5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in South Carolina

You don’t have to be a golfer to know that tourism and recreation are the biggest industry employers of CPAs here in South Carolina, but it helps. Whether on the beaches of Hilton Head or in the stately old neighborhoods of Charleston, you will find vacationers from all over the country enjoying the Palmetto state’s natural and manmade wonders. And, of course, you’ll see plenty of people out on the links, too.

According to research and analytics firm IBISWorld, retail trade and accommodation and food services are two out of the three largest employers here. They also put the state’s growth rate at 10th in the nation, so there will be plenty of expansion in the coming years.

That’s particularly true in the accounting and auditing field, where O*Net, a U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored resource, pegs the projected job growth rate at 12 percent over the ten years leading up to 2028, much faster than the national average. That will lead to an expected 1,920 job openings per year, a combination of newly created positions and turnover in existing roles.

Most of the tourist sector is fed by small businesses and so you will find the greatest number of positions for CPAs here at local accounting firms across the state. Those range from shops like Dixon Hughes Goodman in Charleston and Spartanburg to The Hobbs Group in Columbia. Or you can decide to hang out your own shingle after you learn how to become a CPA in South Carolina, and specialize in any area you choose.

It’s all on the table if you follow these 5 steps to becoming a CPA in South Carolina.

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

1. Get Your Education

a. Contact South Carolina universities with accounting programs and request information. The South Carolina Board of Accountancy requires all CPA applicants to hold a bachelor’s or higher degree and 150 total semester 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 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 South Carolina.

b. The South Carolina Board of Accountancy will accept applicable college credits and degrees from schools that hold basic institutional accreditation from one of these agencies:

c. Meet South Carolina’s CPA degree and coursework requirements. The 150 semester hours of college credit you are required to complete can be earned through a combination of undergraduate and graduate courses and must consist of:

  • 36 semester hours of accounting courses, with 24 at the junior level or above that cover:
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  • 36 semester hours of business courses, including:
    • Economics
    • Business law
    • Finance
    • Computer science
    • Management
    • Ethics
    • Marketing
    • Statistics

2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

South Carolina CPA candidates who have earned at least 120 semester hours of credit, including 24 semester hours of accounting courses and 24 semester hours of business courses, may apply to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam.

a. Register online at CPA Examination Services (CPAES). Applications and supporting documents must be mailed to:

CPA Examination Services – SC,
PO Box 198469, Nashville,
TN 37219.
Ph: 800-CPA-EXAM

b. Send the following documentation to support your Uniform CPA Exam application:

  • Official college transcript(s) sent directly from your school to CPAES (if your school offers official electronic transcripts, they may be emailed from your school to [email protected])
  • Any disability testing accommodations needed (call CPAES at the above number to arrange)
  • Application and examination fees (payable by credit card or check or money order to CPA Examination Services)

c. Wait to Receive your NTS. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) will determine your eligibility to test and issue your Notice to Schedule (NTS) the Uniform CPA Exam by the method you chose when you applied to take the exam (mail, email or fax).

d. Schedule your exam at Prometric’s website. South Carolina testing locations include:

  • Rock Hill
  • Columbia
  • Florence
  • Greenville
  • Charleston

e. Arrive on examination day on time and ready to take the exam.

f. Wait to receive your exam scores by mail once they are tabulated.

To access an in-depth explanation of the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.

3. Gain The Necessary Experience

The South Carolina Board of Accountancy requires all CPAs to fulfill practical work experience prerequisites before licensure can occur.

a. Take and pass Professional Ethics: The AICPA’s Comprehensive Course, a home-study course on professional ethics, before continuing with the licensure process. You must earn a score of 90 or above and attach a copy of your certificate of completion to your licensing application.

b. Complete at least 24 semester hours of the 36 semester hours of accounting courses required for licensure before embarking upon satisfying the practical experience requirement. Under Board rules, you cannot earn credit for qualifying experience until you have completed these credits credits (which must include core classes of tax, auditing, managerial accounting and financial accounting at the 300 (Junior) level or higher). Your college’s career center will assist you in finding suitable experience. There are two ways to fulfill the experience requirement:

  • Method 1
    • Earn at least one year of accounting experience (equivalent to 2000 hours of part-time work).
    • This experience may be in public, governmental or private employment (industry)
    • This experience may be full- or part-time
    • You may not earn more than 40 hours of experience per week
    • Competencies to be included in the experience should focus on:
      • Reviews
      • Compilations
      • Audits/governmental audits
      • Prospective financial information
      • Taxes
      • Financial statements without reports
      • Other services
    • This experience must be supervised and reviewed by a licensed CPA
    • Download the Certificate of Experience Package, where you will document this experience. It must be signed by each CPA who supervised your experience. Include your dates of employment, duties and descriptions of duties.
  • Method 2
    • Obtain at least five years of experience teaching accounting courses in an accredited college or university on a full-time basis
    • To qualify as full-time teaching, your schedule must include at least 12 semester hours per year
    • Only accounting subjects qualify. Teaching courses in finance, business law, personnel management, computer applications, statistics and economics do not count towards this requirement.
    • If you teach accounting principles courses or courses at the fundamental accounting level, that teaching experience may not make up more than two years of your five year requirement
    • Accounting courses considered to be above the fundamental accounting level include (but are not limited to) advanced accounting, intermediate accounting, income tax, auditing, management accounting, financial accounting and cost accounting
    • Document this experience on Board Form 2102T (not available on the Board’s website). Call (803) 896-4770 to request one.

c. If your verifying/supervising CPA is licensed in a state other than South Carolina, make sure to fill out the Out of State Employer’s Licensure Verification (found within the Certificate of Experience package) and mail it to their licensing jurisdiction for them to complete.

d. Submit the completed Certificate of Experience form only after fulfilling the one-year of experience requirement (or five years for teaching), to: South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation; Board of Accountancy; P.O. Box 11329; Columbia, SC 29211-1369.

