5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is ranked among the top 10 in the nation on the U.S. News & World Report Best Business Environment list. The state gets high marks for both business and patent creation rates, and is ranked second overall for top corporate headquarters. That list includes members of the Fortune 500 companies like Textron and CVS.

Anyone who learns how to become a CPA in Rhode Island can aim for big-time corporate jobs that need to be filled with the accounting talent those industries demand. That can include expertise in information systems accounting, inventory, and managerial accounting practices. But the state also has plenty of opportunities for CPAs in traditional roles too, serving wealthy individuals and small businesses statewide.

With a median household income of $67,167 according to the Census Bureau, Rhode Island residents turn to highly qualified CPAs for all kinds of accounting expertise. That can range from handling the books for a small business to helping with estate planning to figuring out how to fund educational expenses.

You can either branch out on your own to start an accounting practice to meet these needs or look for jobs at the state’s many existing accounting firms. Those include KLR in Middletown, Sansiveri, Kimball & Company in Providence, and DiSanto, Priest & Company in Warwick.

No matter what your path, though, you’ll start by following the 5 steps listed below to get your CPA license in Rhode Island.

5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Rhode Island

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


1. Get Your Education

a. Request information from Rhode Island universities offering accounting programs. The Rhode Island Board of Accountancy has ruled that certified public accountants must have earned 150 semester hours of college credit and hold a minimum of 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 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 Rhode Island.

b. Understand Rhode Island’s residency requirement. You must either be a resident of, be steadily employed in, or have a place of business in Rhode Island in order to be eligible to take the Uniform CPA Exam and become licensed as a CPA here.

c. The Rhode Island Board of Accountancy recognizes all applicable college credits and degrees accredited by agencies listed in the U.S. Secretary of Education database.

CPA Examination Services- RI
P.O. Box 198469
Nashville, TN 37219

d. Meet CPA degree and curriculum requirements in Rhode Island. The 150 semester hours of college credit you earn through a combination of undergraduate and graduate courses will need to meet these requirements in order for you to be eligible for licensure:

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  • Degree Option 1: After completing a bachelor’s program, earn a graduate degree with an accounting concentration
  • Degree Option 2: After completing a bachelor’s program, earn a graduate degree in business or another related concentration with total credits consisting of at least 15 semester hours in graduate-level accounting courses or 24 semester hours in undergraduate-level accounting courses. These accounting courses must include:
    • 6 semester hours in fundamental accounting
    • 6 semester hours in intermediate financial accounting and reporting
    • 3 semester hours in tax accounting
    • 3 semester hours in auditing
    • 3 semester hours in advanced financial accounting and reporting
  • Degree Option 3: Earn a bachelor’s degree along with a concurrent certificate or additional courses totaling 150 semester hours of college credit consisting of at least 24 semester hours of accounting credits and 24 semester hours of business courses. These courses must include:
    • 6 semester hours in fundamental accounting
    • 6 semester hours in intermediate financial accounting and reporting
    • 3 semester hours in tax accounting
    • 3 semester hours in auditing
    • 3 semester hours in advanced financial accounting and reporting
    • 3 semester hours in economics
    • 3 semester hours in business law

Notes:

    • Transcripts with courses listed as “in progress” are not acceptable
    • Correspondence, online and CLEP courses will be accepted if you receive credit for them at an accredited college
    • Community college courses from accredited community colleges are acceptable in contributing to the 150 semester hour total
    • CPA review courses will be accepted if you receive credit for them at an accredited college
    • Commercial CPA review courses will not be accepted


2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

If you have earned at least a bachelor’s degree and completed 120 of the 150 total semester hours of credit, under Rhode Island’s Board of Accountancy regulations you may sit for the Uniform CPA Exam.

a. Visit CPA Examination Services (CPAES) to register online.

b. Submit all necessary documentation along with your Uniform CPA Exam application. Mail this information to:

CPA Examination Services, Rhode Island Coordinator
P.O. Box 198469, Nashville, TN
37219-8469.

  • You may submit an official college transcript in a sealed school envelope, or ask your college to submit official transcripts directly to CPAES
  • Request any necessary disability testing accommodations
  • Pay all necessary fees

c. Wait to receive your Notification to Schedule (NTS) from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) by mail, fax or email (depending upon the method you selected when submitting your application)

d. Visit Prometric’s website to schedule your examination. Testing centers in Rhode Island include Warwick and Cumberland.

e. Appear at the correct Prometric testing site on your selected examination day prepared to test.

f. Once your exam has been scored, your exam scores will be mailed to you.

