How to Become a CPA: Step-By-Step Guide

Venture into the world of financial expertise, aspiring CPAs! ? Embrace the intricate realm of numbers and regulations as we embark on a journey of comprehension and mastery in the field of accounting. 

With precision as our guide, we navigate through complex financial landscapes and provide clarity through meticulous analysis. Your influence in shaping fiscal well-being is vast, so equip yourself with knowledge and proficiency to drive transformative outcomes. 

Embrace the excitement and fulfillment of steering financial? destinies towards brighter horizons in the realm of accounting! 

As of July 25, 2023, the average pay? for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the United States ranges from $70,235 to $461,014 a year.

Who is a CPA?

A certified public accountant (CPA) is a qualified accounting expert who fulfills specific educational, examination, and experience prerequisites set by a state board of accountancy for obtaining a license. 

Becoming a CPA involves passing an examination that showcases your proficiency in essential technical skills? essential for offering financial accounting, reporting, auditing, attestation, regulatory compliance, business contexts, and fundamental business principles.

CPAs are in high demand by both businesses and nonprofit entities due to their comprehensive training in tax legislation, auditing protocols, managerial methodologies, and other significant elements of corporate financial activities.

How much can a CPA earn?

The average yearly pay for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the United States is $152,972. This sum includes both the base salary and, importantly for CPAs, additional cash compensation.

This additional monetary remuneration, which averages $57,187?, illustrates the lucrative nature of this job.

This supplemental component’s pay scale ranges from $42,890 to $80,062, which reflects the many jobs and sectors that fall under the CPA domain’s purview.

How to Become a CPA(Tips)

Welcome to the world of CPA, where numbers and financial landscapes await your mastery! Fear not, for I shall be your steadfast guide on this enriching expedition through the realms of financial expertise. ? Prepare for a voyage of insightful calculations, strategic analyses, and the occasional complex challenge. 

Here’s your navigational compass through the intricate field of accounting. ⤵️

Familiarize yourself with your state board’s essential prerequisites

When embarking on the journey to become a CPA, it’s crucial✨ to explore the fundamental prerequisites stipulated by your state’s licensing board. Thoroughly research the criteria required for eligibility to take the CPA exam in your state. 

Consulting with the licensing board will guide your selection of a suitable major and coursework during your college tenure.

Attain an academic qualification

A Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting or Finance is typically the minimum academic attainment necessary for achieving Certified? Public Accountant status. While some states may permit candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a related field like business to sit for the CPA exam, eligibility varies by jurisdiction. 

Candidates usually must complete core credit hours encompassing accounting, auditing, taxation, and business-related courses such as finance, management, and business law.

In numerous states, candidates are mandated to fulfill a minimum of 150 college credit hours, exceeding the conventional bachelor’s degree requirement by 30 hours. As a result, many CPAs opt to pursue a master’s degree. 

Alternatively, certain accounting programs provide a structured coursework route, enabling the acquisition of additional hours alongside the completion of the bachelor’s degree.

Attain pertinent practical experience

Many states mandate candidates to accumulate a minimum duration of full-time, professional work ✊experience within a role closely tied to the accounting realm. The specifics of requisite work experience and acceptable job positions are determined by your state’s Board of Accountancy, displaying variability among jurisdictions. 

However, numerous states typically stipulate a prerequisite of at least two years of work engagement under the direct supervision of a licensed CPA.

Initiate the CPA exam application process

Before you can proceed to take the CPA exam, initiating the application ?process with the state board is imperative. Application fees vary, spanning from $50 to $200, contingent on your state of application. 

It is essential to ensure that all eligibility requirements for sitting the CPA exam are met prior to submitting the application, as the application fee is non-refundable.

Following approval of your CPA exam application by the state Board of Accountancy, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS), a crucial document for scheduling each section of the exam.

Once you’ve completed the initial CPA exam section, an 18-month timeframe is allocated for the completion of the remaining sections.

Ready Yourself for the CPA Exam

The Uniform CPA Exam encompasses four segments: auditing and attestation (AUD), financial accounting ?and reporting (FAR), regulation (REG), and business environment and concepts (BEC). Each exam section comprises a four-hour test duration.

Given the exam’s demanding nature, thorough preparation for each segment is essential. Prior to taking the exam, intensive study for each section is imperative. Concentrating on one or two test sections at a time is advisable due to the comprehensive preparation necessary for each.

Each segment of the CPA Exam is subdivided into “testlets,” featuring task-based simulations or multiple-choice questions. The test employs a weighted scoring mechanism, allocating higher points for intricate questions or tasks. 

