Tennessee CPA License Requirements and Exams

Tennessee requires that individuals seeking to become certified public accountants hold a bachelor’s degree. The state does not have a minimum age requirement for licensure or require that individuals be a U.S. citizen or a resident of Tennessee. However, applicants must have a valid Social Security number. Individuals who meet these qualifications can take the first step to getting licensed by taking the Uniform CPA Examination.

Step 1: CPA exam in Tennessee

Sitting for the CPA exam in Tennessee requires that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree and have 150 hours of education, which includes coursework in accounting and other business-related courses. In addition to the application, candidates must submit a notarized form and a 2-inch by 2-inch photo.

Education requirements in Tennessee

Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university recognized by the board and have at least 150 semester hours of college education. Graduate degrees can be substituted for bachelor’s degrees. Applicants can sit for the exam when they are within 200 days of completing the educational requirement.

The coursework includes:

  • 30 semester (or 45 quarter) hours in accounting, including at least 24 semester hours completed at the upper-division level
  • and 24 semester (or 36 quarter) hours in general business, including at least 12 semester hours completed at the upper-division level.  Business subjects can include:
    • business law, algebra, calculus, statistics, probability, economics, finance, management, marketing, technology (computer)/information systems, ethics or business communications.

Application and test fees

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) administers the exam. Applicants must arrange to have their educational transcripts sent to NASBA, showing proof of a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited school and the required 150 education hours.

The process to apply for the CPA exam starts with requesting and receiving authorization to take the test, followed by acknowledgement from the state and official notice to schedule (NTS) the exam. Once this process is completed, applicants can select a date to take the CPA exam. The NTS expires in six months, after which candidates must submit a new application. The exam is available the first two months of each calendar quarter.

State law requires that first-time applicants submit a $170 application fee in addition to exam fees. Those who are retaking the exam are required to pay a registration fee in addition to exam fees. Registration fees are $150 for four exams, $125 for three exams, $100 for two exams and $75 for one exam.

In addition to the state’s application fee, there are substantial administrative costs that must be paid in advance to the NASBA.

The Uniform CPA Examination comprises four sections:

  • Auditing and Attestation
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting
  • Regulation
  • Business Environment and Concepts

Each section of the exam has a specified administration fee. Applicants may take one or more of the four required sections at a time. In addition to the administration fee for each section, CPA exam applicants are charged a separate fee for each testing session they take.

Taking, passing and retaking the CPA exam

The passing score for each of the four exam sections is 75. Applicants may take the sections individually and in any order, but are required to pass all four within a rolling 18-month period, which begins on the date the first examination section passed was taken.

Credit for any section passed shall be valid for 18 months from the actual date the examination section was taken. Examination credits expire by section, and applicants will lose credit for each section passed outside of the 18-month period.

Step 2: CPA license in Tennessee

To become a certified public accountant in Tennesee, applicants must have successfully passed all four sections of the exam, passed the ethics exam and completed the required work experience. Once both exams have been passed, the board is notified and an application packet is sent to the candidate to apply for the Tennessee CPA license. Once the applicant completes one year of work experience, they must submit the application to Tennessee along with a $100 application fee.

Ethics exam

In addition to passing the CPA exam, applicants must take and pass the AICPA Ethics Examination. Official verification, mailed directly from the AICPA, showing that the applicant passed the exam with a score of 90 or higher is required.

Work experience in Tennessee

One year of experience is required for licensure and can be gained through employment in industry, government, academia or public practice. Two years’ experience is required for CPAs providing attest services.

Out-of-state CPA licenses

Tennessee allows CPAs in good standing and licensed in other states or U.S. jurisdictions to practice in the state as long as the issuing state has been verified to be substantially equivalent to the NASBA’s Qualification Appraisal. Applicants must also pass the ethics exam and have one year of experience. Tennessee also recognizes individuals who hold foreign CPA certificates of licensure from Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Disclaimer: Requirements for Tennessee CPA test-takers and license applicants are subject to change. Visit the state’s Board of Accountancy website to check for recent revisions to Tennessee’s CPA requirements.

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