Accountancy is a varied and exciting field that is perpetually in a state of growth. Nearly every business needs an accountant for taxes, if not for financial dealings such as a merger, restructuring, or even a computer systems audit. The pinnacle career of the accounting profession is the Certified Public Accountant, who not only has work experience but has passed a difficult test that many say is even more difficult than the lawyers’ Bar Exam. Each state has its own requirements for how to become a CPA. Here’s how to become a CPA in Alabama.
Becoming a CPA in Alabama
Alabama is one of few states that has a citizenship requirement for CPAs. You will also need a valid Social Security number. Alabama is a two-tier state that has further requirements for those who pass the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) examinations. The state also has a minimum age requirement of 19. If you wish to move to Alabama and practice accountancy, you will need to be a citizen or provide proof that you are legally inhabiting the United States. You must also provide your transcripts, test scores and pay any license fees.
The educational prerequisites for a CPA involve a rigorous educational background. There are three ways to qualify for the CPA exam in Alabama. You may have a bachelor’s degree that meets certain requirement for coursework, or, if you have a master’s degree, you may qualify via one of two options.
If you have a bachelor’s degree, you must have studied:
- Nine credit hours of Financial Accounting
- Six hours each of Auditing and Taxation
- Three hours of Management Accounting
- Three hours of Government and Non-Profit Accounting
- Six hours of Electives in Accounting
- Three Semester hours in Business Law
- 27 graduate or undergraduate hours in business courses
Another option is to achieve a graduate level degree in accounting from a school accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business or some other accrediting body recognized by the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy.
If you have a master’s degree in business, you can still qualify, but you must meet the same requirements as the undergraduate option. If, for instance, you took several accounting courses in your undergraduate degree program, you might be able to count them towards the requirements for the CPA exam. If this sounds like your situation, discuss your transcript with a representative of the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy.
When you have qualified to take the CPA exam, be sure that you are ready with your checkbook. The costs and fees amount to nearly $1,000, which may be forfeited if you don’t take the exam within six months of scheduling. You can pay for each of the four sections of the test separately, however, and if you need to retake a section, the re-examination fee is $50, half of the initial exam application fee. The costs for each section are:
- Auditing – $215
- Business Environment and Concepts – $185
- Financial Accounting and Reporting – $215
- Regulation – $185
Each of the sections must be passed with a score of 75 or better. Then, after you have managed to pass, there are still a few more things to do before you receive your full CPA credentials. There is an Ethics exam which you must pass, and you will need to pay your annual dues of $75 and make sure that all of your paperwork is submitted to the Alabama board.
The Ethics Exam is a special part of the CPA process that is either written by the state board or the AICPA. In Alabama, you will take the AICPA test, which is an open-book test. Since you must pass the test with a score of 90—and within 2 years of your license application, it is vital that you prepare and take your time while taking the test. The AICPA has an online preparation course for the test, and there is a CD-ROM available that includes an 11 hour course and 40 multiple-choice practice questions.
If you pass the exam and meet all of Alabama’s requirements, the state will issue a certificate. To complete the full CPA, you will need to have experience in the field. Alabama requires that you have one year of full-time employment in a public accountancy firm before you receive your full license. You can also satisfy the board’s requirements with two years of full-time employment within a private firm. That work experience must include work in the private sector, government, or academics.
If you are still in your undergrad years and your goals include passing the CPA exam, you might want to take internships or part-time work with a public accountancy firm. This will help you land your first job and prepare you for success as a CPA.
For more information, including contact information, testing times and places, please visit the Alabama Board’s website: Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy.
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