FAQs - Become a CPA 

    1. Does the AICPA license CPAs?

      No. The licensing authority and requirements for CPAs falls under the jurisdiction of the Board of Accountancy for the state, district, or country in which a CPA practices. In adherence to the AICPA mission, the Institute seeks the highest possible level of uniform certification and licensing standards while promoting and protecting the CPA designation. The national organization representing the state boards is the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

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    2. What are the requirements for becoming a CPA?

      The requirements, which are set by each state board of accountancy, include: completing a program of study in accounting at a college or university, passing the Uniform CPA Exam, and obtaining a specific amount of professional work experience in public accounting (the required amount and type of experience varies according to licensing jurisdiction). You can learn more about your state requirements and find your state board's contact information on the AICPA's website for college students and CPA candidates in the state requirements section.

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    1. What is the Uniform CPA Exam?

      One of the world’s leading licensing examinations, the CPA Examination serves to protect the public interest by helping to ensure that only qualified individuals become licensed as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). The Uniform CPA Exam is one of the “Three E’s” – Education, Examination, and Experience – that are required for licensure as a CPA. Consequently, passing the Examination is not, in itself, sufficient to meet requirements for licensure. Information about the CPA exam may be found at www.cpa-exam.org.

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    2. What kinds of services do CPAs provide?

      CPAs provide a wide range of services and are employed in public accounting and other professional services firms, business and industry, government and education. CPAs in public practice are engaged by their clients for a variety of services including accounting, auditing, tax, personal financial planning, technology consulting and business valuation. CPAs employed in business, industry and government are likewise responsible for activities from accounting and financial reporting, implementing and managing internal controls and information systems, to compliance with tax and other laws and regulations and other areas of business and financial management.

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    3. How much does a CPA charge for his or her services?

      Fees or services vary depending upon considerations such as: the nature of the service performed, time involved and complexity of the service. A person seeking services should have an understanding of the cost of the services to be provided prior to the engagement.

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    4. Who disciplines CPAs when something goes wrong? Can the AICPA revoke the license of a CPA?

      Upon joining the AICPA, a member agrees to abide by its Code of Professional Conduct and Bylaws adopted by a vote of the membership. The bylaws provide a structure for enforcement of the Code by the Institute's Professional Ethics Division. When allegations come to the attention of the Ethics Division regarding a violation of the Code, the division investigates the matter, under due process procedures, and depending upon the facts found in the investigation, may take a confidential disciplinary action, settle the matter with suspension or revocation of membership rights, or refer the matter to a panel of the Trial Board Division for a hearing. The bylaws mandate publishing the member's name if he or she is found guilty by a hearing panel, is suspended or expelled by settlement.

      The bylaws of 51 state and/or territorial CPA societies provide for their participation in a Joint Ethics Enforcement Program so that, depending upon membership status, actions taken by one or more of these societies or the AICPA are in the names of both the society and AICPA.

      State regulatory agencies (Boards of Accountancy) issue practice licenses to CPAs and only those agencies may act to affect those licenses. The AICPA does not license CPAs. Those state regulatory agencies may take disciplinary action affecting practice licenses under statutes, regulations and rulings of the state. Also, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other Federal government agencies may, under Federal law or regulation, discipline CPAs who practice before these agencies.

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    5. Aren’t CPAs and accountants the same thing?

      All CPAs are accountants but not all accountants are CPAs. In many states, anyone can call himself/herself an “accountant.” In order to become a CPA almost all states require that an individual meet educational, experience and ethical requirements and pass the Uniform CPA Examination. Only then are individuals granted licenses to practice by state boards of accountancy. Also, only CPAs can perform the mandatory audits of all publicly traded U.S. companies. Learn more about the CPA Profession at the AICPA's website for college students and CPA exam candidates (www.thiswaytocpa.com).

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