CPA Requirements

What It Takes–A Guide to Becoming a CPA

What Is a CPA?
A CPA is a certified public accountant and is licensed by the state. In California, to earn the prestige associated with the CPA license, individuals are required to demonstrate their knowledge and competence by passing the Uniform CPA Exam, meeting high educational standards and completing a specified amount of general accounting experience.

The two most important goals to focus on in your quest to become a CPA are passing the Uniform CPA Exam and meeting licensing requirements.

Learn the Steps to CPA Licensure

The path to CPA

Check out AICPA’s “This Way to CPA"

Check out the California Board of Accountancy’s Educational Requirements

A bachelor’s degree;

24 semester units in accounting-related subjects;

24 semester units in business-related subjects;

150 semester units (or 225 quarter units) of education;

Passing the Uniform CPA Exam;

Passing the Professional Ethics Exam for CPAs; and

One year of general accounting experience supervised by a CPA with an active license.


When the public thinks of CPAs, they often think of auditing—the process of examining, testing and verifying a company’s financial records. Traditionally, logging audit hours has been how aspiring CPAs “pay their dues.”

Well, times have changed, and the number of CPAs in California who perform audits and other attest-type services is dwindling. So now, neither pathway requires audit experience to obtain a CPA license.

But publicly held companies in the United States still need to be audited each year to remain in business. So at some point you may want to log the 500 hours of attest or auditing experience to obtain the authority to sign attest reports. It can add to your marketability as a professional.

Increased Opportunity Since audit hours aren’t required, you can acquire the experience you need for licensing from any CPA in California with an active license. This means you can train under the CPA who is the information technology director at Warner Bros. or a CPA who works for herself in Lodi just as easily as you can under a partner at one of the large international accounting firms.

Your predecessors may have had to work only with firms that performed audits, but your employment possibilities are wide open.

(Rev. Jan. 2014)