5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Hawaii

From your average well-off retiree, to Zuckerberg, Oprah and many more of the wealthiest entertainers and entrepreneurs on the planet, Hawaii will always hold the title as the ultimate U.S. destination for anyone who can afford a piece of paradise.

Kiplinger’s ranks the state as the second best in the nation for retirement, and it would surely be first if it wasn’t for the high cost of living. But that makes the Aloha State a prime locale for accounting professionals who specialize in retirement planning and wealth management, because no one moves here without the funds to support a lavish lifestyle.

You’ll find positions open at a handful of the big firms like Deloitte and KPMG, usually based in Honolulu, but this is a state of small, boutique CPA firms too, catering to an exclusive clientele. Accuity, Ikeda & Wong, and Accumulus are a few familiar names on the scene. You’ll find CPAs here that handle not only wealth management and estate planning, but also all the typical support services that wealthy individuals and businesses need day to day.

Everything is on the table once you learn how to become a CPA in Hawaii, and the 5 steps below are all you need to get there.

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

1. Get Your Education

a. Get information from schools in Hawaii offering programs in accountancy. Under the rules of the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy, 150 total semester hours of college credit and a bachelor’s or higher degree are required for CPA licensure.

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 Hawaii. 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 Hawaii.

b. The Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy will recognize all degrees and college credit hours earned through schools that hold standard institutional accreditation granted by any of the six regional accreditors and the national accreditor listed here:

If you graduated from a foreign college or university, a Board-approved foreign evaluation service must evaluate your credentials. Find one at NASBA International Evaluation Services.

c. Meet the CPA degree and curriculum requirements set by the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy. The 150 semester hours of college credit required for licensure must consist of the following courses. These can be earned through your undergraduate degree, along with any additional undergraduate courses you took as part of a certificate or minor, as well as through graduate courses taken as part of a post-bachelor’s certificate or master’s program, or any combination of undergraduate and graduate coursework.

    • 24 semester hours of accounting courses, with 18 of those hours in upper division undergraduate (junior or senior level) or graduate level accounting courses, in subjects such as (but not limited to):
    • 24 semester hours of upper division undergraduate or graduate level accounting or non-accounting business-related courses, such as (but not limited to):
      • Legal and social environment of business
      • Economics
      • Marketing
      • Business law
      • Organizational, individual and group behavior
      • Finance
      • Communication skills
      • Quantitative applications in business
      • Globalization
      • Business ethics
      • Computer science
      • Total quality management
Sponsored Content

Important notes:

  • Correspondence and online courses from accredited colleges qualify for credit if you receive credit for them at an accredited college and that credit is listed on your transcript
  • Community college course credits from accredited community colleges qualify as long as you receive credit for them at an accredited four-year college.
  • Commercial CPA review courses do not qualify for credit

2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

In order to be eligible to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam in Hawaii, you must satisfy the following requirements:

  1. Have completed at least 18 semester hours of upper level undergraduate or graduate level accounting or auditing courses
  2. If you are still in college, have a statement from a college official that you will graduate within 120 days of taking the examination
  3. If you earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from a university or college outside of the United States:
    1. Had your academic credits evaluated by an approved foreign evaluation agency
    2. Have a letter of acceptance into the graduate degree program from an accredited U.S. college or university

a. Access CPA Examination Services (CPAES) to register online or download application forms for the Uniform CPA Exam.

If you have completed your college educational requirements you’ll submit:

  • Official college transcript(s) in a sealed envelope
  • Payment by credit card or certified check or money order payable to CPAES
  • Foreign evaluation form, if you attended a foreign college or university
  • ADA accommodation form – (only if you are requesting disability testing accommodations)

If you are currently enrolled in college you’ll also submit the following in addition to the items noted above:

  • Completed Certificate of Enrollment form, showing that you will meet the course requirements within 120 days of receiving your Notice to Schedule (NTS) the Uniform CPA Exam

b. Mail your completed application, required transcript(s) and/or forms, and payment to: CPA Examination Services – HI, PO Box 198469, Nashville, TN 37219.

c. Wait to receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) the Uniform CPA Exam sent by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) by mail, fax or email (based upon the method you selected when submitting your application)

d. Access Prometric’s website to schedule your exam at a Hawaii testing site.

e. Arrive at your testing site on exam day prepared to test.

f. Wait to receive your exam scores by mail, or wait until at least 48 hours after you take the test and access them here.

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

3. Gain The Necessary Experience

Before being granted CPA practice privileges you must complete the state’s experience requirement under the supervision of a licensed CPA from Hawaii or an equivalent jurisdiction.

a. Visit your college’s career center to find acceptable experience opportunities. The Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy has ruled that you must satisfy one of the following requirements to fulfill their experience qualification:

  • Scenario 1: Complete 1500 chargeable hours in auditing while working full-time (at least 35 hours a week) in a public accounting firm
    • Experience must involve the use of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and auditing standards
  • Scenario 2: Complete two years of professional full-time (at least 35 hours a week) experience working in:
    • Private industry or private sector
    • Government
    • Education (teaching upper level undergraduate or graduate level accounting or auditing subjects)
    • Public accounting practice, involving the use of auditing and accounting skills in one or more of the following areas:
      • Issuing reports on financial statements
      • Management advisory services
      • Consulting services
      • Preparing tax returns
      • Offering tax advice

b. Complete Part I of the Certification of Public Accountancy Experience Form (found within the Application for License-CPA packet).

c. Forward the Certification of Public Accountancy Experience to your supervisor, who must complete Part II and sign the form. Your supervisor must return the form to you once completed. You will submit this form when you submit your Application for License-CPA packet.

