California CPA Exam Cost: The 6 Critical Fees

California CPA Exam Cost

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The California CPA exam cost consists of six main fees: an initial application fee of $100, a re-exam application fee of $50, the $226.15 per CPA exam section totaling $905 for all four sections, an initial licensing application fee that costs $250, a hard copy fingerprint processing fee of $49 for Non-California residents and finally the $250 for the biennial license renewal.

This article will help you to become a CPA in California and is a requirement for you to take the California CPA exam.

California CPA Exam Cost Breakdown

Initial Application Fee$100.00
Registration Fee$50.00
Auditing and Attestation (AUD)$226.15
Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)$226.15
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)$226.15
Regulation (REG)$226.15
Total for all 4 CPA Exam Sections$905.00
Initial CPA License Application Fee$250.00
Hard Copy Fingerprint Processing Fee (Non-California residents)$49.00
Biennial License Renewal$250.00

Summary of California CPA Requirements

Credit hours to sit for CPA exam120
Bachelor’s required to sit for CPA examYes
Credit hours in accounting subjects to sit for CPA exam24
Credit hours in business subjects to sit for CPA exam24
Total credit hours to receive CPA license150
Credit hours in “accounting study”1 to receive CPA license20
Work experience required to receive CPA license1 Year
Ethics exam required to get CPA licenseYes

1You must also complete a second core of 20 semester hours of “accounting study” beyond the standard course mentioned above.
You should have no problem meeting this requirement if you earn a Master of Taxation, Master of Accounting, or Master of Laws in Taxation, or take a minimum of 6 semester hours in accounting courses; up to 14 semester hours in business-related subjects; and 9 semester hours in supportive courses like communications and foreign languages that include cultural study.

California CPA Education Requirements

To meet the California CPA education requirements, an applicant must present the completion of 150 semester units that includes 24 semester hours in accounting subjects, 24 semesters in business-related subjects, 20 semesters in accounting study and 10 semesters in ethics study.

While applicants may be able to sit for the exam at 120 credits, the remaining credits must be obtained by the time of the application for licensing.

California Education Requirements

Applicants who want to know the California CPA exam requirements must meet the following educational requirements:

  1. Candidates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree conferral
    • Completion of a bachelor’s degree or higher from a nationally or regionally
      accredited U.S. degree-granting educational institution or the equivalent foreign
      education.
    • Have completed 24-semester units of accounting.
    • Have completed 24-semester units of business-related courses.
  2. Candidates currently enrolled in a master’s degree program
    • Currently enrolled in a program that results in the conferral of a bachelor’s
      degree upon completion of a master’s degree from a nationally or regionally
      accredited U.S. degree-granting educational institution or the equivalent foreign
      education.
    • Have completed 24-semester units of accounting.
    • Have completed 24-semester units of business-related courses.
  3. Candidates currently enrolled in college at the time of application and are within 180 days of completing educational requirements
    • Currently enrolled in a nationally or regionally accredited U.S. degree-granting
      educational institution or the equivalent foreign education.
    • Will complete the following within 180 days of application submission:
      • Bachelor’s degree
      • 24-semester units of accounting.
      • 24-semester units of business-related courses.
    • Will provide satisfactory evidence of degree conferral, completion of 24-semester
      units of accounting, and 24-semester units of business-related courses within
      240 days of application submission.

In addition to earning your bachelor’s degree, you must also complete 150 semester hours, which need to include 24-semester units of accounting-related subjects, 24-semester units in business-related subjects, and 20-semester units in “accounting study”. Most colleges and universities award students a bachelor’s degree after completing 120 credit hours. This means that if you wish to sit for the CPA, you must complete an additional 30 credit hours to be eligible for the CPA exam.

Along with needing to achieve a total number of semester hours, you’re also required to have 24 semester hours in accounting subjects. Qualifying study areas include: 

  • Accounting
  • Financial Reporting
  • External or Internal Reporting
  • Auditing
  • Taxation
  • Financial Statement Analysis

You need another 24 semester hours in business/other related courses. These can include (but are not limited to):

  • Business Law
  • Business Administration
  • Mathematics
  • Finance
  • Business Management
  • Business Communication
  • Marketing
  • Economics
  • Computer Science or Information Systems
  • Statistics

You must also complete a second core of 20 semester hours of “accounting study” beyond the standard course mentioned above.

You should have no problem meeting this requirement if you earn a Master of Taxation, Master of Accounting, or Master of Laws in Taxation, or take a minimum of 6 semester hours in accounting courses; up to 14 semester hours in business-related subjects; and 9 semester hours in supportive courses like communications and foreign languages that include cultural study.

You must also complete 10 credit hours of ethics.

This can include:

  • No more than 10 credit hours in courses like Fraud, Morals, Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Professional Responsibilities, Legal Environment of Business, Corporate Governance, Auditing, Business Leadership, Business Law, Human Resource Management, and Business, Government and Society.
  • No more than 3 credit hours in introductory, foundations, fundamentals, general principles, or survey courses in Philosophy, Religion, and Theology.
  • No more than 1 credit hour in a course on financial statement auditing.

The California Board of Accountancy (CBA) accepts all college credits earned through programs offered at institutions located anywhere in the United States that hold national/regional accreditation from an agency listed in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) database.

