Certified Public Accountants are an elite group. They have passed what many consider to be the most difficult professional examination. That makes them the most highly trusted professionals in business. CPAs are called to audit individuals and corporations, they also work on arranging financing, balancing corporate accounts, and more. These days, CPAs even work in IT departments where their keen attention to detail helps audit computer systems.

Each state has its own criteria for who receives the coveted CPA license, and the District of Columbia even has a Board of Accountancy, with its own standards. To become a DC CPA, you must have completed enough semester hours from an accredited program. You should then pass all four parts of the Uniform CPA Examination. Once you have passed all four parts of the exam, the District will bestow a certificate. To achieve a full CPA license, all candidates must satisfy the experience requirements, which involve a fully-documented, supervised period of employment.

Once you become a bonafide, licensed CPA in the District of Columbia, your work is not over. The District of Columbia, like most states, requires that you continue your education by taking an approved number of continuing education courses. Your continuing education units will broaden and deepen your practice and could possibly open up new business for you.

Academic Standards for the District of Columbia CPAs/Education Requirements

Accounting is a very intellectually rigorous practice and the Uniform CPA exam is one of the most difficult professional exams in the world. Not only must you have extraordinary powers of analysis, but you should also be highly detail-oriented. Some of these talents will come naturally, but they must certainly be honed through hard academic work. Keep in mind that everyone who holds a CPA license holds high academic and intellectual standards for themselves and others.

The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy has a rigorous set of requirements. You will need an undergraduate degree in accounting that totals 150 semester hours. Ideally, for your personal benefit, you should have an MBA with a concentration in accounting, or a master's degree in accounting. The specific requirements of the Board are as follows:

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Required Courses:

  • Business Law
  • Financial Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Cost Accounting
  • Federal Income Taxes
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12 Credits from Business-Related Courses.

Courses can include, but are not limited to:

  • Management
  • Business Ethics
  • Marketing
  • Business Communications
  • Economics
  • Statistics
  • Computer Science
  • Organizational Behavior
  • International Business or Finance

As you progress through your accounting degree, consult with your accounting adviser to make sure your semester hours will both result in a bachelor's degree and will satisfy the accounting Board. They will be able to help you choose the courses that will best compliment your long-term academic and professional goals, while satisfying the District of Columbia Board of Accountancy. Further, you should also be thinking about the Uniform CPA examination. Review all of the four parts of the Uniform CPA exam, including the subtopics included in each. Consider each course you take as an opportunity to prepare for the exam and your future career.

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Accreditation – Licensing Board

The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy will not acknowledge academic credits from every college or institution of higher learning. Your bachelor's degree program must have a regional or national accreditation so that the Board recognizes your semester hours. If you attend college within the borders of Washington D.C., your credits should be certified by the D.C. Education Licensure Commission. Accreditation could come from one of the following independent agencies:

  • Association of Advanced Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA-HLC)
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
  • New England Association of Colleges and Schools (NEASC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS CASI)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

When you decide to major in accounting with the intention of becoming a DC CPA, check with your program adviser to ensure that your credits will be acknowledged by the District of Columbia Board of Accountancy. If your semester hours are not fully accredited, you may be asked to retake classes. Transfer to a fully-accredited program prior to spending too much time or money on semester hours that will not advance your professional ambition.

If you are still in the process of researching and applying to schools, find the most current edition of “Accredited Institutions of Post-secondary Education,” which is published by the American Council on Education. The schools listed will coincide with the District of Columbia's Board-approved school list.

