Arkansas is much like other states when it comes to what it takes to become a certified public accountant, or CPA. Take a look at the steps within our guide and you will have the information you need to start your path to earning your CPA.
Meet the Education Requirements in Arkansas
The first challenge you have to overcome when seeking to become a CPA in AR is to complete the formal coursework mandated for licensure by the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy. You can find an overview and specific info on educational CPA requirements (including the number of semester hours and content), exam requirements, a testing calendar, and other help for those looking to get licensed at your state board's website. As with most states, a minimum amount of education is required, specifically, you must complete a bachelor's degree program from an accredited institution. You also have to take at least 30 credit hours of undergraduate accounting courses and 30 credit hours of general business courses. The ASBPA has very specific education requirements, so it is important to understand them in detail to ensure that you obtain the right education to become a CPA.
You have to earn your education from an institution that is accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies that are recognized by the ASBPA. Colleges and universities in Arkansas are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Candidates who already have an accounting bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in a field other than accounting can take supplementary courses to meet the education requirements. You will, however, have to work with an accredited institution to make sure that you take all the courses necessary, based on the topics an accounting student would cover including policy, public accounting services, taxation, technology, security of information, rules and governmental regulation, etc. When you apply to sit for the CPA test, you will need to attach a statement from your educational institution certifying that you have at least met all of the school's graduation requirements for an accounting major. Arkansas does not require individuals with a bachelor's degree to obtain a second undergraduate degree in accounting as long as the education requirements are met.
Reputable universities in the US are accredited by one of the six accrediting agencies recognized by the ASBPA. You can, therefore, study at the university of your choice when working to meet the state's education requirements. Students often choose to study online to save money on tuition or to enjoy greater flexibility. Arkansas also recognizes credits transferred from an institution that is not considered accredited, including universities in foreign countries, as long as an accredited institution certifies that the coursework is equivalent to the classes that it requires. The main requirements that the ASBPA makes accounting programs enact include:
- Complete 120 credit hours at an accredited university.
- Earn at least a grade of C or above in 30 credit hours of accounting courses and 30 credit hours of business classes.
- Basic and intermediate accounting classes only count toward the general business requirements, so you will have to take upper-level classes if you already have a business degree.
- Schools cannot award students more than 3 credit hours for relevant independent studies and internships.
Regardless of your existing education, the best way to comply with the requirements prescribed by the ASBPA is to work with a qualifying institution that can provide the certification you need.
Featured Online Programs
Campus and Online Degree Options in Arkansas
This degree is generally completed in two years. It can prepare students for entry-level work in the field and basic courses 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. Requirements usually include 120 credit hours be completed to graduate. After completion, graduates may work as accountants. A bachelor’s degree is necessary to sit for a CPA exam. Learn More
This degree can be completed in one to two years, with completion of between 30 and 36 semester hours required. Candidates must have an undergraduate degree in accounting or a related field such as mathematics to enter these programs. 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 of 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, and 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
Qualify to Sit for the CPA Exam
Once you have met the education requirements, the next step is to sit for the CPA exam. You can apply to take the exam before you receive your bachelor's degree, but you will not be issued a score until you graduate. On the application, you have to give the ASBPA the address of your current employer, but your employer does not have to do business in a field related to accounting. Aspiring CPAs in Arkansas, therefore, have to first obtain a job after graduation before applying to sit for the CPA exam, but doing so gives you credit toward the state's work requirements if your job function is related to accounting. Your employer does not have the right to receive your CPA exam results without your authorization.
The ASBPA approves students seeking to take the CPA exam, so you have to submit your application in accordance with its requirements. In addition to providing general information, the application requires you to submit official transcripts and documents verifying your identity. You also have to provide either a copy of your degree or a statement from an accredited university certifying that you have met the education requirements or will meet them in the near future. When submitting your transcripts, you must have your school send the transcripts directly to the ASBPA. Transcripts submitted by an applicant will be rejected. You will also have to schedule a drug screen, and Prometric is the only testing agency that ASBPA recognizes for administration of the exam.
