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 credential, and the District of Columbia even has a Board of Accountancy, with its own standards. To become a CPA, you must have completed enough academic credits 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 full licensure, all candidates must satisfy the experience requirements, which involve a fully-documented, supervised period of employment.

Once you become a bonafide, licensed CPA, 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. 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.

The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy has a rigorous set of requirements. You will need an undergraduate degree in accounting that totals 120 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:

1

Required Courses:

  • Business Law
  • Financial Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Cost Accounting
  • Federal Income Taxes
2

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. They will be able to help you choose the courses that will best compliment your long-term academic and professional goals, while satisfying the Board. Further, you should also be thinking about the CPA examination. Review all of the four parts of the test, including the subtopics included in each. Consider each course you take as an opportunity to prepare for the exam and your future career.

1

Accreditation – Licensing Board

The D.C. Board of Accountancy will not acknowledge academic credits from every college or institution of higher learning. Your program must have a regional or national accreditation that the Board recognizes. 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 CPA, check with your program adviser to ensure that your credits will be acknowledged by the Board of Accountancy. If your coursework is 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 courses 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 Board's approved school list.

Exam Requirements

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Once you have completed your academic requirements, and are at least 18 years of age, you are ready to start applying to take the Uniform CPA Examination. 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 test 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 examination part 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 sections in any order you choose.

1

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 Board 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 licensure. You can, however, use the 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 full licensure. They are thus unburdened by continuing education requirements and the full responsibility of licensure but are still highly distinguished in the business community.

CPA Examination Preparation

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Since this is one of the most difficult professional examinations in the nation, you will want to spend time preparing for the exam. 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 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. 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.

During your experiential period, you will work with a CPA licensed either in the District 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 examination requirements. You must also be over the age of eighteen and possess good moral character.

Academic Requirements

Your academic transcript should reflect 120 semester credits, from an accredited college or university. 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 you should qualify to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination. The Board 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 exam, the Board will issue a certificate. In order to gain full licensure, you will then need to satisfy the experience portion.

Experience Requirement

The Board 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, 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.

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.

Closing

The road to becoming a CPA is long and tough. 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 Salaries in District of Columbia by Occupation

Annual Mean Wage10th Percentile25th percentile50th percentile75th percentile90th percentile
$96,880$54,690$67,910$89,950$119,490$145,630


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