How to Become a CPA

A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

how-to-become-a-cpaBecoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a significant milestone in an accountant’s career, providing numerous opportunities for professional growth, job stability, and financial reward.

This esteemed designation is recognized globally and demonstrates a high level of expertise and commitment to the field.

In this article, we will guide you through the comprehensive process of becoming a CPA, breaking down each step to help you navigate your journey successfully.

10 Steps to Become a Certified Public Accountant

Becoming a Certified Public Accountant is a multi-year process that takes persistence and motivation. It’s not easy for any CPA candidate, but it is doable for everyone who wants to put in the work.

Here are the 10 steps to become a CPA in any states:

1. Understanding the Requirements

The journey to becoming a CPA starts with understanding the specific requirements set by the state board of accountancy in the state where you plan to practice. While requirements vary, most states adhere to the “3 E’s”: Education, Examination, and Experience.

  • Education: Most states require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree, with a minimum of 150 semester hours of college education. The coursework typically must include a certain number of hours in accounting and business subjects.
  • Examination: All candidates must pass the Uniform CPA Examination, a rigorous test that assesses knowledge and skills in four areas: Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation.
  • Experience: Candidates must also fulfill a specific amount of work experience, generally ranging from one to two years, under the supervision of a licensed CPA.

2. Completing Your Education

If you haven’t already, start by obtaining your bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. To meet the 150-semester hour requirement, you might consider pursuing a master’s degree in accounting or taking additional courses.

3. Preparing for the CPA Exam

The CPA Exam is known for its difficulty, so comprehensive preparation is crucial. Invest in a reputable CPA review course, create a study schedule, and dedicate sufficient time to cover all the material.

Utilize practice exams to familiarize yourself with the exam format and identify areas where you need additional review.

4. Applying for the CPA Exam

Once you are ready, apply to take the CPA Exam through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) or directly through your state board.

Submit all required documentation, including transcripts and application fees, and wait for your Notice to Schedule (NTS), which allows you to book your exam dates.

5. Taking the CPA Exam

The CPA Exam is administered at Prometric testing centers. Plan to arrive early, bring the required identification, and be prepared for a strict security process.

The exam is divided into four parts, and you can choose to take them one at a time or in any order. Focus, time management, and a calm demeanor are key to performing well.

6. Gaining Relevant Work Experience

Simultaneously or after passing the CPA Exam, work on fulfilling your state’s work experience requirement.

Seek positions in public accounting, industry, government, or non-profit organizations that provide exposure to accounting and auditing tasks. Ensure your work is supervised by a licensed CPA who can verify your experience.

7. Applying for CPA Licensure

Once you have met all the requirements, apply for CPA licensure through your state board.

Submit all necessary documentation, including proof of education, exam scores, and work experience. You may also need to pass an ethics exam and undergo a background check.

8. Maintaining Your CPA License

After obtaining your CPA license, focus on maintaining it through continuous education and adherence to ethical standards.

Most states require CPAs to complete a certain number of continuing professional education (CPE) hours each reporting period. Stay updated on changes in accounting standards and best practices to uphold the integrity of your designation.

9. Leveraging Your CPA Credential

With your CPA license in hand, explore the various career paths available to you, from public accounting and corporate finance to government and non-profit work.

The CPA designation opens doors to leadership positions, consulting opportunities, and specialized areas of accounting.

10. Continuous Learning and Networking

Embrace a mindset of continuous learning and seek opportunities to network with other professionals. Join professional accounting organizations, attend industry conferences, and participate in webinars to enhance your knowledge and expand your professional circle.


Becoming a CPA is a challenging yet rewarding journey that demands dedication, preparation, and a commitment to excellence. By following the steps outlined above and maintaining a proactive approach to your professional development, you can achieve this prestigious designation and unlock a world of opportunities in the accounting field.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a CPA?

The process of becoming a CPA typically takes several years, depending on your educational background, the amount of time you dedicate to exam preparation, and how quickly you accumulate the required work experience.

Is work experience required before or after passing the CPA Exam?

Work experience can be gained either before, during, or after taking the CPA Exam, but it must be completed before you can obtain your CPA license. Check your state’s specific requirements for more details.

Can I become a CPA without an accounting degree?

Yes, it is possible to become a CPA without an accounting degree, but you will still need to meet your state’s education requirements, which typically include a certain number of accounting and business courses.

What is the passing score for the CPA Exam?

The passing score for each section of the CPA Exam is 75 on a scale of 0 to 99. It’s important to note that the exam is scored based on a weighted combination of your performance across all sections of the test.

By understanding the steps and requirements, dedicating time to thorough preparation, and maintaining a steadfast commitment to your goals, you can navigate the path to becoming a CPA with confidence and achieve success in your accounting career.