California CPA Requirements

Hey there, future CPA!

I get a lot of questions from clients across the US about the requirements to sit for the CPA exam.  The process can be confusing and tedious, and unfortunately the requirements vary state to state. Since I’m both licensed as a CPA and based out of California, this blog focuses on the requirements and other details around becoming a licensed CPA in the state of California.  For specific requirements in your state, I recommend visiting your state’s accountancy board website.

Here are some of the key FAQs about becoming a CPA in California in 2019 and 2020.

What are the requirements to be a CPA in California?

In order to sit for the CPA exam in California, you must have:

  • completed a bachelor’s degree, including twenty-four (24) units in accounting subjects and twenty-four (24) units in business subjects.  (Meeting this requirement qualifies you to take the exam. This does not yet qualify you to become licensed).
  • A social security number
  • You do not need to be a permanent CA resident or a US citizen.

What are the CPA exam fees in California?

There are several fees to be aware of when pursuing the CPA exam in California (and other states).  Fees typically fall into three categories- application fees, exam fees and licensing fees. 

The fee structure is as follows:  

Initial Exam Application FeeRe-application fee$100*$50 
Exam Fee- AUD$209.90
Exam Fee- BEC$209.90
Exam Fee- FAR$209.90
Exam Fee- REG$209.90
License Application Fee$250

In order to become licensed, you must have:

  • Passed all 4 parts of the exam with a minimum score of 75
  • Passed the CA Ethics exam
  • 1 year of work experience working for a licensed CPA
  • 150 total credit hours, including 20 additional units in accounting subjects and 10 units of ethics.  (For specifics about what courses count for “accounting subjects”, “business subjects” or “ethics subjects” visit )
  • Pay your application fees and submit necessary paperwork

Do you need a master’s degree to be a CPA in California?

You do not need a master’s degree in order to become a licensed CPA in California.  The 5th year Master of Science in Taxation (MST) and Master of Science in Accounting (MSA)  programs were created to help candidates meet the 150 hour requirement for licensure.  However, they are not required.

There are countless pathways to earn your 150 credit hours and qualify for licensure.  As an example, I transferred universities between my freshman and sophomore year of school.  As a result, I had additional credits from my first year that did not directly meet any of the graduation requirements at my new school.  In order to graduate, I still had to meet all of the graduation requirements both of the university in general, and of the business school.  After completing all of those courses, I had over 150 credits and only a bachelor’s degree. All of those courses counted towards my qualification to sit for the exam and become licensed.  Of course, you still need to meet the specific course requirements as part of the 150 total credits.

Other common examples include double-majoring during undergrad, significant AP credit from high school courses, and other transfer credits from previous university or JC experience.  

In Conclusion…

Yes, we know it’s a lot!  The administrative part of the CPA exam is no joke, but it’s “figureoutable” as Marie Forleo would say.  Take it one step at a time, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions. Most importantly, plan to take the exams as soon as you’re qualified.  I can promise you won’t regret that decision down the road.  

We can help you pass the exam on your first attempt.  Download our free guide to avoid the top 10 mistakes that cause candidates to FAIL the exam.  Get the Guide!

Good luck!

Additional Resources:

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Erin Daiber


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