If you need to coordinate special accommodations for testing or require more information, call the Rhode Island Coordinator of CPA Examination Services at 800-CPA-EXAM. For detailed information on the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.


3. Gain The Necessary Experience

All CPAs in Rhode Island must satisfy the state’s accounting work experience requirement before becoming licensed to practice.

a. Before continuing with your experience, you must pass the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)’s Home Study Course on Professional Ethics. Instructions to order materials for this course may be found here.

b. The Rhode Island Board of Accountancy specifies that prospective CPAs must have at least one year (1820 hours) of paid public accounting experience. This work experience must be supervised and verified by a licensed CPA. The career center at your college or university can help you search for suitable opportunities. You may acquire this experience through employment in education, public practice, industry or government practice.

Competencies that you must demonstrate within your portfolio of experience are dependent upon your employment setting.

  • If you work in public practice as a staff accountant, competencies include but are not limited to:
    • Using independent thought and judgment on a variety of accounting matters
    • Applying the correct technical and behavioral standards to your work
  • If you work in federal, state or municipal government practice, competencies include but are not limited to:
    • Assessing the effectiveness of the internal controls of the accounting agency, transaction streams and/or information systems
    • Understanding the industry/industries with which your agency does business
    • Under Board rules, the following are acceptable governmental accounting jobs for gaining this experience:
      • Working as an accountant or auditor in state government
      • Working as an accountant or auditor at a GS-7 level or above in federal government
      • Working for the Federal Bureau of Investigations as a special agent accountant
      • Working as an accountant or auditor in military service
      • Working as an accountant or auditor for other government agencies
  • If you work in industry, competencies include but are not limited to:
    • Understanding the transaction streams and information systems of your employer
    • Appraising the competence of your employer’s internal controls
    • Preparing and analyzing financial statements
    • Preparing tax returns
    • Budgeting
    • Researching tax returns
    • Cost accounting
    • Applying principles of accounting
    • Understanding your employer’s industry and competition
    • Other professional services offered in the practice of general public accounting
  • If you work in education, you must:
    • Be an instructor at an accredited college or university
    • Use independent judgment and thought on non-routing accounting matters
    • Teach upper level courses only
  • General competencies expected of all CPA applicants include (but are not limited to):
    • Understanding the Rhode Island Board of Accountancy’s Code of Professional Conduct
    • Displaying knowledge and understanding of the goals and objectives of different business entities
    • Developing and analyzing critical success factors and performance measures
    • Understanding regulatory trends and economic factors that affect a business entity
    • Preparing work papers and documentation
    • Preparing and analyzing financial statements
    • Understanding information systems and transaction streams

Verifying CPA Requirements

  • Must hold a current, valid CPA permit
  • Must meet AICPA competency requirements set forth in their Professional Standards
  • Submit written verification of the applicant’s employment experience on the Experience Verification form, found within the Application for CPA Certificate packet. Information that must be included:
    • Dates of applicant’s employment
    • Full- or part-time status
    • Nature of the duties of the applicant
    • Applicant’s total hours of experience
  • Mail the form directly to the Rhode Island Board of Accountancy, 1511 Pontiac Avenue, #68-1, Cranston, RI 02920

Responsibilities of the Applicant

  • Select a CPA who holds a current, valid license
  • Fill out the top portion of the Experience Verification form and give it to your verifying CPA to complete
  • Give the verifying CPA an addressed, stamped envelope to return the form directly to the Rhode Island Board of Accountancy


4. Get Your Rhode Island CPA License/Permit to Practice

Once you have passed the Uniform CPA Examination, completed the education requirements and satisfied the Rhode Island Board of Accountancy’s employment experience requirement, you are ready to apply for a CPA Certificate. Check that you have completed the following steps:

a. Checklist

  • Accomplish 150 semester hours of college education and earn a bachelor’s degree
  • Take the Uniform CPA Exam.
  • Send an official copy of your college transcript, with seal, and a copy of your college diploma to the Board along with other necessary supporting documentation
  • Enclose a 2” x 2” photo of yourself
  • Send proof of passing the AICPA Ethics Examination
  • Fulfill the Board’s employment experience requirement of one year (1820 hours) of paid work experience in education public practice, industry or government. Have a verifying CPA affirm this experience by completing the Experience Verification form in the Application for CPA Certificate packet.

b. Apply for your Rhode Island CPA Certificate. The Rhode Island Board of Accountancy encourages all applicants to apply online, as applying via paper application through the mail will result in a two to three month delay in processing applications.

