Wisconsin requires that individuals seeking to become certified public accountants be 18 years old and hold a bachelor’s degree. The state does not require that individuals be a U.S. citizen or a resident of Wisconsin. Applicants are also not required to 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 Wisconsin
Sitting for the CPA exam in Wisconsin requires that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree, which includes coursework in accounting and other business-related courses. Applicants do not have to have 150 hours of education to sit for the exam.
Education requirements in Wisconsin
Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree with a major in accounting, or the reasonable equivalent of an accounting concentration. Candidates must be within 60 days of possessing a degree before taking the exam.
The coursework includes:
- 24 hours in accounting courses at the undergraduate or graduate level covering financial accounting, auditing, taxation and management accounting
- 24 hours in business courses
Advanced degrees are accepted in lieu of a bachelor’s degree in the following instances:
- A graduate degree that has a concentration in accounting
- A graduate degree without an accounting concentration that covers the subjects of financial accounting, auditing, taxation and management accounting, in the following manner:
- 24 semester hours of undergraduate courses
- or 15 semester hours of graduate courses
- or an equivalent combination
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 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 given the first two months of each calendar quarter.
State law requires that first-time applicants submit fees each time they apply to take a section. The total depends on the number of sections and the specific combination of sections taken but range from $378 to $974. Those who are retaking the exam are required to pay reduced fees that start at $295.
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
- 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 Wisconsin
After successfully passing all four sections of the exam, applicants may then apply to become a certified public accountant in Wisconsin. Applicants must submit a licensure application to Wisconsin along with a $75 credentialing fee and a $75 exam fee. Applicants are also required to submit a chronological resume of accounting experience and a verification of employment and experience. Additionally, a position description for each verification of employment is required, which must be signed and dated by each employer.
Ethics exam in Wisconsin
In addition to passing the CPA exam, applicants must pass the Wisconsin online ethics exam with a score of 80 or higher.
Education in Wisconsin
Applicants who graduated in 2001 or later must have completed 150 hours of education, which includes the coursework required to sit for the CPA exam.
Work experience in Wisconsin
Wisconsin requires that applicants acquire one year of accounting experience before licensure. It must be acquired after completion of education and before submitting a license application. Part-time employment can be counted, but full-time employment is given the most weight. Bookkeeping and elementary individual tax return preparation are not considered qualifying experience.
Out-of-state CPA licenses
Wisconsin 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. Wisconsin also recognizes individuals who hold foreign CPA certificates of licensure, provided they meet the requirements of Wisconsin’s State Board of Public Accountancy.
Disclaimer: Requirements for Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin’s CPA requirements.
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- "Applying for the Uniform CPA Examination," National Association of State Boards of Accountancy
- "Application for Certified Public Accountant," Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
- "Wisconsin Ethics Exam," Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
- "Accounting Examining Board," Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services