5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Texas

Life is good in Texas for highly qualified accountants and auditors. According to O*Net, a U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored resource, demand for those positions is expected to jump by 19 percent in the ten-year run up to 2028, a much faster rate of growth than just about any other profession, and nearly five times the national growth rate for accountants. That’s going to contribute to an average of more than 15,000 job openings in the field every year.

Getting your CPA license here opens the door to high-paying positions across the diverse range of industries the Lone Star State is known for. That can mean working for upscale fintech startups like Apex Clearing or Zabo in Dallas, doing personal or small business accounting with a traditional CPA firm like Austin’s Maxwell Locke & Ritter, or even landing an external auditor or fraud investigator position with Houston Financial Forensics.

Of course, you have big league players in the energy sector just about everywhere in Texas. The innovative Texas power grid, ERCOT, has drawn praise for bringing competition to the electrical utility market, and with a large number of players in that game now and the kind of minimal regulation Texas is known for, accounting considerations are a big deal.

Whether you’re taking care of the accounting needs of big corporate clients or the families in your community, it takes real talent to make your way in this field. Your first steps to developing that expertise and the CPA license you need to put it to work starts with the steps outlined in this guide.

5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Texas

  1. Earn a Qualifying Degree
  2. Take the Uniform CPA Exam in Texas
  3. Gain the Necessary Experience in Texas
  4. Get your Texas CPA License
  5. Continuing Education in Texas


1. Get Your Education

a. Contact Texas colleges and universities for information on the accounting programs they offer. The Texas State Board of Public Accountancy requires all certified public accountants in the state to complete 150 semester hours of college credit and hold a bachelor’s or higher degree.

With the standard bachelor’s degree in accounting consisting of 120 semester hours, going on to earn a master’s in accounting or post-baccalaureate certificate is 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 specifically to give you the 150 semester hours you need to meet CPA requirements in Texas.

b. The Texas State Board of Public Accountancy accepts all relevant degrees and credits earned from schools accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools -Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). If you earn your degree in another part of the country, it is still very likely the Board will recognize it. Any school of business or accounting located anywhere in the nation that holds speciality accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-International (AACSB) also meets the standards for Board recognition.

If your school does not meet these accreditation requirements, you can still appeal to the Board to have your degree recognized.

The Board does not recognize credits or degrees earned through:

    • Technical or vocational schools
    • Continuing education coursework
    • CPA review coursework
    • Correspondence and/or extension programs and schools
    • Two-year colleges
    • Community colleges (with the exception of Mountain View Community College, Lone Star College, Houston Community College, and Austin Community College)

If you attended school outside of the U.S., your credits must be evaluated. The Texas State Board of Public Accountancy has contracted with an evaluator at the University of Texas at Austin-Graduate and International Admissions Center to provide these services. To request a form for evaluation of foreign credentials, contact the TSBPA at (512) -305-7851 or by emailing exam@tsbpa.state.tx.us.

c. Meet the specific CPA degree and coursework requirements in Texas. Through a combination of your bachelor’s degree and any additional credits you earned through a concurrent certificate or graduate work, your 150 semester hours of college credit needs to include:

    • Three-semester hours of face-to-face, traditional classroom-style ethics training that covers ethical theory; AICPA, SEC and Texas Board accountancy rules; core values; independence; objectivity; integrity and ethical reasoning. A link to Board-approved ethics courses can be found here.
    • 30 semester hours of upper–division accounting courses which should include:
      • Managerial/cost accounting
      • Financial accounting, that may include up to 9 semester hours of intermediate accounting; advanced accounting; and accounting theory
      • Financial statement analysis
      • Internal accounting control and risk assessment
      • Auditing and attestation services
      • Taxation (must take at least 2 semester hours covering tax research and analysis; up to 12 semester hours allowed)
      • Accounting research and analysis (must take at least 2 semester hours)
      • Accounting information systems (up to 12 semester hours)
      • Financial accounting/reporting for government/nonprofit organizations
      • International accounting and financial reporting
      • Fraud examination
      • Public accounting coursework (up to 3 semester hours)
      • Accounting internship (not longer than 3 semester hours, and not taken until you have completed 12 semester hours of upper level accounting courses)
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  • 24 semester hours of upper-level business courses, with no more than 6 semester hours in any subject area. Subjects may include:
    • Information systems/technology
    • Areas related to accounting
    • Finance
    • Statistics and quantitative methods
    • Business or accounting communications (you must take at least 2 semester credit hours in upper-level coursework in this subject)
    • Marketing
    • Management
    • Economics
    • Business law (includes Uniform Commercial Code)


