5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Colorado

Colorado has a lot of resources to go around, from the gold, titanium, and tellurium that are being dug out of the Uravan Mineral Belt, to the pristine powder at Telluride that brings in vacationers from all over the world.

That means big money in the Centennial State. And where there is big money, there is a big demand for accounting professionals. O*Net, a U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored resource, estimates an impressive 20 percent growth rate in the number of accounting jobs in the ten-year run up to 2028.

By learning how to become a CPA in Colorado, you’ll be setting yourself up for the kind of qualifications you need to step into some of those high-paying roles. Whether you are looking at boutique local firms like Centennial’s Kramer & Jensen or The Adams Group in Denver, or aiming for a spot at a Big Four firm like KPMG with offices in Denver and Boulder, a CPA credential is the place to start building your resume.

Learn how to become a CPA in Colorado in five steps.

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


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

a. Get in touch with Colorado colleges and universities to request information on the accounting programs they offer. The Colorado State Board of Accountancy requires CPAs to have a bachelor’s degree or higher and complete a total of 150 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 t become a CPA in Colorado. 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 Colorado.

b. The Colorado Board recognizes credits earned at any college or university in the U.S. that holds institutional accreditation from any of the six regional accreditors sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Education:

If you attended school outside of the United States, your academic credentials must be evaluated by a member agency of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services, Inc. Visit their website to choose an agency. Your chosen agency will provide you with a form with which to request an evaluation. Once completed, that evaluation will be submitted to the Board for consideration.

c. Meet Colorado’s CPA degree and curriculum requirements. Though Colorado will allow you to take the CPA exam after completing your first 120 semester hours, the full 150 need to be completed between the time you take the exam and apply for certification through the Colorado State Board of Accountancy.

Through a combination of your bachelor’s degree and any other undergraduate credits you earn through a minor, concurrent certificate program, or post-bachelor’s certificate or master’s, your 150 semester hours must include:

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33 semester hours of accounting courses, 27 of which must be upper-division covering topics such as:

      • Accounting ethics
      • Accounting research and analysis
      • Accounting information systems
      • Accounting theory
      • Financial accounting/reporting for government and nonprofit entities
      • Financial accounting/reporting for business organizations
      • Fraud examination
      • Financial statement analysis
      • Managerial accounting
      • Cost accounting
      • Internal controls and risk assessment
      • Tax research and analysis
      • Taxation

6 semester hours in auditing courses including:

      • 3 semester hours of that total must be in auditing courses that address Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS)
      • The remaining 3 semester hours may be in:
            • Advanced auditing
            • Fraud
            • Information technology auditing
            • Another subset of basic auditing

3 semester hours must be in an accounting ethics course

27 semester hours in upper-division business administration courses:

        • 3 semester hours must be in one of the following areas:
          • Business communications
          • Technical communications
          • Accounting communications
        • The rest of the 27 semester hours must be spread among courses like the following (with no more than 9 semester hours in any one area):
          • Business law
          • Behavior of organizations, persons and groups
          • Business ethics
          • Business communications
          • Economics
          • Finance
          • Computer information systems
          • Marketing
          • Management
          • Legal and social environment of business
          • Statistics
          • Quantitative applications in business

Note:

  • CPA review courses do not count for credit
  • No more than 6 semester hours may be in independent study and internships
  • Correspondence, online and CLEP courses count for credit if you receive credit for them at an accredited college
  • Two-year or community college courses from accredited community colleges count for credit


2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree and completed 120 of the 150 total semester hours of credit you may take the Uniform CPA Exam.

a. Go to CPA Examination Services (CPAES) to register online or download application forms.

b. Submit the required documentation based on your matriculation status:

  • If you have completed the educational requirements, you must:
  • If you are still enrolled in college, you must also:
  • Mail all of the above to:
    • CPA Examination Services – CO, P.O. Box 198469, Nashville, TN 37219-8469

c. Await your Notice to Schedule (NTS) the Uniform CPA Exam, which will arrive from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) by mail, fax or email (depending upon the method you selected when submitted your application)

d. Go to the Prometric website to schedule your examination at a Colorado testing site. They include:

  • Grand Junction
  • Colorado Springs
  • Longmont
  • Greenwood Village

e. Arrive at least an hour before examination time at your chosen Prometric testing center on examination day.

f. Access scores from CPAES online 48 hours after taking the exam

For detailed information on the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.


