A CPA certificate and licensure is one of the most highly sought after in the world of business and industry. Every business owner wants a CPA on his or her side to help navigate the business environment. There are needs for CPAs in non-profits and government, too. For this reason, state governments don't make it easy to attain that license, and Arizona is no different. They have their own specific requirements that you will need to adhere to so that you can become licensed and maintain a career in good standing.
Academic Standards for Arizona CPAs
In order to obtain a full CPA license in Arizona, you will need a bachelor's degree plus more credits. In total, the Arizona State Board of Accountancy requires that you complete 150 semester hours of undergraduate coursework – or the equivalent in quarter hours. You will need to make accounting your major concentration and complete 24 semester hours in accounting. They include:
12 semester hours worth of coursework in upper-level accounting classes
18 semester hours in accounting-related courses such as:
- Business Law
- Mathematics – college algebra and above
- Computer Science
- Speech communication
- Other courses are accepted provided that they are closely related to accounting, pending Board approval.
Since a standard bachelor's degree is 120 hours, you may graduate with courses still to take. The extra 30 hours might include graduate coursework in accounting or closely related fields. For instance, you could take computer science courses if you were interested in doing IT audits or you might delve into tax accounting. You will certainly want to take a for-credit CPA examination preparation course. Note that non-credit, commercial preparation courses may be helpful, but will not satisfy the Board's academic standards. The board also notes that preparation courses cannot be used for the total requirement if they duplicate other courses you've already taken. You may need to discuss this with your academic adviser prior to enrolling in full-credit, preparatory courses.
Your education must be at a standard recognized by the Arizona board. Therefore, make sure that your school is fully accredited at the time you enroll, and be aware if your school loses accreditation so you can transfer to a recognized institution. The accreditation agencies the board looks for include:
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Colleges and Schools
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
In order to sit for the CPA exam, you will need to be at least 18 years of age and have completed a bachelor's degree with a concentration in accounting. You can sit for the examination with only 120 hours of undergraduate coursework.
You will not be able to qualify for a full license in Arizona until you complete the full academic requirements, but it is still a good idea to take the examination as soon as you can. That is, since the test is so rigorous and has such a low pass rate for first-time takers, the sooner you gain experience taking the test, the better off you will be.
To get started in the examination process, you will need to apply to sit for the exam. The Board has an application on their website, which you will need to submit along with an application fee. As of this writing, that fee is $100, but check with the board website in case there has been a change.
You must also submit full, official academic transcripts to verify that you have completed the required 120 semester hours with a concentration in accounting.
To become a CPA in Arizona, you will need to complete a tenure in a professional accounting environment. Arizona requires that you work for one full year, or 2,000 hours, under the supervision of a licensed CPA. During this time, you must account for your experience so that the board will understand that you have been exposed to the profession. Your supervisor may be familiar with the process, and will help you demonstrate your experience with some of the following:
- Financial accounting
- Tax accounting
- Management advisory
While many other states require that your qualifying experience align with your specific career goals, Arizona does not make this mandatory. However, you should decide what area of business or accounting is most appealing to you prior to choosing a supervisor for the experiential portion of the licensing journey. That is, it's never too early to start building a foundation for a future that is fulfilling and successful.
You can discuss this with an adviser in your accounting department. They can surely help you find the best firm or company to set a successful course. You might also seek out alumni from your school who may have advice or contacts for you to pursue.
Arizona's CPA Licensure Requirements
You will want to keep track of all of your accomplishments as you proceed towards a full CPA licensure in the state of Arizona. In the broad view, the Board asks that you fulfill requirements in four major areas:
Your educational requirements include a bachelor's degree with a concentration in accounting and then 30 more semester hours of coursework in accounting. Once you have your bachelor's degree, you can begin working on your exam. Note that your application to sit for the exam should include an official transcript that reflects at least 12 semester hours in upper-level accounting coursework, and 18 semester hours in accounting-related coursework.
To fully satisfy the Board's licensure criteria, you will need to complete 150 semester hours – or the quarter-system equivalent. After you have completed your bachelor's degree, it's likely that you'll need approximately 30 additional hours. You may take for-credit CPA examination preparation courses, provided that they are not duplicates of courses you've already completed.
Once you are ready to take the examination, you will need to apply to sit for it. They will need to see your official transcripts and a $100 application fee. The exam application is available on the Board's website.
When you have successfully passed all parts of the CPA exam, congratulate yourself for a job well-done. Then, have your scores sent to the Board to be included in your application file.
Once you have completed 2,000 hours of accounting experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA, or other professional, you must submit a Certificate of Experience to the Board. If you had multiple supervisors, each must complete this form. The board does make an allowance for supervisors that are not licensed CPAs, however. If your supervisor is not licensed as a CPA, they should include their resume and a current job description. Their credentials must reflect an understanding of accountancy and an education similar to that of a CPA.
If you are coming to Arizona from another state or jurisdiction and have been working for yourself, you still may apply. To satisfy the experience portion, have three of your best clients write letters attesting to your expertise and competence in the field.
Arizona requires that all applicants for a CPA license take and pass an Ethics course. This course is taken on an independent-study basis and you may receive the materials from the AICPA. The materials include a practice test. The final multiple-choice test is open book. Thus, this will likely be the easiest part of the process, but it should be taken seriously.
Continuing professional education
To maintain your hard-won CPA license, you need to continue to study and submit proof thereof to the Arizona State Board of Accountancy. The Board requires 80 continuing professional education hours every two years.
To fully comply with the Board, make sure that these hours are spent in courses that specifically pertain to your profession and that you adhere to their specific rules:
Minimum 16 hours in live/interactive environments including classrooms or webinars
40 hours studying one or all of the following:
- Business Law
- Management advisory services
A minimum of 16 hours must cover auditing, accounting, or taxation
4 hours of ethics that are above and beyond the 80 CPE hours, including:
- One hour dedicated to accounting and the AICPA professional code of conduct
- One hour dedicated to the ASBA statutes and administrative rules