Achieving your dream of becoming a CPA in Iowa is certainly possible if you study and work hard. As with all states, Iowa’s requirements for becoming a CPA are rigorous and include educational and practical experience components.

Education Requirements

Iowa’s State Board of Accountancy requires all CPAs to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and at least 150 semester hours of college credit. It is crucial that your degree or accounting program has the proper accreditation. United States schools must have accreditation from the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. If your degree came from a foreign school, it requires validation from the National State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) International Evaluation Services or the Foreign Academic Credential Services, Inc. (FACS). Either of these bodies determines whether you can sit for the Uniform CPA Exam.

Students have several options when it comes to the required 150 semester hours of college credit. The first is obtaining a graduate degree in accounting from an accredited program. The second option allows students who have earned a graduate business degree from an accredited program that includes at least 24 semester hours in accounting including the following subjects:

  • Financial accounting
  • Taxation
  • Auditing
  • Management accounting.

Courses at an elementary or principle level do not count toward this credit. Students cannot claim work or internship hours as part of the requirement.

The third option involves receiving an undergraduate accounting or business degree from an accredited school program, including the same 24 semester hours in the same subjects as the second option.

The fourth option requires the earning of a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with the same 24 semester hours and subjects as options two and three, along with 24 semester hours of courses including:

  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Business law
  • Economics
  • Management

A degree from a community or two-year college does count for semester credits, but commercial CPA review courses do not. Online, CPA and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) courses do count, as long as the schools are accredited.

How to Sit for the Exam in Iowa

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Four Iowa cities host the Uniform CPA Exam. They are:

  • Bettendorf
  • Coralville
  • Sioux City
  • West Des Moines

You will receive instructions for scheduling your test via the Notice to Schedule (NTS), which is delivered in the format you choose: Email, regular mail or fax. The NTS allows you to schedule one testing session within six months. Iowa uses Prometric’s for CPA exam scheduling, so schedule your test at the site for one of the four locations. Now it’s just a question of studying hard and showing up at the correct date and time to take the examination.

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The four sections

Each section of the test takes four hours, for a total of 16 hours of examination time. The four sections consist of:

  • Regulation
  • Auditing and Attestation
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting
  • Business Environment and Concepts

Recent modifications to the Uniform CPA Examination have weighted scores more toward the regulation and business, environment and concepts sections than previously. These modifications added an additional two hours to the overall exam time.

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Time to pass the Uniform CPA exam

Candidates have 18 months in which to pass all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination. Each section may be taken at a different time, as long as it falls within the 18-month period. You will lose credit for any part of the exam passed outside that strict time limit. The passing grade for each section of the Uniform CPA is a minimum of 75 percent.

You can find your results online at NASBA or have them mailed to you.

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Examination preparation

To prepare for the Uniform CPA exam, participate in available online tutorials and sample tests hosted by cpa-exam.org. You must know how to access professional standards for various part of the exam, so visit the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) website at aicpa.org for information pertaining to their professional standards. You may also find useful information for exam preparation at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) website at fasb.org.

Experience Needed

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Once you pass the Uniform CPA exam, you are ready for the next phase: Gaining practical experience. Your work in private or public accounting, governmental or academic accounting is supervised by a licensed CPA. Experience requirements include:

  • A minimum of 12 months working full-or-part-time. The months do not have to be consecutive. The maximum amount of time allotted is three years.
  • 2,000 hour minimum of practical accounting experience
  • Service in one or more of the following accounting skills: Tax, consulting, financial, advisory, management, attestation.
  • For experience in academia, candidates must teach at least 24 semester hours of higher education accounting courses.

For those candidates wanting to qualify for attestation, a minimum of two years, consisting of one year of general accounting experience and one year of attestation, is necessary.

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Experience competencies

You must practice and obtain the following competencies during your experience phase:

  • Management advisory function knowledge
  • Accounting information systems understanding
  • Financial statements compilation and review
  • Financial statement and budget preparation
  • Budgeting, cost analysis, asset management and taxation
  • Forecast and projections of standards and procedures.
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Supervising CPA verifications

Your supervising CPA must verify your experience by completing the Verification of Experience form submitted with your license application and completing the Attest Qualification form if that is what you wish to pursue. The supervising CPA also must verify that a candidate has fulfilled the competencies needed by the Iowa Accounting Examining Board (IAEB).

How to Get Your License in Iowa

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Before getting your license, and preferably prior to gaining your practical experience, you must take the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct Self-Study Course. To apply for your license, you must obtain a score of 90 or above.

You can download the Initial Application for Licensure online. Submit the signed Verification of Experience form, and the Attestation Qualification form, if applicable. Include the application fee with your mailing, which is currently $100 for registration and an additional $100 if you are seeking attestation qualification. All fees are payable to the IAEB. Send the completed packet to:

Iowa Accountancy Examining Board

200 E. Grand

Suite 350

Des Moines, IA 50309

Note: If you are already licensed as a CPA in another state, you may receive licensing in Iowa via state reciprocity. However, if you are licensed in a foreign country as a chartered accountant, you must follow pass the Uniform CPA Examination. There are exceptions. Chartered accountants from Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Ireland must pass the International Qualifications Examination and pass the AICPA’s Professional Conduct and Ethics Course with a grade of at least 90 percent. You must also satisfy Iowa’s Continuing Professional Education requirements and submit verification of your license from your country’s accounting institute.

Continuing Professional Education Requirements

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The amount of annual Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements you’ll need in Iowa depends on how recently you received your license. You do not need CPE for the first year in which you receive your license.

You will need 40 CPE hours by December 31 of the second year in which you have your license, and 80 CPE hours in the third year, which actually runs from December 31 to July 1 approximately 18 months later. After the third year, you must earn 120 CPE hours every three years for license maintenance.

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General CPA continuing education requirements

Once you are past the third-year mark for CPE requirements, you cannot earn more than 24 CPE hours of the 120 hours in non-technical subjects. Such subjects include:

  • Communications
  • Marketing
  • Memory building
  • Behavior and motivation
  • Public relations
  • Speed reading
  • Leadership
  • Personal development
  • Practice development.

Every three years, you must spend earn 4 CPE hours in rules of professional conduct and ethics. The remaining CPE hours are spent on the following areas:

  • Consulting
  • Auditing
  • Taxation
  • Accounting
  • Management
  • Assurance
  • Specialized knowledge.

It is important to enroll in various CPE programs and take advantage of distance learning, employer-offered programs, professional examination completion, webinars, educational organization meetings and meetings of state and national associations featuring technical sessions. You can receive some credit toward your total CPE hours by publishing books and articles or acting as an instructor or speaker. If you are taking accredited courses at a college or university, each semester hour is equivalent to 15 CPE hours. However, if the course at the college or university is not for credit, the value of each semester hour is just one CPE hour.

Keep all of your CPE-related records for at least three years. That includes not only your number of hours and fields of study, but the dates you attended, your completion certificate, course location, content and sponsor and how your instruction was delivered. You will also need to keep the name of your instructors on file. Make sure the program’s representative verifies all of your CPE hours.