2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

Once you have completed 150 semester hours of credit and earned at least a bachelor’s degree, you may apply to take the Uniform CPA Examination.

a. Complete the Application of Intent of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy (TSBPA). This will help the Board evaluate your credits and moral character and determine that you are ready to take the Uniform CPA Exam. Documentation that must be sent with this application includes:

  • Completed Application of Intent
  • Official transcripts from all institutions attended
  • A 2” x 2” photograph of your head and shoulders
  • Certified, notarized copy of your government issued identification (such as a driver’s license or passport)
  • Certified, notarized copy of your social security card
  • Notarized Authorization and Release form for background check
  • Official certificate of good moral character
  • ADA accommodations request, if necessary
  • $50 application fee

Mail the completed application and all of the necessary supporting documents to: Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900.

b. Once the Board has approved your Application of Intent, you will be mailed instructions to file a CPA Examination Application.

c. After the Board has approved your Application of Intent, complete the online Eligibility Application, which goes to both the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). At this time you must also pay via credit card $15 to the TSBPA for each section of the Uniform CPA Exam you intend to take.

d. Within 24 to 48 hours, you will electronically receive an Approval Notice from TSBPA, giving you a 90-day deadline to take the sections of the exam for which you have signed up.

e. After receiving the Approval Notice, you will receive an Exam Fee Payment Coupon from NASBA via mail, email or fax (depending upon the method you selected at the time of application). You may pay these fees via check or money order by mail or online via credit card.

f. Once they have received your exam fees, NASBA will send you a Notice to Schedule via mail, email or fax (depending upon the method you pre-selected).

g. Visit Prometric’s site to schedule your examination at a location convenient to you. Centers in Texas include:

  • Wichita Falls
  • Abilene
  • Lubbock
  • Odessa
  • Bedford
  • Waco
  • San Antonio
  • Austin
  • Dallas

h. Arrive at your selected Prometric testing center on examination day ready to take the Uniform CPA Exam.

i. The TSBPA will mail your exam scores to you once they have been tabulated along with a TSBPA-specific ethics exam.

To request special disability testing accommodations, complete the TSBPA’s ADA Testing Accommodations form. For detailed information on the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.


3. Gain The Necessary Experience

You must also fulfill the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy’s work experience requirement before the state will issue you a CPA certificate.

a. The TSBPA requires that all CPA applicants complete at least one year (2000 hours) of paid or volunteer work experience (full- or part-time) under the supervision of a CPA. Your college’s career center can help you find suitable work experience, which may be in one of the following areas:

  • Client practice of public accountancy
  • Industry
  • Government
  • Law Firm
  • Education
  • Internship (subject to evaluation by the Board)

b. In this work experience you must demonstrate diversified, non-routing accounting competency providing services or advice in the following areas:

  • Accounting
  • Attest
  • Management
  • Financial advisory
  • Consulting
  • Tax
  • Other services the Board deems appropriate for an accountant

c. Have your supervising CPA complete the Work Experience Form, verifying your accounting work experience

d. Provide your supervising CPA with a stamped, address envelope to send the Work Experience Form to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900


4. Get Your Texas CPA License

Upon completing the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy’s education requirements, passing the Uniform CPA Exam and fulfilling the Board’s experience requirement, you may apply for a CPA license (note: Texas is not a two-tier state. TSBPA uses the term certificate and license interchangeably, although certificate generally refers to the licensing document). First, make sure that you have completed each of the following steps:

a. Checklist

  • Complete 150 semester hours of college education and earn at least a bachelor’s degree
  • Submit an Application of Intent with all necessary supporting documents to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900.
  • Pass the Uniform CPA Exam
  • Fulfill the TSBPA’s employment requirement of one year (2000 hours) and have your supervising CPA complete the Work Experience Form and mail it to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900.
  • Pass the Board’s examination of the Rules of Professional Conduct (to be administered by the TSBPA-contact them directly at (512) -305-7851 to arrange this).
  • Complete the Board’s Oath of Office
  • Pay a Certificate Fee of $50

b. Complete the Texas Application for CPA Certificate. Request this application directly from the TSBPA at the above address or by contacting them at (512) -305-7851.

Interstate Reciprocal License

If you hold a CPA license or certificate in another state, you may qualify for a reciprocal CPA license in Texas. You must meet all of the requirements (education, examination, experience) of a CPA certificate holder in Texas. Submit the following documentation to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, 333 Guadalupe, Tower 3, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701-3900:

International Reciprocal License

If you attended school outside of the country, your credits should already have been evaluated an evaluator at the University of Texas at Austin who works with the TSBPA. To request a form for evaluation of foreign credentials, contact the TSBPA at (512) 305-7851.