3. Gain The Necessary Experience

The Colorado State Board of Accountancy requires all certified public accountants to fulfill an experience requirement prior to licensure.

a. To make sure that you are familiar with professional ethics in accounting before beginning your experience, you must take and pass the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)’s Home Study Course on Professional Ethics. Instructions for ordering materials for this course are available here.

b. Fulfill the state’s experience requirement – You must complete one year (1800 hours) of supervised work experience under the guidance of a licensed CPA. All documented experience must be gained over the course of at least one year and completed within three years total time, but no less than five years of submitting your application for licensure. This experience must:

    • Involve accounting practices that incorporate standards including U.S. GAAP and GAAS; AICPA Code of Professional Conduct and other Professional Standards; SSAE, SSARS and SSTS standards; among other Board-approved standards
    • Be full or part-time (internships qualify)
    • Be obtained not more than 5 years prior to applying for certification
    • Be verified by a licensed CPA from Colorado or another state

Your supervised experience must be obtained in one of the following areas and include tasks that incorporate the skills relevant to each:

      • Public accounting (CPA or firm), including but not limited to the following skills:
        • Attestation
        • Accounting
        • Issuing reports on financial statements
        • Consulting
        • Management advisory
        • Preparing tax returns
        • Providing tax advice
      • Private industry, including but not limited to the following skills:
        • Internal auditing
        • Installing internal control systems
        • Preparing financial statements
        • Management advisory
        • Consulting
        • Preparing tax returns
        • Providing tax advice
      • Government (federal, state or local), including but not limited to the following skills:
        • Internal audit
        • External audit
        • Installing internal control systems
        • Preparing financial statements
        • Management advisory
        • Consulting
        • Preparing tax returns
        • Providing tax advice
      • Academia, involving:
        • Teaching accounting at an accredited college or university
        • Teaching at least two different upper-division accounting courses
        • 12 semester hours will equal one year of experience
        • Does not include teaching courses outside of accounting, such as:
          • Business law
          • Finance
          • Computer applications
          • Personnel management
          • Economics
          • Marketing
          • Statistics
        • You must submit a letter from each college in which you taught, signed by the dean or department head, stating the credit hours taught, name and description of courses taught

c. You must submit a Certificate of Experience from each of your employers.

  • You must fill out the first page of the form only, then forward it to your supervising CPA to complete and sign
  • The form must be returned to you by your supervisor in a sealed envelope for submission with your application


4. Get Your Colorado CPA License

You are now ready to file an application to receive your Colorado CPA Certificate. Let’s retrace the steps that led you here:

a. Checklist

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree with the necessary accounting concentration
  • Pass the Uniform CPA Exam.
  • Pass the AICPA Ethics Exam
  • Satisfy the Board’s experience requirement through extra semester hour credits and/or an advanced degree, or by working in accounting for at least one year (1800 hours)

b. Apply for your Colorado CPA Certificate. The online Application for Original License may be started at the NASBA website. Along with your completed application, you will need:

  • Signed Affidavit of Eligibility
  • Signed and sealed Certificates of Experience from all employers verifying your experience
  • Letter of good standing if your supervisor is a Chartered Accountant from a non-U.S. jurisdiction
  • Request sealed transcripts from colleges, which you will submit with your application
  • If you took the Uniform CPA Exam in another state, complete the Authorization for Interstate Exchange of Examination and Licensure Information and send it to the Board of the state where you took the exam. They will return it to you completed, in a sealed envelope, to be submitted with your application
  • AICPA Ethics Exam Certificate of Completion
  • Application fee via credit card, certified check or money order payable to NASBA Licensing Services

c. Mail all of the above to: NASBA Licensing Services – CO, P.O. Box 198469, Nashville, TN 37219-8469

d. Wait to receive your Colorado CPA Certificate by mail once your application has been approved (usually at least two weeks).

Interstate Reciprocal License

If you hold a CPA license from another state and want to practice as a CPA in Colorado, you may apply for a Reciprocal CPA Certificate if:

  • Your license is from a substantially equivalent state (currently only the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are not substantially equivalent to Colorado)
  • You have completed 80 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) in the past two years
  • You pass the AICPA Ethics Exam within the two years preceding application for reciprocity
  • You complete two hours of courses on Colorado Rules & Regulations within the two years preceding application for reciprocity

If you meet these qualifications, apply online as instructed above. You will be informed what documentation and fees to forward to NASBA.