The business environment and concepts segment incorporates a written communication assessment, requiring a client letter composition using word processing software.

Attain Success in the AICPA’s Uniform CPA Exam and Ethics Exam

Earning the title of Certified Public Accountant entails triumphing in both the Uniform CPA Examination ✍️and Ethics Examination, both administered and graded by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). Scoring on a 1-99 scale, a minimum score of 75 in each section is necessary for passing the CPA Exam.

Upon successful completion of the CPA exam, a certificate is conferred. It’s vital to understand that the certificate doesn’t grant a license for CPA practice, and fulfilling all additional requisites is essential for obtaining licensure.

Obtain and Sustain Your License

Once all prerequisites are fulfilled, and you have successfully cleared each segment of the Uniform CPA Exam and Ethics Exam, the final step is to seek your license?. This procedure usually entails remitting a licensing fee and substantiating your completion of stipulated requisites. 

Subsequently, your license will be dispatched to you. Upon achieving CPA licensure, it becomes imperative to partake in annual continuing education courses to uphold your license.

Responsibilities of a CPA

CPAs are more than number crunchers; they assume versatile roles. From ensuring financial accuracy and compliance to advising on tax strategies and aiding business growth, CPAs contribute to sound financial health across diverse sectors. 

Their expertise covers auditing, financial analysis, and strategic planning, weaving an intricate web of roles within their realm. ⤵️

Check for accuracy and balance the financial records

Utilizing painstaking attention to detail and accounting skills?, confirm financial records for irregularities and ensure precise balances to safeguard the integrity of financial data.

Check for significant monetary difficulties

Apply analytical skills? and financial knowledge to comprehensively analyze financial data to find and manage important concerns, ensuring the organization’s fiscal stability and regulatory compliance.

Maintain project budgets

Provide project managers with strategic insights by closely monitoring project expenses? and comparing actual costs to anticipated levels. To ensure adherence to the budget and optimize resource allocation, use financial controls.

Disseminate audited financial statements

Completely audited financial statements ?should be prepared and published to ensure accuracy, transparency, and regulatory compliance. Effectively share financial insights with stakeholders to promote trust and well-informed decision-making.

Aid in conducting external corporate audits

Participate in external corporate audits ✅and contribute your knowledge of financial records and procedures. Ensure accurate information sharing and adherence to auditing standards, which will help the reliability of the audit results.

Tips to improve your CPA career

Embarking on a CPA career sets you on an unfolding journey of financial expertise. Harness the knowledge and guidance offered here to enhance your accounting skills, making a lasting impact and charting a rewarding course in the world of financial management. ⤵️

Seek a mentor

Engage with a seasoned professional who can share insights?‍? from their accounting journey and aid your skill development. Opt for mentors with years of experience, esteemed reputations among peers, and a history of overcoming career challenges. 

Choosing multiple mentors offers advantages—diverse experiences, varied challenges, and a safety net for guidance.

Enhance networking prowess

Master the art of connecting? with peers and industry experts. Hone communication skills to engage effectively with diverse professionals, respecting their roles. Join specialized networks or online platforms to tap into a wide array of industry knowledge and expand connections globally.

Attend events like fairs and conferences to build valuable in-person connections.

Embrace technological evolution

Technology is integral to accounting, enabling data ?‍?analysis, predictive modeling, and accurate client forecasting. Leverage technology to connect with mentors and peers, staying informed about emerging tools. 

Adapting to new technologies can set you apart, enhancing client service and positioning you ahead of your peers.

Expand your expertise horizon

Diversify your accounting skills? to enhance career adaptability. Many accountants engage in foundational bookkeeping, a valuable experience. Additionally, explore financial document prep, taxation, auditing, and compliance reporting, broadening your skill set to meet diverse accounting demands and client needs.

Cultivate your interpersonal skills

Soft skills encompass personal attributes? vital for effective interactions. These traits, like communication, problem-solving, and creativity, transcend specific job roles. Hone these abilities through practice in both professional and personal spheres, enhancing your overall effectiveness.

Pursue avenues for advancement

As you accumulate experience and establish a reputation for excellence, actively pursue opportunities for career growth within your organization✨. 

Foster qualities like dependability, integrity, quality output, and adapt communication to strengthen your candidacy for advancement. Develop teamwork, positivity, and solution-focused approaches.

Define your fundamental principles

Identify your core principles and the values guiding your professional and personal life?. These tenets, such as honesty, trust, communication, teamwork, and innovation, shape your actions. 