4. Get Your Hawaii CPA License

Hawaii is considered a two-tier state. Under the laws set by the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy, once you pass the Uniform CPA Examination, you are eligible to apply for a CPA Certificate/License. However, you are not granted practice privileges until you have fulfilled all of the education and experience requirements and have been issued a Permit to Practice. Let’s trace the steps that brought you to this point in the following checklist:

a. Checklist

  • Complete 150 semester hours of college education and earn a bachelor’s degree
  • Pass the Uniform CPA Exam.
  • Complete the Board’s full-time experience requirement of 1500 hours of auditing experience or two years of accounting experience

b. Apply for your Hawaii CPA License. This can either be done after completing the Uniform CPA Exam or at the same time you apply for your permit to practice. You must be at least 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or an alien authorized to work in the United States. A completed application packet will include:

  • Application for CPA License form
  • Three Certificates of Competence (found within the Application for CPA license packet) completed by non-relatives who are personally or professionally acquainted with you and will attest to your competence. These must each be signed by your acquaintances in the presence of a Notary Public.
  • Certified, official college transcripts
  • Signed Certification of Public Accountancy Experience (that was completed by your supervisor during your accounting experience)

c. Mail your application fee of $165 if your license will be issued in an even-numbered year, or $110 if your license will be issued in an odd-numbered year (via check or  money order-payable to Commerce and Consumer Affairs), completed application and supporting documents listed above to: Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy, DCCA, PVL Licensing Branch, P.O. Box 3469, Honolulu, HI 96801.

d. Wait to receive notification from the Board when your license is approved.

e. Before you can apply for your Permit to Practice, you must fulfill the Board’s continuing professional education (CPE) requirement of 80 CPE hours every two years.

  • You will be credited with 80 CPE hours for passing the Uniform CPA Exam when you apply for your first Permit to Practice, as long as the permit is filed within two years of passing the exam.

f. Apply for your Permit to Practice. Use the Application for 2010-2011 Permit to Practice. This form must be submitted in duplicate along with required fees payable to Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Send the documents to: Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy, DCCA, PVL Licensing Branch, P.O. Box 3469, Honolulu, HI 96801.

g. Wait to receive your Permit to Practice in the mail within 30 days of filing the application.

Interstate/International Reciprocal License

If you already have a current CPA certificate or license from another state or jurisdiction and wish to practice in Hawaii, you must apply for a License and Permit to Practice following the steps above. (Hawaii does not have a separate Reciprocal License form). Additionally, you must:

  • Download the Verification of License and/or Exam Scores form (found within the Application for CPA License form). Complete the top part of the form and forward it to the state/jurisdiction in which you hold a CPA license. They will complete the form and submit it to the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy.
  • If you have held a license in another state for at least 10 years preceding the date of your Hawaii license application, and you have been actively practicing public accountancy for at least five years, you may be eligible for exemption from Hawaii’s education requirements. Submit a written waiver request to the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy, DCCA, PVL Licensing Branch, P.O. Box 3469, Honolulu, HI 96801
  • If you are a foreign candidate, have your academic credentials evaluated by one of the agencies listed in above. Forward this evaluation to the Board.
  • Once you have received your Hawaii CPA license, follow the above steps to apply for a permit to practice using this form: Application for 2010-2011 Permit to Practice. You must be able to prove that you have fulfilled the state’s CPE requirement of 80 CPE hours every two years while in practice.

5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Hawaii

To maintain your Permit to Practice in Hawaii, complete continuing professional education requirements and renew your permit every two years.

a. Achieve 80 CPE hours every two years

  • 4 CPE hours must be in ethics or professional conduct
  • 40 CPE hours may be carried over to the next two-year period
  • 50 minutes of class/program time equals one CPE hour
  • A one-day program of at least 6 hours equals 8 CPE hours
  • One semester hour of a college credit course equals 15 CPE hours
  • One semester hour of a college non-credit course equals one CPE hour

b. Take CPE programs only in approved subjects, including (but not limited to):

  • Auditing
  • Accounting
  • Social environment of business
  • Administrative practice
  • Business law
  • Ethics/professional conduct
  • Finance
  • Business management/organization
  • Management advisory services
  • Insurance
  • Behavioral ethics
  • Marketing
  • Communications
  • Personnel/human relations
  • Personal development
  • Economics
  • Computer science
  • Production
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Financial planning
  • Taxes

c. Sign up only for the following approved CPE program formats:

  • University or college credit or non credit courses
  • Teaching, instructing or lecturing a university or college course
  • Lecturing, discussion leading or speaking at a course where attendees earn CPE credit
  • Interoffice quality review program
  • Authoring books and articles that contribute to a CPA’s professional competence
  • Individual self-study programs that offer a certificate of completion

CPE programs offered by the following sponsors all qualify for CPE credit:

  • Nonprofit nationally recognized professional organizations of accountants including but not limited to:
    • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
    • National Society of Public Accountants
    • American Society of Women Accountants
    • National Association of Accountants
    • National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)
  • Accredited universities and colleges
  • Sponsors listed on NASBA’s National Registry of CPE Sponsors

d. Maintain documentation of your CPE hours for five years, including:

  • Sponsor’s name
  • Identification number of sponsor
  • Course title
  • Dates attended
  • CPE hours claimed

e. Submit your CPE hours every two years with your renewal application for a Permit to Practice.

Now That You’re a CPA in Hawaii

Congratulations – you are now a licensed CPA in Hawaii with a permit to practice public accounting! The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) would be happy to have you as a member. This national organization provides continuing professional education opportunities and more, including advice, discounts and networking with other professionals in the field. The Hawaii Society of Certified Public Accountants is the organization that offers these opportunities locally.

Consider specializing in an area of accounting that interests you! Popular specializations in Hawaii include tax accounting, forensic accounting, governmental accounting, and financial planning.

Sponsored Content