5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Florida

You don’t think of Florida without thinking retirement. Decades after earning the reputation, the state is still America’s number one retirement destination, dominating the U.S. News and World Report list of the 25 Best Places to Retire in 2021. The Tax Foundation also puts Florida at number 3 in the country for tax-friendliness, which is always a consideration to folks on a fixed income.

And with most of the wealth in America concentrated in the hands of people in the 65-plus age bracket, an influx of retirees also means an influx of money. In fact, households in the 65-to-75 age range are likely to have 12 times the wealth of younger family demographics.

For accountants, this means a lot of work in the Sunshine state managing investment portfolios, drawing up estate plans, forming trusts, and creating and revising retirement plans. From Florida Retirement Consultants in Lutz to BSP Retirement in Tampa, you will find plenty of boutique CPA firms that specialize in this kind of work, all hungry to hire well-qualified talent. Or, if big corporate accounting is more your speed, all the national firms have shops here too. PwC alone has nearly 600 CPAs on staff, with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.

To learn how to become a CPA in Florida, all you need to do is get through the 5 steps described here.

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

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

a. Request information from Florida’s universities offering programs in accounting. CPA credentials in Florida require a bachelor’s or higher degree with a total of 150 semester/200 quarter hours of college credit.

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 Florida. 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 Florida.

b. The Florida Board of Accountancy will accept all relevant credits and degrees earned through U.S. colleges and universities with basic institutional accreditation granted by one of the six regional accreditors recognized by the U.S. Department of Education:

The Florida Board also accepts credits and programs accredited by Provincial or national educational accreditation bodies of Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Hong Kong.

If your undergraduate program is not accredited, you may still sit for the CPA exam if you are admitted to a graduate program at an accredited institution and complete at least 15 semester hours of graduate work. These 15 semester hours must include 3 hours of graduate level tax courses and 6 hours of other graduate level accounting courses.

c. If you are applying as a Florida candidate but have completed your educational requirements outside the U.S., you must have your foreign academic credentials evaluated by one of these Board-approved agencies:

d. Meet Florida’s CPA degree and specific coursework requirements. Licensure in Florida requires a bachelor’s or higher degree with a minimum of 150 semester hours (200 quarter hours) with the following courses earned at the undergraduate and/or graduate level:

  • 36 semester or 54 quarter hours in upper division accounting courses including Taxation, Auditing, Financial, Cost/Managerial and Accounting Info Systems.
    • No more than 3 semester hours or 4 quarter hours may be accounted for as an internship. (Other internship hours may apply towards the general business course requirement below).
  • 39 semester hours or 58 quarter hours in general business courses including 6 semester hours or 8 quarter hours in business law. Topics that must be included within the business law course are torts, contracts and Uniform Commercial Code.
    • No more than 9 semester hours or 13 quarter hours may be computer courses
    • No more than 6 semester hours or 8 quarter hours may be in upper division statistics courses
    • Upper division accounting courses may be substituted for general business courses
    • Standardized tests (such as CLEP) are not eligible to satisfy this requirement. However, advanced placement (AP) tests are eligible if the candidate received credit for them from their degree-granting institution.
    • Vocational or clerical courses are not eligible to satisfy Florida’s educational requirements.
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You don’t need to fulfill the full education requirements for licensure before taking the Uniform CPA exam in Florida. You’re qualified to sit the exam once you’ve completed 120 semester hours (160 quarter hours) that include the following courses:

  • 24 semester or 36 quarter hours in accounting education at the upper division level including cost and managerial accounting, auditing, financial accounting, accounting information systems, and taxation.
  • 24 semester or 36 quarter hours in general business education. 21 of these semester hours must be at upper division level. The hours should include a minimum of 6 semester or 8 quarter hours in business law courses, which must cover the Uniform Commercial Code, contracts and torts.

2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

Now that you’ve fulfilled the minimum educational requirements in Florida you’re eligible to take the Uniform CPA exam.

a. Apply to take the exam online or by downloading the printable application. The Florida Board of Accountancy has contracted with the Certified Public Accountants Examination Services (CPAES), a division of NASBA, for processing of the CPA exam.

  • You are considered a re-examination candidate if you previously applied with Florida’s Board and registered for the exam with CPAES, whether or not you took the exam. As a re-examination candidate, you may register and pay the fees online here using VISA or MasterCard using your jurisdiction ID. Request your jurisdiction ID number through [email protected]. The re-application fee varies from $60 – $105 depending on the number of sections you are taking.

b. For first-time examination candidates,send application, $50 application fee and official transcripts to Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The fees can be paid by check made payable to the Department of Business and Professional Regulations. The application should be sent for processing to:

State of Florida
Department of Business and Professional Regulation
1940 North Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399 – 0783

c. Await a response from the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation’s Division of Certified Public Accounting. When you obtain approval from the board, you can contact the CPAES office at 800-CPA-EXAM (800-272-3926) or 615-880-4250 to register for the Uniform CPA Examination with a credit card. Alternatively, you can fill out the first-time invoice and send it to CPAES with a personal check, certified check, money order, company check or credit card invoice. The first time invoice can be accessed here.

d. Wait to receive the Notice to Schedule (NTS) by the method of notification selected when you submitted the application. Your NTS will be sent from [email protected] if you selected email. If you have not received your NTS within 15 business days of submitting the payment invoice, you should contact CPAES at [email protected].

e. Schedule the exam and pay Prometric exam service fees at www.prometric.com/CPA/default.htm. You need to schedule the exam within 6 months of receiving NTS or it expires requiring you to reapply. You can take the exam in any jurisdiction outside of Florida for no additional charge except Guam.

f. Prepare for testing of the chosen CPA exam section(s) and report to the exam site on time. You can test for up to all 4 exam sections at one time. You must pass all sections with a score of 75 in a rolling 18 month period in order to be eligible for licensure.

g. Wait for the results. The passing score for each section is 75. Florida candidates can access their scores here through NASBA’s website. If the scores are not accessible, this means NASBA has not received your scores yet.