If you attended a foreign college or university, a board-approved foreign credential evaluation service must assess your credentials.

Education completed outside of the United States must be evaluated by a CBA-approved credential evaluation service. Evaluations completed by Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), International Education Research Foundation, Inc. (IERF), NASBA International Evaluation Service (NIES),or World Education Services (WES) are submitted to the CBA electronically. For all other
evaluation services, you must request an official, sealed copy to be sent directly to the CBA.

Pass the Uniform CPA Examination

The “Uniform CPA Examination”, which is a 4-part exam, is developed by the AICPA – the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and administered by NASBA – the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

The Four CPA Exam Sections are:

Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

The Auditing and Attestation (AUD) section of the Uniform CPA Examination (the Exam) tests the essential knowledge and skills a newly licensed CPA must demonstrate when performing audit engagements, attestation engagements or accounting and review service engagements.

Newly licensed CPAs are required to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and skills related to professional responsibilities, including ethics, independence and professional skepticism. Professional skepticism reflects an iterative process that includes a questioning mind and a critical assessment of audit evidence.
  • understand the entity including its operations, information systems (including the use of third-party systems) and its underlying business processes, risks and related internal controls.
  • understand the flow of transactions and underlying data through a business process and its related information systems.

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

The Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section of the Uniform CPA Examination (the Exam) tests knowledge and skills that a newly licensed CPA must demonstrate when performing:

  • Audit, attest, accounting and review services
  • Financial reporting
  • Tax preparation
  • Other professional services

The content areas tested under the BEC section of the Exam encompass five diverse subject areas. These content areas are enterprise risk management, internal controls and business processes, economics, financial management, information technology and operations management.

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

The Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section of the Uniform CPA Examination (the Exam) assesses the knowledge and skills that a newly licensed CPA must demonstrate in the financial accounting and reporting frameworks used by business entities (public and nonpublic), not-for-profit entities and state and local government entities.

The financial accounting and reporting frameworks that are eligible for assessment within the FAR section of the Exam include the standards and regulations issued by the:

  • Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (U.S. SEC)
  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
  • Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

Regulation (REG)

The Regulation (REG) section of the Uniform CPA Examination (the Exam) tests the knowledge and skills that a newly licensed CPA must demonstrate with respect to:

  • U.S. federal taxation
  • U.S. ethics and professional responsibilities related to tax practice
  • U.S. business law

Tips for Passing the CPA Exam

The CPA exam covers so many topics that you will need to study specifically for each section, usually for 6-8 weeks per section. Even a master’s degree in accounting doesn’t adequately prepare you to just walk in and pass the 4 CPA exams.

You will need a full review course such as Becker, Wiley CPA, Gleim, Roger, etc, and you will need to dedicate several hours a day over the course of months to even have a chance at getting passing scores.

How to Save Yourself MONTHS of Time and Frustration
Keep in mind that the CPA exam is the one part of getting your CPA license that you can control how long it takes. The education and experience requirements take as long as they take, but the CPA exams can take you as little as 6 months, or as long as multiple years… depending on how effective your study process is from the beginning.
Learn how to study strategically so you can save yourself tons of time and retake fees with this free training…

California Ethics Exam or PETH Exam

To meet the California CPA ethics exam requirements, the state of California requires CPA holders to pass the California Professional Ethics Exam (PETH). While other states require candidates to take the uniform AICPA ethics exam, California has decided to make its own exam to prepare you for ethical problems you may encounter in your professional accounting career.

It’s currently the only exam that the California Board of Accountancy recognizes and accepts. You can order the PETH exam through the CalCPA Education Foundation.

You must pass the 50 multiple-choice questions exam with at least a 90 percent or higher score within 2 years of applying for a CPA license. The exam and its materials cost approximately $150.

California CPA Experience Requirements

The California CPA experience requirements require 12 months of general accounting experience. “General accounting experience” includes providing any type of service or advice involving the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills.

California CPA Experience Requirements to Sign Attest Reports

So the 12-month requirement of general accounting experience is for getting your California CPA license. If you also want to be able to sign attest reports, then you will need the 12 months of general accounting experience, AND 500 hours of attest experience subject to approval by the California Board of Accountancy.

Applying for Your California CPA License

Once you have passed the ethics exam and met California’s experience requirements, you will need to apply for a CPA license.

The application process is pretty straightforward.

On top of your official CPA license application, remember to submit:

  • Work experience documentation
  • A 2”x2” photo of yourself
  • Your Criminal Conviction Disclosure Form (if required)
  • Your fingerprint packet request
  • An initial CPA license application fee of $250

Upon pre-approval of your California CPA license application, you will be required to pay an initial license fee. The initial license fee is independent of the application processing fee. The initial license fee is calculated based on the date of licensure and first expiration date of the new license. Non-California residents pay a $49 hard copy fingerprint processing fee.

The CBA sends approved applicants their CPA wall certificates and congratulatory letters.

Only after receiving your CPA license number should you start practicing public accountancy.

How to Save Yourself MONTHS of Time and Frustration
Keep in mind that the CPA exam is the one part of getting your CPA license that you can control how long it takes. The education and experience requirements take as long as they take, but the CPA exams can take you as little as 6 months, or as long as multiple years… depending on how effective your study process is from the beginning.
Learn how to study strategically so you can save yourself tons of time and retake fees with this free training…

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