International Reciprocal License

If you hold a CPA equivalent credential in a foreign jurisdiction and wish to practice in Colorado, you may qualify for reciprocity if you:

  • Hold an active license from one of the following international jurisdictions:
    • Australia (Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia)
    • Canada (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants)
    • Mexico
    • Ireland (Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland)
    • New Zealand (New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants)
    • Bermuda (Bermuda Institute of Chartered Accountants)
  • Pass the International Qualification Exam (IQEX) or the Uniform CPA Exam
  • Have one year of work experience as required under Colorado rules
  • Complete the AICPA Ethics Exam within two years preceding application for reciprocity
  • Complete the Colorado Rules & Regulations exam within two years preceding application for reciprocity

If you hold a CPA license from another foreign jurisdiction and wish to practice in Colorado, you may qualify for reciprocity if you:

  • Pass the IQEX or Uniform CPA Exam
  • Have your education evaluated by an agency listed in Part I, Step 2 (if you were educated outside of the United States)
  • Meet Colorado’s experience requirements of one year
  • Complete the AICPA Ethics Exam
  • Complete the Colorado Rules & Regulations exam within two years preceding application for reciprocity

What you should do:

  • Complete the Application Packet for a Colorado CPA Certificate for International Applicant
  • Submit with the application:
    • Signed Affidavit of Eligibility (included within application packet)
    • Submit the Authorization for Interstate Exchange of Examination and Licensure Information (included in application packet) and send it to the Board of the jurisdiction where your license is held.
    • Official verification of IQEX score
    • U.S. Social Security Number Affidavit Form if you do not have a social security number
    • Signed and sealed Certificates of Experience from all employers verifying your experience
    • Signed and sealed Verifier’s Licensure Verification Form if your supervising CPA is from another jurisdiction
    • Letter of good standing if your supervisor is a Chartered Accountant
    • Attach your AICPA Ethics Exam Certificate of Completion
    • Attach your Colorado Rules & Regulations Course Certificate of Completion
    • Attach your application fee via credit card, certified check or money order payable to NASBA Licensing Services
    • Mail all of the above to: NASBA Licensing Services – CO, P.O. Box 198469, Nashville, TN 37219-8469


5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Colorado

The Colorado State Board of Accountancy requires all CPAs to complete 10 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) hours for every full quarter in which your CPA certificate is in active status.

  • No more than 20% of CPE hours (16 CPE hours) may be in Personal Development
  • 4 CPE hours must be in Ethics (Of this, 2 CPE hours may be in Colorado Rules & Regulations)

a. Register for CPE programs in approved subjects, including (but not limited to):

  • Accounting
  • Accounting practice
  • Governmental accounting
  • Auditing
  • Governmental auditing
  • Business law
  • Behavioral ethics
  • Business management and organization
  • Computer science
  • Communications
  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Marketing
  • Management advisory services
  • Personal development
  • Mathematics
  • Production
  • Human resources/personnel
  • Regulatory ethics
  • Specialized applications and knowledge
  • Social environment of business
  • Taxes
  • Statistics

b. Find approved CPE programs that meet the AICPA/NASBA Joint Statement on Standards for CPE Programs through:

  • AICPA
  • NASBA’ s National Registry of CPE Sponsors
  • NASBA’s Quality Assurance Service
  • Colorado Society of CPAs
  • Positive Systems, Inc.
  • Professional Education Services, LP
  • Professionals Publishing Group
  • University of Denver Graduate Tax Program
  • Western CPE
  • Colorado colleges and universities

c. Enroll in approved CPE formats, such as:

  • Independent self-study
  • Seminar
  • Lecture
  • Publishing or authoring articles or books
  • Lecturing, instructing or moderating
  • Professional development/educational programs of state, national and local accounting organizations
  • Online and correspondence classes
  • University and college credit and non-credit courses
  • Organized, formal educational programs held within an accounting firm
  • Technical sessions of state, local and national accounting organization meetings
  • Formal programs offered by other accounting, professional or industrial organizations, as long as they enhance an accountant’s professional competency

d. Maintain records of your CPE for at least five years, including:

  • Program sponsor’s name and contact information
  • Title of program
  • Field of study of program
  • Dates of attendance/completion
  • Location of program
  • Delivery method
  • Number of CPE hours claimed
  • Certificate of completion

Now that you’re a CPA in Colorado

Through hard work and diligence, you have become a licensed CPA in Colorado! Now is the time to think about joining professional organizations, namely the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). This organization provides members with guidance, advice, development and networking opportunities, continuing professional education programs, and more. Also, contact your local Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants to inquire about becoming a member.

If you have a particular interest in a specialized area of accountancy, pursue it! In Colorado, possibilities for specialization include nonprofit accounting, finance, auditing, governmental accounting and international accounting.

Last Modified July 5, 2021 by AccountingEDU Staff