You might think that with the Tax Foundation ranking Alabama at 41 out of 50 states in their annual State Business Tax Climate Index that it might be a tough place for CPAs serving corporate entities. Nothing could be further from the truth. Working in public accounting in a state known for a complex tax code is a golden ticket for CPAs.
With businesses large and small completely confused by the stringent reporting requirements here, a CPA license in Alabama is practically a license to print money.
A strong CPA community here fostered by the Alabama Society of CPAs makes it a great place to ply your trade. You’ll find strong traditions live on at family firms that have been in business for fifty years or more, along with all the big name regional firms and international stalwarts, from PWC, KPMG and Ernst & Young in Birmingham, to Deloitte with offices in both Birmingham and Huntsville.
Follow the steps in this guide to learn exactly how to become a CPA in Alabama.
- Get your Education in Alabama
- Take the Uniform CPA Exam in Alabama
- Gain the Necessary Experience in Alabama
- Get your Alabama CPA License
- Pursue Continuing Education in Alabama
1. Get Your Education – Meeting CPA Degree Requirements in Alabama
a. Request information from the colleges and universities in Alabama that offer the accounting, business and law courses necessary to sit for the CPA exam. The Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy requires all CPA exam candidates to complete 150 total semester hours of college credit and hold a bachelor’s or higher degree.
With the standard bachelor’s degree in accounting consisting of 120 semester hours, going on to earn a master’s in accounting or post-baccalaureate certificate is the most tried and tested way to get those 30 additional credits you need to become a CPA in Alabama. Many of these programs are available entirely online. You can also find specialized five-year CPA track programs that offer a blended bachelor’s and master’s curriculum designed specifically to give you the 150 semester hours you need to meet CPA requirements in Alabama.
b. The Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy recognizes all relevant degrees and credits earned through colleges and universities that hold basic institution-level accreditation through any one of the six regional accreditors operating in the U.S.:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Northwestern Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
The Board also recognizes any degree granted through a school of business or accounting that holds AACSB accreditation.
If you earned your degree in another country, the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services will assess your credits.
c. Meet Alabama’s specific CPA degree and coursework requirements. Through a combination of your bachelor’s degree, any additional undergraduate credits you earn, and a master’s or post-baccalaureate certificate, your 150 semester hours (225 quarter hours) need to include a specific blend of business and accounting courses:
- 33 upper division semester hours in accounting (no introductory courses) and must include:
- 9 semester hours in financial accounting
- 6 semester hours in auditing
- 6 semester hours in taxation
- 3 semester hours in managerial accounting
- 3 semester hours in government/not-for-profit
- 6 semester hours in accounting electives
- 3 semester hours of business law, primarily concentrating in the Uniform Commercial Code
- 27 semester hours in business courses other than accounting and must include: economics; legal and social environment of business; business law (in addition to above); marketing; finance; organization, group and individual behavior; quantitative applications in business; communication skills; and, business ethics; or
You will automatically be considered eligible for the CPA exam and meet state CPA education requirements for licensure if you hold a graduate degree from a school of business or accounting accredited by the AACSB.
CPA exam candidates in Alabama must hold U.S. citizenship, be at least 19 years old, and have strong moral character.
2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam
Now that you’ve fulfilled Alabama’s educational requirements, you are eligible to sit for the Uniform CPA exam.
a. First, have your transcripts reviewed by the Board. The Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy must review your official transcripts and determine your eligibility to schedule the exam. Have your school send your official transcripts directly to the Board.
b. Then, send in the required documentation. If you are taking the CPA exam for the first time, re-taking the exam in Alabama, or have taken the CPA exam in another state, you must complete the CPA Exam Application Package and sign it in the presence of a notary. Send it along with: A 2” x 2” passport photo and official transcripts (sent sealed by you or by your degree conferring school directly). Required fees are:
- $100 if you are taking the exam for the first time
- $50 if you are re-taking the exam
- $100 if you are transferring credits from another state
All fees must be paid by personal check, cashier’s check or money order, payable to the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy.
For regular mailing using USPS submit the application to:
Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy
P.O. Box 300375
Montgomery, AL 36130-0375
334-242-5700 / 800-435-9743
For overnight mailing submit application to:
Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy
770 Washington Avenue, RSA Plaza Suite 226
Montgomery, AL 36104-3807
c. Wait to receive your Notification to Schedule (NTS). The Board will determine your eligibility. Once your eligibility has been determined, the Board will submit an Authorization to Test (ATT) to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). They, in turn, will issue a Notice to Schedule (NTS) to you, which is good for six months. After receiving your NTS you are now ready to schedule the exams.
d. Schedule the exam. Once you receive your NTS, you may register to take the exam through Prometric. You must schedule the exams through their Prometric website. For additional information you may call 1-800-580-9648.
Alabama has five test centers:
There are four parts to the exam. You may schedule all four parts at the same time or schedule them separately. However, your registration fees are non-refundable and will expire six months from the date of issuance, so if you cannot take the exam within six months you should wait to schedule it. An applicant must take all four part of the Uniform CPA Examination with a rolling 18 month period.
e. Take the exam and wait for the results. The passing score for each component is 75.The Board will mail your test results to you once they have been verified and processed. Scores are also available online from NASBA here.
For detailed information on what to expect from the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.
