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 when you pass the CPA Exam, gaining practical experience and becoming licensed. The process to become a Certified Public Accountant is continuous – CPAs must accrue continuing professional education credits each year.


Education Requirements

You must attend a college meeting the standards of the South Carolina State Board of Accountancy for the state board to accept your educational experience requirements. Your academic advisor will confirm that your school meets the accreditation standards. You will need a total of 150 credit hours to become a CPA, but you can sit for the CPA Exam if you have at least 120 credit hours. Students must have at least 36 hours in accounting coursework before they become a Certified Public Accountant, including:

  • Auditing
  • Taxation
  • Financial accounting
  • Managerial or cost accounting.

CPA candidates must also have at least 36 hours of business coursework prior to becoming a CPA, which may include:

  • Business law
  • Computer science
  • Corporate finance
  • Economics
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Statistics.
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Residency requirements

Unlike many other states, South Carolina does not require that someone licensed as a Certified Public Accountant CPA is a state resident. Only those who hold Social Security numbers and are lawful residents of the United States have the opportunity of becoming a CPA in South Carolina.

Campus and Online Degree Options in South Carolina

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Associate Degree

An associate degree generally takes two years to complete. These degree holders can attain entry-level accounting jobs working in various accounting departments and accounting firms. CPA candidates can either use this experience to move up in their career or to go back to school and earn a higher-level degree. Learn More

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Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete. Those with bachelor’s degrees can prepare and sit for the CPA Exam, though CPA candidates may still need to earn a few credits. Jobwise these accountants can work in entry-level positions and may even be able to manage a small team. CPA candidates will also be well prepared for promotions, though high-level management positions may still be out of reach. Learn More

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Master’s Degree

Those who pursue a master’s degree in accounting can work in high-level management positions in an organization. They may also be able to pursue teaching at the community college or technical school level, especially if they hold a Certified Public Accountant CPA licence. Master’s degree programs can take from 18-36 months to complete. Learn More

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Doctorate or PhD

This is almost always attained by someone who wants to teach accounting on the collegiate level. Colleges and universities often require tenure track professors to hold a terminal degree. Doctorate degrees can take years to finish and require either an exit exam or a dissertation on an accounting or finance topics. Learn More

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Online Degree Programs

Many colleges and universities offer degrees of all levels in an online format. The quality of these programs has increased, and you can now expect nearly identical outcomes whether you attend full-time on-campus or part-time through distance or online learning options. Learn More

Exam Requirements

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Once a person has accumulated at least 120 credit hours and has a baccalaureate degree, they may sit for the CPA Exam in South Carolina. It is recommended, however, that applicants have another 30 hours of post-graduate work before you take the CPA Exam. That 150 credit hours of education is necessary for licensure in South Carolina, but not to take the CPA exam.

Fill out the CPA exam application and send it along with your official transcripts and fees to:

CPA Exam Services–SC
P.O. Box 198469
Nashville, TN 37219

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Exam scheduling

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 Exam. There are five CPA exam testing centers in South Carolina. They are in:

  • Charleston
  • Columbia
  • Greenville
  • Florence
  • Rock Hill

Schedule your CPA 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 CPA 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 CPA 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.

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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 exam. When you apply for your license, you must attach a copy of the completion of the ethics exam to the application.

Experience Needed

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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 Certified Public Accountant 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

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Once your education is complete, you pass the CPA Exam, and your experience accepted, you are ready to apply for your South Carolina Certified Public Accountant 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 State Board of Accountancy
P.O. Box 11329
Columbia, SC 29211-1369.

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Reciprocal licensing

If you are already have a Certified Public Accountant CPA license in another state, you may apply for a reciprocal CPA 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 Certified Public Accountant 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 State Board of Accountancy.

Continuing Professional Education Requirements

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CPAs licensed in South Carolina must complete 40 credit hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) experience requirements annually. New CPAs do not have to complete CPE for their first year of licensure. You may carry over a maximum of 20 credit 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 credit hour of a college credit course equals 15 hours of CPE, but one credit hour of a college non-credit course equals just one hour of CPE. Teaching or lecturing may account for up to 20 credit 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 Concentrations & Salaries in South Carolina

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Accounts Payable/Receivable Clerks

A person with an associate degree can be hired as an accounts payable and/or receivable clerk. They process what is owed by customers and ensure that the balances in each account are accurate. Those covering receivables will maintain records of the debts of the company and make sure that monthly debts are paid on time, such as the internet, rent, etc. Both of these positions will report to a higher level accountant within the company or a controller. Learn More

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Full-charge Bookkeeper

A bookkeeper performs the same tasks as an accountant up to generating and submitting final reports. They post transactions into the accounting system and make sure everything is balanced by maintaining the general ledger. Most full-charge bookkeepers hold bachelor’s degrees but some with associate degrees are successful working for smaller companies. There is also a bookkeeper certificate you can earn if you want to work with multiple clients and need a way to prove your worth and grow your company. Learn More

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Auditors

Those with advanced degrees and proper certifications can become auditors. An auditor works to track down errors found in accounting reports. They work closely with the accountant or controller on site to locate errors, or a large company may actually keep an auditor or two on staff to maintain their books. Learn More

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.

Annual Mean Wage 10th Percentile 25th percentile 50th percentile 75th percentile 90th percentile
$64,220 $34,880 $44,650 $57,990 $76,110 $99,520

South Carolina Accounting Frequently Asked Questions

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Is certification required?

You don’t have to sit for and pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, or any other specific certification, in order to become a general accountant but it can make you more marketable and in demand in the field. Those who hold this certification and others can command higher salaries, and only CPAs and enrolled agents are the only accountants that can file reports with the SEC and defend clients to the IRS, something larger corporation may consider a plus.

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Are there accounting jobs available in the state?

There are accounting jobs available in throughout the US. According to Projections Central and the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors will be in demand between 2018 and 2028. It’s anticipated that South Carolina will have over 2,000 openings for accountants during this time and, considering the size of the state, this is a significant number of job opportunities.

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How much can a person earn as an accountant in Rhode Island?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants in Rhode Island have a median annual salary of just under $64,000. CPAs and accountants with advanced degrees have greater earning potential, but you can increase your income with experience and lower-level certifications as well.

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Are there online degree options in the state of Rhode Island?

Yes, there are online degree options available in most states in the US at this point. Over the last 10-15 years, the quality and availability of online degrees have increased exponentially. You’ll still need to verify that the degree has accreditation, but you won’t have to worry about an employer not taking you seriously just because you took your courses in an online format.


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