New Jersey’s standards for its CPAs follow a similar structure to those of other states.
The accountancy profession is one that is ever in demand. Businesses need accountants that work in-house as auditors. They use the services of taxation professionals and consultants from outside their firms to offer advice. Individual families need accountants to help structure trusts, wills, do taxes and offer wealth-management advice. Accountants also work in Information Technology departments and as forensic investigators alongside law enforcement. Of all the certifications available to an accountant, the most prized is the state-issued Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. Each state has its own requirements for its CPAs, and what follows is how to become a CPA in New Jersey.
New Jersey’s standards for its CPAs follow a similar structure to those of other states. You will need to meet standards for academic work, pass two exams and earn professional experience. You will need a total of 150 semester hours for your license, and 120 of those will be necessary to take the CPA exam. Then, you must take a New Jersey-specific ethics exam and complete one year of supervised work with a licensed CPA. It is vital to study the state’s specific requirements, however, as the New Jersey State Board of Accountancy has exacting standards.
To pass the academic requirements, your schools must be accredited by a regional agency acknowledged by the board. Make sure that your credits are acknowledged by one of the following regional agencies:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Or these professional agencies:
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
As you work through your bachelor’s degree program, your coursework should include certain topics. The state breaks down the requirements according to the level of accreditation your school has achieved, and is designated by the AACSB or ACBSP. There are four academic options based upon whether you achieved an undergraduate or graduate degree and which accrediting agencies are involved. The requirement breakdown is as follows:
- Earn a graduate degree from an accounting program that is accredited by either the AACSB or ACBSP
Earn a graduate degree from a business program that is either AACSB or ACBSP accredited with coursework that meets these criteria:
24 hours in undergraduate accounting, or 15 hours in graduate accounting covering:
- Cost Accounting
Earn a bachelor’s degree from a business school accredited by the AACSB or ACBSP with coursework that includes the following:
- 24 hours of accounting at the graduate or undergraduate level
- 24 hours of business-related (non-accounting) coursework at the undergraduate level
Earn a bachelor’s degree or greater from a regionally accredited school that includes the following coursework:
- 30 hours of accounting coursework
- 24 hours of business-related (non-accounting) coursework at either the graduate or undergraduate level
Once you have graduated with a bachelor’s degree and at least 120 semester hours, you may apply to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination that has been devised by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This is a 4-part exam that is extremely difficult and often requires applicants to re-take one or more parts. The four parts are:
- Financial Accounting and Reporting–This section of the exam covers financial reporting frameworks from industry experts. Candidates are asked to compare statements that reflect different reporting standards.
- Auditing and Attestation–This section will test of your knowledge of the International Standards of Auditing as well as U.S. standards.
- Regulation–This ethics portion of the exam explores your professional and legal responsibilities.
- Business Environment and Concepts–This portion covers general business concepts, including international business. You’ll need to use excellent writing skills to complete this part of the exam.
Once you have passed all four parts of the CPA exam with a minimum score of 75, you can then move on to take the New Jersey law, code and ethics exam. Note that this exam is unique to New Jersey and is different from the AICPA Ethics exam that is required by many other states.
The capstone of the CPA application is the experience portion. To satisfy the board, you must work for one year (approximately 1,750 hours) with a licensed CPA. You may work part-time, but then a minimum of two years will be required. You can work for a public accountancy, a government agency or private industry. Upon completion of your program, your supervisor must attest to your experience with a formal, notarized letter written on official letterhead. The letter can be mailed to this address:
New Jersey State Board of Accountancy
124 Halsey St., 6th Floor
Newark, NJ 07102
New Jersey CPAs are bound to find a wide range of career opportunities within the state. To learn more about becoming a CPA, please visit the Board’s website: New Jersey State Board of Accountancy.
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