The seat of political power of the United States also has a big crossover with financial power. And as the home of the IRS, DC is a natural hotspot for some of the finest financial and accounting minds in the country. All the big financial consulting and accounting firms have DC branch offices. Any major corporation that needs to keep a finger on the pulse of financial regulation and enforcement has an interest in what’s happening here.
Becoming a CPA in the District of Columbia puts you in a unique position to influence the laws and rules governing tax and financial reporting across the entire country. The Greater Washington Society of CPAs regularly lists opportunities for accounting professionals to volunteer for task forces established by the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board on such important subjects as intangible assets research.
For that matter, District CPAs disproportionately fill the membership rolls of important regulatory bodies like FASAB and agencies like the Department of Commerce and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The District is also the base for major financial investigations into both foreign and domestic corporations. Even the FBI has Special Agents with CPA licenses to track criminal syndicates and the financial cobweb that supports terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda.
So your path in learning how to become a CPA in Washington DC can lead you to a lot of opportunities you might not find in other parts of the country. With the five steps listed here, you can get the ball rolling to a future in some of the most exciting accounting roles you will find anywhere in the United States.
- Get Your Education in the District of Columbia
- Take the Uniform CPA Exam in the District of Columbia
- Gain the Necessary Experience in the District of Columbia
- Get Your District of Columbia CPA License
- Continuing Education in the District of Columbia
1. Get Your Education – Meeting CPA Degree Requirements in the District of Columbia
a. Receive information from District of Columbia universities offering accounting programs. Under regulations stipulated by the District of Columbia Board of Accountancy, all CPAs practicing within the district must complete 150 semester hours of college credit and hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
With the standard bachelor’s degree in accounting consisting of just 120 semester hours, going on to earn a post-baccalaureate certificate or master’s in accounting is the most tried and tested way to get the 30 additional semester hours you need to become a CPA in DC. Many of these programs are available entirely online. You can also find specialized five-year CPA track programs that combine a bachelor’s and master’s curriculum to give you the 150 semester hours you need to meet CPA requirements in Washington, DC.
b. The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy recognizes all relevant college credits and degrees earned through U.S. colleges and universities that meet the basic accreditation standards of the six regional accreditors sanctioned by the Department of Education, or otherwise approved by the DC Education Licensure Commission:
- DC Education Licensure Commission
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
If you attended a foreign college or university, your transcripts must be evaluated by a member organization of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). Submit the Request for Evaluation of Foreign Credentials to the address on the form. You must also meet all other District of Columbia requirements for licensure.
c. Meet DC’s CPA degree and curriculum requirements. The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy requires that all CPAs have at least 150 semester hours of college credit earned at the undergraduate level through a bachelor’s in combination with non-credit courses, a minor or concurrent certificate, or post-bachelor’s education such as a graduate certificate or master’s program. Those 150 semester hours need to include:
- 3 semester hours in commercial law
- 24 semester hours in accounting distributed across the following courses:
- Three credit hours in commercial business law
- Three credit hours in auditing
- Three credit hours in financial accounting
- Three credit hours in Federal income taxes
- Three credit hours in cost (managerial) accounting
- Twelve credit hours of other accounting and accounting-related subjects
Credits received from CLEP, correspondence and online courses are accepted as long as they were accepted by your accredited college and are listed on your college transcript.
2. Take the Uniform CPA Exam
In the District of Columbia, you must hold a bachelor’s degree and the full 150 semester hours necessary for CPA licensure in order to schedule the Uniform CPA Exam. You must complete at least 27 credit hours of accounting and related coursework as described above at the time you sit for the exam.
a. The Uniform CPA Examination may be scheduled through the District of Columbia Board of Accountancy website. You may use this form for instructions on applying for the examination online.
b. All initial applications must be submitted through the District of Columbia PULSE Online Portal, managed by Pearson Education, Inc. Note that the exam application form is the same one that may also be used to apply for a new license. You must indicate that you are only filing to take the examination by checking the box labeled “E” under Method of Application must be sent to Pearson Vue at the address below.
- Have your school send your official transcript directly to Pearson Vue.
