5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Texas
By Susan Maphis, Accountingedu contributing writer
Updated April 2013
- Earn a Qualifying Degree
- Take the Uniform CPA Exam in Texas
- Gain the Necessary Experience in Texas
- Get your Texas CPA License
- Continuing Education in Texas
Texas levies no individual income tax on its residents, nor does it have a corporate income tax. These and other provisions within the state’s tax code that allow residents to keep more of what they earn are factors that have lead many wealthy individuals and businesses to relocate to Texas over the years. The specialized services that CPAs offer are in greater demand in Texas than in many other states.
1. Get Your Education
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*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. Query Texas schools for information on their accounting programs. The Texas Public Accountancy Act of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy states that all certified public accountants in the state need at least 150 semester hours of college credit and a bachelor’s degree.
b. If you are still attending college or have just graduated, make sure that the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy will accept your credits. Colleges that are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools--Commission on Colleges and offer a bachelor’s degree or higher are automatically recognized by the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy. If your school is accredited by one of the following regional accreditation agencies AND has a business school or accounting program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-International (AACSB), it may also be recognized by the Board:
- If your school does not meet these accreditation requirements, you must appeal to the Board for its recognition and approval.
- If you attended any of the following types of schools or took the following types of coursework, they do not count towards credit with the Board:
- Technical or vocational schools
- Continuing education coursework
- CPA review coursework
- Correspondence and/or extension programs and schools
- Two-year colleges
- Community colleges- with the exception noted below
- If you hold a bachelor’s degree from any of the following Texas community colleges that have approved accounting programs, you qualify to take the Uniform CPA Exam:
- Mountain View Community College
- Lone Star College
- Houston Community College
- Austin Community College
- If you attended school outside of the country, your credits must be evaluated. The Texas State Board of Public Accountancy has contracted with an evaluator at the University of Texas at Austin-Graduate and International Admissions Center to provide these services. To request a form for evaluation of foreign credentials, contact the TSBPA at (512) -305-7851 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
c. Sign up for suitable classes. You need to achieve at least 150 semester hours of credit and at least a bachelor's degree. Your courses must include:
- One face-to-face, traditional classroom-style three-semester hour ethics course that covers ethical theory; AICPA, SEC and the Board’s accountancy rules; core values; independence; objectivity; integrity and ethical reasoning. A link to Board-approved ethics courses may be found here.
- 30 semester hours of upper –division accounting courses which should include subjects such as:
- Managerial/cost accounting
- Financial accounting, that may include up to 9 semester hours of intermediate accounting; advanced accounting; and accounting theory
- Financial statement analysis
- Internal accounting control and risk assessment
- Auditing and attestation services
- Taxation (must take at least 2 semester house and can take up to 12 semester hours, including tax research and analysis)
- Accounting research and analysis (must take at least 2 semester hours)
- Accounting information systems (up to 12 semester hours)
- Financial accounting/reporting for government/nonprofit organizations
- International accounting and financial reporting
- Fraud examination
- Public accounting coursework (up to 3 semester hours)
- Accounting internship (not longer than 3 semester hours, and not taken until you have completed 12 semester hours of upper level accounting courses)
- 24 semester hours of upper-level business courses, with no more than 6 semester hours in any subject area. Subjects may include:
- Information systems/technology
- Areas related to accounting
- Statistics and quantitative methods
- Business or accounting communications (you must take at least 2 semester credit hours in upper-level coursework in this subject)
- Business law (includes Uniform Commercial Code)
2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam
Once you have completed 150 semester hours of credit and earned at least a bachelor’s degree, you may apply to take the Uniform CPA Examination.
