The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that demand for accountants and auditors will grow by 10% between 2016 and 2026 and add 139,900 new professionals to the field. The growth in Hawaii specifically is projected at 8% by 2024, at which time approximately 5,660 accountants will be at work throughout the state. The median wage for accounts in Hawaii was $57,550 in 2016, making this a career path that is both lucrative and in demand. Use this comprehensive guide to learn exactly how to become a CPA in Hawaii.
The Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy sets the standards that candidates must meet in order to obtain a CPA license in the state. The process begins by satisfying strict education requirements. Follow these steps:
Complete 150 semester hours or 225 quarter hours of college education from an accredited institution. Correspondence, online, and community college courses all count as long as they are earned through a qualifying four-year institution and appear on an official transcript.
- A candidate must earn a baccalaureate degree or higher or be able to provide evidence proving acceptance to an advanced degree program.
- At least 24 semester hours or 36 quarter hours must be in accounting courses. Applicable courses include accounting, auditing, taxation, and managerial accounting. At least 18 of those hours must be in upper-division (Junior or Senior) or graduate-level courses.
- At least 24 semester hours or 36 quarter hours in upper-division or graduate-level accounting or non-accounting business-related courses. Applicable courses include marketing, finance, business law, business ethics, and many more.
Candidates with degrees from foreign institutions may apply college credits earned abroad as long as they are submitted to a foreign education evaluation and determined to be equivalent to an American institution. Contact the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASB) to request an evaluation.
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The next step is to take a generic exam known as the Uniform CPA Exam. Typically, applicants take the exam after earning a degree, but only the following requirement must be met in order to schedule the exam:
- Completed 18 hours of upper-division or graduate-level coursework in accounting and auditing.
- Have a statement certifying the candidate will graduate from a baccalaureate program within 120 days of taking the exam.
- Have a statement certifying any accounting degree earned abroad.
As long as those conditions are met any candidate is allowed to take the Uniform CPA Exam by following these steps:
Visit the website for CPA Examination Services (CPAES) to register for the exam and download the official application form. In addition to the form, applicants must submit the following documents.
- An official college transcript in a sealed envelope.
- Payment for the exam fee.
- A foreign education evaluation form if applicable
- An ADA accommodation form if applicable.
- A certificate of enrollment form if the candidate is still completing a degree.
Send all of the necessary documents to the CPA Examination Services - HI, PO Box 198469, Nashville, TN 37219.
Wait for the NASBA to send a Notice to Schedule (NTS) alerting the candidate that he or she is eligible to take the uniform CPA exam.
Access the Prometric website to schedule a time, date, and test taking location.
Prepare for the test and travel to the testing location on the prescribed date.
Access the test scores at 48 hours after taking them and wait for an official notification from the NASBA.
After completing a degree and passing the uniform CPA exam it's possible to secure work as an accountant in a number of different settings. CPA practice privileges are granted, allowing candidates to work under the supervision of a CPA from Hawaii who already has a license. Candidates must gain a certain amount of on-the-job experience before becoming eligible for CPA licensure:
Option 1 – A candidate may complete 1500 chargeable hours in auditing while employed full time (a minimum of 35 hours a week) at a public accounting firm that follows Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and auditing best practices.
Option 2 – A candidate may complete two-years of full time (a minimum of 35 hours a week) work in several industries:
- Private industry
- Education – Teaching classes on accounting and auditing at the higher under-gradate or graduate levels.
- Public accounting practice – Work not focused on auditing like preparing taxes or issuing reports on financial statements.
Obtain the Application for License-CPA packet and complete Part 1 of the Certification of Public Accountancy Experience form.
The candidate's supervisor completes Part 2 of the form and returns it to the candidate. The form is then included with the rest of the documents for the CPA license.
Unlike some other states, Hawaii does not require candidates to pass a state-specific test to earn a CPA license. After a candidate has earned a bachelor's degree, passed the Uniform CPA Exam, and met an experience requirement the only thing left is to apply for the license:
Complete the CPA license package issued by the state of Hawaii. Candidates are allowed to apply after passing the Uniform CPA exam, but they will not be granted a Permit to Practice until the education and experience requirements have been met as well. In order to apply a candidate must be over 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or an alien who is authorized to work in the U.S. The following documents are required at submission:
- The Application for CPA License form.
- Three Certificates of Competence (included in the CPA license package). These must be completed by a non-relatives who can attest to the candidate's professional competence. The certificates must be signed in the presence of a notary public.
- Certified college transcripts from the institution that issued the baccalaureate degree.
- The Certification of Public Accountancy Experience form completed by the candidate's supervisor.
Send all documents to the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy, DCCA, PVL Licensing Branch, P.O. Box 3469, Honolulu, HI 96801. Also include a check or money order for $195 if the license is issued in an even-numbered year or $127 if the year is odd-numbered.
Wait for the Board to send official notification that a CPA license has been granted.
Fulfill the continuing professional education (CPE) requirement of 80 hours every two years. This is required in order to receive a Permit to Practice. Passing the Uniform CPA exam is counted as 80 hours of CPE as long as the permit is issued within two years of the candidate passing the exam.
Send in the Application for Permit to Practice. Two copies of the form must be included along with any applicable fees. The application is sent to the same address as the Application for CPA License.
Expect to receive the Permit to Practice within 30 days of filling the application.
Candidates who have a CPA license in another state and wish to practice in Hawaii must follow the above steps for applying for a license and permit. Hawaii does not have reciprocal license agreements with any other state. These candidates must also submit supplemental documents:
- Obtain the Verification of License and Exam Scores from the CPA license packet. Complete the top parts, then forward to the state where the previous CPA license was obtained. Those officials complete the remainder of the form and then submit it to the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy.
- Candidates who have held a CPA license in another state for at least 10 years and have been actively practicing public accounting for at least 5 years may receive a waiver from Hawaii's education requirements. For consideration, submit a waiver request in writing to the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy.
Continuing Education Requirements
In order to keep the skills of CPA sharp and current, Hawaii requires all CPAs to complete a prescribed amount of continuing professional education (CPE) in order for a Permit to Practice to be renewed:
CPAs are required to complete 80 hours of CPE every two years.
- 4 CPE hours must be focused on ethics and professional conduct.
- CPAs may carry over 40 hours of CPE credit to the next two-year period.
- One hour of CPE credit is considered 50 minutes of class or program time.
- A 6-hour day program is counted as 8 CPE hours.
- A college credit course worth one semester hour is counted at 15 CPE hours.
- A college non-credit course worth one semester hour is counted at 1 CPE hour.
CPE hours must be focused on subjects related to accounting and auditing. Common subjects are listed below, but the list should not be considered complete:
- Business management
- Computer Science
- Financial Planning
Only some types of study count as CPE hours. For instance, reading a book on accounting is not considered continuing education. Credit is only awarded when education is offered through one of these platforms:
- Taking courses at a college or university
- Teaching courses at a college or university
- Delivering lectures, discussions, or speeches at events offering CPE credit
- Participating in interoffice quality review programs
- Writing books or articles relevant to accounting
- Completing individual self-study programs that offer a certificate of completion
Keep documentation of all completed CPE hours going back five years. Documentation should include:
- The CPE sponsor's name
- The identification number of the sponsor
- The course title
- The dates attended
- The CPE hours earned