Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to Become a CPA in Illinois - CPA Exam Requirements

Would you like to become a CPA and are currently living or working in Illinois? In fact, even if you live outside of IL, you can consider to sit for the exam through Illinois because of its uniquely favorable CPA exam requirements. I am going to provide a step-by-step explanation in the following article.

Beginner's Guide On How To Become A CPA

You may not realize, but the CPA qualification is granted by each state via the respective State Board of Accountancy, instead of a governmental agency at the federal level. The implication is that each state has slightly different CPA exam requirements and it can be confusing that the requirements in Illinois is quite different from, say, the ones in California.

Having said that, in general, in order to become a CPA in the US you will have to go through the "3E": Education, Exam and Experience. Education is the first step used primarily to get qualified for the second step, the CPA examination. Unlike the CPA exam requirements the CPA exam itself is standard and is centrally offered by the organization comprised of AICPA, NASBA and the State Boards of Accountancy.

Upon passing the CPA exam, the candidate will (in most cases) need to fulfill the working experience requirement and possibly additional educational requirements in order to get qualified for the CPA license in the respective state.

Illinois CPA Licensing Requirement #1: Education

In Illinois, the CPA candidates are required to have a bachelor degree or above and have completed 150 semester hour of study. A typical 4-year program has 120 semester hours, so a candidate should either take an extra year of master program in accounting, or take additional courses from accredited colleges to make up for the 150 hours.

Within the 150 semester hours there should be at least 24 hours in accounting and another 24 hours in business courses. If the candidate has obtained a graduate degree, then 24 hours in accounting in undergraduate level or 15 hours of the same in graduate level is sufficient to sit for the exam.

Illinois CPA Licensing Requirement #2: Examination

After sending in the CPA exam application and obtain the NTS (Notice To Schedule), the candidate can then reserve a seat at the "prometric center" of their choice. These centers are essentially exam sites where candidates write for the exam on computers. Prometric centers are located around the country and they are present in all major cities in Illinois.

The Uniform CPA Examination is actually one of the toughest professional examinations around, with 4 parts covering financial accounting, auditing, taxation, business ethics and laws, information system and all sorts of things a "qualified" accountant is expected to know.

The exam is 100% computerized and the 4 parts add up to 14 hours, although you can take each part one at a time. Since the computerization of the exam, candidates can schedule the exam on any weekdays (and sometimes Saturdays, depending on the state) during the first two months of each quarter.

While the exam covers a huge amount of topics and the pass rate is low (slightly below 50%), there are CPA exam review courses with impressive track record, with passing rate of their students as high as 88%. Once you decide to pursue the CPA and apply for the exam, you should spend the time to choose the most suitable CPA review course based on your study style and budget.

Upon passing the CPA exam, you will take a CPA ethics exam which is open-book and to be done at the comfort of your home. This is substantially easier than the Uniform CPA Exam.

Illinois CPA Licensing Requirement #3: Experience

Almost all states require working experience to get the CPA qualification. The good news is, for Illinois, you can actually get away with fulfilling the working experience requirement if you opt for a "CPA certificate".

This certificate is issued to all candidates sitting for the CPA exam via Illinois and this alone will be enough for you to get a wall certificate and become a member of the AICPA, the national body for CPAs in the US.

Having said that, there are certain restrictions being a CPA certificate holder versus a full CPA licensee.

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