You don’t get into accounting in Arkansas without learning one big fact about where the money is coming from: Bentonville, headquarters of Walmart. The number one corporation in the world by revenue, according to Forbes Magazine, this retail juggernaut is proud to call Arkansas home. Of course, the state’s $130 billion GDP doesn’t come from the Walton family alone, but they are definitely the biggest of the big players here.
Despite coming in at number 45 out of 50 in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, the state is home to six other companies on the Fortune 500 list, names like Dillard’s, Tyson Foods, and J.B Hunt… all of which do an awful lot of business with the behemoth of Bentonville.
Every single one of those corporations and all their suppliers, vendors, and high-ranking executives need the kind of professional accounting services and advice that only a fully-qualified CPA can deliver. In fact, with the difficult and complex tax and regulatory environment, they need those CPAs even more than in other states.
That goes a long way to explaining why the state Division of Workforce Services projects a booming 13 percent increase in accountant and auditor jobs in the ten-year run up to 2028. If you want to angle for one of those positions, read on to learn how to become a CPA in Arkansas.
- Get Your Education in Arkansas
- Take the Uniform CPA Exam in Arkansas
- Gain the Necessary Experience in Arkansas
- Get Your Arkansas CPA License
- Continuing Education in Arkansas
1. Get Your Education – Meeting the CPA Degree Requirements in Arkansas
a. Request information from colleges and universities in Arkansas that offer accounting programs. The Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy requires CPAs to have a bachelor’s degree or higher with a total of 150 semester credits.
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 Arkansas. 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 Arkansas.
b. The Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy recognizes degrees and all credits earned through any college or university accredited by one of the six major regional accreditation bodies operating in the U.S.:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools–Commission on Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges–Commission for Senior Colleges
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges–Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
If you attended a foreign university or college, you must have your credits evaluated by a member agency of the National Association of Credential Evaluators. Contact a member agency directly to begin this process.
c. Meet CPA degree and specific coursework requirements set by the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy. Between your bachelor’s program, any additional undergraduate credits you earn, and graduate work, your 150 semester hours must consist of the following courses:
- Accounting courses must include at least 30 semester credit hours of undergraduate accounting courses above the principles level, or at least 20 semester credit hours of graduate accounting courses, or a combination of the two. You must earn a grade of C or better in each of these accounting courses. Courses that must be included within the accounting component are:
- Accounting information systems
- Auditing and attestation
- Federal taxation
- Not-for-profit accounting
- Governmental accounting
- Management accounting
- Financial accounting
- Business courses must include at least 30 semester credit hours of undergraduate business courses (other than accounting), or 20 semester credit hours of graduate business courses (other than accounting) or a combination of the two. You must receive a grade of C or better in each business course.
You may earn a maximum of three semester credit hours in the accounting or business component (but not in both) by completing an accounting internship.
You may earn a maximum of three semester credit hours in the accounting or business component (but not in both) through independent study.
You may earn a maximum of three semester credit hours for military service. These semester credit hours may not be used toward fulfilling the accounting component.
2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam
Once you have completed at least 150 semester hours of credit, completed the accounting and business component coursework,, and earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, you are eligible to take the Uniform CPA Examination. If you are still enrolled in courses necessary for graduation, regardless of your credit hours earned, you may not take the examination as an Arkansas candidate.
a. Complete the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy Uniform CPA Examination Online Application. Pay the initial fee of $50 and exam fees as requested online. You will be asked to email a number of supporting application materials to ASBPA@arkansas.gov. This includes:
- A color copy of your photo identification.
- Any official documents verifying your name change, if applicable
- Have your college email official transcripts to the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy if your school uses a secure service like Scrip-Safe. If it does not, you must have the transcript mailed directly from your school to Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy, 101 East Capitol, Suite 450, Little Rock, AR 72201
b. Mail the documents noted above to: Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy, 101 East Capitol, Suite 450, Little Rock, AR 72201
c. You will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) from the National State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) once your application is approved. This notice will be sent to you in the manner you chose on your application (mail, fax or email).
d. Go to Prometric’s website to schedule your examination at an Arkansas testing site. Sites in Arkansas include:
- Fort Smith
- Little Rock
e. Show up at your chosen Prometric site on examination day prepared to test.
f. Receive your exam scores by mail once tabulated, or retrieve them online here.
If you need to coordinate special accommodations for testing or require more information, contact the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy at (501) 682-1520.
For detailed information on the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.
3. Gain The Necessary Experience
The Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy, in accordance with the Uniform Accountancy Act, requires aspiring CPAs in the state to fulfill one year (2000 hours) of work experience in the field before licensing can occur.
a. Find acceptable accounting experience
- Contact your college or university’s career assistance department for help
- Make sure your experience is in academia, government, industry or public practice
- Experience may be full- or part-time, as long as it satisfies the Board’s 2000 hours (one year) requirement and is completed in no more than three years
b. Make sure that the following skills are incorporated into your experience
- Management advisory
- Financial advisory
c. Have your experience supervised and verified by a licensed CPA
- Give your supervisor the Work Experience Summary form to complete
- Ask your supervisor to return the completed form to you for submittal with your licensing application
4. Get Your Arkansas CPA License
If you’ve passed the Uniform CPA Exam, satisfied the Board’s education requirements and completed one year of experience, you are prepared to apply for your CPA license in Arkansas. Review the following checklist:
- Completed 150 semester hours of college education and earned at least a bachelor’s degree or higher, including the accounting and business components required by the Arkansas State Board of Accountancy
- Have your college send an official copy of your college transcript to the Board
- Pass the Uniform CPA Exam.
