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Author: Andy Goldstein, NASBA Electronic Media Specialist and Webmaster
Posted: October 18, 2012

You did it. It's over. Pat yourself on the back.

Hundreds of hours spent studying at school, on breaks at work, during meals, in libraries and in the shower has finally paid off. You have forsaken family and friends, and have stayed in on Friday and Saturday nights for the last several months for this. You passed the Uniform CPA Examination – an exam considered by many to be one of the toughest professional licensing tests out there.

Now what?

Part I of our "Preparing for the Uniform CPA Examination" series provided five tips for preparing to take the CPA exam, and Part II prepped you for test day. In this article, we will help you process the next step after passing the exam – how to obtain your CPA license.

What do I do next?

After passing, it's time to complete the requirements for obtaining a CPA license in the state in which you plan to ultimately practice as a CPA. Just like the requirements for the CPA exam, requirements (like education and work experience) for a CPA license vary from state-to-state.

If you reside and work in the United States, then you are required to be licensed in the state where you live and practice. Most states now offer Mobility privileges that allow CPAs to service clients across state borders, but those laws can take some delicate navigation.

NASBA assists a handful of state boards with CPA licensing services including eligibility determination, education evaluation, application processing and customer service. If you wish to obtain your CPA license in Colorado, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Georgia, New Hampshire or Puerto Rico, visit NASBA's licensing page to get started.

If you want to get licensed in a state other than those listed above, please visit the board of accountancy's website of that particular state.

What do I need?

To get your CPA license, you need to fulfill what are referred to as "the 4 E's" which stand for: exam, education, experience and ethics. You knocked out the first one when you passed the CPA exam, so how do you fill the requirements for the other three? As stated above, the requirements for a CPA license vary from state-to-state, but the following guidelines regarding education, experience and ethics pertain to a majority of states:

Education: Many states require that you not only have a least a bachelor's degree to get your CPA license, but also require 150 semester hours of education for obtaining the CPA certification.

Experience: Many states have an experience requirement, which is usually working for one or two years under the supervision of an active CPA.

Ethics: Before you can get your license, you will need to fulfill an ethics requirement.  Many boards accept the AICPA's comprehensive ethics course and exam, which can be taken at any time during your testing experience, before or after passing the CPA exam.

There are a few jurisdictions: Alabama, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska and Oklahoma, that are considered "two-tier." This means you can apply for a CPA certificate after passing the exam, but that does not allow you full privileges as a CPA. However, once you meet the additional requirements, such as the experience requirement, you can apply to get your full CPA license.

With all of the different requirements, getting your license can be confusing, and understanding exactly what you need may seem difficult. To help with this, NASBA created the Accountancy Licensing Library (ALL), a comprehensive website that simplifies and explains the CPA licensing process across all states. Using ALL's Research Tool, you can quickly and easily find which state(s) where you most likely qualify for a CPA license. ALL is also a particularly useful tool for those who wish to practice internationally.

NASBA recently conducted a Facebook forum called "Ask NASBA – Getting Licensed as a CPA," where two NASBA employees highly knowledgeable about CPA licensing answered questions in real-time. Check out the event page for information that could be beneficial to you, as many questions were answered that may be similar to licensing questions you have. We have also created this informative video about the process of becoming a CPA.

If you failed a section of the exam, don't worry, you're not alone. In 2011, the overall passing rate was 45.5 percent. If you need help with the process of applying online to retake a section, watch this tutorial.

> Read Part I: The Testing Experience
> Read Part II: Test Day

Other Suggested Reading

"Getting a License"

"Maintaining a License"

"CPA Mobility"