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How to Become a CPA: The Steps You Need to Know

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) hold the authority to offer a wide spectrum of accounting services, including auditing, tax preparation and financial reporting. They cater to a diverse clientele, serving individuals, businesses and governmental organizations. CPAs can be employed by major corporations, small enterprises and nonprofit entities, or operate independently or as part of a group practice.

Earning potential for this role is excellent, with average salaries ranging from $70,235 and $461,014 (as of September 2023) depending on experience, expertise and industry segment. Acquiring the educational credits necessary to sit for the CPA exam, passing the exam and earning your CPA license signifies your profound mastery of accounting practices.

Your Path to Becoming a CPA

The stages to becoming a licensed CPA include meeting education, experience and exam requirements, known as the “Three Es.” Here are the steps in sequential order:

  1. Familiarize yourself with state requirements: States vary in requirements to attain a CPA license. Research and understand the minimum eligibility criteria set by your state’s licensing board to sit for the CPA exam. Work with your college advisor to ensure you choose the right major and coursework during your undergraduate and graduate years to meet the prerequisites.
  2. Complete your educational requirements: You will typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. Some states may accept candidates with degrees in related fields like business, but specific requirements vary. Generally, you will need core credit hours in accounting, auditing, taxation and business-related courses such as finance and business law. Many states mandate 150 college credit hours, which is 30 more than a standard bachelor’s degree. In Arkansas, coursework must include 30 semester hours of upper-level accounting courses and 20 hours in other business-related, non-accountancy courses.

    Completing your Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Management online from Henderson State University (HSU) equips you with skills in accounting, finance, economics, organizational strategy and more. Graduates can use these skills to pursue careers as accounting professionals.

  3. Gain relevant work experience: Most states require a minimum amount of full-time, professional work experience related to the accounting industry. The specifics, including the duration and acceptable roles, are determined by your state’s Board of Accountancy. Many states mandate a minimum of two years of work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA.
  4. Apply for the CPA exam: Before taking the CPA exam, you must apply to your state board. Once your application is approved, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) required to book your exam sections. You have 18 months to complete all sections after taking the first one.
  5. Prepare for the uniform CPA exam: The exam comprises four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) — each lasting four hours. Due to the exam’s difficulty, intensive preparation is crucial. Consider focusing on one or two test sections at a time to manage the rigorous study demands. The exam consists of question blocks known as “testlets,” containing task-based simulations or multiple-choice questions. Scoring is weighted, with more points awarded for challenging questions.
  6. Pass the CPA and ethics exams: To become a CPA, you must pass both the Uniform CPA Examination and an Ethics Examination. Both are administered and graded by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The CPA Exam is scored on a 1-99 scale, with a minimum passing score of 75 in each section.
  7. Obtain and maintain your license: After meeting all requirements and passing the exams, you can apply for your CPA license, typically involving a licensing fee and proof of meeting requirements. Upon approval, you will receive your license. To maintain your CPA license, you will need to complete annual continuing education courses.

How to Become a CPA in Arkansas

The CPA Exam requirements in Arkansas (AR) dictate that individuals must first attain eligibility for the examination and subsequently obtain licensure from the state. Eligibility is conferred upon individuals who satisfy particular criteria established by their jurisdiction’s board of accountancy. Here are the specific CPA Exam requirements in Arkansas:

  • An advanced education: A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement. Degree programs must be taken from accepted educational institutions and have 30 hours of upper-level accounting courses and 30 hours of business courses. While 150 hours are needed for licensure, they are not required to sit for the exam. However, candidates must complete the additional 30 hours within three years of passing the final section of the exam.
  • Hours of experience: CPA candidates must accumulate 12 months or 2,000 hours of experience, which can be acquired through full-time or part-time work within a maximum period of three years. The eligible work should encompass various areas such as accounting, attestation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax and consulting. Verification of this experience should be conducted by a licensed CPA, adhering to the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy guidelines.
  • Pass the exam: To begin your CPA exam journey in Arkansas, start by reviewing the exam requirements. Then, submit your exam application. Next, request and send your transcripts to the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy for evaluation. Once you receive the necessary information, pay the exam fees and the State Board will issue your Authorization to Test (ATT) to NASBA. With your Notice to Schedule (NTS) in hand, schedule your exam in Arkadelphia, Fort Smith, Little Rock or another convenient location. You have the flexibility to sit for exam parts in any sequence.

Take the Next Step in Your Path to CPA Licensure

Each step in your journey to becoming a CPA brings you closer to a rewarding career. To acquire the comprehensive skills top employers demand for CPA roles, consider enrolling in the Henderson State University MBA in Management online program. This program not only equips you with advanced accounting knowledge but also instills essential business and management acumen. By taking this next step, you can pave the way for a successful and impactful career as a CPA.

Learn more about Henderson State University’s online MBA with a Concentration in Management program.

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