A State By State Accounting Guide

5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Illinois

By an Accountingedu contributing writer
Updated July 2014

  1. Get your Education in Illinois
  2. Take the Illinois Uniform CPA Exam
  3. Take the Uniform CPA Exam in Illinois
  4. Get your Illinois CPA License
  5. Pursue Continuing Education in Illinois

As of July 1, 2012, Illinois is no longer considered a “two-tier” state when it comes to CPA certification and licensure. This means that all CPAs in Illinois must now pass the Uniform CPA Exam, gain work experience, and then pursue state licensure in order to gain practice privileges.

This change in regulations brings Illinois in line with the framework of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA), which seeks to get all states on the single tier track to CPA licensure.

1. Get Your Education

Featured Undergraduate Program

*Accredited accounting programs are available in a flexible online format that puts an undergraduate degree in accounting well within reach. Prepare to earn your CPA license and develop the skills employers are looking for with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Featured Graduate Program

*Qualifying for a CPA license requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum and a total of 150 semester hours of college credit to include coursework in accounting, business and ethics. Since bachelor’s programs typically result in just 120 semester hours of credit, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) maintains that earning a Master of Science in Accounting is the best way to achieve the full 150 semester hours you need to become licensed.

a. Request information from Illinois universities and colleges offering programs in accounting. Under rules set forth by the Illinois Board of Examiners, candidates for CPA licensure must have a bachelor’s degree at minimum with at least 150 semester hours of college credit.

b. Verify that the program is accredited by one of the following accrediting organizations:

c. Enroll in the right classes specific to your chosen pogram.

  • Option 1- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution must include:
    • 30 semester hours in accounting at the undergrad or graduate level including:
      • Financial accounting
      • Auditing
      • Taxation
      • Management accounting
      • Two semester hours in research and analysis in accounting
      • No more than three semester hours may come from internships and life experience credits in accounting
    • 24 semester hours in business courses other than accounting at the undergrad or graduate level in subjects such as:
      • Economics
      • Business ethics (may account for no more than 3 semester hours under the business concentration)
      • Business law
      • Marketing
      • Finance
      • Management
      • Business statistics
      • Business communication (may account for no more than 2 semester hours under the business concentration)
      • Information systems
      • Quantitative methods
      • Internship/life experience (may account for no more than 3 semester hours under the business concentration)
  • Option 2- A graduate degree in accounting from an accredited program.
  • Option 3- A graduate degree in business or accounting from an accredited program including:
    • 30 semester hours of undergraduate level accounting courses or the equivalent at graduate level including:
      • Financial accounting
      • Auditing
      • Taxation
      • Management accounting
      • Economics
      • Business ethics (may account for no more than 3 semester hours under the business concentration)
      • Business law
      • Marketing
      • Finance
      • Management
      • Business statistics
      • Business communication (may account for no more than 2 semester hours under the business concentration)
      • Information systems
      • Quantitative methods
      • Internshp/life experience (may account for no more than 3 semester hours under the business concentration)

If you graduated from a college or university outside of the United States, your credentials must be evaluated by the National Association of Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). Contact NASBA International Evaluation Services to begin this process.

2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

After completing the educational requirements listed above, you qualify to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination in Illinois.

a. Submit the final transcript showing completion of education requirements to IBOE. Have your school send original, official transcripts directly to Illinois Board of Examiners (IBOE) at: Illinois Board of Examiners - 1120 E Diehl Rd, Suite 110, Naperville, IL 60563. Alternatively, your school may send transcripts electronically to etranscripts@ilboa.org.

b. Create an account through the Illinois Board of Examiners (IBOE) online system. Complete the credentials evaluation application. Include information from all institutions attended and pay the $175 fee using a credit card.

International candidates have to pay $250 and include original transcript in native language and certified English translations of all documents.

c. After submitting your credentials evaluation application, complete the Initial Examination Request at the Illinois Board of Examiners (IBOE) online system using the online system and pay the fees. The fees vary from $40 to $120 based on the number of exam sections you wish to take.

Print out the transfer of credit application and request for special accommodations form in your application, if either are applicable.

d. Wait to receive an approval letter from IBOE authorizing you to take the exam. You will also receive a payment coupon from NASBA, which is good for 90 days. If you do not pay within 90 days, your authorization to test will expire and you’d have to re-apply. NASBA will issue a Notice to Schedule (NTS) after you have paid your fees. Be sure to add cbtpayment@nasba.org, cbtnts@nasba.org, and cpaexam@nasba.orgto your email address book.

e. Schedule your exam through Prometric’s website. You can take anywhere from 1 – 4 sections in one exam sitting. There is no testing in March, June, September, or December.

f. Prepare for your scheduled exam sections using the many review courses, programs, and books available to you. Report to the exam site on time.

g. Wait to receive notification of your score from the Illinois Board of Examiners by mail.