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

3. Gain The Necessary Experience

After passing all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, you are only a few steps away from obtaining your Florida CPA license.

a. Obtain the required experience. As a Florida candidate, you are required to have on year of work experience that satisfies the following criteria:

  • Involves the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills in any type of service or consulting.
  • At least 20 hours a week over a maximum of 104 weeks or 40 hours a week over a maximum of 52 weeks. Reasonable sick leave, vacation time or other required absences shall be permitted.
  • Is verified by a licensed CPA or a chartered accountant recognized by the International Qualifications Appraisal Board (IQAB). Please note that if your supervisor is not a CPA, you cannot have another CPA verify your experience, even if they are familiar with your work.
  • Gained through employment in government, industry, academia, or public practice and constitute a substantial part of the applicant’s duties.
  • Does not have to be consecutive. Part of it can be gained before taking the exam part and after. However, any experience gained prior to completing the educational requirement cannot be counted.

b. Document work experience using the Verification of Work Experience form.

This will include verification by the supervising CPA that the candidate rendered similar services as are normally performed by full-time, regularly employed staff employees for a minimum of 2,000 hours gained over a period of no fewer than 52 weeks and no more than 104 weeks. Your verifying CPA should forward the completed form directly to:

State of Florida
Department of Business and Professional Regulation
1940 North Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399 – 0783

4. Obtain Your Florida CPA License

Now you’re ready to apply for your Florida state CPA license.

a. ChecklistConfirm that you’ve satisfied all education, exam, and experience requirements for licensure as a CPA in Florida:

  • Completed the educational requirement for Florida CPA licensure. The requirement is 150 semester/200 quarter hours including 36 semester hours of accounting courses, 39 semester hours of business courses and a bachelor’s degree.
  • Passed the Uniform CPA Exam with a grade of 75 on all sections of the exam
  • Obtained the required one year experience supervised by a CPA, or for those outside of the US a Chartered Accountant recognized by IQAB.

b. Wait to receive your CPA licensure application package. Florida’s Division of Certified Public Accounting will automatically mail your application package after passing scores for the Uniform CPA Exam have posted.

c. Return the completed application package with all required supporting documentation including the Verification of Work Experience form and college transcripts along with a $50 fee to the address in the licensure package. This must be returned within 3 years of receipt. If you don’t send these documents within 3 years of passing the CPA exam, you’ll need to retake the exam to be considered for licensure.

d. Await a response from the Board. Florida’s Board of Certified Public Accounting will notify you of any missing documents in your application. If the application is complete, you’ll be issued a license allowing you to practice. The Board issues licenses once a month except in December.

Transfer Candidates from Two Tier States

If you already have a certificate of passing the Uniform CPA examination from another U.S. jurisdiction, but not a license to practice, you must apply in Florida as a transfer of credit applicant. You must complete the Florida educational requirements. If you passed the CPA exam two or more years prior to submitting an application in Florida, you must complete the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirement as explained below.

Applying for Licensure by Endorsement

To successfully obtain a license by endorsement you must:

  • Submit Licensure by Endorsement application and a $300.00 non refundable fee
  • Demonstrate successful passage of the CPA examination
  • Meet education requirements based on the year you initially sat for the examination
  • Provide evidence of work experience – not required if the 150 hour education requirement has been met
  • If it’s been more than two years since you passed the CPA exam, provide evidence for completion of 80 hours of CPE including 20 hours in accounting and auditing and a maximum of 20 hours in behavioral subjects.
  • If licensed in another state, provide proof that your license is in good standing

5. Keeping Your Florida License Current Through Continuing Professional Education

Your Florida CPA license renews biennially. As a Florida CPA, you need to comply with the continuing professional education (CPE) requirements as outlined by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation’s Division of Certified Public Accounting.

CPE Requirements for Licensure Renewals

a. Complete Required CPE for every two year renewal period:

  • Completion of 80 CPE credits every two years including 20 hours in accounting and auditing and 4 hours for a board approved ethics course.
  • No more than 20 CPE hours may be from behavioral subjects
  • The Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation Division of Certified Public Accounting only accepts approved ethics course providers, which are listed here.

b. Pay the $105.00 license renewal fee.

  • CPE and fees are due on June 30th of each license renewal year. There are two extensions available:
    • The first extension until September 15th is granted to those who complete 8 additional hours in accounting and auditing for a total of 88 CPE hours.
    • The second extension until December 31st is granted to those who complete 16 additional hours in accounting and auditing for a total of 96 CPE hours.
  • If you do not meet the renewal requirements by December 31st of the renewal year, your license is in delinquent status effective January 1 of the following year.

c. Maintain records of your completed CPE. The CPE reporting form can be found on this page.

Now that you’re a CPA in Florida

Congratulations! You are now a licensed Florida CPA!

As a professional CPA in Florida, you’ll benefit from joining organizations like the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Florida Institute of CPAs, which provide opportunities for professional development, networking and continuing professional education.

There’s plenty of opportunity for specialization as a CPA in Florida. Consider specialty areas that suit your personality, propensities 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.

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