Campus and Online Degree Options in District of Columbia

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Associate Degree

An associate degree in accounting lays the groundwork for a person to start working in the accounting field. The degree takes two years to complete and is offered at many colleges and universities that have two-year degree programs, though they are most commonly found in community colleges. This degree will get you started towards fulfilling the Board's requirements for semester hours. While still in a 2-year program, you can become a student member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants where you can engage in dialogue about your future with the CPA exam. Learn More

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Bachelor’s Degree

Getting a bachelor’s degree in accounting is the first step toward becoming a CPA, which that or another pertinent certification is the ultimate goal for many accounting majors. The degree takes four years to complete and prepares students to take on all the tasks required for most accountants. During this degree program, your semester hours will surely cover specific items that you'll need to know for your CPA exam. Learn More

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Master’s Degree

Getting an advanced degree in accounting will help a working accountant gain additional certifications in specific areas of accounting. A master’s degree can take two to four years to complete and may include a thesis or comprehensive exam. Many take graduate accounting courses to fulfill the Board's requirement for accounting semester hours. Many accountants with master degrees also teach at the community and technical college level. It’s also helpful for those who want to move into management positions. Further, once you have completed a graduate degree in accounting you should be ready to sit for the CPA exam. Learn More

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Doctorate or PhD

A doctorate in accounting means a person wants to set themselves up as an expert in the field of accounting. A PhD will help an accountant attain top-level, policy creating positions in the accounting field and also open the door for tenured teaching positions at colleges and universities. A doctorate can take five or more years to complete and requires a dissertation and defense. If you decide to pursue academia you probably won't need a CPA license, but you'll still need to pass the CPA exam. Learn More

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Online Degree Programs

Many colleges and universities in the United States offer online degrees in accounting. In the local Washington DC area, the University of the Potomac offers an online accounting degree that will prepare you for the CPA exam. Provided that the online accounting program is fully accredited, the semester hours will help qualify you to take the CPA exam. Learn More

Exam Requirements

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Once you have completed your academic requirements with the requisite 150 semester hours, and are at least 18 years of age, you are ready to start applying to take the Uniform CPA Examination in the District of Columbia. The Board will review your transcripts and approve your application to sit for the exam. From that point, you will need to schedule, take, and pass all four parts of the exam in the order you see fit. The CPA exam is created and overseen by the AICPA, an association with which you will be increasingly familiar as your career progresses.

The four parts of the Uniform CPA Examination are listed below. Each part of the CPA exam is broken into several subsections of varying length or percentage. Take note of these subsections as they will help you organize your study sessions. You can take the CPA exam sections in any order you choose.

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Auditing and Attestation (AUD) - 72 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations

  • Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and General Principles – 15-25%
  • Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response – 20-30%
  • Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence – 30-40%
  • Forming Conclusions and Reporting – 15-25%
2

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) - 62 multiple-choice questions, 4 simulations, and 3 written items

  • Corporate Governance – 17-27%
  • Economic Concepts and Analysis – 17-27%
  • Financial Management – 11-21%
  • Information Technology – 15-25%
  • Operations Management – 15-25%
3

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) - 66 multiple-choice questions and 8 simulations

  • Conceptual Framework, Standard-Setting, and Financial Reporting – 25-35%
  • Select Financial Statement Accounts – 30-40%
  • Select Transactions – 20-30%
  • State and Local Governments – 5-15%
4

Regulation (REG) - 76 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations

  • Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and Federal Tax Procedures – 10-20%
  • Business Law – 10-20%
  • Federal Taxation of Property Transactions – 12-22%
  • Federal Taxation of Individuals – 15-25%
  • Federal Taxation of Entities – 28-38%

The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy will issue a certificate to all who pass the Uniform CPA Examination. This is a tremendous achievement. However, you will not be able to sign off on tax documents or other important documents until you achieve full CPA license. You can, however, use a CPA certificate as a distinguishing credential even if you do not wish to practice public accountancy. For instance, many investment bankers, attorneys, and financial advisers hold certificates without achieving a full CPA license. They are thus unburdened by continuing education requirements and the full responsibility of a CPA license but are still highly distinguished in the business community. Some professionals take and pass only one part of the CPA exam and that in itself helps open up new opportunities.

