5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Ohio

The Buckeye State is a manufacturing powerhouse with big Fortune 500 corporations like Goodyear and AK Steel anchoring an $111 billion chunk of the state’s $615 billion GDP according to industry research firm IBISWorld. Those plants and mills fuel the U.S. auto industry so as long as Americans keep driving, Ohio firms will need strong accounting support.

But if working as a CPA in manufacturing isn’t your thing, there is a surprisingly diverse mix of industries to be found around Ohio. You can find Fortune 500 corporations in almost every sector based here, from Smucker’s to Sherwin-Williams to American Electric Power… even Macy’s, if retail is more your speed.

All of them drive demand for CPAs who are highly qualified in auditing standards and assurance, payroll, A/P and A/R. But if you prefer small business or even individual accounting services, there’s no shortage of opportunities for that kind of work in Ohio too. All the Big Four accounting firms have a presence in the state, including Ernst and Young with offices in Cleveland, Columbus, and Akron. And there are a wealth of smaller local and regional firms, like Bodine Perry Robinson in Columbus or Rea and Associates, with office scattered from Amherst to Cleveland to Zanesville.

Your drive to figure out how to become a CPA in Ohio and getting a job in any of those industries will start with following the 5 steps laid out on this page.

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

1. Get Your Education

a. Request information from Ohio schools offering programs in accounting.
The Accountancy Board of Ohio requires you to complete 150 semester hours of college credit and a bachelor’s degree at minimum before they will issue you a CPA license.

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 represents the most tried and tested way to get those 30 additional credits. 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 to give you the 150 semester hours you need to meet CPA requirements in Ohio.

b. The Accountancy Board of Ohio recognizes credits earned at any school accredited by any accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), as well as schools of business and accounting that hold specialty accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

c. Verify that you qualify as a candidate for CPA licensure in Ohio. An Ohio candidate must be at least 18 years of age and must:

  • Maintain a permanent place of residence in Ohio (actually be domiciled in Ohio) Or
  • Reside in another state while working full time in Ohio
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The Board may waive the residency requirement at its discretion. You may contact them at:

Accountancy Board of Ohio
77 South High Street, 18th Floor,
Columbus, Ohio 43215-6128
Ph: 614-466-4135

If you are applying as a candidate for CPA certification/licensure in Ohio but have completed the accounting education program requirements outside of the U.S., you must have your foreign academic credentials evaluated by one of the following organizations:

You will need to contact the evaluation agency, send them the transcripts from the foreign institution you attended and then have the course-by-course evaluation sent to:

CPA Examination Services
Ohio Coordinator
PO Box 198469
Nashville, TN 37219-8469

d. Meet CPA degree and coursework requirements in Ohio. The 150 semester hours of college credit you need to earn an Ohio CPA certificate/license needs to include some specific courses delivered through programs that meet the state’s accreditation requirements. You can accoplish that in one of a few ways:

Bachelors and post-bachelor’s eduction option – After earning your bachelor’s degree, go on to earn a master’s in accounting or post-bachelor’s certificate from a college of accounting or business accredited by AACSB or any university that holds basic institutional accreditation from a regional accreditor recognized by CHEA.

If your graduate degree is in business, you must have at least 30 hours in accounting at the undergraduate level.

Though you need a total of 30 hours in accounting to become licensed in the state, you will be able to qualify for the exam with 18 hours at the graduate levels including at least one course in each of the following subjects:

      • Financial accounting
      • Management accounting
      • Auditing with coverage of GAAS (Internal auditing is not eligible to fulfill this requirement, but may be used as an elective)
      • Taxation
      • Professional ethics and responsibilities

Bachelor’s option – Hold a bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by the  AACSB or a general institutional accreditor recognized by CHEA or the Accountancy Board of Ohio. You must still earn a total of 150 semester hours, with the additional 30 delivered through additional courses, a minor or certificate earned concurrently, and must consist of the following courses:

      • At least 30 semester hours of accounting with at least one course in each of the following:
        • Financial accounting
        • Management accounting
        • Auditing (Internal auditing is not eligible for this requirement)
        • Taxation
        • Professional ethics and responsibilities

Note: Ohio also has an Education Assistance program for students who can show financial need. The information on the scholarship can be accessed here.

