Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How To Obtain A CPA License In Florida - CPA Exam Requirements

Are you planning to become a CPA in Florida? CPA exam requirements in FL can be fulfilled by the appropriate level of educational and working experience requirements. Let's take a look and see if you are qualified to obtain a CPA license in this state.

Overview Of The CPA Licensing Process

You may be interested to know that the CPA qualification is granted by individual State Board of Accountancy instead of one governmental department or agency at the federal level. Therefore, each state may have slightly different CPA exam and licensing requirements and this can be very confusing.

However, a lot of work on the convergence has been done and the State Boards generally follow the requirements of the "3E"s, that is:

  • Education
  • Exam
  • Experience
Florida is one of the states that follow this criteria. Now, let's look into the details:

1. CPA License Step #1: Educational Requirements

In Florida, you need to have at least a bachelor degree to get qualified for taking the CPA exam. Also, you will need to fulfill 120 credit hours in an accredited educational institutions with at least 24 credit hours of "upper level" accounting and 24 credit hours of upper level business courses. You are also required to take 6 credit hours of business law courses.

By upper level, it means the courses should be designed for junior and senior (3rd and 4th year respectively) college students majoring in business and/or accounting.

In Florida, the State Board allows students from non-accredited college to apply but there are special requirement. Also, candidates with degree from non-US institutions are welcome as long as their transcripts are evaluated by the designated foreign credential evaluation agencies. You will be able to find the links on these sources at the bottom of this article.

2. CPA License Step #2: The Uniform CPA Exam

After fulfilling step 1, you are allowed to sit for the CPA exam. Unlike the CPA exam requirements, this Uniform CPA exam is standardized throughout the US -- in fact, you can actually register in one state and physically take the exam in another.

Also, the exam is 100% computerized which means that you can take it at the "prometric centers" across the country and can take it any time (typically means business hours of Monday to Friday, and for some sites, also Saturday) during the first 2 months of each quarter. In other words, there isn't really a "deadline" for application and you can arrange the exam based on your own schedule.

How hard is the exam? It is said that the CPA exam is probably one of the toughest among the professional exams: this is a 14-hour test divided into 4 parts, covering financial accounting, cost accounting, governmental accounting, auditing, business law, ethics, information system, federal taxation, and other related areas that a CPA is expected to have knowledge on.

The CPA exam pass rate is notorious low at slightly less than 50% -- but don't let me scare you away, because for those who sign up for the CPA exam review courses they can drastically increase their chance of passing success. Many top CPA review courses boast a mid-to-high 80s as their average student pass rate.

3. CPA License Step #3: Experience

After passing the CPA exam, the Florida State Board will mail you the CPA licensing application form. Before the submission, you'll have to fulfill the following licensing requirement:

(i) Additional educational requirement: like most states, Florida requires 150 credit hours to get the license even though they let you sit for the exam with only 120 credit hours. In other words, if you have a Bachelor degree (typically with 120 credit hours) you will have to fulfill the extra 30 credit hours of accounting courses in any accredited colleges.

(ii) Experience requirement: 1 year of public or non-public accounting experience supervised and verified by an active CPA licensee (i.e. CPA who keeps his/her CPA license valid by fulfilling the CPE courses and paying the dues).

If your supervisor is a chartered accountant from Canada or CPA/CA from Australia, it will work but additional years of experience will be required.

Final note: Florida State Board requires candidates to supply their social security number (SSN) when sitting for the exam and getting the CPA license. If you have never lived in the US or you are on a dependent visa, you will have to skip Florida and try other states, such as Illinois.

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