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Make Your Own Path to Becoming a CPA

The path to becoming a CPA (certified public accountant) involves many considerations. Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a certificate in taxation is an excellent way to prepare for the profession under expert guidance.

CPA licensure varies from state to state. Fifty-five states and territories each have their own State Board of Accountancy that vets CPA candidates and ensures they meet the state’s requirements for education, experience and ethics, as well as having passed the CPA exam.

The CPA Exam

Most people assume that they must take the CPA exam for their state of residence; however, some might benefit from taking the rigorous 4-part CPA exam for a neighboring — or even distant — state. If you are physically in Ohio, you can take the CPA exam for any of the 55 jurisdictions.

Residency is currently a requirement for the exam in only 15 states and territories. Most states do not require U.S. citizenship, but many frequently require a Social Security number. In addition, some states have a minimum age requirement.

People interested in an accelerated path to becoming a CPA have some options. Ohio permits candidates to sit for the CPA exam after they have completed 150 semester hours of appropriate college credit at an accredited university, while Kentucky and Michigan each permit sitting for the exam after completing just 120 hours.

Taking and passing the four parts of the CPA exam (14 hours of total testing; 16 hours effective January 2017) is the next step. The exam itself is the same in any location. The University of Cincinnati’s MBA with a Certificate in Taxation online program is particularly helpful for the regulation section of the exam, which has a 60 percent focus on federal taxation.

CPA Licensing

The final step to becoming a CPA is obtaining CPA licensure. Most aspiring CPAs secure licensure in the states where they plan to practice; however, that is not mandatory. All U.S. states now participate in the Substantial Equivalency program which ensures at least one of their paths to licensure allows its CPAs to work with clients in other states. This program breaks jurisdictional barriers and permits CPAs to work with clients across state lines.

However, according to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), "Most states now offer Mobility privileges that allow CPAs to service clients across state borders, but those laws can take some delicate navigation as well." Therefore, if you choose to work in another state, you or your CPA firm still must contact that state's board of accountancy for approval.

Each state must meet the minimum standards stipulated by the Substantial Equivalency program, but many states also have variable requirements in other areas. The four elements of CPA licensure are education, exam, experience and ethics. States have the freedom to determine the number of years and the type of experience a CPA candidate must have as well as whether or not candidates must pass a state-specific ethics exam.

Ohio offers an alternative to the 150 credit-hour requirement that combines earning a bachelor’s or associate degree that includes accounting and business hours with earning a score of at least 620 on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). However, this is not an ideal option because it may prevent these candidates from becoming a CPA in almost all other states.

Regardless of the location you choose for your CPA exam and licensure, once you have achieved CPA designation, your clients will know you are a state-certified professional prepared to handle all of their accounting needs. Earning a Certificate in Taxation will strengthen your ability to pass the CPA exam and begin your path to a rewarding career.

Learn more about the University of Cincinnati online MBA program with a Corporate Taxation Concentration.


National Association of State Boards of Accountancy: How to Get Licensed

Ohio Laws and Rules: Requirements for CPA certificate

Accountancy Board of Ohio: CPA Certification Requirements and Procedure

American Institute of CPAs: CPA Exam

This Way to CPA: State & Territory Requirements

This Way to CPA: Kentucky

This Way to CPA: Michigan

This Way to CPA: Indiana

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy: Substantial Equivalency

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