North Carolina is an excellent location to become a CPA. While the national 10 year growth projection for the profession is 10 percent in North Carolina it's a robust 16.1 percent, making the job outlook very good for future CPAs.

Like other states, in North Carolina you'll be required to pass the national CPA exam, which is considered to be one of the toughest professional exams in the country. You must meet specific educational requirements before becoming eligible to sit for the exam. In North Carolina you must have 150 hours of accounting credits; unlike other states you may sit for the exam as soon as you earn your Bachelor's degree in an accounting subject (but may not become licensed until you fulfill the mandatory 150 hour requirement) as long as you've passed all of the required accounting courses. This is an advantage as you can conceivably earn your degree, take the exam, and begin fulfilling the experience requirement while completing the required college courses.

North Carolina Educational Requirements

North Carolina CPA licensure is overseen by the NC State Board of CPA Examiners (NCCPA) and accepts degrees from the following accreditation associations, so your first step should be to make sure your school is accredited:

  • Council on Occupational Education (formerly Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Occupational Education Institutions)
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Technical & Career Institutions
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Higher Learning Commission
  • Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission of Colleges & Universities
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities

Your concentration in accounting must be a minimum of 30 semester hours of accounting courses at the undergraduate level with the following stipulations:
No more than six hours of accounting principles and no more than three hours of business law
Or
A minimum of 20 graduate accounting courses exclusive to graduate students
Or
A combination of undergraduate and graduate courses can be equivalent to one of the above. If you're combining undergraduate and graduate courses one semester hour of accounting graduate study will be considered the equivalent of one and one-half undergraduate semester hours of the same.

The following are examples of required accounting core subjects:

  • Auditing
  • Business law
  • Cost accounting
  • Fund accounting
  • Managerial accounting
  • Taxation

In addition you'll need to complete the North Carolina Accountancy Statutes and Rules course.

Of the 150 required semester hours 24 must include a three semester hours from eight of the following subjects:

  • Communications
  • Computer technology
  • Economics
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Humanities/social science
  • International environment
  • Law
  • Management
  • Statistics

If you have earned a Master's degree in accounting, economics, tax law, business administration, finance, or law you have probably completed this requirement.

Other sample subjects you may use to complete the 150 hour requirement are:

  • Business finance
  • Business management
  • Computer science
  • Economics
  • Writing skills
  • Accounting internships

Unlike most states North Carolina does not have any specific business course requirements to qualify to sit for the exam. That being said, the exam covers many business topics so you should plan on including a wide range of accounting related business subjects in your 150 hour requirement.

CPA Exam Requirements in NC

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In North Carolina you will apply for the exam directly through the state board. The exam itself is overseen by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and is given by Prometrics Testing.

The following fees will need to be paid when you register and apply to sit for the exam. Note that there is one administration fee as well as a separate fee for each exam section:

Application fee $230.00
Auditing & Attestation (AUDIT) $208.40
Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR) $208.40
Regulation (REG) $208.40
Business Environments & Concepts (BEC) $208.40

You may apply to schedule one test or all four at the same time; scheduling will be done after your application is approved.

Along with the fees you'll need to fill out the exam application form, which can be downloaded and printed. Your school transcripts must be sent directly from the school and you'll need to provide the following with your application:

  • Passport-type photo
  • Preferred method of contact
  • Three moral character references (non-family)

The exam application requires disclosure of any court records, current or previous legal charges, and probation status if applicable. The application is an affidavit and the board does conduct a background check so be honest with your information.

If you need a special accommodation to sit for the test there are specific forms you may download and complete; this documentation should be included with your initial application as well.

Once you submit your application it will take from 15 to 20 business days for the board to receive your transcripts and process your application. You will receive a Notice to Sit (NTS) in the mail. Keep your NTS in a safe place as you will need to present it for entry to the exam test center. Make sure to verify that your name is correct on the NTS and exactly matches your legal photo ID.

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Sit for the NC CPA exam

Once you receive your NTS you should contact Prometrics to schedule your test or tests. You will be allowed four hours to complete each exam section; they may be taken in any order. You must score a minimum of 75 percent on each exam section and may retake any section you do not pass. The only requirement is that you pass all four sections within an 18 month period.

