A certified public accountants (CPA) certification and licensure is one of the most highly sought after credentials in the world of business and industry. Every business owner wants a CPA on their side to help navigate the business environment. There are needs for these professionals in non-profits and government, too. For this reason, state governments don't make it easy to attain that license, and AZ is no different. They have their own specific CPA requirements that you will need to adhere to before you can become licensed and maintain a career in good standing. These include higher education, experience, a passing score on each of the test sections, and an ethics exam.
Education Requirements for Arizona CPAs
In order to obtain a full CPA license in Arizona, candidates will need to earn a general bachelor's degree plus a certain number of credit hours in advanced accounting courses. In total, the Arizona State Board of Accountancy requires that you complete 150 semester hours of coursework. You will need to make accounting your program major 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
- Computer Science
- Speech communication
- Other courses are accepted provided that they are closely related to accounting, pending Board approval.
- One of the first steps is to obtain an Associates Degree In Accounting, learn more here.
Since a standard B.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 accrediting body for Arizona is the Higher Learning Commission, but if you attend a school from another state online, here are the other accreditation agencies in the U.S.
- 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
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Campus and Online Degree Options in Arizona
This degree can generally be completed in two years. It can prepare students for entry-level work in the field. Some of the courses offered at this level may include business and tax law, accounting software, and microeconomics. Many students receive their AAS from community colleges. Learn More
This degree is generally completed in four years. The requirements for completing the degree usually include at least 120 credit hours. After completion, the graduate may work as an accountant. A bachelor’s degree is necessary to sit for a CPA exam. Learn More
This degree can be completion in one to two years, depending on whether or not you attend full-time. In order to earn this degree, you must complete between 30 and 36 credit hours. Candidates must have an undergraduate degree in accounting or a related field such as mathematics. Students may specialize and earn a degree in forensic, management, auditing, or other accounting fields. Learn More
Doctorate or PhD
Those seeking to work in research or academia may want to earn an accounting doctorate or PhD. Programs range between 70 and 120 credit hours. Completion takes between five and seven years. Candidates should pursue research into the accounting field, focusing on original research or critical issues. Learn More
Online Degree Programs
Students may earn associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees from colleges and universities offering online accounting degree programs. These programs offer flexibility and the ability for students to work on their own schedules. Learn More
The exam Arizona offers CPA candidates is the same as every other state. 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.
Students will not be able to qualify for a full license in Arizona until they 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 application fees. As of this writing, that fee is $100, but check with the board website in case there has been a change.
You must also provide full, official academic transcripts to verify that you have completed the required 120 semester hours with a concentration in accounting.
To become an Arizona CPA, 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
- Documentation and Reporting
- Accounting Technology and Data
- Tax Accounting
- Audit Procedures
- Management advisory
- Data Security Measures
While many other states require that your qualifying experience align with your specific career goals, Arizona does not make this mandatory. However, you should consider what potential area of business or accounting is most appealing to you prior to choosing an office or 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 will be able to answer your questions and 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 and review 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 on site at a testing center. 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, the policy is that you must submit a Certificate of Experience to the Board. If you had multiple supervisors, each must complete this form and provide info. The board does make an allowance for supervisors that are not licensed CPAs, however. If your supervisor is not licensed as a CPA or is licensed by an international organization, 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
Accountant Career Concentrations & Salaries in Arizona
This career involves examining financial records for accuracy. Audits often involve inspection of physical assets as well, such as inventory or real estate. After discovering an issue, they must determine a mitigation plan. Auditors may work with an accounting firm or as consultants. Learn More
These accountants are tasked with determining the environmental costs of doing business. They also investigate the use of cleaner, more environmentally friendly technologies for the particular industry and may assist in implementing the company’s Environmental Management System. Such jobs are usually found in industries with a great deal of regulation such as chemical firms, oil companies, and mining. Environmental accountants may also find employment in government agencies. Learn More
These accountants work in the financial industry. Typically, they are found in asset management firms or brokerages. Their role involves knowledge of the firm’s investment focus, state and federal tax implications, and overall financial strategizing. Depending on their actual role in the firm, they may need to obtain licensing from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Also known as cost accountants, managerial accountants prepare data for companies, whether public or private, to aid in budgeting and performance enhancement. Risk management, investments, compliance monitoring, and other crucial tasks may also fall under their purview. Their work is critical in helping the company leadership’s decision-making process. Learn More
Arizona has one of the fastest growing populations and business communities in the country, which is why demand for accountants and auditors is brisk. Statewide demand is projected to grow by 26 percent between 2014 and 2024 compared to a 10 percent growth nationwide. That suggests the already ample annual compensation is likely to rise in coming years. Compensation is roughly the same in all the state's major metropolitan areas, and the annual median wage exceeds the national average. New accountants should expect to find competitive compensation and extensive job opportunities available throughout the state.
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Arizona Accounting Frequently Asked Questions
How many accounting jobs are there in Arizona?
There are currently about 22,450 accounting jobs in the Grand Canyon state. Almost all of these positions are located in Arizona’s major metropolitan areas.
How much can you earn in Arizona with an accounting degree?
In Arizona, the annual average salary for an accountant is $73,450. The average hourly wage in the state is $35.31. Starting salaries are roughly $41,000. However, the average salary in Phoenix, the state’s largest city and location of the bulk of accountant positions, is about $75,000.
Which Arizona metropolitan areas have the greatest number of accounting jobs?
The Phoenix – Mesa - Scottsdale metropolitan area boasts the highest number of accounting jobs, with roughly 18,000 positions. Next is the Tucson metro region, although the number of jobs is much lower at 2,630.
Do colleges in Arizona offer online accounting degrees?
Many Arizona colleges offer online accounting degrees. These include the University of Arizona, which not only offers an online undergraduate degree but a virtual Master’s of Science in Accounting. Arizona State University offers an online bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in corporate accounting.