Understanding these values aids decision-making, especially under stress. Your core principles profoundly influence your choices, granting you better self-awareness and insight in diverse scenarios.

Top CPA courses in the United States

For aspiring CPAs, navigating the path to success involves uncovering top-tier educational avenues that enhance skills and pave the way for a prosperous career. Explore renowned accounting programs from prestigious institutions worldwide. 

These programs offer comprehensive learning, expert guidance, and promising opportunities to hone your financial expertise and thrive in the field. ⤵️

Introduction to Finance and Accounting Specialization

This program introduces corporate finance and accounting principles, highlighting their practical application across diverse scenarios like personal finance, corporate choices, financial intermediation, and the influence of accounting standards on financial reporting. 

The curriculum starts with fundamentals such as the time value of money, risk-return analysis, retirement planning, mortgage and auto financing, asset valuation, and more. Utilizing Excel for a hands-on approach, learners gain direct comprehension of concepts.

Covering claim valuation, financing choices, and basic financial models, the coursework establishes a strong corporate finance grounding.

Introduction to Financial Accounting

Acquire proficiency in the technical abilities essential for examining financial statements and disclosures, enabling their utilization in financial analysis. Discover the impact of accounting standards and managerial motivations on financial reporting. 

Upon completion, you’ll possess the competence to interpret key financial statements—the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.

Apply these proficiencies to address real-world business scenarios within the Wharton Business Foundations Specialization.

Fundamentals of Accounting Specialization

This Specialization imparts the core principles of both accounting functions. You’ll grasp the intricacies of managerial financial statements, mastering their interpretation and analysis to evaluate organizational financial health. 

Recognizing and appreciating diverse decision-relevant accounting data’s essence, purpose, and significance, you’ll employ analytical methods for informed business choices.

The capstone experience extends these fundamentals to a fresh business context, encompassing business planning, projections, budgets, and information requirements for diverse stakeholders, including owners, employees, shareholders, and creditors.

Financial Accounting Fundamentals

Crafted by esteemed instructors at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, this course equips you with essential skills for comprehending financial accounting basics. 

Through succinct videos, real-world small business records, and interactive exercises, you’ll navigate the trio of pivotal financial statements: the Balance Sheet, Income Statement, and Cash Flow Statement.

Beyond transaction recording, you’ll acquire the ability to construct and interpret these statements, drawing elementary insights into a company’s fiscal well-being.

Accounting: Principles of Financial Accounting

Often referred to as the business’s lingua franca, Financial Accounting serves as the means through which managers convey the company’s economic and financial details to external stakeholders like creditors and shareholders. 

In the realm of business, financial literacy is imperative. Whether you’re a business owner, a manager, or embarking on your career journey, a grasp of financial information is essential for effective interaction with accountants, controllers, and financial managers—ultimately enabling fruitful business discussions.

This course imparts the foundational elements of this accounting language. Upon completion, you’ll acquire the skills to comprehend and analyze financial statements, facilitating business assessment and decision-making. 

More significantly, you’ll cultivate the conceptual framework to independently explore advanced accounting and finance. Just as with any language, proficiency in accounting necessitates continuous practice.

Top CPA Schools in the World

If your passion lies in deciphering financial complexities and aiding businesses in their fiscal journey, becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) might be your true calling. Mastering financial analysis, tax strategies, and audits empowers you to make a significant difference.

Explore leading CPA programs to embark on this impactful career path. ⤵️

Harvard University

Established in 1636, Harvard University, an esteemed Ivy League institution, stands as the oldest seat of higher learning in the United States. With an impressive lineage of notable alumni, including eight US presidents like John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt and influential figures like Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg, its legacy resonates in various fields, particularly finance.

Harvard encompasses 13 distinguished schools and institutes, notably its esteemed Business School, offering a wealth of resources such as cutting-edge libraries and accomplished faculty. 

As an intellectual nucleus, it fosters innovation and empowers individuals to leave a mark globally, spanning from liberal arts to sciences and beyond. Boasting a diverse array of finance and accounting courses, the university provides ample occasions for networking with industry luminaries.

Stanford University

Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford University stands as a globally acclaimed institution renowned for its excellence. Comprising 18 research institutes and seven schools, including the esteemed Graduate School of Business, Stanford offers a comprehensive array of opportunities.

For undergraduates, an assortment of finance and accounting courses awaits, complemented by distinctive executive education programs that delve into financial, accounting, and business-focused realms. 

