Passing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam can be a huge achievement. A licensed CPA is qualified for a vast array of jobs across all industries that require accounting expertise. Consequently, CPAs earn much higher salaries than their non-certified counterparts.
This type of promotion comes at a price, however. There are many CPA exam costs associated with passing the exam and applying for your CPA license. Some of these fees are straightforward while others are hidden.
Let us explain the fees associated with becoming a CPA and show you how to reduce the cost of taking the CPA exam.
How much does the CPA exam cost?
According the to AICPA, the average cost of passing the CPA exam including registration and test prep fees is $3,025 for CPA candidates in the US.
Here is a chart that details the cost to take the CPA exam and become a Certified Public Accountant.
|CPA Exam Costs:
|Initial Application fee
|$20 - $250
|$60 - $350
|Background check fee
|CPA Review Course Cost
|CPA Ethics Exam fee
|CPA License Fee
|$50 - $500
|$2,680 - $3,700+
CPA Exam Cost Breakdown
Types of CPA Exam Costs
So, what are the costs of passing the CPA exam? Here are the seven types of costs and fees that CPA candidates must pay to take the exam:
- CPA Prep Course costs
- CPA Exam Application fees
- Exam fees
- Registration fees
- Rescheduling Fees
- CPA Ethics Exam fees
- CPA Licensing Fees
These costs exclude the post-exam fees like licensing fees for individual state boards, and the expenses associated with your CPE (continuing professional education) in the periods succeeding your CPA exam success. We will address all costs associated with achieving a CPA in this article!
The Costs of CPA Review Courses
Way before you sign up for an exam section or pay any CPA exam registration fees, you need to buy a CPA review course. Some candidates are able to pass the exam without using a CPA prep course, but it’s much more difficult. You increase your chances of failing multiple sections if you don’t use a proper study course.
A CPA review course typically provides candidates with a textbook for each exam section, flashcards, multiple-choice questions (MCQs), online recorded or live lectures, mock practice exams, and longer simulation practice problems.
Choosing an ideal CPA review course is among the wisest investments on your route to becoming a CPA. There are several available options at different price levels. The fees vary between $999 and $3,500, depending on provider and course type (self-study or live online courses). However, never assume that the costliest course will offer you the most benefits.
What to Look Out For When You Are Determining Which CPA Review Course Is Deal for You
Each review course has distinct features. Here’s what is on offer:
- Video lectures: Video lectures are available in all of the courses. Before you choose a course, it’s a good idea to watch a sample video.
- Audio course: If you prefer to learn through audio, see if the course you are considering has this option.
- Help center and email support feature: Some courses even provide live chat or a personal counselor.
- Pass guarantee: This isn’t an assurance that you’ll pass the exam. It means that you will have access to the prep course until you pass the test. If you need a retake, you might not pay any extra fees to the CPA course provider.
Make sure you familiarize yourself with the different features of individual CPA review courses and choose the one that best suits your needs.
Also, keep in mind that proper preparation can help you succeed in each exam section the first time and avoid any retakes and accompanying fees.
CPA Exam Application Fees
The first of the actual CPA exam fees is the application fee. Each state has its specific application fee that candidates must pay, usually between $50 and $200. It’s a one-time fee, though some prospects end up paying more than if the application is rejected the first time, or they let the authorization to test (ATT) notice expire.
Paying the application fee to your state board qualifies you to apply to sit for the uniform CPA exam. Your application is reviewed to determine your eligibility once you pay this fee. Applications are approved if they meet the state-specific standards and recommendations (such as specific semester hours including a bachelor’s degree in accounting or any business-related discipline, residency permit, citizenship, age restriction, etc.). So endeavor to familiarize yourself with your state’s requirements to ensure that you qualify before paying this fee.
If your application is approved, the board issues you an ATT notice. Remember that the ATT notice has a limited validity period. It is typically 90 days. This means that before the period elapses, you are expected to pay your exam fees.
CPA Examination Fees
Once you’ve paid your application fee, you’ll need to pay your CPA Examination Fees. After receiving your ATT notice, you can choose which exam section(s) you want to take and proceed to pay the corresponding fees.
The cost for each section of the CPA exam varies based on jurisdiction, but most state boards charge $193.45 per section. You can confirm your state’s CPA exam fees via the NASBA website.
After checking the fees, you are required to choose the sections that you want to test for and pay the corresponding exam fees.
It is advised that candidates only sign up for the sections that they plan to take within the next six months. This is because a registration fee is required each time you apply to take any of the sections. Read the next point to find out more!
When you pay the examination fee detailed above, you will also need to pay the relevant registration fee for the section(s) you are signing up for. Again, these registration fees vary from state to state. You can check out your state-specific cost(s) on the NASBA website.
Most states typically arrange the CPA exam registration fees in a tiered structure. Registering for more than one section allows you significant discounts on these fees.
CPA Exam Costs per section
Here are the typical CPA exam fees for each section:
- One Section = $63
- Two Sections = $81
- Three Sections = $99
- Four Sections = $177
If you register for each section individually, you will pay a registration fee of $252. So, it might seem that there’s a considerable $80 savings to be made by signing up to take the four sections together.