a. Complete the Application of Intent of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy (TSBPA). This will help the Board evaluate your credits and moral character and determine that you are ready to take the Uniform CPA Exam. Documentation that must be sent with this application includes:
- Completed Application of Intent
- Official transcripts from all institutions attended
- A 2” x 2” photograph of your head and shoulders
- Certified, notarized copy of your government issued identification (such as a driver’s license or passport)
- Certified, notarized copy of your social security card
- Notarized Authorization and Release form for background check
- Official certificate of good moral character
- ADA accommodations request, if necessary
- $50 application fee
Mail the completed application and all of the necessary supporting documents to: Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900.
b. Once the Board has approved your Application of Intent, you will be mailed instructions to file a CPA Examination Application.
c. After the Board has approved your Application of Intent, complete the online Eligibility Application, which goes to both the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). At this time you must also pay via credit card $15 to the TSBPA for each section of the Uniform CPA Exam you intend to take.
d. Within 24 to 48 hours, you will electronically receive an Approval Notice from TSBPA, giving you a 90-day deadline to take the sections of the exam for which you have signed up.
e. After receiving the Approval Notice, you will receive an Exam Fee Payment Coupon from NASBA via mail, email or fax (depending upon the method you selected at the time of application). You may pay these fees via check or money order by mail or online via credit card.
f. Once they have received your exam fees, NASBA will send you a Notice to Schedule via mail, email or fax (depending upon the method you pre-selected).
g. Visit Prometric’s site to schedule your examination at a location convenient to you. Centers in Texas include:
- Wichita Falls
- San Antonio
h. Arrive at your selected Prometric testing center on examination day ready to take the Uniform CPA Exam.
i. The TSBPA will mail your exam scores to you once they have been tabulated along with a TSBPA-specific ethics exam.
To request special disability testing accommodations, complete the TSBPA’s ADA Testing Accommodations form. For detailed information on the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.
3. Gain The Necessary Experience
You must also fulfill the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy’s work experience requirement before the state will issue you a CPA certificate.
a. The TSBPA requires that all CPA applicants complete at least one year (2000 hours) of paid or volunteer work experience (full- or part-time) under the supervision of a CPA. Your college’s career center can help you find suitable work experience, which may be in one of the following areas:
- Client practice of public accountancy
- Law Firm
- Internship (subject to evaluation by the Board)
b. In this work experience you must demonstrate diversified, non-routing accounting competency providing services or advice in the following areas:
- Financial advisory
- Other services the Board deems appropriate for an accountant
c. Have your supervising CPA complete the Work Experience Form, verifying your accounting work experience
d. Provide your supervising CPA with a stamped, address envelope to send the Work Experience Form to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900
4. Get Your Texas CPA License
Upon completing the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy’s education requirements, passing the Uniform CPA Exam and fulfilling the Board’s experience requirement, you may apply for a CPA license (note: Texas is not a two-tier state. TSBPA uses the term certificate and license interchangeably, although certificate generally refers to the licensing document). First, make sure that you have completed each of the following steps:
- Complete 150 semester hours of college education and earn at least a bachelor’s degree
- Submit an Application of Intent with all necessary supporting documents to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900.
- Pass the Uniform CPA Exam
- Fulfill the TSBPA’s employment requirement of one year (2000 hours) and have your supervising CPA complete the Work Experience Form and mail it to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900.
- Pass the Board’s examination of the Rules of Professional Conduct (to be administered by the TSBPA-contact them directly at (512) -305-7851 to arrange this).
- Complete the Board’s Oath of Office
- Pay a Certificate Fee of $50
Complete the Texas Application for CPA Certificate.
Request this application directly from the TSBPA at the above address or by contacting them at (512) -305-7851.
Interstate Reciprocal License
If you hold a CPA license or certificate in another state, you may qualify for a reciprocal CPA license in Texas. You must meet all of the requirements (education, examination, experience) of a CPA certificate holder in Texas. Submit the following documentation to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900:
International Reciprocal License
If you attended school outside of the country, your credits should already have been evaluated an evaluator at the University of Texas at Austin who works with the TSBPA. To request a form for evaluation of foreign credentials, contact the TSBPA at (512) 305-7851.
