North Carolina CPA License Requirements and Exams

North Carolina requires that individuals seeking to become certified public accountants hold a bachelor’s degrees or higher and be 18 years of age. Candidates must be a U.S. citizen but are not required to be a resident of North Carolina. Applicants are also 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 North Carolina

Sitting for the CPA exam in North Carolina requires that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree, which includes coursework in accounting and other business-related courses.

Education requirements

Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university. Applicants can apply to sit for the exam when they are within 120 days of completing the educational requirements.

The coursework includes:

  • 30 semester hours, or equivalent quarter hours, of undergraduate accountancy courses, which include:
    • 6 semester hours of accounting principles
    • 3 semester hours of business law
  • or 20 semester hours, or equivalent quarter hours, of graduate accounting courses

Application and test fees in North Carolina

The North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners administers the exam. Applicants must arrange to have their educational transcripts sent to the board, showing proof of a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited school. Applicants are also required to submit two 2-inch by 2-inch photographs.

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 examination is available in the first two months of each calendar quarter.

First-time applicants must submit a $230 application fee plus exam fees. Those who are retaking the exam are required to pay a $75 application fee plus exam fees.

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 is 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 North Carolina

After successfully passing all four sections of the CPA exam, the ethics exam and obtaining the required work experience, applicants may then apply to become a certified public accountant in North Carolina. Applicants must submit a licensure application to North Carolina along with a $100 application fee. Applicants are also required to submit three moral character references.


North Carolina requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree and 150 hours of education for full licensure.

Ethics exam in North Carolina

Applicants must take and pass the North Carolina Association of CPAs (NCACPA) course, “NC Accountancy Law Course: Ethics Principles and Professional Responsibilities”. The course must be completed within one year of applying for licensing.

Work experience

Work experience is required for full licensing and can be obtained in the following ways:

  • One year of experience in the public practice of accountancy under the direct supervision of a licensed CPA
  • One year of experience in the field of accountancy under the direct supervision of a licensed CPA
  • Four years of experience in the field of accounting
  • Four years of experience teaching accounting in an accredited college or university
  • Four years of experience self-employed in accounting

If the applicant does not meet the one-year requirement, he or she must meet the four-year requirement.

Out-of-state CPA licenses

North Carolina 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 National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s Qualification Appraisal. North Carolina recognizes individuals who hold foreign CPA certificates of licensure from the following Canadian providences: Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Disclaimer: Requirements for North Carolina CPA test-takers and license applicants are subject to change. Visit the state’s DCLA website to check for recent revisions to the North Carolina CPA requirements.


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