How do CPA requirements differ by state?
In recent years, states have made efforts to move toward uniform standards. For example, nearly all jurisdictions require 150 semester hours to become licensed as a CPA. However, requirements can still differ among states. Some of these are noted in our state requirements chart.
Social Security Number (SSN)
Some states require an SSN to either take the CPA Exam or receive your license. Some states will also accept a driver’s license number, passport number, or waive the requirement entirely if you do not have an SSN.
Some states require you be a U.S. citizen or legal resident alien in order to take the CPA Exam or become licensed as a CPA.
Some states require you reside in the state to qualify to take the CPA Exam or be licensed. This requirement may be met by having a physical residence, permanent place of business, or regular employment within the state. You’ll need to confirm the requirement with the state board.
International CPA Exam
If a state participates in the international administration of the CPA Exam, it means you can use one of the approved international testing sites to take the CPA Exam.
Two-tier states have two levels of CPA licensing. Basically, at the lower tier, you can call yourself a CPA but you do not have the full privileges of a licensed CPA.
This is the fee to apply to the state board, not the fee for the actual CPA Exam. You will have to pay this fee every time you apply to the state board, although some states have reduced fees for reapplying. Some states combine these fees with the CPA Exam fees. We have listed the application/registration fee separate from the CPA Exam fee. (Note that you will need to apply to your state board each time you apply to take a section of the CPA Exam.)
States may require an ethics exam in order to receive your CPA license (or certificate, for two-tier states). Some states may have specific state exams that candidates must take.
Early sitting for the CPA Exam
Most states allow you to sit for the CPA Exam before you’ve met all of the education requirements for the CPA license. These policies vary greatly by state. Some states may have additional time limits placed on CPA candidates who take this option. No states require candidates to meet the experience requirement prior to sitting for the CPA Exam.
For international candidates, selecting a state board has additional complications. Based on our research, these states will have the most favorable conditions for international candidates.
Some more examples of how CPA Exam and licensing requirements can differ include:
- The number of education hours required to sit for the CPA Exam
- The makeup of coursework within those education hours
- The years of experience required and how they are validated
- Whether a license can be renewed while inactive
- The CPA Exam application process
Below we will discuss some of these in further detail.