- If you did not pay by credit card online, send the appropriate fees by check or money order only made payable to Pearson Vue, Inc. Fees, application and supporting documentation must be mailed to: Pearson VUE DC-AC, Metro-Plex I, Suite 250, 8401 Corporate Drive, Landover, MD 20785. If you need to coordinate special accommodations for testing or require more information contact Pearson Vue by phone at 877-672-2173.
- If you are applying with just 120 credit hours, you must also apply for a CPN (Permit Not to Practice) via this online application.
- You will retain this status until you have passed all four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam, have fulfilled the 150 credit hour requirement and have fulfilled the experience requirement.
- Check the appropriate CPN box.
- As a CPN candidate you must also submit a Certificate of Enrollment specifying that you are still enrolled in college and plan to complete the 150 credits needed for licensure within 90 days of taking the exam.
- As a CPN candidate you must also submit a copy of your driver’s license and two 2” x 2” photos of yourself.
c. After receiving all required documentation and fees, Pearson Vue will forward notification of your eligibility to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), who will then mail your NTS (Notice to Schedule) for the Uniform CPA Exam.
d. In the District of Columbia, the Uniform CPA Exam is only given at the following Prometric test center: 1660 L St., NW, Suite 204, Washington, DC 20036. After receiving your NTS, you may call this test center at 202-833-2005 to schedule your exam. Other nearby testing sites may be found at the Prometric website.
e. Go to your Prometric test center on exam day and be ready to test.
f. Wait for your exam scores to be sent to you via postal mail once tabulated.
For detailed information on the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.
3. Gain The Necessary Experience
Every applicant for initial CPA licensure in the District of Columbia must fulfill practical experience requirements The District of Columbia is considered a two tier jurisdiction so once you complete the education requirements and pass all four parts of the Uniform CPA Exam, you are eligible for a CPA certificate. Although certification allows you to use the CPA credential, it does not allow you to practice independently as a CPA or represent your professional services as such. You are provisionally certified until you fulfill the required work experience, which then allows you to be issued a CPA license/permit to practice in the District of Columbia.
a. The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy requires that all future CPAs in the District have at least one year (2000 hours) of accounting experience. Your college’s career office can help you look for suitable opportunities. Experience is expected to fulfill the following requirements:
- This may be full- or part-time paid employment
- Employment may be in government, academia, public practice or industry
- Employment must be verified by a licensed CPA
Competencies that should be practiced during this employment include:
- Accounting services
- Attest services
- Management advisory
- Tax skills
- Financial advisory
- Consulting skills
Responsibilities of the verifying CPA
- Must be licensed in the District or one of the states
- Fill out a completed Certificate of Experience form, including:
- Dates of applicant’s employment
- Total hours of applicant’s employment
- Summary of applicant’s experience during employment
- Applicant’s job classification
- Sign and submit completed certificate directly to: Pearson VUE DC-AC, Metro-Plex I, Suite 250, 8401 Corporate Drive, Landover, MD 20785.
Responsibilities of the applicant
- Choose a validly licensed CPA from the District or one of the states
- Give the Certificate of Experience to your verifying CPA to complete, along with an address and stamped envelope to send the form to Pearson Vue for review and processing.
4. Get Your District of Columbia CPA License
After passing the Uniform CPA Examination, fulfilling the education requirements and satisfying the employment experience requirement, you are ready to apply for a CPA license in the District of Columbia. Make sure that you have completed the necessary steps:
- Complete 150 semester hours of college credit and earn a bachelor’s degree
- Take and pass all four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam
- Send an official copy of your college transcript, with seal, and a copy of your college diploma to Pearson Vue
- Complete the work experience requirement of one year (2000 hours) in education public practice, industry or government. Have a supervising CPA confirm this experience by completing the Certificate of Experience form and mailing it to: Pearson VUE DC-AC, Metro-Plex I, Suite 250, 8401 Corporate Drive, Landover, MD 20785.
b. Apply for your CPA license in the District of Columbia. This must be done completely online via the Pearson Vue Pulse Portal.
