How to Become a CPA

In the financial industry, there are some specific guidelines concerning how to become a CPA, or certified public accountant. The requirements can be somewhat different depending on the region where the accounting work will be performed and for what industry. However, the general guidelines for becoming a CPA are similar enough for aspiring CPAs to follow, and this can lead to a rewarding career in finance and accounting.

Step 1--Obtain an Education in Accounting

The recommended education to become a CPA is a four-year college degree program that includes an emphasis on accounting principles, financial laws and taxes. Usually, at least 24 semester credit hours must be earned in general accounting and finance courses, with an additional 18 or more college credit hours to be focused on specialized areas of corporate finance. Having a well-rounded exposure to financial and accounting components will form the strong foundation needed to obtain a CPA license.

Step 2--Take the CPA Examination

Once you graduate from a university with a four-year degree in accounting, the next step in the process of becoming a CPA is taking the CPA exam. This challenging exam is administered in the United States by the State Board of Accountancy and requires college transcripts, personal identification, a lengthy application form and a registration fee to be submitted before the CPA exam can be taken. It is important to study hard for this exam because failure to pass it results in a delay in beginning your career as a CPA and earning the salary that can come with this status.

Step 3--Take the American Ethics in Accounting Exam Online

In the United States, those who wish to obtain a CPA license and land work after passing the exam offered by the State Board of Accountancy will also want to take and pass the American Ethics in Accounting Exam with a high score. This industry exam demonstrates a high level of compliance as an ethical public accountant and sets candidates apart from others who don’t achieve this level. There are other national and industry associations in the accounting and finance field that may also be considered to pursue a CPA career to the fullest.

Step 4--Gather References and Build a Portfolio as a CPA

After you have passed the necessary CPA testing requirements and are in the process of waiting to be approved as a CPA, the best course of action is to obtain letters of reference from professors, employers and corporate clients that speak to your skills as a public accountant. These letters will demonstrate to the Board of Accountancy that you have met the requirements to become a CPA and are ready to tackle the challenges of this career. Add these to your professional portfolio, resume or curriculum vitae as soon as possible.

Step 5--Maintain Your CPA Status

As with any licensure or certificate, in order to maintain your status, you must keep learning. You need to stay on top of updates and changes in accounting law by taking continuing education courses. The college that you graduated from with your accounting degree will be a good source for earning credits, as will accounting associations and the board of accountancy. Read up on new changes in the laws and stay ahead of trends in accounting and finance by joining industry associations, which often offer discounts and free seminars for earning continuing credits.