For years, Leona Johnson, Accountancy Licensing Library (ALL) Manager, NASBA, heard various accounts from individuals who had passed the CPA Exam, but found out after the fact that they did not qualify for CPA licensure. With each jurisdiction having different requirements for licensure, and universities and colleges focused mainly on students passing the CPA Exam, the path to becoming licensed is a confusing process for many. These challenges have been the inspiration for Johnson’s work over the years–bridging the gap between examination requirements and licensing requirements–so students and young professionals can take the right steps, well in advance, to meet all requirements. We recently interviewed Johnson to learn how she got started at NASBA, and discussed the ALL, an online tool that assists students in planning their CPA career.
How did you become interested in NASBA?
As an employee at the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy, I encountered many individuals who qualified for and passed the CPA Exam only to find out later that their education and/or experience did not qualify them for a CPA license. Schools focus on getting the students prepped to take the CPA Exam, but historically students have been on their own for what the next step is after passing the Exam. I always felt there should be some way to bridge the gap between examination requirements and licensing requirements, so that students could be knowledgeable and able to prepare in advance for meeting all the licensing requirements. The ALL is the resource that bridges that gap. After 10 years of service with the Tennessee Board, I moved up the street to join NASBA.
In a nutshell, what is the ALL?
The ALL is the only online resource for current and reliable CPA licensing information for every state in one place! Professional licensing for CPAs is continuously impacted by the ever-changing Boards of Accountancy laws and rules. The ALL helps keep up with these changes and removes the complexity from the CPA license qualification and application process for students and busy accounting professionals. It also assists CPA firms with the CPA firm registration process. And, as an added benefit to the academic community, accounting professors and advisors at colleges and universities are offered complimentary access to the ALL by NASBA for use as an academic advisement tool for students.
The ALL features information on the different types of CPA licenses (e.g., initial, reciprocal, mobility/practice privilege and firm registration) available in each state; provides details of the general, education, exam, experience and ethics requirements; and includes step-by-step procedures on how to apply for each license. There is also a comprehensive Research Tool database containing information on the CPA Exam and licensing requirements that allows users to search multiple criteria across jurisdictions and find out where they most likely qualify for the CPA Exam and a CPA license.
Describe your role? What projects are you constantly working on at NASBA?
I began as a contract employee for NASBA in January 2007, working on research for the initial content for the ALL. I started working full-time at NASBA in May 2007. At a high-level, my role as the ALL Manager is to ensure the integrity of the ALL content is maintained with current and accurate information and forms. Our ALL team has a vigorous maintenance process that includes the following: a thorough, tri-monthly state review schedule, tracking Boards of Accountancy websites, following law and rule changes, and communicating directly with boards.
I deliver presentations about the ALL to accounting and business students at colleges and universities and at NASBA University (NASBA U). I also attend annual conferences, such as the American Accounting Association (AAA) and Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), to further NASBA’s outreach within the academic community, offer complimentary ALL subscriptions to conference goers and to promote the CPA profession.
Another large role I play for NASBA, in addition to being the product manager for the ALL, is serving as the official liaison to the Compliance Assurance Committee (CAC). This is the NASBA committee that supports audit quality by supporting Boards of Accountancy with oversight of the AICPA peer review program. I gained a lot of experience in this specialty area during my time working at the Tennessee Board. It is very rewarding putting this subject matter expertise to use at NASBA.
What is your favorite part about working at NASBA?
My favorite part about working at NASBA is the people. I’ve never worked with more caring and compassionate people. It’s like having a second family. I also love getting to meet new people at the Boards across the U.S., as well as professors and students from the colleges and universities I visit.
If a student is looking to take the CPA Exam, but he/she is not sure what the full requirements are for licensure, where should they seek assistance?
Students should reach out to their advisor and ask if they have access to the ALL online resource. If a student has already passed the Exam, but is not sure about next steps, ALL individual state subscriptions offer a concierge type service that will provide detailed requirements, step-by-step procedures and official Board of Accountancy forms to apply for licensure. Pricing for this service can be found here.
If a student finds his/her advisor doesn’t have access to ALL, the advisor can reach out to me to set up an account. NASBA offers accounting department chairs, professors and student advisors free academic subscriptions to ALL. This includes unlimited access to the Research Tool and the full details for each jurisdiction to assist with student advisement. To subscribe, contact NASBA at 1-844-255-6272or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is one of the biggest concerns or struggles you see with CPA candidates in your area and what advice do you have for them?
Many students don’t know how to plan their college career to fit their individual end goal, such as what courses to take, can an internship count for education or experience, and what is the accounting concentration for licensure versus the business concentration for licensure. My advice is, “Once you know what state you are going to get licensed in, know the full details of what it takes for licensure, so that you don’t hit any road bumps that will prevent you from getting to your end goal in the timing that you want. You could lose a huge job opportunity if you are missing important items to licensure. All those nitty gritty details are in the ALL website.”
What do you enjoy most about the ALL?
I love being able to see the ALL help others, whether it’s an executive director needing a last-minute report for his or her board meeting, a student needing to know the full requirements for licensure so that he or she may coordinate his or her college classes appropriately, or a subscriber who needed that extra hand-holding to walk through the application process. “Helping students get to where they want to be is very rewarding.”
To connect with Leona Johnson, find her on LinkedIn.
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