Becoming an accountant is a lengthy process, but well worth it. Accountants are one of the highest-paid professions in the United States requiring just a bachelor’s degree.

Number crunchers, pencil pushers, bean counters – these are the words many people think of when the word “accountant” is spoken. Accountants, however, are much more than that. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor has labeled accounting as one of the careers that is expected to be in the most demand during the next 10 to 20 years.  But how does one go about becoming an accountant?

Accounting Regulations

All states have their own accounting regulations, but most require at least 150 semester hours of college credit. Some state accountancy boards require a minimum number of courses in accounting and a business concentration as well. In addition, coursework in mathematics, statistics, ethics, and communication are all usually part of an accounting curriculum.

In addition to 150 semester hours of education, most states require accountants to have a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree usually consists of just 120 semester hours of college credit. Therefore, you might have to take extra courses to meet your state’s requirement of 150 semester house of college credit.

Uniform CPA Exam

Then, prospective accountants must pass the Uniform CPA Exam given by the National State Boards of Accountancy. This exam has four parts: Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, Regulation, and Auditing and Attestation. As each part takes from three to four hours to complete, many candidates opt to take just one or two parts of the exam at a time. The exam is computerized and offered at Prometric testing centers across the United States.

Ethics Course

After passing the examination, most states require that you complete a course in ethics and sometimes also on the state’s accountancy rules and regulations. The final step to licensure as a Certified Public Accountant is to fulfill your state’s experience requirements. Most states require at least one year of public accounting experience, in the fields of industry, academia or government.

Once you are a certified, licensed CPA, you must adhere to rules and regulations in your state governing ethics and conduct. Also, you must fulfill a specified number of continuing professional education (CPE) hours in order to maintain your license. Most states require coursework that pertains directly to an accountant’s professional competency, and may allow group programs, individual or self-study programs, educational seminars and meetings, and teaching a college course in accounting to count for CPE credit. Some states also allow CPAs to claim articles or books they have written in the field as CPE hours.


How much will it cost to get your CPA credentials? Again, this varies from state to state. Usually there is an application fee to take the exam, a fee to take each part of the exam, and a licensing application fee and processing fee. The end result could total $1000 once you’ve completed the process and are licensed as a CPA in your state.

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