Before applying to become a CPA in the state of Colorado, there are very specific higher education and licensure requirements. Then, once you hold a CPA license, the Colorado State Board of Accountancy has additional detailed continuing education rules that you must follow to maintain your license. Take a look at our step-by-step guide on CPA requirements in Colorado to get the information you need to further your career.
Colorado Educational Requirements for Licensure
Colorado has very specific learning requirements you'll need to study and fulfill in order to sit for the state CPA exam. First of all, you'll need to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting with 150 semester hours at the undergraduate or graduate level. It's easiest to earn 120 of those in a bachelor's degree and the next 30 in a master's. Of those courses students need to take 33 credit hours with content in accounting-specific subjects as well as 27 hours in business classes, and pass with a minimum 2.0 grade. None of these classes can be "Introductory" and all coursework must be from an accredited institution as recognized by the Colorado Board of Regulatory Agency Board of Accountancy (BOA). The state of Colorado has authorized the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) division called CPA Examination Services (CPAES) to process all applications for exams and licensure. On your journey to become a CPA, you might make your first goal getting an associate degree in accounting online or on-campus. This will get your foot in the door and help you start earning general work experience. Here's a look at each section of the education requirements:
Accounting coursework must be designated under the accounting program code. Of the 33 required hours 27 must be in specific accounting courses in the following subjects:
- Accounting Information Systems
- Accounting Research and Analysis
- Accounting Ethics (minimum three hours)
- Accounting Theory
- Auditing and Attestation Services (minimum six hours including three hours of U.S. Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS))
- Financial Accounting and Reporting for Government and Not-for-Profit Entities
- Financial Accounting and Reporting of Business Organizations
- Financial Statement Analysis
- Internal Controls and Risk Assessment
- Fraud Examination
- Tax Research and Analysis
- Managerial or Cost Accounting
Business coursework must total a minimum of 27 hours, 18 of which must be in the following business administration subjects:
- Business Communications
- Business Ethics
- Behavior of Organizations, Groups, and Persons
- Business Law
- Computer Information Systems
- Legal and Social Environment of Business
- Quantitative Applications in Business
- Other areas as approved by the Board
A minimum three of the 18 semester hours must be in accounting business, or technical, communications, no more than nine of the 27 hours may be in any single subject but hours in excess of nine may count towards the total requirement of 150 semester hours.
Professional training is not accepted in lieu of coursework, even from an accounting firm; all course credits must be through an accredited institution.
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Degree Requirements for Accountants in Colorado
An associate degree in accounting is the perfect way to secure entry-level and junior positions as a way to gain experience while you continue your education toward higher degrees.
Most corporate and larger employers will require a bachelor’s degree for any accounting position, even entry-level jobs. It’s also possible to accept accounting-related positions while pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
A master’s degree in accounting is an ideal pathway for CPA licensure, as well as managerial and administrator positions. Many individuals pursue this degree while they work.
Doctorate or PhD
While most accounting positions in business do not require a doctorate or PhD in accounting, any individual who wishes to become a professor or conduct research will require one.
Online Degree Programs
Today, more and more colleges and universities are offering online accounting degrees at all levels. Programs will even assist with arranging local internships for experiential learning opportunities.
Examination Requirements in Colorado
The Colorado CPA exam is overseen by NASBA and is the Uniform CPA Examination. This exam consists of four sections with each section being four hours in length for a total of 16 examination hours. Each of the exam sections is composed of five “testlets” or groups of test questions.
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
- Regulation (REG)
In Colorado you will apply for the exam online through NASBA’s CPA Examination (CPAES) Online Application System and the test is given by Prometric at the following testing center locations:
- Grand Junction
- Colorado Springs
- Greenwood Village
Each time you wish to take one or more test sections you'll use this application system, so it is vital that your name and address are correct and updated in a timely manner; review these details whenever there is a change. All documents and fees must be submitted at the time you apply. Here are the steps you'll need to take in order to sit for the exam:
- Have your college send an official transcript directly to CPAES. Note that most schools take two to six months after end of class until transcripts are finalized and another 10 to 15 days to process a transcript request.
- Sign and submit a Colorado First-Time Application for the Uniform CPA Examination.
- Sign and submit an Affidavit of Eligibility.
- Provide a copy of your photo identification.
- Complete, sign, and submit a notarized Attestation Form
- Submit the proper payment via credit card, money order, or certified check
The above items should be sent by mail directly to CPA Examination Services.
Fees: There is an initial application fee of $150 as well as a fee for each exam section you plan to take:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD) $195.35
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) $176.25
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) $195.35
- Regulation (REG) $176.25
Once you've submitted all relevant paperwork and fees you'll wait for a Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA. Once you have your NTS you may go to the Prometric website and schedule your exam at the nearest testing site. Note that you'll need your NTS document in order to be admitted to the exam so keep it in a safe place.
When they arrive for tests, candidates need to provide your NTS as well as two forms of valid and current identification, one of which must include a photo. You will not be allowed to bring any other articles into the examination room; a locker will be provided for your personal items. You should plan to arrive one hour before the testing is scheduled to begin.
After you've taken the exam, you can access test scores online after about 20 days. You'll need to have at least a 75% score in order to pass, and the policy is that you'll need to pass all four test sections within an 18-month time frame in order to be eligible for licensure.
Before you apply for licensure you'll also need to pass an ethics exam. Colorado uses the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) Ethics Exam and you'll need to pass with a 90% or better score within two years immediately preceding the date of application for licensure. The AICPA Ethics Exam for CPAs is a home test that includes a workbook and is taken online.