CPA Examination Preparation

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Since the CPA examination is one of the most difficult professional examinations in the nation, you will want to spend ample time preparing. The AICPA's website provides some preparation materials, and there are also CPA preparation courses available from non-academic entities. You might also consider finding a group of future CPAs to work with in preparing for the CPA exam.

Required Experience

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To achieve a full CPA license in the District of Columbia you must complete the experience requirements as set forth by the Board. You can satisfy this requirement before or after you take and pass the CPA exam. Essentially, the Board requires that you work for one full year, or no less than 2,000 hours, under the supervision of a licensed CPA. You may be able to land a position with a firm once you graduate. Frequently, accounting firms will hire young college graduates in internship/apprentice positions that allow them to gain hours towards their experience requirements while simultaneously studying for the CPA exam. In fact, this experiential period should help you prepare for the CPA exam.

During your experiential period, you will work with a CPA licensed either in the District of Columbia or by an accounting board from one of the fifty U.S. states. To fulfill the Board's requirement, the environments in which you may practice include academia, government, industry, or public practice. You should also be diligent in tracking your experience, as you will need to report this to the Board. The Board has specific expectations for licensure candidates. As such, your experience should include some, if not all, of the following practice areas:

  • Accounting
  • Attest Services
  • Compilation
  • Management Advisory
  • Financial Advisory
  • Taxation
  • Consulting Skills

During this period, it is advised that you pursue the most diverse and complex work that you can. Strive to exercise all of the skills you've developed over the course of your education. Your supervisor will likely have high expectations, so strive to impress.

CPA Licensure Requirement

In order to become a Certified Public Accountant in the District of Columbia, you must satisfy academic, experiential, and CPA exam requirements, including 150 semester hours. You must also be over the age of eighteen and possess good moral character.

Academic Requirements

Your academic transcript should satisfy the Board's education requirements of 150 semester hours. Those credit hours should be from an accredited college or university, of which there are many both in and around the District of Columbia. Your work should include the following courses:

Required Courses – 15 Credits

  • Business Law
  • Financial Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Cost Accounting
  • Federal Income Taxes

Elective Courses – 12 Credits from courses including, but not limited to:

  • Management
  • Business Ethics
  • Marketing
  • Business Communications
  • Economics
  • Statistics
  • Computer Science
  • Organizational Behavior
  • International Business or Finance
  • Information Technology

Examination Requirements

Once you have completed the academic requirements (150 semester hours) you should qualify to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination. The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy will review your transcripts and then issue a notice that you have satisfied their requirements. You can use this notice to schedule a test time with the nearest Prometric testing center. Once you have passed your CPA exam , the Board will issue a certificate. In order to gain full licensure as a Certified Public Accountant, you will then need to satisfy the experience portion.

Experience Requirement

The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy requires one year or 2,000 hours of experience under the direct supervision of a licensed CPA. Their license can come from the District or any state in the nation but they must be in good standing. Once you have completed your tenure, your supervising CPA must sign off on a letter that details your experience.

License Renewal and Continuing Education

In order to keep your license in good standing, so you never have to retake the CPA examintation, with the District of Columbia Board of Accountancy, you will need to satisfy the Board's continuing education requirements. The requirement is that you complete 80 hours of continuing education for every two-year period. These hours must be completed through a Board-approved educator and be fully accounted for at the end of the biannual period.

These hours are a terrific opportunity to advance as a professional. For instance, some take added hours in commercial law which keeps their practice current with new legislation. Every Certified Public Accountant should be eager to continue their education.

Subject Areas

Your courses must all be applicable to your career as an accountant. When you seek out continuing education units (CEUs) look for courses that cover topics including, but not limited to:

  • Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Taxation
  • Management
  • Computer Science / Information Technology
  • Mathematics (including statistics, probability, and quantitative applications in business)
  • Economics
  • Business Law
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Business management

Acceptable CEU Providers

Just as you needed to have an education from an accredited college or university, your CEUs must likewise come from a Board-approved source. The Board approves the following:

  • AICPA
  • NASBA
  • State Accounting Boards
  • Colleges or Universities
  • State Societies of CPAs

Many CPAs take advantage of accounting conferences to accrue CEUs. Conferences often include hours upon hours of seminars or other CEU opportunities.