4. Get Your South Carolina CPA License

Have you passed the Uniform CPA Examination and completed the South Carolina Board of Accountancy’s educational and experiential requirements? If so, it is time to apply for your South Carolina CPA license. To be eligible for licensure, confirm that you have satisfied the following:

a. Checklist

  • Completed 150 semester hours of college credits and earnd, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree.
  • Passed all portions of the Uniform CPA Exam.
  • Have had your college mail your official transcript to the South Carolina Board of Accountancy at P.O. Box 11329; Columbia, SC 29211-1369.
  • Mailed your certificate of completion from the AICPA professional ethics course to the Board
  • Complied with the Board’s experiential requirement of one year of public accountancy experience or five years experience teaching accounting. Complete the Certification of Experience form, have your supervising CPA sign it, and mail it to the Board.

b. Apply for your South Carolina CPA License

This can be done via the Licensing Application after Exam. Mail your application and supporting documentation directly to the Board (address above).

Interstate Reciprocal License

Do you currently have a CPA license or certificate from another state, yet wish to legally work as a CPA in South Carolina? If so, you may apply for a reciprocal license provided you meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a license from a state deemed by NASBA to have requirements that are substantially equivalent to those of South Carolina, which now includes every single state and jurisdiction
  • Have at least four years of professional CPA experience in another state within the past ten years
  • Can prove completion of 80 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) within the past two years
  • Filed an Interstate Exchange of Information form to verify your educational credits and license or certificate in another jurisdiction
  • Filed the South Carolina Reciprocity Application
  • Mail the application, along with all applicable fees, to the South Carolina Board of Accountancy at P.O. Box 11329; Columbia, SC 29211-1369

International Reciprocal License

Do you currently hold a CPA license in another country? You may be eligible for a South Carolina CPA license. You must be licensed in one of the following jurisdictions:

  • ICAA (Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia)
  • CICA (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants)
  • IMCP (Instituto Mexicano De Contadores Publicos)
  • CAI (Chartered Accountants Ireland)
  • HKICPA (Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants)
  • NZICA (New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants)

You must also meet all of the state’s qualifications for licensure (including requisite education, four years of professional experience in the last ten years, and completing 80 hours of CPE in the last two years. After reviewing NASBA’s IQEX Information, you’ll take the IQEX (International Qualification Exam) offered by NASBA. Once your exam has been scored, you may apply for a reciprocal license in South Carolina. Contact the Board at (803) 896-4770 to obtain an application.

If you are a member of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA), you must use a special Reciprocity Application, take the IQEX (International Qualification Exam) offered by NASBA, have your IQEX scores mailed from CPA Examination Services to the South Carolina Board of Accountancy, have the scores from your Canadian Chartered Accountant Uniform Public Accountant Qualification Examination mailed to the Board, and fill out the NASBA form “Authorization for Exchange of Professional Accounting Credential Information for Foreign Reciprocity” (available by calling the Board at (803) 896-4770).

5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in South Carolina

Every licensed CPA in South Carolina must satisfy the state’s continuing professional education (CPE) requirement.

a. Take 40 hours of CPE each year

  • No CPE is required for your first year of licensure
  • 20 hours of CPE may be carried over from one year to the next

b. Enroll in only approved program formats, through approved locations such as:

  • Learning portions of committee or staff programs or meetings
  • Professional development programs of state, local and national accounting organizations
  • Technical sessions at meetings of state, local and national accounting organizations
  • University and/or colleges (credit or non-credit courses)
  • In-firm organized, formal educational programs
  • Educational programs offered by other professional, industrial, or commercial firms, proprietary schools, or government bodies
  • Self-study (must be registered as NASBA approved Quality Assurance Service (QAS) programs)
  • Publishing articles or books

You can find approved CPE programs through:

c. Know the correct conversion formulas for CPE credit:

  • Self-study may only account for 20 hours of CPE each year
  • Self-study CPE hours may not carry over to the next year
  • Lecturing or teaching a program may only account for 20 hours of CPE each year
  • Publishing articles or books may only account for 10 of the total 40 CPE hours each year
  • One semester hour of college credit courses equals 15 hours of CPE
  • One semester hour of college non-credit courses equals one hour of CPE
  • Three semester hours of teaching college credit courses equals 10 hours of CPE
  • No credit will be given for teaching introductory or basic accounting courses
  • CPE hours from self-study cannot be carried over to the next year
  • Only 10 hours of CPE can be earned in a calendar day

d. Enroll in the proper subjects

  • CPE subjects must relate directly to a CPA’s professional competency
  • You may only derive 8 of your 40 annual CPE hours from personal development subjects, including (but not limited to):
    • Communication skills
    • Interviewing skills
    • Managing others
    • Counseling
    • Career planning

e. Maintain documentation of your CPE for at least five years. Records should include:

  • Name and address of organization sponsoring course
  • Location of course
  • Course title and description
  • Dates of attendance
  • Number of hours claimed
  • The QAS registration number (if a self-study course)
  • Any certificates of completion

f. Report your CPE hours annually

Now that you’re a CPA in South Carolina

Well done! You are now a CPA in South Carolina! Think about joining professional organizations such as the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the South Carolina Association of CPAs. These industry groups offer continuing education, professional development programs and networking opportunities.

Consider specializing! In South Carolina, CPAs specialize in many fields with job titles including comptroller, internal auditor, forensic accountant, tax accountant, financial planner, payroll specialist, budget analyst and management consultant.

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