- Choose “District of Columbia” on the Pulse Portal home page
- Select the Board of Accountancy
- Select “Submit a License Application,” then “Individual”
- Select “District of Columbia” again
- Select license type (CPA)
- Enter your contact information
- Respond to each yes or no question
- Read the general requirements for licensure, and select the licensure method that best fits with your situation
- Choose “Examination” if you took and passed the Uniform CPA with the full 150 credits and bachelor’s degree and are submitting scores along with all other necessary requirements for licensure
- Choose “Experience” if you took the Uniform CPA Exam with just 120 credits and therefore already have a CPN Permit Not to Practice, and are submitting the remainder of your requirements for full CPA licensure
- Other choices listed are “Endorsement,” for applicants holding an Endorsement license in another non- substantially equivalent state; “Re-Examination,” if you took the Uniform CPA exam for a second time; and “Reciprocity,” if you hold a CPA license in another substantially equivalent state
Interstate Reciprocal License
Applicants who already hold a CPA license in another jurisdiction may qualify for a CPA License in the District of Columbia by endorsement or reciprocity.
- If you possess a valid, current CPA license from another jurisdiction deemed to be substantially equivalent to the District of Columbia’s licensure requirements (at the NASBA website), you may select “Reciprocity” under the licensure options at the Pearson Vue Pulse Portal for Licensing.
- If you possess a valid, current CPA license from another jurisdiction that is not substantially equivalent to the District of Columbia’s licensure, requirements, you must select “Endorsement” under the licensure options at the Pearson Vue Pulse Portal for Licensing.
- In either case, follow the directions on screen to complete your application. Any necessary supporting documents that you may need to mail to Pearson Vue will be specified here.
International Reciprocal License
If you hold a CPA license from a foreign country, you may be eligible for a CPA license in the District of Columbia as long as you meet the following criteria:
- Hold a license from a country that currently has a Mutual Recognition Agreement with NASBA and the AICPA (this list includes Australia – CA and CPA, Canada, Ireland, Mexico and New Zealand)
- Have passed the IQEX (International Qualification Examination) given by NASBA
- Have paid any applicable fees
If you hold a CPA license from another foreign country that does not have a Mutual Recognition Agreement with NASBA and the AICPA, you must follow the regular District of Columbia licensing procedure, beginning with applying to take the Uniform CPA Exam.
5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in the District of Columbia
Any licensed CPA in the District of Columbia must satisfy continuing professional education (CPE) requirements.
a. Take 80 hours of CPE classes every two years
- 50 minutes of class time equals one hour of CPE credit
- One semester hour of college credit equals 15 hours of CPE credit
- If claiming CPE as an instructional leader you may only use it for 50% of the total CPE requirement within each two-year period
- If claiming CPE for published books or articles you may only use for 25% of the total CPE requirement within each two-year period
b. Find CPE programs that fulfill these requirements:
- Sponsorship – must meet one of the following criteria:
- Listed in NASBA’s National Registry of CPE Sponsors
- Listed in NASBA’s Quality Assurance Service (QAS)
- Offered by one of the following:
- State accounting boards
- Professional firms (including accounting, law, brokerage, insurance, and other firms offering professional competency programs to CPAs)
- Colleges and universities
- State professional societies of CPAs (including committee meetings). Among these are the Greater Washington Society of CPAs
- National, state and local accounting organizations’ professional development programs. National organizations include the American Institute of CPAs
- Educational formats – must be in one of the following forms:
- Correspondence course
- Formal self-study program
- Professional meeting
- Other educational program
- Subjects – must be limited to the following:
- Computer science
- Mathematics and applications
- Communication arts
- Business law
- Specialized areas of industry
- Functional fields of business
- Administrative practice
- Professional ethics
c. Report your CPE correctly
- When renewing your license, be sure to file the CPE Reporting Form, including:
- Name of sponsoring organization for each course
- Location of program
- Title of program or description of content
- Dates of attendance
- Number of hours claimed
d. Maintain records of your CPE hours for at least five years. This should include all records of all inclusions mentioned above plus:
- A copy of each course outline
- Proof of course completion (for college courses)
- Proof of written completion (for self-study courses)
Now that you’re a CPA in the District of Columbia
Great job! You are now a fully licensed certified public accountant in our nation’s capital! There are a couple professional organizations you might want to join, including the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). Through the AICPA, you will find continuing professional education, development, networking and guidance. The Greater Washington Society of CPAs is the local professional organization to join for CPE opportunities, local networking and professional solidarity.
Think about specialization! Important specialty areas in the District of Columbia include forensic accounting, financial planning, auditing, governmental practice, compliance and business administration.