Prometrics has test centers in the following North Carolina cities:

  • Asheville
  • Charlotte
  • Greensboro
  • Greenville
  • Raleigh
  • Wilmington

There are additional testing centers in South Carolina and Virginia and you may choose any location that is convenient to you.

You should plan on arriving an hour early for your CPA exam. You must have your NTS and valid photo ID in order to gain entry, and these are the only items that you will be allowed to take into the testing room. Prometrics will provide a secure locker for your other personal items.

You'll receive your exam scores via mail during the tabulation month after you take the test: March, June, September, or December. Although the scores are sent by mail they will be available online first. Both NASBA and the NC Board also post score release information on their Twitter and Facebook pages.

Experience needed

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Before you can become a licensed CPA you'll also need to acquire on the job experience. In North Carolina there's a standard requirement of one year of experience but there are six options accepted:

  • One year in public accounting practice under the supervision of a licensed CPA
  • One year private practice under the supervision of a licensed CPA
  • Four years experience of full-time teaching of accounting at an accredited college or university (with specific conditions)
  • Four years of experience in self-employed accounting
  • Four years of accounting experience without licensed CPA supervision
  • An equivalent combination of the above options

If you choose the teaching option the following stipulations are in effect:

Courses must be in the accounting field

Accounting Principles can only be two of the four years

A minimum two years must be in advanced accounting courses with a minimum nine semester hours in at least two of the following:

  • Auditing
  • Advanced managerial accounting
  • Income tax
  • Intermediate financial accounting

A year of experience is considered the equal of 52 weeks of full-time employment of a minimum 30 hours per week. Once you've met the experience requirement you must download the North Carolina Experience Affidavit, filled out by both you and your employer. There is a separate form for teaching experience as well as part-time work experience.

Become a Licensed North Carolina CPA

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Once your experience requirement is met you will be eligible for North Carolina CPA certification. You'll need to submit the following to the NC State Board of CPA Examiners:

  • Certification application
  • Experience Affidavit
  • Recent two-by-two inch passport-type photo
  • Copy of the certificate of completion of the North Carolina Accountancy Statutes and Rules course
  • Check or money order for $100.00 certification fee
  • Three forms from licensed CPAs that attest to your good moral character

Once the board processes your application you'll receive your certificate in the mail and will officially be a licensed North Carolina CPA.

License Renewal and Continuing Professional Education

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In North Carolina you'll need to renew your CPA license every year before July 1st and there is a $60 renewal fee. During the year preceding renewal you are required to complete 40 hours of continuing professional education (CPE). The reporting period for CPE is the calendar year from January 1st to December 31st. Of the 40 hours a minimum two hours must be on regulatory or behavioral professional ethics and conduct. This ethics course may be in a self-study format or in a group-study format.

If you complete more than 40 hours of CPE in a calendar year you may carry over up to 20 hours to the following year excepting the annual required ethics course hours. To receive credit for a CPE course you must attend or complete the course and receive a certificate of completion, and the course must increase the professional competency of the CPA.

Credit for a CPE course must be in one of the seven fields of study recognized by the Board:

  • Accounting and Auditing
  • Consulting Services
  • Ethics
  • Management
  • Business Law
  • Personal Development
  • Special Knowledge and Applications
  • Tax

CPE must take the form of a formal course of learning. The following type of courses may qualify as acceptable continuing education:

  • Courses taken at accredited colleges
  • formal correspondence courses
  • Formal education programs conducted within an association of accounting firms
  • Technical sessions at meetings of national and state accounting organizations
  • Professional development programs of national and state accounting organizations
  • Teaching a CPE course for CPAs
  • Authoring a publication

The following criteria also apply to your annual CPE:

  • No self study course may contain less than 25 minutes of course material.
  • One college semester hour equals 15 CPE hours; One quarter hour equals 10 CPE hours.
  • No CPE credit is given for an audited course.
  • Instruction: Credit is equal to presentation plus preparation. No credit for repeat instruction during the same year.
  • CPE credit for instructing a graduate level college course shall be given based on the number of credit hours the college gives a student for successfully completing the course.
  • Instructor credits are limited to 50 percent of total CPE hours.
  • Credit will not be given for instructing an undergraduate level course.
  • Authorship credits are limited to 25 percent of total hours.