3. Gain The Necessary Experience
As Alabama is considered a two tier state, once you complete the educational requirements and pass all four parts of the exam you are issued a CPA certificate. Although this allows you to use the CPA credential, it does not allow you to practice as a CPA or represent your professional services as such. You must document appropriate work experience before being issued a CPA license/permit to practice in Alabama.
a. Gain the necessary work experience and CPE. To become a licensed CPA, you must have one year of full time experience in public accounting or two years of full time work experience in the accounting industry, business, government, or college teaching (must be courses in accounting) or any combination of the above. For work experience in these respective areas to qualify for licensure it must have met the following criteria:
- Work experience in the accounting industry or business: You must have been employed by a person or entity whose primary duties involve financial accounting or auditing, internal controls, management, financial or consulting advisories, or compliance with tax or regulatory laws.
- Work experience in the government: You must have been employed by a government agency recognized by the Board.
- Work experience in teaching: You must have taught courses primarily in accounting for academic credit at a regionally accredited college or university.
b. Complete CPE requirements. While gaining the required work experience, 40 hours of CPE must be completed in accordance with standard Board protocol for yearly CPE requirements. Submit the CPE Reporting Form, found within the CPA Registration Package, to the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy no later than September 30th.
c. Document your work experience. Have your supervising CPA verify your work experience by sending a letter of experience to the Alabama State Board of Accountancy. PO Box 300375, Montgomery, AL 36130. The letter should include the following criteria:
- Start date (mm/dd/yyyy)
- End date (mm/dd/yyyy) or to the present dat
- Job title
- Job description
- Full-time or Part-time
- Signature by supervisor (if no supervisor, HR personnel)
- The letter be on company letterhead
4. Get Your Alabama CPA License
Now that you’ve passed the exam and have the practical work experience you’re ready to be fully licensed as a CPA in Alabama. Follow the checklist below to determine if you meet the requirements.
- Complete education requirements of 150 semester hours or 225 quarter hours of post secondary education
- Have your official school transcripts sent directly from your school to the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy, P.O. Box 300375, Montgomery, AL 36130-0375
- Complete the CPA Exam Application Package and mail it with a $100 check to the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy, P.O. Box 300375, Montgomery, AL 36130-0375
- Schedule, take and pass the Uniform CPA Examination
- Complete one year of public accounting or two years in a qualifying accounting position in the accounting industry, business, government or teaching. Work experience must be verified by your employer
- Complete the 40-hour CPE requirement
b. Apply for your Alabama CPA license. The licensing process begins here with the Alabama Board of Public Accountancy.
- Apply for your Alabama CPA license
- Complete the CPA Registration Form and mail it with a $75 check to Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy, P.O. Box 300375, Montgomery, AL 36130-0375. The Registration Form must bear your original signature and date.
Out of state candidates should follow these steps:
Interstate Reciprocal License
a. If you hold a CPA license in another state and wish to practice in Alabama, you must have your official transcripts sent to the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy. You will be required to comply with the 150 semester hours (225 quarter hours) of post secondary education unless you have four years of public accounting experience since becoming certified.
b. Send the Interstate Exchange Form to your Board of Accountancy to determine if your license is current, active and in good standing.
c. If your experience is not from public accounting, you will need to submit a letter from your employers verifying your experience. Two years in a qualifying position in business, government or college teaching is required.
d. Complete the Application for Certificate of Reciprocity and sign before a notary and mail it along with a $100 to the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy.
International Reciprocal License
The Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy recognizes Chartered Accountants from Canada who are credentialed through the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA). Canadian CAs will be granted licensure after passing the International Qualification Examination (IQEX).
To be licensed in Alabama, CPAs and chartered accountants from all other countries must pass all four parts of the Uniform CPA Exam upon showing that the foreign license:
- Was duly issued by a foreign agency that regulates the practice of public accountancy
- Entitles the holder to issue reports on financial statements
- Was issued based on educational, examination and experience requirements
- The applicant resides in the United States
- The applicant had, within the six years prior to residing in the United States, been continuously employed for no less than three years
The Board will grant a CPA certificate if the applicant
- Passes the Uniform CPA Exam
- Has gained one or more years of public accounting experience
5. Keeping Your License Current through Continuing Professional Education
Once you become a CPA you must complete 40 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) every year in order to maintain your Alabama CPA license.
a. Complete the required CPE in the allotted time frame (October 1st – September 30th). Prior to September 30th of each year, you must complete 40 hours of continuing professional education. One CPE credit will be granted for every 50 minutes of CPE and up to 20 hours can be completed with self-study, although the remaining hours must be completed onsite. Yearly CPE must include:
- 8 hours in accounting and auditing
- No more than 8 hours in behavior course work
b. Enroll in qualifying CPE programs. Three categories of programs will qualify for CPE Credit:
- Professional development programs, educational classes and seminars attended
- Correspondence or individual study programs
- Speaker, discussion leader or instructor of programs
c. Registration for CPE credits shall include a signed statement to the Board stating that all CPE requirements have been met and should include the following information:
- Location of course, program or study
- Title of program or description of content
- Principal instructor
- Dates of attendance
- For self study, a synopsis
- Number of CPE hours
d. Maintain records of your CPE via the CPE Reporting Form, found within the CPA Registration Package. You should also maintain evidence of completion in the form of a certificate, attendance record, examination results, transcripts or other verifiable documentation.
Now that you’re a CPA in Alabama
Congratulations! You are now licensed as a CPA in Alabama!
As a CPA, you’ll benefit from joining organizations like the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Alabama Society of CPAs. These organizations provide opportunities for professional development, networking and CPE.
Consider specialty areas that suit your personality and interests. Many CPAs work as fund accountants for municipal, state, and federal agencies; or even as forensic accountants whose job it is to track evidence of fraudulent financial activity.