Required Experience for CPA Licensure
Colorado has two options for the experience requirement. If you have a bachelor's degree with a minimum of 150 semester hours that includes 45 hours of accounting and 36 hours of business administration you may choose the Education in Lieu of Experience. Otherwise you must complete 1800 hours (one year) of supervised work in an area of the accounting field. Internships do qualify, and the work may be full- or part-time but must be completed within a five year span prior to your application for licensure. Your experience must be verified by a Colorado licensed CPA or a CPA licensed in another state. Your experience can be in public accounting service, private industry, government, or academia and should give you experience in dealing with taxation, data security, accounting technology, and more. This lets you get daily reviews on a number of skills you learn in your classes in an office or department environment. Good firms provide opportunities to students and view it as a recruitment tool for future CPAs; it requires little hard work from them, only that they track your time and some other info. Here are some examples of acceptable experience:
- Internal auditing
- External audit
- Issuing reports on financial statements
- Installing internal control systems
- Management advisory
- Preparing financial statements
- Preparing tax returns
- Providing tax advice
Teaching accounting at an accredited university or college (12 semester hours will equal one year of experience)
- Teaching at least two different upper-division accounting classes
How to get Your CPA License in Colorado
Once you've met the educational, examination, and experience requirements, you'll be eligible to apply for your CPA license from the state of Colorado. Here are the basic steps you'll take to become a licensed Colorado CPA:
Log in or create an account on the NASBA website.
Sign and submit the required documentation to show you meet the requirements:
- Affidavit of Eligibility
- Sealed Certificates of Experience from all employers verifying work experience
- Sealed transcripts from colleges
- AICPA Ethics Exam Certificate of Completion
- Application fee via credit card, certified check or money order payable to NASBA Licensing Services: Initial Applicant Fee of $110.00
It will take approximately two weeks to receive your Colorado CPA Certificate in the mail.
Renewal and Continuing Education
Your CPA license expires on November 30 of odd-numbered years. Before you can renew your license you must show proof that you've completed continuing professional education (CPE) requirement, which is 80 hours for the two year period you were licensed; there is a maximum of 16 hours in Personal Development classes allowed. Of these hours you must have a minimum of four hours in Ethics, two of which may be in Regulatory or Behavioral Ethics. To find current CPE courses and requirements you should check the AICPA or NASBA websites or other professional organization as a resource to find current CPE available once you have your license. Here are some examples of the types of CPE courses you'll need to take:
- Accounting practice
- Governmental accounting
- Governmental auditing
- Behavioral ethics
- Business management and organization
- Management advisory services
- Personal development
- Human resources/personnel
- Regulatory ethics
- Specialized applications and knowledge
- Social environment of business
Accountant Career Concentrations & Salaries in Colorado
A career in forensic accounting can help take down criminals through investigative, analytics, and auditing skills. These individuals will often work with the criminal justice system, as well as finding themselves employees of various organizations. A forensic accountant may also work in business acquisitions and business valuations or work as a consultant for companies who want an outside auditor to check their books for fraud.
Tax accountants are some of the most highly employable accounting positions. Individuals can work for major corporations, accounting firms, non-profits, or be self-employed. These positions require that individuals remain current on regulations, rules, and laws each year. It’s also possible to become a specialized tax accountant in specific niches as a way to make more money.
A sports auditor is a specialized accounting position for either individual athletes or various sports teams. These positions are extremely difficult to come by as employers in this field are highly selective and demand the best. This type of accounting job can be challenging for a number of reasons, such as the fine line between business expense and personal expense in this industry, and it is a fast-paced environment with high expectations.
Environmental accountants are responsible for determining the environmental costs of various business activities. Though they may also evaluate the cost of societal activities. These professional accountants work to establish the source of such environmental costs so that company managers and administrators can work to eliminate these costs. This type of accountant may also pursue various licenses, such as pollution and clean technology licenses.
People are flocking to Colorado right now, which is causing the demand for qualified accountants to sky rocket. Nationally, demand is forecast to grow by 10% in coming years. In just Colorado it's forecast to grow by 26% and add over 2,000 new accountants by 2024. It's not surprising that compensation is high throughout the state, with accountants in the adjacent cities of Denver and Boulder making the most. Accountants who reach the 90th percentile can expect to earn well above $100,000, but even the majority of the financial professionals in the state in terms of pay make above $70,000.
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Colorado Accounting Frequently Asked Questions
What types of accounting jobs are available in Colorado?
Colorado is home to a wide variety of employers. Individuals with the appropriate degrees and work experience can work in and for nearly any type of business, including Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, hospitals, financial institutions, tech companies, and more. A number of government agencies also have a strong presence in Colorado, as well as non-profit organizations specializing in the environment, and others.
How much is the Colorado mid-career earning potential?
The average mid-career salary as an accounting manager in Denver, Colorado is $74,613, according to PayScale. Keep in mind that this figure is highly dependent upon a number of aspects including the size of the employing company, location of the business, the highest level of degree completed, and more. You’ll likely make less in a rural area where there is less competition for employees.
Are certifications or licensure required by the state of Colorado?
Specialized certifications or licensure are not required by the state of Colorado to practice accounting. However, some employers may require a CPA license to be eligible to apply for certain positions. These types of certifications and licensure can also help to boost salaries and increase the likelihood of promotion.
Do any Colorado colleges or universities offer online accounting degrees?
A number of colleges and universities offer online accounting degrees, including the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. It’s important to note that any accounting degree program should come from a higher learning institution with reputable accreditation if you want to ensure the best chance for employment. An AACSB program accreditation is even better.