As an alternative to the 150 semester hours of college credit, you can qualify for the CPA exam in Ohio with a score of 620 on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). With this requirement, you also need to receive an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by AACSB or recognized by CHEA or ABO with 30 semester hours of accounting (meeting the above requirements) and 24 hours of business. More information on GMAT can be found on www.mba.com. Earning the CPA certificate and state license still requires you to meet the 150 semester hour requirement at some point after completing the exam.

2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

Now that you’ve completed Ohio’s educational requirements, you’re eligible to take the Uniform CPA examination.

a. Apply to take the Uniform CPA Exam. The Accountancy Board of Ohio uses the Certified Public Accountants Examination Services (CPAES) for application processing, credential evaluation and score reporting of the CPA exam. An online application can be located here. First-time applicants must pay an application fee and examination fee when registering for the Uniform CPA Exam. You are an Ohio candidate for re-examination if you previously applied as an Ohio CPA Exam candidate and were found eligible, whether or not you took the exam. If you took the exam and moved to another state and now wish to move back, you’re also considered a candidate for re-examination. This means you must pay a registration fee in addition to the examination fees at the time of registering for the examination.

b. Send application, $140 application fee, official transcripts, and examination fee ($185.10 or $207.15 for each exam section) to CPAES at the address listed below. The fees may be paid by credit card only. If applicable to you, also have the following sent directly to CPAES from the appropriate organization.

  • ADA accommodation form, if you need special accommodations in order to take the exam.
  • Foreign evaluation, if you received your education outside of the U.S.

Though optional, it is recommended that you complete and attach the course evaluation worksheet to your application.

Submit the application to:

CPA Examination Services
Ohio Coordinator
PO Box 198469
Nashville, TN 37219-8469
The toll-free phone number is: 800-CPA-EXAM (800-272-3926)

c. Wait to receive your notification to schedule (NTS). Once your application has been processed and you have been approved to take the selected exam section(s), you will receive a notification to schedule the exam from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) within five business days of paying the fees through credit card or within three weeks for other methods of payment.

You will receive the NTS by method of notification chosen when you submitted the application. If you chose email, your NTS will be sent from [email protected]. It is a good idea to include this email address in your address book. If you have not received your NTS within three weeks of submitting the application, you can contact NASBA at 866-MY-NASBA (866-696-2722) to inquire.

d. Once you have received your NTS, schedule the exam and pay fees directly with Prometric testing services at www.prometric.com/CPA/default.htm. You need to schedule the exam before the NTS expires. Centers in Ohio include:

  • Maumee
  • Worthington
  • Strongsville
  • Beavercreek
  • Cleveland
  • Stow
  • Cincinnati
  • Mentor
  • Niles

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

f. Wait for the results. The passing score for each section is 75. Ohio candidates can access their scores online here at NASBA website. If the scores are not accessible, NASBA has not yet received your scores.

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

3. Gain The Necessary Experience

After passing the Uniform CPA Examination, you are only a few steps away from obtaining your Ohio CPA certificate and license to practice.

Before moving ahead, make sure you have passed the necessary Ohio Board of Accountancy course on basic professional responsibilities and standards for accounting. A list of approved courses may be found here.

a. Next, obtain the required experience. It must be at least one year in duration and meet the following criteria:

  • Be earned working in a public accounting firm, government, academia or business
  • Be earned working in Ohio or any other state (experience earned outside of the U.S. must be approved by the Board)
  • Be verified by a CPA or a comparably qualified accountant holding an independent auditor credential who is familiar with your work and exact length of the experience

b. Complete the Record of Experience form located here. The Experience verification form from a CPA, located here, is necessary only if your authorized supervisor is not a CPA. Send the form(s) to:

Accountancy Board of Ohio (ABO)
77 S. High St., 18th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215-6128

4. Obtain Your Ohio CPA License

Now you’re ready for your Ohio CPA certificate and license/permit to practice. This is a checklist of things you have done so far:

a. Checklist

  • Completed the education requirements of Path 1, 2, 3 or 4.
  • Passed the Uniform CPA Exam with a grade of 75 on all sections of the exam
  • Passed a course in Professional Standards and Responsibilities offered by an approved organization
  • Completed the required year of experience
  • Submitted the Record of Experience (and Statement of Verifying CPA, if applicable) to Accountancy Board of Ohio.

