The road to becoming a CPA is long and hard, but it's one of the most rewarding journeys you'll ever embark upon. The CPA license is one of the most highly prized credentials in the business world. In fact, every business owner relies on their CPAs to keep their endeavors afloat. Auditing, preparing tax documents, and managerial advisory and just three of many tasks you will perform for your clients over the course of your career.
To qualify for your CPA license, you will need to satisfy specific requirement set forth by your state's board of accounting. The North Dakota State Board of Accountancy's requirements are not too far from those of other states, but you still need to be aware of their specific requirements.
Educational Requirements for a North Dakota CPA License
Education is a huge part of becoming a CPA. In fact, your time spent studying will account for the largest bulk of time along the way. This is because, throughout your career you will constantly refer back to lessons you learned in academia. Then, to maintain your license, you will likely return for more classes, if not another degree.
The initial application for North Dakota requires that you complete a total of 150 semester hours of college-level coursework. These hours should encompass a major concentration in accounting or an equivalent. The board requires at least 24 hours in upper-level accounting courses. That is, courses such as Intro to Accounting or Principles of Accounting will not suffice for the Board, even though they may be prerequisites in your department. For your other credits, you can elect to take business-related courses that will round off your education. Consider some of the following courses as part of your 150-hour requirement:
- Programming languages
- IT auditing
- Computer forensics
Business writing and/or communications
North Dakota not only wants to see that you have satisfied the required number of courses and credits, but that you have done so at quality institutions. To determine whether or not your college or university qualifies, check into their accreditation. If they are accredited by a regional agency, then you are probably okay. The following list encompasses the major recognized accrediting agencies:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools--Higher Learning Commission
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges--Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges--Commission for Senior Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools--Commission on Colleges
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
If you have attended a non-accredited institution, your credits may be accepted if they are transferred to an accredited school. If this is the case, there's a good chance that you might have to re-take some courses. Consider this a good chance to review and expand your knowledge. After all, ever CPA must be a lifelong learner.
For those coming to the North Dakota Board with an education from a foreign institution, you must have each course evaluated by an agency such as the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. Their International Evaluation Services will verify your credits for the Board. NASBA's IES is the only such evaluation accepted by up to 20 other states. North Dakota also accepts evaluations from the Foreign Academic Credential Service.
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CPA Examination Requirements
In order to sit for the CPA examination, North Dakota asks that you be at lest within six months of completing your academic requirements and pay a $120 application fee. When you are ready, go to the Board's website and retrieve an application from their forms tab.
The CPA Exam application includes several personal items. For instance, you will be asked to account for any name changes, previous licensure history, adult criminal history, and previous experience sitting for the exam. On top of that, you will need three references that will attest to your moral character. They will not accept family members or fellow students. Seek references from your favorite professors or any professional contacts you might have.
The application also requires a 2x2 photo such as a passport portrait. You can have the photo attached when the form is notarized. Finally, you will have to send the Board your official transcripts.
If you are still taking courses, you may take the exam, under certain provisions. First, you must provide a transcript that includes your current enrollment status – the courses you are taking. If you have not yet graduated, you must show a current GPA that is at or above the minimum required GPA for graduation.
Before officially taking your CPA license, you must put your academic experience into action. The North Dakota Board requires that you complete a full year's worth of employment under the direct supervision of a licensed CPA. You may work in any of the following environments: government, industry, academia, or public accounting. They also accept foreign experience under a CA – if you are in Australia, Canada, Ireland, or New Zealand. The Board may accept experience from other nations, but please inquire prior to accepting such a position.
During your tenure, you should exercise the following skills:
- Management advisory
- Financial advisory
- Tax preparation
As you move through this first year, make sure that you account for all of your time performing any of the above skills. Include any other pertinent information, such as the client involved or any particulars of their case or account. When you have completed your tenure and are ready to submit your experience to the licensure committee, you will need to have your supervisor sign and notarize your experience portfolio.
To become a North Dakota CPA, you will need to satisfy seven general qualifications:
You must be of good character.
You must pass all four parts of the Uniform CPA Examination.
Complete the AICPA's comprehensive course in ethics.
Work for one full year as a full-time employee, under the direct supervision of a licensed CPA.
Provide all the details required for your CPA credentials.
Pay all required fees.
Complete the Board's education requirements.
To prepare for these requirements, you will need to work with your academic adviser to ensure that you take the required number of courses. You also need to ensure that your institution is fully accredited and meets the Board's standards for quality education. Work with your accounting or business department to find appropriate internships, which may be handy when seeking to fulfill the Board's experience requirement. That is, if you start interning at a firm early enough, you might be able to secure a job while working towards full licensure. You can also start cultivating the personal contacts you need to attest to your fine moral character.
Continuing Professional Educational Units
Congratulations! You are a CPA. To maintain your license with the state of North Dakota, you will need to continue to learn more about your profession. During every licensure period, three years, you will need to complete 120 hours of continuing education. As of this writing, the board is considering requiring a minimum of 20 CPE hours per year. This conforms with the AICPA's requirements, which is an association you are likely to join.
Your CPE transcripts should reflect six hours of ethics training for every three year period. You can take this, or other CPE units, through any Board-certified CPE provider. You can find CPE opportunities at state or national accounting conferences, online webinars, or your local college or university. Look for courses that cover topics such as:
- Business advisory services
CPEs can also be awarded as a result of personal research and writing. That is, if you have an essay or book published, you can receive credit for that. You can also receive credit when you give a lecture or teach a course. This might be full-credit course at a university or a continuing education class on finance at your local community college. Note that you may only count the first course or lecture towards your CPE requirement. That is, if you lecture on auditing, you cannot use that same lecture multiple times to satisfy the Board.
In case the Board ever has a question regarding your CPEs, you should keep records of all of your coursework for at least five years. For every course, make sure you have a note of the time, place, instructor, sponsor (association, college, etc), certificate of completion, and the total number of CPE hours you claimed for that course or lecture, etc.
A career in accountancy can take you to many different places, but you'll never forget how you first attained your license. With the above information, you will be on a smooth track to success. Congratulations!