The university boasts a vibrant array of student-led extracurriculars, among them Standard Finance, a group dedicated to fostering financial literacy within the Stanford community. Noteworthy alumni encompass 18 recipients of the prestigious Turing Award, bestowed annually by the Association for Computing Machinery. 

The university’s impressive track record is evident in the staggering $2.7 trillion annual revenue generated by companies established by Stanford affiliates and alumni, including industry giants like Google, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, and Charles Schwab.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Renowned across various university ranking indices, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) stands as a clear exemplar. Boasting exceptional academics, unparalleled research prospects, and a world-class faculty, MIT’s Sloan School of Management promises immersive learning experiences.

Students are wholeheartedly encouraged to explore both academic and personal passions, though the rigor of full-time education can be demanding. The institution’s MBA program is globally recognized for its competitiveness and prestige, offering opportunities such as cross-registration with Harvard Business School, a unique collaboration at this level.

A vibrant and diverse student body fosters an environment conducive to cutting-edge research ventures. However, gaining admission to MIT is no simple feat, as prospective students are evaluated based on their initiative, intellectual curiosity, and aptitude for collaborative work.

University of Oxford

When contemplating esteemed educational institutions, the University of Oxford inevitably takes center stage. Boasting a legacy dating back to 1096, Oxford exudes tradition, excellence, and unmatched educational standards. Globally renowned, it stands out for its diverse degree programs, encompassing fields such as medicine, politics, and economics.

Oxford’s tutorial methodology is meticulously crafted to nurture the potential of budding accountants and finance experts, offering a personalized learning journey guided by world-renowned professors.

State-of-the-art libraries and contemporary research facilities enhance the academic landscape, while students benefit from diverse business engagements, spanning local enterprises to global corporations. Equipped for the professional realm, Oxford graduates wield the essential tools for a promising career trajectory.

University of Chicago

Situated in Hyde Park, the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago stands as a culturally vibrant and diverse research establishment celebrated for its unwavering dedication to knowledge and unique educational approach.

Aspiring finance and accounting professionals are immersed in a renowned finance curriculum that delves deep into evaluating economic scenarios and performance, equipping them to make strategic decisions that yield exceptional results.

Students are encouraged to step beyond their confines, engaging in thorough analysis, open debates, and innovative problem-solving. The university boasts unmatched resources, research hubs, and institutes, further enriching the academic experience.

Where to find CPA opportunities online?

Envision a rewarding voyage as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Your journey to shaping financial landscapes starts now. In the digital era, the online realm offers a plethora of pathways to explore and connect with fellow financial professionals worldwide. 

Let this guide be your navigator, unveiling lucrative CPA prospects aligned with your ambitions, whether you’re launching your journey or amplifying your expertise. ⤵️


CPAdirectory stands as a comprehensive repository of over 500,000 CPAs and accounting experts across the United States. This extensive directory offers detailed profiles to aid in locating a CPA based on specific criteria, including experience and industry specialization.

Furthermore, you have the opportunity to peruse customer feedback to ensure you make an informed choice when selecting the ideal CPA for your business needs.


The AccountantsWorld directory encompasses a vast repository of more than 35,000 CPAs, accountants, and tax preparers within the United States. Each profile includes comprehensive information such as contact details, addresses, websites, offered services, and areas of specialization. 

Additionally, this platform facilitates result filtering based on provided services, industry knowledge, and CPA qualifications.

AICPA Directory

The renowned AICPA requires no formal introduction. Since its inception in 1887, The American Institute of CPAs stands as the largest global association of accounting experts, boasting a membership exceeding 431,000 professionals.

AICPA offers a seamless and dependable approach to locating a CPA according to their geographical location and specialized field.

This comprehensive directory exclusively features CPAs possessing AICPA’s esteemed specialty credentials or who have chosen to publish their profiles for accessibility and communication.

Accountant Finder

The Accountant Finder Directory enables you to conveniently locate accountants in close proximity to your area. It provides a simple and efficient method to connect with them, furnishing comprehensive information including address, contact number, and website for swift communication.


TaxBuzz is a complimentary directory platform hosting over 500,000 professionals across the nation, aiding you in discovering and linking with top-notch local tax and accounting experts.

What sets it apart is its inclusion of authentic and verified business owner reviews, coupled with localized mapping, ensuring a precise selection of the ideal professional for your business accounting needs.

Key takeaways

Stepping into the CPA profession may appear daunting, but with resolute dedication and unwavering resolve, limitless opportunities unfold. Embrace diligence, seize every moment, and shape your path to success in the financial realm. 

Your journey could illuminate the way forward, making you a beacon of expertise in the world of accounting! ?

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