Arkansas has students take the Uniform CPA Examination offered by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. According to the AICPA, 44% of students who took the exam in 2017 received a passing score. The exam is taken at a designated testing center, and it is administered on a computer where you will answer the test questions. You have to receive a total score of at least 75% to pass the exam, but the AICPA uses a complex algorithm to determine a student's final score. It is important to try to pass the exam on your first attempt since applying for an additional attempt requires you to meet a more extensive list of requirements. Additionally, each of the sections is a four-hour ordeal and no one wants to have to retake these tests.
Get Relevant Work Experience
Arkansas imposes work requirements for individuals seeking to become a CPA. The work requirements are implemented in accordance with standards established at the federal level by the AICPA. According to the Uniform Accountancy Act that is applicable in all 50 states, you have to obtain at least 2,000 hours of work experience in a field related to accounting before you can get your accounting license. You are given significant flexibility when fulfilling the work requirement:
- The necessary work experience can be accumulated over time, and it does not have to be earned in a period of consecutive employment.
- You do not have to graduate before earning your work experience.
- You can earn work experience in either a full-time or part-time capacity.
The only limitation associated with the work requirement is the necessity of earning your work experience over a three-year period. If you want to apply hours worked during an internship toward your work requirement, you will need authorization from your educational institution. In most cases, schools will demand that you and your employer (at least someone in management at the firm or office) work with a professor throughout the internship so that every hour of your experience can be documented in the right way. Accredited schools are, however, given substantial flexibility for determining the applicability of your employment history toward the work requirements in Arkansas.
When planning your path toward becoming a CPA, you should make sure that you take advantage of opportunities to earn both college credit and work experience at the same time. Many leading accounting firms in Arkansas offer promising students internship programs that are designed to provide work experience that meets the requirements of the AICPA before graduation. Since universities are the best source of fresh talent available, reputable employers are usually delighted to work closely with schools to develop an employment plan that can count toward graduation and produce new leadership for their work site.
The key to streamlining the attainment of the work requirements in Arkansas is to plan your employment in advance. Although getting a job in a field related to accounting is difficult before finishing your education, many employers are willing to act as mentors for ambitious students, especially those in their last year or two of school. Mentorships can often lead to early employment and other advantages as you progress in your early career. Leading schools also offer academic clubs and career events that attract employers who are searching for exceptional talent. Taking advantage of the extracurricular opportunities that your university provides can make meeting your work requirements a simple and enjoyable experience that can yield significant personal enrichment.
Obtain Your Arkansas CPA License
The goal of passing the CPA exam, finishing your education, and obtaining work experience is to meet the requirements for obtaining your CPA license in Arkansas. The road you have to traverse before acquiring your license can appear long when you first set out, but it is important to have a thorough understanding of where you are heading to avoid delaying your career. You will also need to meet a specific list of requirements mandated by the ASBPA, so you should ensure that you will be able to meet them before starting your journey.
Most reputable schools are willing to guide successful graduates toward finishing what they must to obtain their license, so you will not need to hire experts to assist you during the licensing process in most cases. Once your school confirms that you meet all of the licensing requirements, you will apply to the ASBPA to obtain your Arkansas CPA license. The CPA license application is not available to the general public, so you will have to contact the licensing department of the ASBPA on your own initiative. You can contact the licensing department by phone or by making a personal visit to their offices in Little Rock.
Once the ASBPA has given you the application to apply for an accounting license, you will need to attach documentation verifying that you have met all of the state's requirements for becoming a CPA. Arkansas subjects prospective licensees to a quality review process. All applicants also have to take an online ethics course before obtaining their license. You will, then, have to wait up to 30 days after submitting your application before receiving your official license. Once you obtain your license, you have the right to work as a CPA in Arkansas.
In general, receiving your CPA license may result in a better financial outcome for you since a license enables you to work without oversight from another CPA. You also have the option of becoming self-employed once you have obtained your CPA license by building up your own base of clients. You will, however, have to obtain a license in every state where you intend to practice. There is high demand for CPAs in Arkansas, but you may want to consider obtaining additional licenses if you plan to work online or near state lines. There are no programs available for obtaining a universal accounting license at the federal level, but pressure from online employment may lead to the creation of a federal CPA license in the future.
