It can be overwhelming to sort out all of the steps you’ll need to take before you’re eligible to become a CPA. To become a Certified Public Accountant CPA, you need to obtain a bachelor's degree and complete the experience requirements. After you complete your education, you will need to take the CPA exam to become a certified public accountant CPA. When you pass the CPA state boards exam in your state, you will become a certified public accountant. Becoming a CPA is challenging but rewarding. Here’s a guide to what can expect in the process of becoming a licensed CPA in Pennsylvania.
Complete Your Education Requirements
To get started on your education path, you can start with a accelerated associate accounting program. Before you’re eligible to sit for the CPA Exam, the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy requires that you complete a bachelor’s degree and at least 150 semester hours of college credit.
Your credit hours must include the following:
24 semester hours in the field of accounting, including:
- Three semester hours in general accounting
- Three semester hours in business law, finance, taxation, or auditing
The remaining 18 hours may be comprised of any combination of business law, finance, taxation, and/or auditing.
According to the Board, acceptable finance courses may not contain the words “money” or “banking”.
Correspondence, CLEP, and/or online courses may qualify if credits are received from an accredited institution.
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Campus and Online Degree Options in Pennsylvania
A two-year degree generally requires four semesters, or two years, of study. Students will receive a foundational education for their chosen career and complete many courses that make up the general education of a bachelor’s degree as well. For many, this will be adequate to attain entry-level positions working with various parts of the accounting systems such as accounts receivables or accounts payables and they may go on to earn a bachelor’s degree while they work. Learn More
Those who attain a bachelor’s degree can seek jobs as accountants with companies and may even be able to move into management once they have enough experience, but will not be able to perform specialist work without earning some form of certification. With a bachelor's degree you are eligible to become a CPA. A CPA is the most in-demand form of certification available, but there are a dozen useful certifications which can boost your resume and help you move up in the field. Learn More
Attaining a master’s degree in accounting or a related field usually means a person intends to focus on a particular area of accounting, such as managerial accounting or auditing. These individuals can also earn a management position or take the educational path and teach accounting at the collegiate level. A master’s degree can take between 18 and 36 months to complete, depending on the concentration. Learn More
Doctorate or PhD
A PhD in Accounting sets a person up to be an expert in their field of study. Many times, the doctorate is focused on a particular aspect of accounting or auditing. These people also might decide to pursue a tenure track position at a college or university, or they might go into research or policy. A doctorate degree can take several years to complete and often include a dissertation related to their area of study. Learn More
Online Degree Programs
Accounting degrees can be pursued online within the state and from all over the country. Many schools have converted their accounting programs so they can be completed entirely online without losing any of the quality of the educational program. This includes all levels of education, from an associate degree to a doctorate degree. Learn More
Taking the Uniform CPA Exam
After you have received your Bachelor of Science degree online or on-campus (Preferably a BAcc or BAcy) and completing at least 120 semester hours of the required 150, you will be eligible to become a CPA. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
Submit an application to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) CPA Exam Services (CPAES). You can apply online, or download the application packet from NASBA’s website.
Along with your completed application, you’ll need to make sure that CPAES receives the following:
- Official transcripts mailed from directly from your school to: CPA Exam Services, Pennsylvania Coordinator, PO Box 198469, Nashville, TN 37219-8469 (electronic transcripts may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Exam application fee, either mailed with your paper application or paid online by credit card
Candidates with disabilities requiring testing accommodations should also submit an ADA Accommodation Form along with the application packet.
You should expect to receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) in the mail within four weeks of sending in your application. You must schedule your exam date within six months of getting your NTS. Your NTS is only valid for one exam date once scheduled.
Schedule your testing date on the Prometrics website. You’ll be able to choose to take your exam in one of the following Pennsylvania testing locations:
- Clarks Summit
Be sure to arrive at your chosen location on time and prepared to pass the CPA Exam.
You can expect to receive scoring results in the mail once your test has been scored.
Work Requirements Prior to Licensing
Once you pass the CPA Exam, you’ll be able to start accruing the work experience needed to get your Pennsylvania CPA license.
Before you’re eligible to become a CPA, you must complete one year (1600 hours) of relevant work experience. This may take place in a private industry or government setting, and must be verified by a current licensed CPA.
Experience that does not count toward your work requirements include the following:
- Self employment
- Experience gained as a partner in a partnership
- Work supervised by an unlicensed CPA
- Work performed at a different firm outside the supervision of your verifying CPA
Your work experience should provide you with a suitable working knowledge of these concentrations (at minimum):
- Auditing financial statements
- Financial projections, analyses and forecasts
- Operational and compliance audits
- Internal auditing
- Management advisory services
- Preparing financial statements
- Preparing income and non-profit tax returns
- Tax research
Once you’ve completed your required experience hours, you are on track to becoming a CPA you’ll need to complete the top portion of the Verification of Employment form. Give the form to your verifying CPA to complete, along with a stamped envelope addressed to: Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy, P.O. Box 2649, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649.
