California CPA Requirements

How To Become a CPA in California: Step By Step Guide

california-cpa-exam-requirementsLearn How to Become a Licensed Certified Public Accountant In California

California is by far the best place to become a certified public accountant in the U.S. In addition to its economy being comparable to that of many nations, the state also plays host to the largest output sectors.

Being a hub for financial services, transportation, manufacturing education, health services, and innovation, accountancy jobs are always in demand and often have high pay with numerous perks.

However, California CPA requirements can be challenging. While the CPA certification process can be time-consuming, entailing lots of work and hours, the struggle is worth every penny.

Let’s review the CA CPA requirements that you will need to complete in order to take the CPA exam in California and become a licensed CPA in California.


Basic Requirements For CPA Certification in California

The state of California has a strict set of CPA requirements for all CPA applicants. Here are the minimum requirements to take the CPA exam in California and become a certified public accountant.

  • Have a valid social security number
  • Have a 4-year B.A degree
  • Work experience is necessary, including 2-year experience for pathway #1 or 1-year experience for pathway #2
  • No age limit for CPA certification
  • No requirement to be a California or USA citizen.

California CPA Certification Education Requirements

CPA candidates must meet some basic education requirements in order to take the exam in California. These requirements have changed over time and will continue to change as the education system evolves.

Here are the two current CPA educational requirements to sit for the CPA Exam in California:

  • 4-year bachelor’s degree
  • 150 semester credit hours

In 2014, California increased their credit hour requirement from 120 credit hours to 150 credit hours. This is pretty standard, as most states have begun instituting the 150-credit hour rule over the past decade.

One good thing about the 150-credit rule is that it allows you to cut 1 year off of your work experience requirements. If you have 150 credit hours, you will only need to fulfill one year of work experience to get licensed.

Required Credit Hours & Classes

The California CPA board has broken down the 150 credit hour rule into different educational categories and requirements. Your 150 credit hour educational requirement must include a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or any other field with the following courses:

  • 24-hours of complete business courses
  • Complete 24-semester units of accounting
  • 24-complete semester units of business-related subjects
  • Complete 24-semesters’ units of accounting subjects
  • 10-complete semester units of ethics lessons

Keep in mind that California only recognizes educational credits from qualified institutions. You should check with the California State Board to see if your degree and education meets the California CPA requirements before applying for the exam.


California CPA Exam Requirements

After you have completed the necessary educational requirements, you can sign up to sit for the CPA exam. This application process can be a bit confusing.

First, you’ll need to schedule your exam by creating an online California Board of Accounting account. This is where you you can upload your transcripts, application forms, and application fees.

The application process usually takes approximately 4 weeks after applying for the CPA exam. The Notice to Schedule is the legal document that allows one to sit the CPA exam. Your NTS is only valid for 6 months before it expires. After that you will be required to pay an additional fee to reschedule.

The following are the certified Prometrics Testing Centers, where CPA students can schedule their CPA exam:

  • Glendale
  • Fair oaks
  • San Bruno
  • Alameda
  • San Jose
  • Fresno
  • Camarillo
  • Alameda

Remember not to schedule your exam date too early, as a rescheduling fee is applicable if you don’t make it to the date you signed up for. You should only schedule your exam about one month out. On the exam day, make sure to bring your Notice to Schedule (NTS) certificate and two valid I.D.s.

After you take the exam, you just have to sit back and wait for the National Association of States Board (NASBA) and the California Board of Accountancy (CBA) to report your score.

CA CPA Exam Costs & Fees

The cost of becoming a CPA in California is quite expensive. There are several different types of CPA exam fees in California. Each one has a slightly different purpose and time frame.

The total cost required to complete all four sections of a CPA exam sum up to $873.80 plus an initial application fee of $100

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD) $193.35
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) $176.25
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) $195.35 ‹
  • Regulation (REG) $176.25
  • Initial application fee: $100

California CPA License Requirements

Passing the CPA exam in California is only the first step in getting your CPA license. You will also have to take the CA ethics exam as well as complete the work experience requirements.

California Professional Ethics Exam

After you pass the CPA exam, you will also need to complete the California Professional Ethics Exam (PETH) to be granted your CPA license. This exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions with a passing score of 90 percent.

You can buy the exam and all the study materials from the CBA for $150. Keep in mind that you must take and pass the ethics exam within a year from the date one was purchased it. So, don’t wait to take the exam after you’ve purchased it.

After you purchase the ethics exam, you’ll have 3 attempts at passing it. After that they’ll, you’ll have to pay 50% of the original purchase price to retake it a fourth time.

The ethics test results are only valid for two years, so make sure you turn them into the state board as soon as you finish the test. You don’t want them to expire.

Work Experience Requirements

While applying for a CPA license in California, it is a must to show proof of work experience as a public accountant in order to be granted a CPA license. Here are the CPA work experience qualification requirements in California:

  • Finish 150 college credit hours of study.
  • Must work under a licensed Certified Public Accountant for a one-year minimum
  • Must have a total of 500 hours in auditing or attestation work.

California CPA License Fees

In addition to the exam costs, you will also need to pay these California CPA license fees:

  • Initial application fee: $250
  • Fingerprint notary fee: $150
  • Annual License Renewal: $120
  • Ethics exam: $150

California CPA License Application & Renewal

The license application process is pretty straight forward because the state board already has your exam scores, college transcripts, and other applications documents.

After you pass the exam, you will need to do the following to complete your CA CPA licensure application.

  • Submit official CPA license application
  • Send in a photo of yourself to the state board measuring 2” x 2”
  • Submit the application fees. The fees varies for citizens and non-citizens, California residents and non-residents
  • Send in a criminal conviction disclosure
  • Submit work experience documentation

Once your CPA license is approved and granted, you are a Certified Public Accounting in California. There is no more testing requirements to maintain your license, but you will have to renew it each year and fulfill the continuing education requirements.

The CPA license renewal process is pretty simple. Log on to the California Board of Accountancy website and navigate to the license renewal page. Here you will find the renewal forms and ability to upload your CPE credit information from the last year.

After your forms are filled out, you just need to pay the $120 annual licensing fee and your license will be valid for an additional year.


Additional California CPA Resources

Here are several resources you can use to learn how to take the CPA exam in California and become a certified public accountant.

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