Becoming a certified public accountant CPA in Illinois doesn’t have to be a hassle if you’re prepared. Becoming a CPA is challenging but rewarding. Here’s what you need to know prior to becoming a CPA and passing the state board CPA exam.

Pre-exam education requirements

To become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and take the state boards exam, Illinois regulation requires CPA candidates to have completed a bachelor’s degree program or above, as well as 150 credit hours from an accredited university or institution in the U.S. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy requires you to take and pass the cpa exam in your state to work in public accounting. When you pass your state boards exam in your state you will become a certified public accountant. Becoming a CPA is challenging but rewarding.

To take the CPA exam, you must also meet one of the following prerequisites:

Hold a graduate degree in accounting from an institution accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

Hold a graduate degree in business from a school that’s been accredited by the AACSB or ACBSP, along with two accounting research hours and 30 credits worth of accounting courses including:

  • Auditing
  • Tax
  • Financial Accounting
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Economics
  • Business Law
  • Business Statistics
  • Business Ethics (may not count for more than three credit hours)
  • Business Communication (may not count for more than three credit hours)
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Internship or Experience requirements (may not count for more than three credit hours)

Hold a bachelor's with the following courses taken:

  • Auditing
  • Tax
  • Financial Accounting
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Two semesters in accounting research and analysis
  • Internship or life experience (may not count for more than three semesters)

24 credit hours studying business as an undergrad or grad student, including:

  • Economics
  • Business Law
  • Business Statistics
  • Business Ethics (may not count for more than three semester hours)
  • Business Communication (may not count for more than two semester hours)
  • Marketing
  • Management
  • Information Systems
  • Finance
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Internship or Experience (may not count for more than three semester hours)

If you’ve not yet met all of these requirements and you want to become a CPA but you’re in the process of completing your learning, you may be able to obtain provisional approval to take the CPA exam. If granted, you’ll have 120 days from the time you take and pass the CPA exam to submit your final college course transcripts.

CPA candidates who attended a university outside of the United States will need to submit their credentials for verification to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

Campus and Online Degree Options in Illinois


Associate Degree

A two-year degree from an Illinois community college will help you launch a brilliant career. There are so many opportunities in Chicago and elsewhere in the state that you can hit the ground running. When you are ready, you can apply your credits towards a bachelor's degree and take your career to the next level. Learn More


Bachelor’s Degree

A four-year undergraduate degree from an Illinois college or university is an ideal foundation for a career in accounting. Learn More


Master’s Degree

With a graduate degree in accounting you can rise into the C-suites of a Chicago Loop office. At this level you might consider an MBA with an Accounting concentration. Learn More


Doctorate or PhD

Though degrees of this level are rare in accounting, with it, you could join the ranks of academia and become an accounting professor. Learn More


Online Degree Programs

There are many online undergraduate and graduate degree options available for Illinois students. Online accounting degree programs provide the flexibility you need to work and study. Learn More

Taking the Uniform CPA Exam


Once a candidate has completed the minimum necessary education, they can move on to CPA exam review and get ready to take the test. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

The Illinois state board of accountancy is called the Illinois Board of Examiners (ILBOE). I their online system, you’ll need to create an account so you can submit your application. Plan to choose one of the following application types that best fits your circumstances:

  • Pre-Evaluation
  • Domestic Evaluation
  • Foreign Evaluation
  • Total Transfer of Credit
  • International Qualifications Exam

Be careful not to leave out any information about the colleges or institutions you’ve attended. You’ll be able to pay the $200 application fee online with a credit card upon applying on their site or you can pay by check. Foreign applications are free of charge if an individual earned all credits outside of the United States.

Submit your final transcripts to the ILBOE upon completion of all the education prerequisites. You can include original copies, which can be sent by mail to the Illinois Board of Examiners, 1120 E. Diehl Rd, Suite 110, Naperville, IL 60563. You can also email transcripts to

Go to the ILBOE online system to complete the Initial Examination Request. Expect to be charged a fee ranging from $40 to $120, with the number depending on how many exam sections you’re looking to schedule.

Sit back and wait for a letter of approval from the ILBOE to arrive. If you haven’t paid your fee yet, you’ll receive a payment coupon that will be good for the next 90 days. If not paid by then, you’ll have to reapply. Once all fees are paid, you’ll receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS). Policy is that you must set up an exam appointment within six months.

You can now go ahead and plan the date for your exam through Prometric’s website at a testing center. Contact the ILBOE or consult their website for information regarding scheduling details. Be sure to sufficiently study, and complete your exam. You can expect to receive your score within one to two weeks.

CPA candidates must complete a class on professional ethics offered by the AICPA, followed by an open book ethics exam on which you must score a 90% or higher to earn a passing grade. AICPA will send your results to the ILBOE upon request.

Once you’ve completed these steps and passed both tests, you’ll receive a certification of CPA Exam Completion as well as a certification from the ILBOE as a CPA. Now you are on your way to become a CPA. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re licensed to start practicing on your own, but you can practice directly under another licensed CPA in the industry of your choice.

Find a Degree:

Required Experience


After completing the education and exam steps, you’ll need to get some experience requirements under your belt before you’re able to become a fully licensed CPA. When you have a CPA certification and accounting experience you will be unstoppable. These are the steps you’ll need to take to move forward with your licensure.

