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I Passed! Now What’s the Next Step after CPA Exam?

You are done!  But what’s next after the CPA Exam?

First of all, congratulations! You have completed the most difficult part of the CPA qualification journey: The Uniform CPA Exam.

Depending on which state you apply for the license, you’ll have to fulfil most if not all the following to become a truly minted CPA.

1. After the CPA Exam, You Need to Wait… and Wait.

Yes, there is a long wait of receiving the actual congratulatory letter from your State Board. It could be a few days, or weeks, or even months in a few cases. Don’t freak out if you haven’t got it after a week.

Before you get the official congratulatory letter, do something value-add, such as:

  • Spend some good, overdue quality time with your spouse, children, colleagues, friends, pets… They miss you. Also, in one way or the other, they have made sacrifices to support you during these difficult months. It’s time for you to thank them back.
  • Pamper yourself! Get a nice gift and decompress.
  • Print out the CPA licensing application form, and start thinking the right person to verify your experience (see point 4 below), and how to ask for the favor. The process can be more time-consuming than expected.
  • If you plan to change or upgrade your career, you can also spend some time drafting your resume and on job research.

2. Take the CPA Ethics Exam (may or may not apply)

The congratulatory letter may indicate taking the CPA Ethics Exam as the next step. Don’t worry if it is not mentioned in the letter, as a number of states don’t have this requirement. A few states, such as California, run their own exam. Other states may ask candidates to complete a test relevant to the state, e.g. the state law test in Utah.

3. Fulfil the Working Experience

Most states require CPA candidates to accumulate 1 to 2 years of relevant accounting experience. A handful of states recognize only experience in public accounting, but most states nowadays are fine with general accounting and taxation work.

The majority of state boards require your experience to be supervised and verified by an active CPA licensee as part of the license requirement. For details, check the CPA Exam Requirements by State and click on the corresponding link of your state.

4. Fill in the Form and Pay

When you are ready, download the license application form from the state board. Send it in together with the initial license fee. Turnaround time is usually fast for most states.

5. Apply for AICPA Membership

Once you are done with your state CPA licensing, you may choose to apply for the AICPA — the largest professional accounting body in the world. You will also need to fulfil the CPE requirements but in most cases, it would be the same as the ones required by your state board.

6. Explore CPE Providers

In order to keep your license active, you are required to take continuing professional education on a regular basis, typically 80-120 hours every 2-3 years. Here are the requirements for your state board and for AICPA.

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