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What It Takes–A Guide to Becoming a CPA

What Is a CPA?

A CPA is a certified public accountant and is licensed by the state. In California, to earn the prestige associated with the CPA license, individuals are required to demonstrate their knowledge and competence by passing the Uniform CPA Exam, meeting high educational standards and completing a specified amount of general accounting experience. 

The two most important goals to focus on in your quest to become a CPA are passing the Uniform CPA Exam and meeting licensing requirements.

2014: The Year of Change

New education requirements for licensure are in effect. The new licensure requirements are available here. In order to qualify for former Pathways 1 or 2, you must have passed all four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam prior to Dec. 31, 2013.

California law gives CPA candidates who passed all four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam prior to Dec. 31, 2013 two additional options for entering the profession:



When the public thinks of CPAs, they often think of auditing—the process of examining, testing and verifying a company’s financial records. Traditionally, logging audit hours has been how aspiring CPAs “pay their dues.”

Well, times have changed, and the number of CPAs in California who perform audits and other attest-type services is dwindling. So now, neither pathway requires audit experience to obtain a CPA license.

But publicly held companies in the United States still need to be audited each year to remain in business. So at some point you may want to log the 500 hours of attest or auditing experience to obtain the authority to sign attest reports. It can add to your marketability as a professional.

Increased Opportunity Since audit hours aren’t required, you can acquire the experience you need for licensing from any CPA in California with an active license. This means you can train under the CPA who is the information technology director at Warner Bros. or a CPA who works for herself in Lodi just as easily as you can under a partner at one of the large international accounting firms. 

Your predecessors may have had to work only with firms that performed audits, but your employment possibilities are wide open.

(Rev. Jan. 2014)