b. Criminal Background Check

Ohio CPA candidates are required to get their criminal background checked. You are required to use WebCheck, Ohio’s electronic fingerprint system, to send your fingerprints to Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification (BCI). The background check will also include an FBI criminal records check. Find a BCI and FBI vendor that participates in National WebCheck and send the fees and fingerprints to the vendor (not to Accountancy Board of Ohio). It is then your responsibility to have the results of the background check sent to the board. Instructions for pursuing this background check are located here.

c. Apply for a Certificate

Complete the Application for Original Ohio Certificate of Certified Public Account and send it along with all documents showing education, exam and experiential requirements have been met and return it to:

Accountancy Board of Ohio
77 South High Street, 18th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

  • Certification alone does not allow permission to practice and requires no fees or CPE obligations.
  • The application for original Ohio CPA certificate must include the documents listed in the steps above and CPA exam grade sent to ABO by CPA Examination Services (CPAES).
  • If you were in school at the time of taking the CPA exam, official transcripts of the completion should be sent to CPA Examination Services, who then notify Accountancy Board of Ohio (ABO).
  • If you did not sit for the exam as an Ohio resident candidate, you would need to provide proof of Ohio residence or proof of full time work in Ohio.
  • ABO will notify you of any missing documents in your application, if applicable. If the application is complete, ABO issues certificates once a month except in December.

d. Apply for CPA licensure/permit to practice

When the Accountancy Board of Ohio receives your application for certification packet, and reviews your file you will be notified by email of anything that may be missing. When all necessary documents are in the hands of the ABO, you will be sent a letter of certification that includes a tear off portion for applying for your initial two-year license/permit to practice. Remit with a check for $100.00 dollars made payable to: Treasurer-State of Ohio. The letter will also explain your CPE requirements for the first two-year permit period.

5. Keeping Your License Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Ohio

As an Ohio CPA, you need to comply with the continuing professional education (CPE) requirements of Ohio as given here.

a. CPE Requirements for the First Renewal: The CPE requirement for new CPA license holders is completion of 40 credits for the first two years including 3 credits for Professional Standards and Responsibilities (PSR). The list of acceptable PSR courses is available here.

b. CPE Requirements for Subsequent Renewals: The requirement for subsequent renewals is completion of 120 CPE credits every three years including 3 credits for PSR. The credits are due upon the date of license renewal. The CPE reporting period is between January 1 and December 31. For example, if your renewal is due in 2012, you will report the credits earned in the period January 1, 2009 – December 31, 2011.

You can claim the PSR credits for approved and documented courses in:

  • The Ohio accountancy law and rules
  • The accountancy law and rules of another state
  • Professional ethics for CPAs, or
  • Ethical philosophy

If you meet the following criteria, you must earn 24 of the 120 CPE credits in accounting or auditing for each reporting period:

  • CPAs or Public Accountants (PAs) who work on financial reporting engagements
  • CPAs or PAs who perform financial reporting work outside public accounting while using the CPA designation

If you meet the following criteria, you must earn 24 of the 120 CPE credits in taxation for each CPE reporting period:

  • CPAs or PAs who work on taxation engagements or provide tax advice to clients
  • CPAs or PAs who perform tax work outside public accounting while using the CPA designation

The Accountancy Board of Ohio’s CPE report form can be found here.

Now that you’re a CPA in Ohio

Congratulations! You made it! You’re an Ohio CPA!!

As a professional, licensed CPA you will benefit from joining the organizations that promote the public accounting profession and provide professional development and continuing professional education (CPE) opportunities. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the biggest national organizations that provides those kinds of opportunities.

At the state level, the Ohio Society of CPAs offers Professional Standards and Responsibilities (PSR) courses and other CPE programs.

If the idea of addressing environmental concerns or promoting social and racial justice sounds compelling to you, then you might expand your talents by looking into non-profit accounting as a specialty. Getting familiar with non-profit compliance requirements and the tracking of nonprofit donations are valuable skills in those organizations.

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