5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Arizona

Arizona has a lot of demographic trends that tend to bring in new wealth and more people. It has long been a top retirement destination, and that’s ramped up even further in recent years, with Arizona pulling ahead of the rest of the country as the fastest growing state in the nation according to the Census Bureau.

The Bureau also shows that more than 18 percent of the population here is over 65, and those retirees tend to have more wealth and need more accounting and related services than any other demographic. For CPAs, that represents a gold mine of retirement, estate planning and investment advisory services.

O*Net, a U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored resource, projects a very strong 15 percent growth rate in the profession in the ten-year run up to 2028. From high-end firms like Wallace Please + Dreher, which recently made the Forbes list of Best Tax and Accounting Firms, to the big international consultancies like KPMG, Arizona is home to a lot of successful CPAs serving businesses and wealthy families.

Learn how to become a CPA in Arizona and you can tap into that market.

  1. Get your Education in Arizona
  2. Take the Uniform CPA Exam in Arizona
  3. Gain the Necessary Experience in Arizona
  4. Get your Arizona CPA License
  5. Continuing Education in Arizona

1. Get Your Education – Meeting CPA Degree Requirements in Arizona

a. Request information from Arizona schools offering accounting programs. The Arizona State Board of Accountancy (ASBA) requires all CPA applicants to hold a bachelor’s or higher degree and complete 150 total semester hours of college credit.

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 Arizona. 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 Arizona.

b. The Arizona Board recognizes degrees and credits earned through any college or university that holds basic institution-level accreditation from one of the six U.S. Department of Education recognized regional accreditation agencies:

c. Under Arizona Board rules, you will be eligible to take the CPA exam after earning your bachelor’s degree as long as it consist of at least 24 semester hours of accounting courses including 12 semester hours of upper level courses, along with 18 semester hours in business courses, which can include:

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To meet the 150 semester hour requirement for CPA licensure through the Arizona State Board of Accountancy, you will need to earn 30 credits through a post-bachelor’s certificate or master’s in accounting beyond the 120 included in your bachelor’s between the time you take the exam and submit your license application. Between undergraduate courses and graduate work, you must complete the following to be eligible for licensure:

  • 36 non-duplicative semester hours of accounting courses, with 30 hours being in upper-level coursework
  • 30 semester hours of business courses

If you are an Arizona candidate but you studied outside the U.S., you need to have your foreign academic credits evaluated by the Association of International Credential Evaluators or by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services. It must be a course by course evaluation and should be sent directly to the Arizona State Board of Accountancy (ASBA) at:

Arizona State Board of Accountancy
100 N. 15th Avenue, Suite 165
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Please note that any Becker Uniform CPA Exam prep review courses you take can be counted towards your total number of college credit hours for certification; however, you should be careful not to take duplicative courses, as they may not be counted towards this requirement. For example, if you have any audit coursework in your transcript history, you cannot count the Becker exam prep audit review course towards your total number of accounting hours.

2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

When you have satisfied the education requirements to sit for the CPA exam, you’re ready for the application and scheduling process.

a. Download the Uniform CPA Exam Initial Application form.

b. Send the completed and signed application, $100 initial application fee and sealed transcripts to:

The Arizona State Board of Accountancy
100 North 15th Ave., Ste. 165
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

  • Make certified or personal checks payable to Arizona State Board of Accountancy.
  • The transcript request form can be accessed here.

Note: To be considered for ADA modification, you need to submit a written request and an official document from your doctor confirming the disability and need for accommodation. You’ll need to do it at the time of initial request and every subsequent time the request changes.

As a re-exam candidate, you should submit the re-examination application found here along with the $50 fee. Also, fill out the CBT supplemental form if you have not submitted it before (the last page on the initial application form). Send the application and fee to the ASBA address above.

c. Wait through the review process. The ASBA review committee, which meets every month except December, reviews your application and transcripts and makes a recommendation as to whether or not you should be allowed to take the CPA exam. When your application is approved by the Board they’ll send an electronic Authorization to Test (ATT) notification to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

d. Wait to Receive a NASBA payment coupon/invoice for all the sections you chose on your initial application. Use the coupon and a credit card to pay the NASBA fee and schedule the examination within 90 days of the ATT date.

e. Wait to Receive the Notice to Schedule (NTS). If you chose to be notified by email, NTS will be sent to you from [email protected]. You should add this email address to your address book. If you have not received your NTS within 3 weeks of submitting the payment invoice, you can contact NASBA at 1-866-MY-NASBA (866-696-2722).

f. Schedule the exam after receiving your NTS, and pay Prometric fees at www.prometric.com/CPA/default.htm. Exams are offered in the first two months of every quarter. Prometric test centers in Arizona include:

  • Tucson
  • Flagstaff
  • Goodyear
  • Phoenix
  • Tempe

g. Wait for the exam results. NASBA sends the scores to ASBA. ASBA will review and mail or email the scores to you based on your chosen method.

For detailed information on what to expect from the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.

