5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in Virginia

If we changed the state slogan to “Virginia is for CPAs,” we probably wouldn’t attract as many tourists, but we might be able to pull in enough accounting talent to keep up with demand.

Till then, the state is going to need as much help as it can get. The U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored resource, O*Net, estimates that jobs for accountants and auditors will grow by 7 percent in the ten-year period leading up to 2028. That means we’re going to see some 4,700 job openings for accountants every year through a combination of job growth and normal turnover as the old guard rides off into the sunset for retirement.

According to IBISWorld, a research and analytics firm, out of the top five industries that contribute to the state’s GDP, three are hotbeds for accounting talent: manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and professional, scientific, and technical services. Capital One is based here in McLean, and Genworth Financial is in Richmond. Computer Sciences Corporation in Falls Church has a lock on IT enterprise services, fueling a strong demand for tech savvy CPAs.

Right on the doorstep of Washington DC, you’ll also find a lot of governmental accounting jobs in Virginia. The aerospace and defense industry revolving around our many military bases is also a source of jobs, with Fortune 500 companies like General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman always in need of expert accounting talent.

Naturally, there are plenty of conventional accounting firms scattered around the state, ranging from the Big Four firms scattered around D.C., to smaller local and regional firms like the CST Group out of Reston. You’ll also find CPAs here meeting all the usual demands of individuals and small businesses in specialties like tax accounting, retirement planning, and assurance services.

Learn how to become a CPA in Virginia in just five steps.

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

1. Get Your Education

a. Get in touch with universities in Virginia offering accounting programs to learn more about the options available to you. All certified public accountants in Virginia must comply with Virginia Board of Accountancy rules, which specify a bachelor’s degree (at minimum) and 150 total semester hours of college credit.

With most bachelor’s degrees in accounting consisting of 120 semester hours, going on to earn a master’s in accounting or post-baccalaureate certificate is the standard 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 Virginia.

b. The Virginia Board of Accountancy is glad to accept accounting degrees and other related credits earned at colleges and universities from anywhere in the country that hold standard regional accreditation through one of these agencies:

If you attended a program that is not accredited by any of the above agencies, including colleges and universities in other countries, your credits must be reviewed by a Board-approved education evaluation firm prior to sitting for the Uniform CPA Exam. Once the Board receives their report, it will make the final decision on whether to accept your credits. Approved evaluation agencies include:

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c. Meet CPA degree and coursework requirements. In Virginia, CPAs need at least 120 semester hours of college coursework and must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in order to be eligible to take the Uniform CPA Exam. For licensure, a total of 150 semester hours are required, which means that between the time you take the exam and apply for your license, you’ll need to earn those 30 additional credits through a master’s in accounting, post-bachelor’s certificate, or some other means.

Between your undergraduate and graduate degree, you will need to complete the following courses to meet the Board’s CPA requirements:

  • 24 semester hours of accounting classes, incorporating courses in:
  • 24 semester hours of business classes
    • No more than 6 semester hours of this requirement may be in accounting courses
  • Introductory accounting and principles courses may not be used to fulfill any of the 48 semester hour business and accounting credit requirement

2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

If you have completed 120 semester hours of the total requirement of 150 and have received a bachelor’s degree, you are eligible to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination.

a. You must use the Virginia Board of Accountancy’s online application to apply to take the Uniform CPA Exam (found here). In order to use this online application, you must know your Jurisdiction ID. This may be obtained by calling the Board at (804) 367-8505.

b. Have the appropriate documentation mailed to the Virginia Board of Accountancy. This includes:

  • Your official college transcript, mailed directly from your institution to the Virginia Board of Accountancy, 9960 Mayland Dr, Suite 402, Henrico, Virginia 23233.
  • A copy of your driver’s license
  • Payment of exam and application fees
  • If you need testing accommodations due to a disability, you may enclose proper documentation and request testing modifications

c. After the Board receives your application, necessary documents and fees, it will forward an Authorization to Test (ATT) to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), who will then issue your Notification to Schedule (NTS).

d. Upon receipt of your NTS, contact Prometric at www.prometric.com/CPA/default.htm to schedule your exam at a convenient Virginia site. In Virginia, locations include Alexandria, Bristol, Fairfax, Glen Allen, Lynchburg, Newport News and Roanoke.

e. Appear at your selected Prometric center on examination day set to take the test.

f. Your exam scores will be posted online at the Virginia Board of Accountancy website once they are mailed to you once they have been computed.

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

3. Gain The Necessary Experience

All CPA applicants in the commonwealth of Virginia must fulfill work experience requirements as part of the licensing process.

a. The Virginia Board of Accountancy requires all applicants to complete the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA)’s Professional Ethics home study course consisting of 8 semester hours. Text and CD-ROM versions of the home study course can be purchased here.

b. Under Virginia statutes, all CPA applicants must complete one year (2000 hours) of accounting work experience. The experience, which should be paid, may be full or part-time and should be in academia, industry, government or public accounting. A supervising CPA must attest to this experience. See your college’s career center for possible work experience options.

  • This employment experience must consist of a mentoring experience; therefore, self-employment, including tax preparation, does not qualify
  • If your experience includes supervisory duties (which, under Board rules, means that you supervise other public accountants and sign or authorize others to sign your firm’s financial statements), two years of experience are required, including 600 hours in audits or audit reviews

The competencies covered within your work experience should include:

  • Accounting skills
  • Financial skills
  • Tax skills
  • Other skills relevant to the accounting profession

Responsibilities of the Verifying CPA

  • Must hold a current CPA license in Virginia or another substantially equivalent state
  • Must be responsible for supervising the applicant’s accounting experience
  • Must complete an Experience Verification form (found here)
  • Must sign the Experience Verification form, place it in an envelope, seal and sign the back of the envelope, and mail it to the Virginia Board of Accountancy, 9960 Mayland Dr, Suite 402, Henrico, Virginia 23233

Responsibilities of the Applicant

  • Choose a licensed, certified CPA as your supervisor

Provide your supervising CPA with the Verification of Experience Form along with a stamped envelope to the Virginia Board of Accountancy

4. Get Your Virginia CPA License

Passing the Uniform CPA Examination, completing the ethics course, completing 150 semester hours of college education and fulfilling Virginia’s work experience requirement renders you ready to apply for a CPA license. Make sure you have taken care of the following checklist items:

a. Review Checklist and verify your eligibility for licensure

  • After fulfilling 120 semester hours and earning a bachelor’s degree, apply through the Virginia Board of Accountancy to take the Uniform CPA Exam.
  • Complete the remainder of your 150 semester hour educational requirement for licensure
  • Have official college transcripts mailed to the Virginia Board of Accountancy, 9960 Mayland Dr, Suite 402, Henrico, Virginia 23233
  • Complete the AICPA’s home-study ethics course.
  • Complete one year (2000 hours) of verified experience

b. Apply for your Virginia CPA License. You may do so online at the Virginia Board of Accountancy’s website.

Interstate Reciprocal License

If you presently hold a CPA license from another state that is considered to be substantially equivalent to Virginia under NASBA rules, you are eligible to receive a license to practice as a CPA in Virginia.

  • All states except Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are currently substantially equivalent to Virginia
  • You must apply for a CPA Certificate by Endorsement using the Board’s online application for licensure
  • Have the jurisdiction in which you hold a CPA license complete a Letter of Good Standing and mail it to the Virginia Board of Accountancy, 9960 Mayland Dr, Suite 402, Henrico, Virginia 23233
  • Contact the Virginia Board of Accountancy at (804) 367-8505 for more information

International Reciprocal License

If you hold a CPA license from another country, your credentials may be substantially equivalent to Virginia. The following professional bodies have substantial equivalency with Virginia:

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

If you are licensed by one of these bodies, you must pass NASBA’s International Uniform CPA Qualification Examination (IQEX) to gain licensure in Virginia. More information on that examination may be found here.

All other internationally licensed CPA candidates must first have their credentials evaluated by a foreign credentials evaluation service to see if they need to take the Uniform CPA Exam. A list of acceptable evaluation services in Virginia may be found here.

5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Virginia

The Virginia Board of Accountancy states that you must satisfy professional education (CPE) requirements to maintain your CPA license.

a. Fulfill 120 hours of CPE every three years. 20 hours of CPE must be completed each year.

  • 2 hours of CPE must be in a Virginia-specific ethics course acceptable to the Board
  • 50 minutes of class time is equivalent to one hour of CPE
  • If in your position as a CPA you work in attest or compilation services releasing reports, you must fulfill 8 hours per year of attest CPE credit.

b. Attend the appropriate forum for CPE credit:

  • Conferences and seminars
  • Credit courses at a college or university (one semester hour of credit equals 15 hours of CPE)
  • Self-study courses (as long as a method is used to evaluate what you have learned)
  • Present at a seminar, conference or class (this forum may only account for 30 hours of CPE every three years)
  • Write material that is applicable to CPA services
  • Instruct or lecture

c. Search for CPE programs in Virginia through:

d. