The road to becoming a CPA in South Carolina starts with the right education (an (AB) Associate of Business in Accounting, then a (BBA) Bachelor of Business in Accounting), and continues with passing the Uniform CPA Examination, gaining practical experience and becoming licensed. Learning never stops – CPAs must accrue continuing professional education credits each year.
You must attend a college meeting the standards of the South Carolina Board of Accountancy for the board to accept your educational requirements. Your academic advisor will confirm that your school meets the accreditation standards. You will need a total of 150 semester hours to become a CPA, but you can take the CPA exam if you have at least 120 semester hours. Students must have at least 36 hours in accounting coursework, including:
- Financial accounting
- Managerial or cost accounting.
They must also have at least 36 hours of business coursework, which may include:
- Business law
- Computer science
- Corporate finance
Unlike many other states, South Carolina does not require that someone licensed as a CPA is a state resident. Only those who hold Social Security numbers and are lawful residents of the United States may become CPAs in South Carolina.
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Once a person has accumulated at least 120 semester hours and has a baccalaureate degree, they may sit for the Uniform CPA Examination in South Carolina. It is recommended, however, that applicants have another 30 hours of post-graduate work before taking the exam. That 150 semester hours of education is necessary for licensure in South Carolina, but not for taking the CPA exam.
Fill out the CPA exam application and send it along with your official transcripts and fees to:
CPA Examination Services–SC
P.O. Box 198469
Nashville, TN 37219
Once your application is accepted, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) via the way you indicated in the application: Email, fax or regular mail. The NTS allows you six months in which to sit for one or more of the four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination. There are five CPA exam testing centers in South Carolina. They are in:
- Rock Hill
Schedule your exam online via Prometric, which oversees South Carolina testing centers. Arrive at the testing center at least half an hour prior to the starting time. While you can take any of the four sections of the exam – financial accounting and reporting, auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts and regulation - in any order, you must wait at least two months to retake the same section. You will receive your test results in the mail.
If you do decide to retake a section of the exam, you must submit applicable fees for the exam and registration. Any candidate may take each section of the CPA exam once during a testing window. Dates for each window are:
- January 1 through February 29
- April 1 through May 31
- July 1 through August 31
- October 1 through November 30
As you can see, testing is not conducted in March, June, September or December.
Professional ethics course
Before you can begin your practical work experience, you must pass “Professional Ethics: The AICPA’s Comprehensive Course,” which is available for home study. You must receive a score of at least 90 percent on this ethics test. When you apply for your license, you must attach a copy of the completion certificate to the application.
Once you have passed the CPA exam, you can begin the experience portion necessary to qualify for licensure. In South Carolina, you can gain experience in one of two ways. You must undergo 2,000 hours of experience over the course of one year working in private industry, academia or public accounting. While you may work fulltime or parttime, you cannot work in accounting for more than 40 hours per week. All your experience requires licensed CPA supervision.
The other method of gaining experience lasts for five years and consists of teaching accounting in an accredited South Carolina college or university. Only accounting courses qualify toward this experience, not related business or finance courses. You cannot teach fundamental accounting courses for more than two of the five years. Those courses considered beyond the fundamental level include income tax, advanced accounting, intermediate accounting, auditing, financial accounting, management accounting and cost accounting.
The Certificate of Experience package, available to download, is needed for documentation of your experience. When filling it out, include all dates of employment, your duties and their description. Your supervising CPAs must sign off on this document.
Licensure Requirements in South Carolina
Once your education is complete, your examination passed, and your experience accepted, you are ready to apply for your South Carolina CPA license. You can apply through the Licensing Application After Exam. Send your completed application and a copy of your completion of the ethics course to:
South Carolina Board of Accountancy
P.O. Box 11329
Columbia, SC 29211-1369.
If you are already licensed as a CPA in another state, you may apply for a reciprocal license as long as your state’s licensing criteria, as per the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), is equivalent to those of South Carolina. Currently, only the U.S. Virgin Islands of all U.S. states and territories is not considered equivalent to those of South Carolina. You must have a minimum of four years out of the last 10 years of professional CPA experience, along with completing at least 80 hours of Continuing Professional Education within the past two years. File an Interstate Exchange of Information form verifying your license and continuing education credits along with the South Carolina reciprocity application. Send the information and applicable fees to the South Carolina Board of Accountancy.
Continuing Professional Education Requirements
CPAs licensed in South Carolina must complete 40 semester hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements annually. New CPAs do not have to complete CPE for their first year of licensure. You may carry over a maximum of 20 semester hours from one year to the next. While CPE self-study may account for up to 20 hours of your annual credits, you cannot carry over any self-study hours. One semester hour of a college credit course equals 15 hours of CPE, but one semester hour of a college non-credit course equals just one hour of CPE. Teaching or lecturing may account for up to 20 semester hours per year, but basic accounting or introductory courses do not count. Book or article publishing may account for up to 10 CPE hours annually. You cannot earn more than 10 CPE hours in any one day.
Up to eight of these 40 semester hours may relate to personal development skills, including interviewing, communication, counseling, career planning and management.
Approved program formats for CPE hours include professional development programs and technical sessions for local, state and national accounting organizations. Organized, formal programs offered by your firm also qualify for CPE hours, as do courses offered by colleges and universities and registered NASBA self-study courses.
Report your annual CPE hours each year at the time of license renewal on South Carolina’s CPE reporting form.
It is important to keep CPE records for at least five years. The records you keep must include the course location, name and address of the course sponsor, attendance dates, title and description of course, number of hours and any completion certificates.
Accountant Career Salaries in South Carolina by Occupation
Mean annual wages in South Carolina range higher and lower than the national mean annual wage. The Hilton Head=Buffalo-Beaufort area, this is $71,270 while the employment ratio is a little more than 5 out of every 1,000 jobs. In Florence, the mean annual wage is $54,650 and an employment ratio of a little under 7 per 1,000 jobs. Sumter’s mean annual wage for accountants and auditors is $69,780 with an employment ratio of just under 6 per 1,000 jobs. In Lower Savannah, the mean annual wage is $66,260 with an employment ratio of 5 to 1,000 jobs and, in Columbia, the mean annual salary is $60060 with an employment ratio of almost 10 per 1,000 jobs.
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