If you are requested to mail any supporting documentation, send it to:

Rhode Island Board of Accountancy
1511 Pontiac Avenue #68-1
Cranston, RI 02920.

Interstate Reciprocal License

If you hold a CPA certificate or license from another state and want to practice as a CPA in Rhode Island, you may apply for a Reciprocal CPA Certificate as a current Rhode Island resident or if currently employed in Rhode Island. Take the following actions:

  • Complete the Application for a Reciprocal CPA Certificate.
  • You must have your Uniform CPA Exam scores sent from the State Board location of where you sat for the exam
  • You must also have the State Board where your other CPA license is held send verification of that license to the Rhode Island Board of Accountancy
  • Have your college send an official transcript and copy of your diploma to the Board.
  • You must provide proof of passing the AICPA Ethics Examination
  • You must have met the experience requirement of one year (1820 hours) and have your supervising CPA fill out the Experience Verification form within the Application for a Reciprocal CPA Certificate packet
  • You must provide evidence of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) fulfilled over the past three years using the form provided in the Application for a Reciprocal CPA Certificate packet. Also be sure to enclose completion certificates from any CPE self-study courses.
  • Mail the entire application packet and supporting evidence to the Rhode Island Board of Accountancy, 1511 Pontiac Avenue, #68-1, Cranston, RI 02920


5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Rhode Island

All Rhode Island licensed CPAs must fulfill a specific number of continuing professional education (CPE) hours in order to maintain licensure.

a. Satisfy 120 hours of CPE, or 15 days of formal CPE, every three years

  • A CPE day equals 8 hours of formal instruction
  • A CPE hour equals 50 minutes of formal instruction
  • 24 of the total 120 CPE hours must be in accounting and auditing
  • 6 of the total 120 CPE hours must be in regulatory or behavioral ethics

b. Sign up for approved subjects and educational arrangements:

  • These educational formats are Board-approved for CPE credit:
    • Lecture
    • Seminar
    • Self-study (may not exceed 80 of the total 120 CPE hours in a three-year period)
    • Being a lecturer or moderator (2 CPE hours per hour of instruction, may not exceed 60 of the total 120 CPE hours in a three-year period)
    • Publishing articles or books (may not exceed 60 of the total 120 CPE hours in a three-year period)
  • These subjects are Board-approved for CPE credit:
    • Accounting and auditing
    • Technical business subjects, such as:
      • Consulting services
      • Management
      • Specialized knowledge and applications
      • Taxes
    • Personal development and marketing (may not exceed 24 hours of the total 120 CPE hours in a three-year period)
    • Behavioral ethics
    • Regulatory ethics

c. Gain your CPE hours at an approved location:

  • Professional development and educational programs offered by state, local and national accounting organizations
  • Technical sessions of state, local and national accounting organization meetings
  • University and/or college courses designed to enhance an accountant’s professional competency
  • Organized, formal educational programs held within an accounting firm
  • Formal programs offered by other accounting, professional or industrial organizations, as long as they enhance an accountant’s professional competency
  • Formal self-study programs and correspondence courses

Accepted CPE programs in Rhode Island are available through:

d.
Keep records of your CPE hours for no less than four years. These records must be reported when you renew your CPA license triennially, and must include:

  • Organization sponsoring course
  • Location of course
  • Dates of attendance
  • Number of hours claimed

Now that you’re a CPA in Rhode Island

Congratulations! You have become a licensed CPA in Rhode Island! You might want to consider becoming a part of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and joining the local Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants. Both of these organizations offer members opportunities for professional development through networking, continuing professional education programs and professional guidance.

You should also consider specializing. Sub-disciplines within the field of accounting in Rhode Island include international business accounting, accounting information systems, business administration, personal financial planning, forensic accounting, and estate planning.

Last Modified June 21, 2021 by AccountingEDU Staff