For detailed information on the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.

3. Acquire the Necessary Experience

The next step in your quest to become a CPA in Illinois is to fulfill experience requirements.

After passing the uniform CPA exam, take the following steps:

a. Take and pass a course on professional ethics offered by the AICPA. You must score at least 90% on this open-book exam before being issued a CPA certificate. Request that AICPA send the Ethics exam results to Illinois Board of Examiners (IBOE).

Once you have passed the Uniform CPA Exam and the AICPA Ethics Exam, you will receive automatic certification as a CPA from the Illinois Board of Examiners. However, you are not yet licensed as a CPA.

b. In order to get your CPA license, you must obtain one year of supervised experience in a position within government, industry, academia or public practice where you provide service or advice in:

  • Accounting
  • Attestation
  • Management advisory
  • Financial advisory
  • Tax consultation or services

c. Document work experience and have it confirmed by your supervising CPA. The documentation will take place on the Verification of Employment/Experience form fond within the Application for CPA licensure packet (see below). This experience need not be supervised by a licensed CPA, but must be supervised.

4. Get Your Illinois CPA License

Once you have completed your experience, you are eligible to apply for an Illinois CPA license.

a. Checklist - If you are a first-time Illinois CPA license applicant, here is a checklist of what you have done so far towards obtaining your Illinois CPA license:

  • Earned a bachelor’s or graduate degree with a minimum of 150 credit hours with a minimum of 24 hours in accounting plus an additional 30 hours in business courses
  • Applied to the Illinois Board of Examiners for credential verification.
  • Taken and passed all four sections of the CPA exam
  • Passed the AICPA ethics test with a score of 90% or better
  • Worked in an accounting job in order to get experience of one year

b. Download and print the application packet, making sure to follow the directions in its completion as they apply to you. You will most likely be applying by Acceptance of Examination. Submit any required supporting documentation. The packet includes a Verification of Experience form you will provide to your employer to complete.

c. Send the complete application packet and specified fees to Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, ATTN: Division of Professional Regulation, P.O. Box 7007, Springfield, IL 62791

Interstate reciprocity

If you hold a valid certificate or license from a state that is substantially equivalent to Illinois, you can apply for registration or licensure directly with the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and do not need to obtain certification from the Illinois Board of Examiners.

If you hold a valid license from a jurisdiction considered conditionally substantially equivalent or not substantially equivalent, contact the Illinois Board of Examiners for further information regarding receiving certification and/or licensure.

International reciprocity

International CPAs who wish to practice in Illinois are evaluated on six different factors:

  1. The official standing of the school that awarded the qualifications
  2. Academic level the credentials correspond to
  3. Verification of the credentials
  4. The position of the qualifications in the issuing country
  5. The standing of the credential in the country where they were issued and
  6. Corresponding amount and quality of education the qualification would equate to in the United States

International candidates with CPA equivalent credentials are eligible to be licensed in Illinois. At present the designations deemed equivalent are those granted through the following:

  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA)
  • Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA)
  • Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)
  • Instituto Mexicano de Contadores Públicos (IMCP)
  • New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA)
  • Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants

Candidates with designations granted through these bodies need to take and pass pass the International Qualifications Exam (IQEX) in order to be licensed in Illinois.

5. Maintain your licensure through continuing professional education (CPE)

After obtaining the Illinois CPA license, you need to comply with the continuing professional education requirements.

a. Licensed CPAs in Illinois must obtain 120 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) every three years. Four hours out of these 120 hours must cover ethics. Licensed CPAs are exempt from CPE requirements for their first renewal.

b. Find CPE courses for subsequent renewals that are offered by approved sponsors on the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) registry or through the Illinois CPA Society.

c. Maintain record of your hours for each three-year period between renewals.

Now that you're a CPA in Illinois

Consider joining a professional organization in order to stay current on topics that affect accounting practices across the nation and in Illinois. The American Institute of CPAs is a national organization that sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for external audits of private companies, non-profit organizations, federal, state, and local governments.

Similarly, the Illinois CPA Society is a professional organization that represents Illinois CPAs in public accounting and consulting, corporate accounting and finance, as well as in government and nonprofit work. The Illinois CPA Society offers various opportunities for continuing education through conferences, courses, webcasts, chapter events and other programs that cover a multitude of professional development topic areas. It also offers self-study, on-site learning and computer courses in partnership with other organizations.