Pennsylvania requires that individuals seeking to become certified public accountants hold a bachelor’s degree or higher and be at least 18 years old. Applicants are not required to be a U.S. citizen or a resident of Pennsylvania. However, applicants are 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 Pennsylvania
Sitting for the CPA exam in Pennsylvania requires that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, which includes coursework in accounting and other business-related courses.
Applicants sitting for the CPA exam must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited college or university.
The coursework includes:
- 24 semester credits in accounting and auditing, business law, finance or tax subjects
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. Applicants are also required to submit three character references.
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 12 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 $95 application fee and exam fees. Those who are retaking the exam are required to pay the same fees.
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 Pennsylvania
After successfully passing all four sections of the exam and completing the work experience, applicants may then apply to become a certified public accountant in Pennsylvania. Applicants must submit an application to Pennsylvania along with a $65 application fee.
Licensing requires that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree or higher and complete 150 semester hours of education.
Work experience in Pennsylvania
One year of work experience, consisting of 1,600 hours, is required for licensing and can be obtained in academia, a firm, government or industry in any capacity involving the substantial use of accounting, financial, tax or other relevant skills. Experience must be completed within five years before the application and be verified by a licensed CPA.
Out-of-state CPA licenses
Pennsylvania 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. Pennsylvania also recognizes individuals who hold foreign CPA certificates of licensure as long as they meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania Board of Accountancy and submit the proper application to work along with a $65 fee.
Disclaimer: Requirements for Pennsylvania CPA test-takers and license applicants are subject to change. Visit the state’s Board of Accountancy website to check for recent revisions to Pennsylvania’s CPA requirements.
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