Reporting

When you report your hours to the Board, you must be just as thorough as you are when preparing a client's tax forms. The Board will look for the following information when certifying your CEUs:

  • Sponsoring agency's name
  • Location
  • Title and/or description of the content
  • Dates of the courses
  • Number of hours claimed

Note that your CEU reports are subject to later audits and you are thus required to retain your CEU reports for five years after you submit your hours. Your records should include the course outline or any other materials provided by the instructor or sponsoring body. If you took university courses, maintain a copy of your grade report to prove attendance and completion. In the case of an independent study program, maintain any proof of completion. By following these regulations you will never have to take the CPA exam ever again!

Closing

The road to becoming a CPA is long and tough. The CPA exam is one of the most difficult hurdles in all of business. However, it is also endlessly rewarding. You will have incredible esteem in the business community, and your credentials will garner you a healthy salary. After all, nearly every business, and many wealthy individuals, need a CPA's taxation services on a regular, if not daily, basis. With a CPA license, the sky is truly the limit. Onward!

Accountant Career Concentrations & Salaries in District of Columbia

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Accounts Receivable Clerk

This person is responsible for processing accounts receivables. In other words, they keep track of who owes the company money and when the company is supposed to receive payment. The job includes invoicing customers for the balanced owed, following up on late payments, and keeping the account receivable ledger up to date for the accountant. Learn More

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Accounts Payable Clerk

An accounts payable clerk keeps track of the company’s creditors. They make sure the company’s bills are paid in a timely manner and keep careful track of those the company owes. They also keep the accounts payable ledger up to date for the accountant. Learn More

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Accountant or Staff Accountant

An accountant is responsible for keeping the financial records for a business. Depending on the size of the company, the accountant might handle all aspects of the posting process or hand certain parts off to other members of the department. Learn More

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Accounting Instructors

Some people choose to teach accounting to others. This can happen in a smaller community college setting or at a large university. Accounting instructors help educate those who wish to attain accounting degrees.

Annual Mean Wage 10th Percentile 25th percentile 50th percentile 75th percentile 90th percentile
$96,880 $54,690 $67,910 $89,950 $119,490 $145,630


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District of Columbia Accounting Frequently Asked Questions

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Is certification required?

While certification is not necessarily required to work in accounting, it can certainly give you the edge when you are looking to move up in a company. The certified public accountant exam or Uniform CPA exam is a rigorous four-part test. Those who choose to earn this certification often take specialized classes to help prepare for the examinations. Although the CPA exam is difficult, those who pass it have a serious advantage over accountants that do not get any certification. First, it opens up additional job opportunities, since being a CPA is a requirement to file tax returns with the Security and Exchange Commission and represent clients in front of the IRS. Larger companies may prefer CPAs over regular accountants, and they’re often the highest paying employers.

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Are there accounting jobs available in the state?

According to Projections Central and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors will have an increasing number of positions available to them in the DC area through 2028. Washington DC and its surrounding areas are expected to have 1,500 job openings, with anticipated job growth of 8.1% during this time, roughly double the national job growth average. Those with CPAs will be the most marketable and command the best salaries, but accountants without CPAs will have plenty of opportunities available to them as well.

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How much can a person earn as an accountant in Washington, DC?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants in Washington D.C. have a median annual salary of just under $108,930. Accountants with advanced degrees and certifications will justifiably have greater earning potential.

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Are there online degree options in Washington, DC?

Not only are there online degree options available in Washington DC, but there are an increasing number of online degree options at all levels throughout the United States. Whether you’re looking to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or even a doctorate, there are online options available to you. You should be aware, though, that some online programs will still require that you attend a seminar or weekend on campus in order to familiarize yourself with your classmates and meet your professors, but this is less common in the accounting discipline than some others.

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