But here is the tricky part – your Notice to Schedule (NTS) is valid for only six months. This means that after you pay your examination and registration fees, you’ll only have 6 months to sign up for the exam sections. Signing up for all four sections means you must schedule all of the exams within the next six months or your NTS becomes invalid.
Consequently, if you fail to schedule and take all four sections within the stipulated period, you won’t get your money back. Instead, you’ll be required to reapply and pay the examination and registration fees again. Be smart. Signup for only sections you feel comfortable taking within this period.
However, it’s critical to understand that your state may have a different NTS validity period. Therefore, you should look this up before paying your registration fees.
So Why Is The NTS Important?
It’s the document that permits candidates to schedule their exam dates by logging onto the Prometric website. Prometric is the organization tasked with conducting the uniform CPA exam and managing the test centers.
CPA Exam Ethics Fees
Though not required in all states, many states expect candidates to pass the ethics exam after they’ve passed the uniform CPA exam to get licensed.
This exam is conducted by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA). It isn’t a big deal compared to the CPA test itself, but like other requirements to become a CPA, it isn’t free either. The ethics exam cost between $150 and $200.
Post CPA Exam Fees
Aside from the above expenses, you have to bear two extra costs after passing the CPA Exam. These fees are also payable repeatedly. They include:
- CPA Licensing Fees
- CPA CPE costs
CPA Licensing Fees
After completing the four-part CPA Exam and passing the AICPA ethics exam, where applicable, you must your state board a CPA licensing fee.
This is an annual levy and different states charge varying amounts of CPA licensing fees, ranging between $50 and $500. It’s critical to pay this yearly due as a CPA license authorizes your CPA practice within the specific state and allows you to carry out certain activities like signing audit reports and tax returns.
CPA CPE (Continuing Professional Education) Costs
The CPE program conducted by the AICPA ensures that CPAs maintain professional competence, proficiency, and knowledge after passing the CPA exam. Like other CPA requirements, this also varies according to jurisdiction.
Most states require licensed CPAs to complete at least 20-40 hours of continuing education yearly. You can check the CPE requirements of various states on the NASBA website. You can also view how much the courses will cost.
Depending on the provider and platform, it could cost between $20 per hour and $125 per hour. Therefore, expect to pay about $1000 annually to comply with your state-specific CPE requirement.
Additional CPA Exam Fees
The CPA exam is one of the toughest professional exams in the United States. Because of this, most candidates don’t pass the test on their first try. Therefore, they have to retake each failed section and this comes with additional charges.
These extra costs can easily add up if you fail multiple sections, considering that it costs about $250 to sit for one section.
Additional CPA Prep Course Costs
Many of candidates may not select the ideal CPA review course for their needs and end up purchasing a prep course that doesn’t work for them. This may cause them to fail a section or two, putting them right back in the market for a different prep course.
Another scenario is that you select an ideal review course but because most of them are timed and averagely allow access for 18 months, you’ll have to pay an additional fee to renew the study course. Most CPA review course providers charge about $500 to renew their services.
International Candidate Credential Costs
For candidates applying from outside the US, the state board of the state that you are applying to will review your education and determine if it meets the minimum requisites. Like anything else, the state board bills you a fee for this review.
Most states that allow international CPA exam candidates to sit for the exam within their jurisdiction charge a fee between $150 and $200 for this extra review.
Tips to Reduce CPA Exam Costs
The biggest tip to reduce the cost of the CPA exam is to get the right CPA prep course and study consistently. The biggest cost of taking the CPA exam for many candidates is reapplications.
Every time you fail the exam and have to retake a section, you will have to pay the registration fees again. These can really add up.
Take the time to study and prepare and you will reduce the cost of taking the CPA exam drastically.
Becoming a CPA is a significant investment in your career and future. However, this investment isn’t cheap and comes with some enormous expenses.
As you work toward achieving your CPA license, there are multiple costs to consider. To keep costs manageable, plan your scheduling thoroughly and prepare diligently.
Here are a few things to bear in mind:
The total cost of passing the exam is will vary based on how much you prepare, how quickly you can pass, and which state you are applying in.
The total cost of passing the CPA exam and obtaining your license is nothing compared to the life-long career and financial benefits that you can gain as a Certified Public Accountant.
Is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Credential the Most Expensive Accounting Certification?
Not at all. The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) isn’t the most expensive accounting credential if you are considering all certifications, including the ones in the finance field.
The Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) certification is more expensive to obtain. It costs over $4,000 to become a CFA.
How much does it cost to pass the CPA exam in the USA?
Based on a NASBA poll, the average CPA exam cost for candidates in the United States is $3,025, including application, registration, and test prep fees. This amount varies based on how many times candidates sit for the exam and which review courses they use.
Is a CPA worth the money?
Short answer, yes! A CPA license is way worth it. Obtaining your CPA license is a huge investment, but it will open numerous doors for you, which you would never have access to without the designate.
You will also boost your income exponentially. An average CPA makes approximately $1M more than the non-CPA counterpart over the course of their careers. That’s pretty huge!
So, it’s worth the money and time invested to take and pass the exam. Just dig in and get it done, you will be glad you did.
Is the CPA exam that hard?
According to the AICPA, the average pass rate of the CPA exam is less than 50%. Meaning, the CPA exam is very difficult and requires on average 300-400 hours of studying to successfully pass the entire test.