5 Steps to becoming a CPA in Texas
By Susan Maphis, Accountingedu contributing writer
Updated April 2013
- Get your Education in Texas
- Take the Uniform CPA Exam in Texas
- Gain the Necessary Experience in Texas
- Get your Texas CPA License
- Continuing Education in Texas
1. Get Your Education
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 must be accredited by one of the following agencies:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools--Higher Learning Commission
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges--Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges--Commission for Senior Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools--Commission on Colleges
- As of June 1, 2011, in addition to being accredited by one of the above agencies, all of the schools must offer at least a bachelor’s degree and have an accredited business or accounting program recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or a specialized or professional accrediting organization. Such organizations include the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-International (AACSB) and the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
- 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 to provide these services. To request a form for evaluation of foreign credentials, contact the TSBPA at (512) -305-7851.
c. Sign up for suitable classes. You need to achieve at least 150 semester hours of credit through one of the following degree routes:
- Route 1: Complete a master’s degree or higher, including 3 semester hours of ethics
- Route 2: Complete the regular semester hours required for a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than accounting (usually 120 semester hours of credit) plus the following:
- 30 semester hours of upper level accounting courses
- Effective July 1, 2011, at least 2 semester hours must be in accounting research and analysis
- Elementary, basic, introductory, principles of accounting, financial and managerial accounting, and accounting software courses do not qualify for credit
- CPA review courses do not qualify for credit
- 24 semester hours of upper level business courses
- Effective July 1, 2011, at least 2 semester hours must be in accounting communications or business communications
- Subjects that qualify for credit include business law, economics, management, marketing, finance, statistics, quantitative methods, information systems, and information technology
- No more than 6 semester hours may be taken in one business subject
- 3 semester hours in an ethics course
- Route 3: Complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in accounting plus:
- Additional semester hours in upper-level courses that enhance the professional competence of an accountant, in subject areas such as:
- Business administration
- Fine arts
- Liberal arts
- Other established disciplines
- 3 semester hours of ethics
- Courses taken at community colleges that do not grant bachelor’s degrees do not count for credit
- Courses taken through distance learning qualify for credit as long as the college from which they are taken is accredited by one of the six approved accreditation bodies
- Courses with pass/fail grades will be accepted.
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.
Courses that include study guides and practice exams designed to help you prepare for the Uniform CPA Exam are available online through Fast Forward Academy.
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. 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.
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
- Other (subject to evaluation by the Board)
b. In this work experience you must demonstrate 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
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:
- Reciprocal Application with signed and completed Affidavit of Applicant (included within application)
- Check for $300 made payable to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy
- Oath of Office (linked above)
- Work Experience Form (linked above)
- Continuing Professional Education Reporting Form for Certification by Reciprocity
- Authorization of Interstate Exchange of Examination and Licensure Information (to be completed by you and by the state board that issued your CPA certificate)
- FBI Fingerprint Card (contact the TSBPA at 512-305-7851 to receive)
- Examination booklet on the Rules of Professional Conduct (return the entire booklet to the TSBPA) (contact the TSBPA at 512-305-7851 for booklet)
- Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
- Proof of completion of a Board-approved four hour ethics course within the last six months (approved courses are listed here)
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)
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.
Courses designed to satisfy CPE requirements related to tax preparation are available online through Fast Forward Academy.
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
d. 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
- The credit may not total more than 50 percent of your total CPE credit for the reporting period
- You must complete the form Claiming Continuing Education Credit from a Non-Registered Sponsor
e. 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.