3. Gain The Necessary Experience and Verify You Meet the CPA Coursework Requirements for Licensure

After passing all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination in a rolling 18 month period, you are only a few steps away from obtaining your Arizona CPA certificate

a. Obtain the required experience:

  • The experience must be gained through employment in the office of a CPA or public accountant within government or industry.
  • It should be a minimum of 2000 hours of paid or volunteer experience taken either before or after you pass the Uniform CPA Exam.
  • The experience must involve:
    • Recording and summarizing financial transactions
    • Analyzing and verifying financial information
    • Examining, reviewing, and reporting on financial statements
    • Reporting financial results to an employer, clients, or other parties and providing attestation, tax and management advisory services to an employer, clients, or other parties

If your supervisor is not a CPA licensed in Arizona, a Request for Supervisor Licensure Verification Form needs to be sent to the state board that issued their license, and then returned to ASBA.

If your supervisor is not a licensed/certified CPA, they must attach a resume and a job description to verify they have the education and experience to oversee a potential CPA candidate. One way of establishing competency for verifying CPAs not certified in Arizona is to provide signed and dated letters form 3 clients.

b. Download the Certificate of Experience form for every employer through which you gained experience. The completed form should be sent to:

Arizona State Board of Accountancy (ASBA)
100 N. 15th Avenue, Suite 165
Phoenix, AZ 85007

c. Complete the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) ethics course. Although AICPA administers the exam, it is managed by the Arizona Society of CPAs. You should notify ASCPA when taking the course that you’re taking the exam for Arizona certification. AICPA will notify ASBA of your passing score after the exam. The ethics course order form can be accessed here.

d. Make Sure you have completed the educational requiremenents necessary for certification in Arizona:

  • A bachelor degree with at least 150 credit hours, including:
    • 36 non-duplicative semester hours of accounting courses, with 30 hours being in upper-level coursework
    • 30 semester hours of related courses

4. Obtain Your Arizona CPA License

Now you’re ready to apply for your Arizona State CPA certificate and practice license (Arizona is not a two-tier state, so certification automatically grants a practice license). This is a checklist of things you have done so far:

a. Checklist

  • Completed the educational requirement: A bachelor’s or higher level degree with 150 semester/225 quarter hours of education, 36 semester/54 quarter hours of accounting courses including 30 semester/45 quarter hours at upper division or graduate level and 30 semester/45 quarter hours of accounting related courses.
  • Passed the Uniform CPA Exam with a score of 75 on all sections in a rolling 18 month period.
  • Obtained the required 2000 hours of experience verified by a certified CPA or someone who has equivalent qualifications and experience as a supervising CPA.
  • Submitted the Certificate of Experience form including verification from your supervising CPA to ASBA.
  • Completed the AICPA ethics course managed by ASCPA.

b. Download the Application for Arizona CPA Certificate. Submit the application and the $100 non-refundable fee to ASBA. Additionally, a form verifying your lawful presence in the U.S. must be completed and provided with the application. This form can be accessed here.

c. Wait to hear from the Arizona State Board of Accountancy. They will notify you if there are any missing documents in your application. If the application is complete, ASBA will issue your CPA license.

Applying for Certification by Substantial Equivalency

The board may issue a certificate to you if you are already licensed or certified in a substantially equivalent state. The list of substantially equivalent states can be found here. The materials required to be submitted with the application are listed in this checklist. The application for certification by SE can be found here.

Applying for Certification by Reciprocity

The board may grant a certificate of reciprocity if you don’t qualify for substantial equivalency. If you’re a reciprocity candidate, you can access this checklist of materials to be provided to ASBA. The reciprocity candidate application can be accessed here.

Grade Transfer candidate

If you have taken and passed all 4 CPA exam sections from another state but are not licensed in another state or jurisdiction, you can transfer the exam section credit to Arizona using this application. The checklist of material to be submitted is here.

To obtain an Arizona CPA certificate by any of the methods stated above, you need to meet the age, character and fitness requirement. You must provide birth data proving you’re at least 18 years of age, answer professional fitness questions and furnish one signed and dated letter of reference from a licensed/certified CPA.

5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Arizona

Your Arizona CPA certificate renews every two years. As an Arizona CPA, you need to complete 80 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) within your registration renewal period. Of the 80 hours of CPE, the following is required:

  • At least 16 hours must be classroom or live/interactive webinar hours.
  • At least 40 hours must be in accounting, auditing, taxation, business law, or management advisory services. At least 16 hours of these 40 hours must be in the subject areas of accounting, auditing, or taxation.
  • In addition to the 80 CPE hours, complete four hours of Arizona specific ethics courses including a minimum of one hour each:
    • Ethics related to the practice of accounting including the AICPA Professional Code of Conduct
    • The ASBA statutes and administrative rules

The CPE requirements are waived if you’re retired, 60 years of age or older, and do not perform any accounting services.

CPE Record Retention Requirement

You must maintain the following documents for three years: course outlines, proof of participation, and written proof of completion.

Timeframe for a Registration Period

For individuals, the registration period begins the first day of the month after your birth date and runs till the last day of the month of your birth date two years later. Additionally, you register in either odd or even years based on the year of your birth. For example, if you were born in June 1979, you would register in odd years.

Now That You’re a CPA in Arizona

Congratulations on making it! You’re now an Arizona CPA!

As a public accounting professional, you may benefit from joining the organizations that promote your profession and provide professional development, networking and CPE opportunities. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is one of the biggest such national organizations, and at the state level it’s the Arizona Society of CPAs. And you can still count on us for advice, too, even if you have just completed a master’s in accounting or are still interested in exploring different careers in accounting.

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