- Complete the Board’s one year experience requirement
- Have your verifying CPA complete the Work Experience Summary form and return it to you
b. Apply for your Arkansas CPA License. Once you are ready to take this step, you must contact the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy to request the form, through their licensing department, at (501) 682-5532.
c. Wait to receive your license by mail once the Board has approved your application. This process usually takes no longer than 30 days.
Interstate Reciprocal License
Do you already possess a CPA license or certificate from another state? You may qualify for a reciprocal CPA license in Arkansas. Check NASBA and AICPA’s CPAMobility.org website. Generally, you must already have:
- Passed the Uniform CPA Exam
- Gained four years of experience practicing public accounting outside of Arkansas within the past 10 years
- Accumulated supervised, verified experience in public accounting to fulfill the Board’s one year requirement
- Fulfilled the Board’s continuing professional education requirement of 40 hours of CPE during the past year or 120 hours of CPE in the past three years
- Hold a current, valid CPA license in another state that has been verified by NASBA as being substantially equivalent to the CPA requirements of Arkansas
- What you must do:
- Complete an Authorization for Interstate Exchange of Examination and Licensure Information form. Send it to the Board of the state in which you passed the CPA exam and/or in which you hold your license. Ask them to send it directly to the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy at 101 East Capitol, Suite 450, Little Rock, AR72201
- Contact the Board office at (501) 682-5532 to request an application for licensure by reciprocity.
International Reciprocal License
If you hold a CPA equivalent credential from one of the following international jurisdictions, you may be eligible for a reciprocal CPA license in Arkansas:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA)
- CPA Australia (CPAA)
- Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA)
- Instituto Mexicano De Contadores Publicos (IMCP)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI)
As a license holder from one of these foreign jurisdictions you must:
- Request your country’s credentialing agency submit a Letter of Good Standing to NASBA
- Apply here to take the International Qualification Exam (IQEX). Mail your application, fees and any supporting documentation to: NASBA, Attn: IQEX, P.O. Box 440555, Nashville, TN 37244
- NASBA will send you a Notice to Schedule (NTS) the IQEX by mail or email, at which time you may schedule your test through Prometric.
- Test results will be mailed to you as they are available.
If you hold a CPA license from another international jurisdiction, you may be eligible for reciprocal licensure in Arkansas provided that:
- The foreign jurisdiction in which you hold your foreign CPA license allows reciprocity for Arkansas CPA license holders in their country
- Your foreign CPA license allows you to issue reports on financial statements
- Your foreign CPA license was issued on the basis of meeting requirements of education, experience and examination
- You have completed at least 4 years of professional experience in the past 10 years
- You pass a uniform qualifying examination (such as the IQEX)
Contact the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy at (501) 682-5532 for more information.
5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Arkansas
The Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy requires all licensed CPAs to fulfill continuing professional education (CPE) requirements to maintain their licenses.
a. Complete 40 hours of CPE in the 12 months preceding your CPA license’s expiration date, or 120 hours of CPE in the 36 months preceding your CPA license’s expiration date.
- 60% of your CPE hours must be in the following subjects:
- Accounting ethics
- Management advisory services
- Computer science (not including videos or tutorials)
- If your job involves attest or compilation, at least 20% of your CPE hours must be in accounting theory or practice and attest
- 4 CPE hours every 36 months must be in ethics and accounting professional conduct
b. Make sure programs meet the following requirements to qualify for CPE credit:
- An outline of the CPE program has been prepared prior to instruction
- The program is at least 50 minutes (one CPE hour) in length
- A qualified instructor (on the basis of background, education, experience or training) conducts the program
- The instructor maintains attendance records
- The sponsor of the program is either approved registered or exempt from registration.
c. Sign up for programs in one of the following approved, registered formats:
- Technical sessions at meetings of national/state accounting organizations/chapters
- Programs sponsored by government agencies
- NASBA’s National Registry of CPE sponsors
- Programs sponsored by professional organizations of CPAs and PAs
- Programs sponsored by CPA and PA firms
- Programs sponsored by industrial firms
- University or college credit courses (one semester hour of college credit equals 15 CPE hours)
- University or college non-credit courses (semester hours equal CPE hours)
- Individual study, distance learning, self study and independent study programs sponsored by one of the registered or exempt sponsors or on NASBA’s Quality Assurance Service
- Articles, books or CPE programs written by the licensee
- CPE programs of other jurisdictions with substantial equivalency to Arkansas
Avoid signing up for CPE programs in these non-approved formats:
- Education leading to the completion of requirements for a CPA certificate or license
- Academic work necessary to take the CPA Exam
- CPA review courses
Enroll in programs sponsored by approved, registered CPE sponsors, or by the following exempt sponsors:
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants
- Arkansas Society of Accountants
- Institute of Management Accountants
- American Accounting Association
- American Bar Association
- Arkansas Bar Association
- Accredited universities and colleges
- Accounting and industrial firms offering in-firm CPE programs
- Government entities
d. Report your CPE hours correctly
- Maintain CPE records for at least five years, including:
- The CPE program’s NASBA registration number or E for exempt
- The CPE program’s sponsor
- The CPE program’s location
- Title of CPE program and/or content description
- Dates attended
- CPE hours claimed
e. Submit your CPE hours with your license renewal application
- Complete the ASBPA CPE Report documenting your CPE
- Submit the form at the time of your Online License Renewal
Now that you’re a CPA in Arkansas
Through hard work and diligence you have earned your Arkansas CPA license! For professional guidance and advice, development and continuing professional education opportunities, think about becoming a member of the local Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants.
If a specialization within accounting interests you, consider pursuing it! Some possibilities for accounting specializations within Arkansas include financial management, internal auditing, financial advising, information technology accounting and auditing, and domestic or international tax consulting.