporting for government and nonprofit organizations
- Internal auditing and risk assessment for businesses
During this time, you are not yet a CPA but rather training under certified accountants. Be sure to meet your jurisdiction’s specific CPA work experience requirement.
Introduction to the Uniform CPA Examination
After meeting the education and work requirements, CPA candidates are eligible to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination. This challenging 4-part exam is designed to rigorously test one’s knowledge of accounting principles, auditing, taxation, and business concepts.
The exam covers a broad spectrum of topics that demonstrate competency across the major disciplines of accounting and assurance services. The exam is fully computerized and administered through Prometric test centers.
Here is an overview of the 4 exam sections:
Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
The AUD section covers knowledge of auditing procedures, generally accepted auditing standards, and other attestation engagements. This section tests your ability to assess risk and conduct auditing techniques accordingly.
Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
BEC covers general business concepts such as corporate governance, technology, and economics. Financial management, capital structure, growth management, and decision analysis are also tested.
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
As the most comprehensive section, FAR covers a wide range of accounting concepts, standards, and financial statements preparation. This includes accounts reconciliations, consolidations, and transaction analysis.
The REG section deals with federal taxation procedures, ethics, professional and legal responsibilities, and business law. This covers the regulatory structure that accountants must comply with.
Candidates have 18 months to pass all 4 exam sections. The exams can be taken individually and in any order within the rolling 18-month period. Each section takes 4 hours and is divided into testlets. Find detailed exam content information through the AICPA website.
Pass Rates and Exam Fees
The CPA exam is designed to rigorously test candidates’ knowledge and application of accounting principles. Pass rates average between 46-60% across the four sections. This demonstrates the exam’s high standards and rigorous preparation required. Setting realistic expectations can help candidates stay motivated through multiple exam attempts.
Exam fees vary by state but expect to pay $200-$250 for each section. There are also additional test center fees per appointment. Annual AICPA membership and licensing fees apply once you pass the exam and obtain your license. You can save money by bundling exam sections. Study materials, exam review courses, and prep software often cost $1,000-$3,000 extra.
Application Process and Obtaining Your CPA License
After passing all 4 exam sections within the rolling 18-month period, you can apply for your CPA license. This involves submitting an application, paying fees, and meeting experience requirements with your state board of accountancy.
Once approved, you will receive your CPA certificate and can use the CPA designation. Additionally, you must complete ongoing Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements to maintain an active license. Ethics CPE courses are mandatory.
The CPA license allows you to offer accounting services to the public and businesses. Having the CPA credential brings immense professional credibility and opportunities for career advancement. Joining the more than 680,000 licensed CPAs opens up higher earning potential as well.
Is the CPA Course Worth It?
Becoming a licensed CPA requires a major investment of time, money, and effort. The CPA journey averages 18-24 months including study time, exam attempts, and gaining work experience. However, the benefits of being a CPA make the rigorous process worthwhile.
The CPA license brings prestige and instant recognition of your accounting expertise. Many lucrative jobs in public accounting, private industry, government and nonprofit organizations require or prefer someone with an active CPA license. It proves you have met high standards and opens doors to senior accounting roles.
Overall, the CPA course provides immense value if you are committed to starting an accounting career. It builds fundamental skills through exam preparation and requires discipline through months of diligent study. With hard work, the CPA credential is well within your reach.
Steps to Start your CPA Course
If you’re motivated to pursue the CPA credential, here are some steps to begin:
- Research your state’s specific eligibility, education, experience and exam requirements
- Enroll in a bachelor’s degree program with adequate accounting and business courses
- Apply for internships and entry-level accounting roles to gain work experience
- Schedule your CPA exam sections and give yourself enough study time
- Review exam prep courses that provide study materials, software, and support
- Take practice exams to improve test-taking abilities before the real thing
- Keep going through multiple exam attempts until all 4 sections are passed
- Submit license application to state board after completing the CPA exam
With focus and determination, the CPA license can be achieved. Find the right study method, be disciplined in your preparation, and don’t give up through multiple exam attempts. The rewards of being a CPA make the journey well worth it.
The CPA credential signifies expertise and high standards in the accounting profession. While the CPA course involves rigorous education, examination, and experience requirements, the benefits are invaluable. Passing the 4-part Uniform CPA Exam demonstrates your knowledge, skills, and commitment to the field.
Use the CPA course to build your technical knowledge, critical thinking abilities, and professional decision-making skills. Let the CPA qualification open doors to new career opportunities and earning potential. Approach the exam with realistic expectations, effective study techniques, and unwavering perseverance. Stay driven through the CPA course and join the distinguished professionals who wear the CPA badge of honor.