Your verifying CPA must meet the following requirements to be considered qualified as a valid source of attestation:
- Must have held a valid license for the duration of the candidate’s employment
- Must have either employed the candidate or worked with the candidate during employment
- Must have personally witnessed the candidate’s work for evaluation purposes
- Must correctly fill out the Verification of Employment form (along with documentation of experience hours worked by the candidate), sign and date, and submit to the Board
After completing your work requirements, you’ll be ready to apply for your licensure.
Getting Your Pennsylvania CPA License
Before submitting your application to become a CPA, double check to ensure you’ve finished all of the Board’s licensure requirements. Here’s a checklist of all the steps you should have completed:
- Obtained a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
- Completed 150 semester hours with 24 hours in accounting
- Passed the Uniform CPA Exam
- Completed one full year (1600 hours) of verified work experience
- Obtained verification of your employment from a licensed CPA, who should have submitted the Verification of Employment form
If you’ve finished all the steps, you should be eligible for CPA licensure.
Download the Certified Public Accountant Certification Application packet from the Board’s website. This is Pennsylvania’s equivalent of licensing, and you’ll achieve both when your application is accepted.
Keeping Your CPA Certification Valid
To make sure you’re caught up to speed on current rules and regulations, you’ll need to complete a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirement of 80 hours every two years. This includes a minimum requirement of 20 CPE hours each year, as well as the following specifications:
- 16 hours in accounting and attestation
- Four hours in professional ethics
- Eight hours in tax topics
Qualifying CPE programs may focus on these subjects:
- Advisory and consulting services
- Auditing services
- Professional development
- Taxation and tax services
One course credit hour is equal to 50 minutes of CPE time.
You’ll need to maintain documentation of CPE hours earned, including certification of completion, dates of hours earned, transcripts (if taking credit courses), and/or course materials.
You may also consider joining an organization of CPAs to stay in the loop about goings-on in the world of accounting. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is a nationwide option that provides great networking opportunities. Locally, the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs and/or the Pennsylvania Society of Public Accountants might be worthwhile groups to join.
Accountant Career Concentrations & Salaries in Pennsylvania
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
This is the accountant most people think of. They have full charge of the accounting process including filing tax returns and reports with the SEC. A CPA must have completed their degree, and sit for and pass the CPA exam. Learn More
Accounts Payable/Receivable Clerk
A person with an associate degree can be hired as an accounts payable or receivable clerk. This person processes all accounts payable and ensures that the accountant has accurate balances for all the payable accounts. On the receivable side, they ensure accounts are current so that a company knows which companies or individuals have balances. Accounts payable or receivable clerks report to an accountant or office manager. Learn More
An accountant may decide that they prefer the idea of teaching accounting rather than working in a business as an accountant. These individuals normally hold a minimum of a graduate degree in business or accounting, and CPAs are highly desired.
Pennsylvania’s mean annual range is somewhat lower than the national mean annual wage. Still, salaries can approach the national mean. The northern Pennsylvania non-metro area’s mean annual wage is $60,510 with an employment ratio of 6.34 per 1,000. Pittsburgh’s mean annual wage is $72,000 and an employment ratio of 10.38 per 1,000. Chambersburg-Waynesboro’s mean annual wage tops out at $65,520, with an employment quotient of 4.94 per 1,000. as Johnstown’s is $70,880, with an employment quotient of 6.67 per 1,000. Lebanon’s mean annual wage is $68,740, and an employment quotient of 4.96 per 1,000.
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Pennsylvania Accounting Frequently Asked Questions
Is certification required?
An accountant that files reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission is required to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Accountants that do not file reports with the SEC are not required to be CPAs but there are plenty of other certifications that can give you extra clout in the accounting community and boost your resume.
Are there accounting jobs available in the state?
There are accounting jobs available in every state in the US, as they are needed in every industry. According to Projections Central and the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, accountants and auditors will be in moderate demand between 2018 and 2028. It’s anticipated that Pennsylvania will have over 3,400 openings for accountants in this time. That makes now the perfect time to get into the field and gain seniority.
How much can a person earn as an Accountant in Pennsylvania?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants on average earn $76,000 annually. Those with certifications such as a CPA or an advanced degree have even higher earning potential, the same as those in larger cities, larger companies, and those with more experience in the field.
Are there online degree options in the state of Pennsylvania?
Several schools in the state of Pennsylvania offer online degree programs and many of the available programs in the state can be completed at least partially online. This includes both undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting, business, and finance.