To apply for the CPA Exam, you need to determine your eligibility, choose the appropriate jurisdiction/state board, and then submit your application documents and fees to that board. After that, you will receive your official schedule document. Learn how to navigate the CPA Exam application process here.
The process for applying to the CPA Exam is fairly straightforward, but it can seem complicated when you’re first trying to figure it out. It boils down to three simple steps:
Choosing a state board is straightforward for many accountants. It usually makes sense to become licensed in the state where you live and work. If you wish to consider other jurisdictions, learn more about choosing a state board and individual state board requirements.
The CPA requirements of each state vary somewhat. Before you can apply for the CPA Exam, you’ll need to find out which states have requirements that you’ll be able to meet.
The two most time-consuming state requirements are:
Other requirements can be a bit trickier and vary significantly by state:
Because these requirements can vary greatly and are subject to change, it is always a good idea to narrow your search based on education and experience and then contact the state board directly to determine that you specifically meet its requirements.
Selecting a state as an international candidate requires special considerations. See our list of international candidate recommended states. After you’ve selected your state board, you will follow the same procedures as domestic candidates.
Once you’ve selected a board of accountancy, you’ll need to submit an application to that board. This process is very different for every state, but the process should be accessible on each state board’s website. Select your state board here.
Most boards will require at least the following during the application process:
CPA Examination Services (CPAES) is NASBA’s system for assisting state boards with the CPA application process. Many states use CPAES, but some states still process the applications individually. The states below all use CPAES.
States that use CPA Examination Services
If your state is not listed above, you will need to follow the application instructions provided by your state. This will be discussed below.
To apply to a jurisdiction that uses CPAES, you must begin by registering with CPA Central.
To do this, set up an account with your personal information and create a user ID and password. You will receive an email to complete your registration. Once your account is created, you will use CPAES to complete your application and pay your fees.
After your application has been accepted, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA. You will only receive one NTS, even if you applied to multiple sections.
Along with your personal information, your NTS includes a section identification number that acts as the Launch Code for each exam section.
You must bring your NTS with you to the examination. If you require a reprint of your NTS, you may request a reprint on NASBA’s website.
Your NTS will include your name, address, and state board of accountancy. It also lists the section(s) of the CPA Exam you are approved to take.
When you receive your NTS, it is vital to confirm the information is accurate. The name must exactly match the name on identification documents you will use during check-in for the exam. Your middle initial can be substituted for your middle name. If any of the information is incorrect, immediately contact your state board or the designated agent.
Each board of accountancy determines how long its NTS is good for. You must schedule and take your examination(s) in this period, or your NTS will expire. For most states, your NTS will be valid for six months, but some states have longer or shorter periods. Always confirm how long your NTS is valid with your state board. If you don’t schedule and take the exam section before your NTS expires, all fees will be forfeited and you will need to reapply.
Once you have received and verified your NTS, you’re ready to schedule your CPA Exam. Follow our detailed scheduling instructions to make your CPA Exam experience as stress free as possible.
Now that you’ve applied for the CPA Exam, it’s time to get down to studying. One of your first steps should be to read the Gleim CPA Exam Guide. It walks you through everything you need to know to get set up for success.
Before you apply for each section of the CPA Exam, check your upcoming schedule to ensure you will have plenty of time to study. The application process for a first-time candidate can take 4-6 weeks. You should begin the application process for the section(s) you are planning to take first at least 4-6 weeks prior to when you want to take the exam. You want to ensure that you receive your NTS in time to schedule a date that is convenient for you.
Prometric offers a wide variety of testing accommodations for qualified people. These include everything from adjustable desks for those with back injuries to text-to-speech software for the hearing impaired.
Candidates who need special testing accommodations have a few additional considerations when scheduling their CPA Exam.
During your application process, you’ll interact with several CPA Exam partners. You’ll be sending information, fees, and transcripts as needed to these organizations.
The graphic below can give you a sense of the relationships and interactions you’ll likely have when you apply and sit for the CPA Exam.
As CPA licenses are issued at the state level, the state boards approve your application for licensure. They may also process applications, collect fees, and provide score releases. In addition, all testing accommodations must be approved by your state board of accountancy.
NASBA is the national group that acts as a consolidator for various state boards and assists those organizations. State boards work with NASBA to grant candidate authorizations and share advisory score reports. NASBA issues your Notice to Schedule (NTS) and assists the state boards in the CPA Exam application process. NASBA also shares candidate authorizations with Prometric and receives advisory score reports summary data from the AICPA.
In addition to other responsibilities, the AICPA creates the CPA Exam. It provides the test content and rules to Prometric and gives advisory score reports summary data to NASBA.
Prometric is the company that administers the CPA Exam.
After you apply to take the CPA Exam, you will want to start looking at scheduling your exam. This will be a major step in your journey to the CPA, so be sure to read up on how to schedule your CPA Exam.
Gleim is here to support you throughout your journey to the CPA. Check out our comprehensive CPA Exam Guide if you have any additional questions about the CPA Exam and be sure to make use of our free CPA questions while you prepare for the CPA Exam.