If you hold a CPA license or certificate from a foreign jurisdiction, the TSBPA may grant you a CPA certificate under certain conditions:

  • Condition 1: You hold a CPA license or certificate from one of the following jurisdictions:
    • Certified Public Accountants of Australia (CPAA)
    • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA)
    • Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA)
    • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI)
    • Instituto Mexicano De Contadores Publicos (IMCP)
    • New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA)
    • Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA)

You must take the International Qualification Examination (IQEX) if you are a certificate/license holder from one of the above jurisdictions in order to receive a Texas CPA certificate.

  • Condition 2: You do not hold a CPA license or certificate from one of the above jurisdictions but your jurisdiction’s credentials are comparable to those of Texas. Your foreign credential allows you to issue reports on financial statements if it meets the following criteria:
    • Was issued by a foreign jurisdiction that requires education, examination, and experience of its CPAs
    • Is not expired, suspended, revoked, probated or limited
    • Was received based on comparable education, examination and experience requirements
    • If you did not complete an experience requirement in your foreign jurisdiction, you must:
      • Complete at least four years of professional accounting experience in Texas within the 10 years prior to submitting a CPA application
      • Pass a uniform qualifying examination (such as the Uniform CPA Exam or IQEX)
      • Pass an examination of the laws, rules and ethical code of Texas


5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Texas

As a CPA certificate holder in Texas, you must complete continuing professional education (CPE) hours to maintain your CPA certificate.

a. Complete 120 hours of CPE every three years, with at least 20 hours of CPE in each 12 month period

  • For your first 12 month licensing period, there is no CPE requirement
  • For your second 12 month licensing period, you must report at least 20 CPE hours accrued in the 12 months before the license period
  • For your third 12 month licensing period, you must report at least 60 CPE hours that were accrued in the 24 months before the license period
  • For your fourth 12 month licensing period, you must report at least 100 CPE hours accrued in the 36 months before the license period
  • For your fifth and subsequent 12 month licensing periods, you must report at least 120 CPE hours accrued in the 36 months before the license period

b. Receive CPE credit through approved formats:

  • As a discussion leader or instructor, you may claim up to 20 hours of CPE credit in a reporting period (instructing introductory level courses do not count)
  • As an author or publisher, you may claim up to 10 hours of CPE credit in a reporting period
  • You must claim at least 20 hours of CPE credit each reporting period as a participant in a qualified CPE program (live action instruction, group or self-study programs)

c. Make sure to enroll in approved subjects:

  • Accounting, business and other technical courses related to the professional competency of an accountant qualify
  • You may not claim more than 50 percent of your CPE hours in a threeyear period from non-technical subjects or courses

d. Enroll in CPE programs from Board- approved, registered sponsors. Use the TSBPA’s CPE Sponsor Lookup database to ensure that your CPE program will qualify for credit. Other approved organizations include:

  • Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)
  • Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)
  • FASB’s Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF)
  • AICPA’s Auditing Standards Board and Accounting Standards Executive Committee
  • Financial Executives Institute’s Committee on Corporate Reporting (FEI/CCR)
  • AICPA’s Accounting and Review Services Committee (ARSC)
  • AICPA’s Private Companies Section on Technical Issues Committee
  • If you claim credit from a non-registered sponsor

e. Maintain documentation of your CPE credit for at least three years. This documentation should include:

  • Sponsor’s name and identification number
  • Title/description of program content
  • Dates of completion
  • Location of program
  • Credit hours claimed for program

f. In addition to the regular CPE requirements, all CPA certificate holders in Texas must complete a 4-hour ethics course every two years. A list of approved ethics courses may be found here.

Now that you’re a CPA in Texas

Great job! You have worked hard, studied, and earned a Texas CPA license! Now, it’s worth considering becoming a member of the professional organizations that will make your life easier and help you get established in the profession. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the local Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants both offer members continuing education programs, networking and development opportunities, along with professional guidance.

If you have an interest in a particular industry, you’ll find your niche here in Texas. The energy industry here alone offers more opportunities than you’d find across all industry sectors in some states. Sorting out the billing and charges from the massive winter grid failures of 2021 that dropped power for 4 million people will keep some CPAs here busy for years.

Specializations available to CPAs here in Texas include forensic accounting, information systems and technology accounting, personal financial planning, managerial accountinggovernmental accounting, and a whole lot more.

Last Modified July 4, 2021 by AccountingEDU Staff