Comply With Continuing Education Requirements
The AICPA demands that certified accountants meet continuing education requirements in order to maintain their license in any state, including Arkansas. To maintain your license, you will have to meet one of the following requirements when applying to renew your CPA license every three years:
Complete at least 40 hours of continuing professional education in the previous 12 months.
Complete 120 hours or more of CPE in the previous 36 months.
You are given significant flexibility when choosing what you want to study to meet your CPE requirements. You will, however, have to focus on subjects related to accounting for at least 60 percent of your additional education. You have to receive at least four hours of education in professional ethics before applying to renew your CPA license. Additionally, there is a requirement that at least than 20 percent of your CPE hours focus on accounting theory. You will submit documentation proving you completed the CPE hours the AICPA demands when you apply to renew your CPA license in Arkansas.
Many people who consider becoming an accountant worry about how CPE hours could take time away from their schedules. In most cases, employers are willing to pay for CPE hours, and they often allow CPAs to meet CPE requirements during working hours. Taking additional courses gives you the chance to learn about new methodologies, and this knowledge can increase your value as a professional. Accounting is a rapidly changing field, so CPE gives professionals a chance to stay current as the world changes. Overall, becoming an accountant in Arkansas provides you with a rewarding and sustainable career with a broad range of opportunities for advancement.
Accountant Career Concentrations & Salaries in Arkansas
Certified Public Accountants
CPAs must pass the Uniform CPA Examination, overseen by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). While specializing in tax preparation, CPAs may work in public or corporate accounting. CPAs may perform audits and sign off on them and they also advise clients in tax preparation and meeting financial goals. Learn More
These accountants work for companies, rather than having their own practices. Beyond financial statements, they work on various financial aspects of the company. Financial accountants report their findings to senior management and their work involves strategizing, investing, and marketing.
Information Technology Accountants
IT accountants use traditional accounting methods but focus on accounting software systems. They are generally in charge of implementing AICPA’s Information Management and Technology Assurance standards at their firms. These individuals usually work at large companies and are familiar with both accounting and current fintech.
These accountants work on specific projects rather than in general accounting, and such projects run the gamut in complexity. Their roles may include cost estimate development, invoice and billable hours preparation, budget planning and maintenance, and the meeting of certain deadlines.
The number of accountants throughout Arkansas is projected to grow by 270 between 2014 and 2024. This represents a 14 percent growth, which beats the 10 percent growth in demand for accountants that is forecast for the nation as a whole. The current compensation is roughly equivalent to the national average, and accountants command high salaries both inside and outside the state's biggest cities. Hot Springs leads the way in terms of salary, while compensation in Central Arkansas is rated the lowest. The state has around 5 accountants for every 1,000 workers, which is small by national standards but has not limited demand for accountants throughout Arkansas.
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Arkansas Accounting Frequently Asked Questions
How many accounting jobs are available in Arkansas?
As of May 2019, there were 7,440 people employed as accountants in the State of Arkansas. That is a rate of approximately 9 accounting jobs for every 1,000 Arkansas workers. In a state with about 3 million residents, that’s a significant number.
How much can you earn in Arkansas with an accounting degree?
The annual average salary for an Arkansas account is $66,450. The average hourly wage for an accountant is $31.95. The average salary for an accountant in a larger metropolitan area, such as Little Rock, is only slightly above the state mean, at $67,000 and entry-level salaries are approximately $40,000. Accounting salaries are higher in Arkansas than in neighboring Louisiana or Mississippi.
Which Arkansas metropolitan areas have the greatest number of accounting jobs?
The Little Rock metropolitan area accounts for just under half of all accounting positions in the state. The Fayetteville Hot Springs metropolitan area employs roughly 2,000 accountants.
Do colleges in Arkansas offer online learning options?
The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas offers an online Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in accounting. The University of Central Arkansas offers a hybrid Master of Accountancy degree requiring one 75-minute on-campus weekly class, with other work all done online.