Complete one year of experience requirements under the guidance of a manager or supervisor. You’ll need to be able to provide proof of service or consultation in the following areas:

  • Accounting
  • Audit
  • Attestation
  • Providing Financial Advice
  • Tax Consultation

On the Verification of Employment/Experience form located in the Application for CPA Licensure paperwork, document your completed work experience. This will need to be signed by your supervisor.

License Requirements


After you’ve finished your year of supervised CPA employment, you’ll be eligible to apply for your CPA license.

On the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) website, locate and download the application packet. Submit the application along with any supplemental information (including experience verification) and required fees to Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, ATTN: Division of Professional Regulation, P.O. Box 7007, Springfield, IL 62791.

Maintaining your License


Once you’ve received your Illinois CPA license, you’ll need to routinely brush up on your skills to make sure you’re up to date on current general regulations and information.

Every three years, the state of Illinois requires CPAs to complete 120 hours of continued professional education (CPE), four of which must pertain to ethics. For your first license renewal, you’ll be exempt from the continuing education requirement, but be prepared to take future classes to keep your skills sharp, learn tech systems in order to keep up with change, and review past content.

To find CPE courses, consult the Illinois CPA Society or the NASBA registry.

You may also consider joining a professional group to make sure you’re current on current news and regulations. The Illinois CPA Society is a great local choice, as is the American Institute of CPAs (a nationally based group).

Accountant Career Salaries in Illinois by Occupation

Popular Concentrations and Careers


Forensic Accounting

This accounting concentration focuses on auditing finances to uncover embezzlement, fraud, and more. Forensic accountants work with law enforcement and attorneys on a variety of cases. Accountants who focus on forensic accounting can also perform standard audits and thus pursue a multi-faceted career path. Learn More


Managerial Accounting

This is an increasingly popular concentration in the world of accounting. Managerial accountants work with employers or clients to discover how to make their systems more efficient and profitable. This type of work can become highly specialized as each firm seeks to solve unique, individual problems. Learn More


Public Accountancy

This accounting concentration encompasses so many parts of the accountancy profession that it's hardly a concentration. However, such a focus helps students prepare for life as a certified public accountant and other high-level positions. This area spans tax preparation, bookkeeping, audits, consulting, and more. Learn More



Since all companies and individuals must eventually pay taxes, this is a very popular and important concentration. Accountants who focus on taxation can start practices that cater to individuals, small businesses, or large corporations. Since this focus area is so closely tied to the law, many tax accountants maintain a close relationship with attorneys. Learn More

The sky is the limit for accountants in Illinois. Chicago is one of the top financial hubs in the nation, and many top corporations call Illinois home, including 31 Fortune 500 corporations. Illinois' Department of Employment Security projects that growth for the accountancy sector will be 11.7%, or 1,983 jobs per year, in the years 2012-22. Illinois accountants enjoyed a median salary of $66,000 in 2014, while those in Chicago averaged $56,400. For Chicago, those with more than five years of experience, salaries ranged from $84,563 to $107,933. If you specialize in forensic accountancy, Chicago-area salaries have reached as high as $154,400.

City Annual Median Wage
Chicago $56,400
Bloomington $59,700
Champaign-Urbana $42,300
Danville $44,800
Peoria $47,600
Entry Level Mid Career Late Career
$50,000 $57,300 $65,000
  • Illinois Average Cost Estimator Salary: $59,000
  • Illinois Average Auditor Salary: $59,800
  • Illinois Average Budget Analyst Salary: $67,600
  • Illinois Average Credit Analyst Salary: $58,900
  • Illinois Average Financial Analyst Salary: $62,000
  • Illinois Average Personal Financial Advisor Salary: $64,000
  • Illinois Average Financial Examiner Salary: $70,000
  • Illinois Average Tax Examiner, Collector, or Revenue Agent Salary: -
  • Illinois Average Tax Preparer Salary: -
  • Illinois Average Actuary Salary: $90,000
  • Illinois Average Forensic Science Technician Salary: $81,000
  • Illinois Average Payroll and Timekeeping Clerk Salary: $39,000

Illinois Accounting Frequently Asked Questions


Are there Illinois state universities that offer online accounting degrees?

Yes, many state colleges and universities in Illinois offer online accounting degrees. Most of these online accounting degrees are at the master's level, but there are also plenty of online bachelor's degrees in accounting available. In fact, it's presumed that higher education will focus more on online courses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


How much to Accountants earn in Illinois?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors in Illinois earn an average annual wage of over $77,000. Meanwhile, bookkeepers, accountants, and auditing clerks earn an average salary of $44,000. Keep in mind that workers in and around the Chicago are likely to earn higher salaries due to the higher cost of living there.


What sort of degree do I need to take the CPA examination in Illinois?

To sit for the CPA examination in Illinois, you will need a minimum of a bachelor's degree and 150 credit hours. If you have a graduate degree in accounting, there is no specific requirement for credit hours. Those with a graduate degree in business administration must have at least 30 credit hours in accounting. If you have an undergraduate degree in a subject other than accounting, you must also show 30 credit hours in accounting, including these courses: Managerial Accounting, Taxation, Financial Accounting, and Auditing.


Are there many finance jobs available for an Illinois accounting major?

Yes. Chicago is one of the nation's largest financial centers. There are many firms there who are looking to hire eager, focused accounting majors to work in investment banking, insurance, venture capital, and other banking concerns. Outside of Chicago, you can also find many finance positions with banks and other institutions.

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