If you hold a CPA license or certificate from a foreign jurisdiction, the TSBPA may grant you a CPA certificate under certain conditions:
- Condition 1: You hold a CPA license or certificate from one of the following jurisdictions:
- Certified Public Accountants of Australia (CPAA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA)
- Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI)
- Instituto Mexicano De Contadores Publicos (IMCP)
- New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA)
- Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA)
You must take the International Qualification Examination (IQEX) if you are a certificate/license holder from one of the above jurisdictions in order to receive a Texas CPA certificate.
- Condition 2: You do not hold a CPA license or certificate from one of the above jurisdictions but your jurisdiction’s credentials are comparable to those of Texas. Your foreign credential allows you to issue reports on financial statements if it meets the following criteria:
- Was issued by a foreign jurisdiction that requires education, examination, and experience of its CPAs
- Is not expired, suspended, revoked, probated or limited
- Was received based on comparable education, examination and experience requirements
- If you did not complete an experience requirement in your foreign jurisdiction, you must:
- Complete at least four years of professional accounting experience in Texas within the 10 years prior to submitting a CPA application
- Pass a uniform qualifying examination (such as the Uniform CPA Exam or IQEX)
- Pass an examination of the laws, rules and ethical code of Texas
5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Texas
As a CPA certificate holder in Texas, you must complete continuing professional education (CPE) hours to maintain your CPA certificate.
a. Complete 120 hours of CPE every three years, with at least 20 hours of CPE in each 12 month period
- For your first 12 month licensing period, there is no CPE requirement
- For your second 12 month licensing period, you must report at least 20 CPE hours accrued in the 12 months before the license period
- For your third 12 month licensing period, you must report at least 60 CPE hours that were accrued in the 24 months before the license period
- For your fourth 12 month licensing period, you must report at least 100 CPE hours accrued in the 36 months before the license period
- For your fifth and subsequent 12 month licensing periods, you must report at least 120 CPE hours accrued in the 36 months before the license period
b. Receive CPE credit through approved formats:
- As a discussion leader or instructor, you may claim up to 20 hours of CPE credit in a reporting period (instructing introductory level courses do not count)
- As an author or publisher, you may claim up to 10 hours of CPE credit in a reporting period
- You must claim at least 20 hours of CPE credit each reporting period as a participant in a qualified CPE program (live action instruction, group or self-study programs)
c. Make sure to enroll in approved subjects:
- Accounting, business and other technical courses related to the professional competency of an accountant qualify
- You may not claim more than 50 percent of your CPE hours in a three-year period from non-technical subjects or courses
Enroll in CPE programs from Board- approved, registered sponsors. Use the TSBPA’s CPE Sponsor Lookup database to ensure that your CPE program will qualify for credit. Other approved organizations include:
- Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)
- Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)
- FASB's Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF)
- AICPA's Auditing Standards Board and Accounting Standards Executive Committee
- Financial Executives Institute's Committee on Corporate Reporting (FEI/CCR)
- AICPA's Accounting and Review Services Committee (ARSC)
- AICPA's Private Companies Section on Technical Issues Committee
- If you claim credit from a non-registered sponsor
Maintain documentation of your CPE credit for at least three years. This documentation should include:
- Sponsor’s name and identification number
- Title/description of program content
- Dates of completion
- Location of program
- Credit hours claimed for program
f. In addition to the regular CPE requirements, all CPA certificate holders in Texas must complete a 4-hour ethics course every two years. A list of approved ethics courses may be found here.
Now that you're a CPA in Texas
Great job! You have worked hard, studied, and earned a Texas CPA license! Now, it’s worth considering becoming a member of professional organizations for CPAs. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), as a national professional organization and the local Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants both offer members continuing education programs, networking and development opportunities and professional advice.
If you have a certain interest as a CPA, you might want to specialize in that area. Specializations that are available for CPAs in Texas include forensic accounting, information systems and technology accounting, personal financial planning, managerial accounting, and governmental accounting.