Washington State CPA License Requirements and Exams

Washington state requires that individuals seeking to become certified public accountants hold a bachelor’s degree. There is no minimum age requirement, and applicants do not have to be a U.S. citizen or a resident of Washington. 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 Washington state

Sitting for the CPA exam in Washington state requires that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree or higher and have 150 hours of credit, which includes coursework in accounting.

Education requirements

Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree or higher with a concentration in accounting from a regionally accredited college or university that is recognized by the board and have 150 credit hours. Applicants can sit for the exam when they are within 180 days of completing the educational requirements.

The coursework includes:

  • 24 semester hours (36 quarter) in accounting subjects, including:
    • introductory/elementary accounting
    • intermediate accounting
    • advanced accounting
    • cost/managerial accounting
    • audit
    • tax courses
    • accounting information systems
  • 15 semester (22.5 quarter) hours at the upper level or graduate level, including:
    • intermediate accounting
    • advanced accounting
    • managerial accounting
    • cost accounting
    • governmental accounting
    • auditing
    • tax courses
    • accounting information systems
    • not-for-profit accounting
    • accountant theory
    • forensic accounting
    • financial statement analysis
    • any accounting courses taken as part of a master’s program

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.

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 $155 application fee plus exam fees. Those who are retaking the exam are also required to pay a registration fee in addition to exam fees. Registration fees are $120 for four sections, $105 for three sections, $90 for two sections and $75 for one section.

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 Washington state

After successfully passing all four sections of the exam, the ethics exam, the Washington State Ethics & Regulations course and obtaining 150 hours of education, applicants may then apply to become a certified public accountant in Washington. Applicants must submit a licensure application to Washington along with a $330 fee.

Education

Candidates are required to have a bachelor’s degree or higher with an accounting concentration and 150 hours of education.

If it has been more than four years since the applicant passed the CPA exam, he or she is also required to obtain 120 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) within 36 months before application.

Ethics exam and Washington ethics course

In addition to passing the CPA exam, applicants must take 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. Applicants must have passed the ethics exam within three years prior to applying for licensing.

Applicants are also required to pass a Washington State Ethics & Regulations course with a score of 90 or better.

Work experience

One year of general experience is required for licensing and can be gained through the practice of public accounting and/or employment in industry, academia, or government.

Out-of-state CPA licenses

Washington state 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. Washington also recognizes individuals who hold foreign CPA certificates of licensure, provided they meet the requirements of Washington’s State Board of Public Accountancy.

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

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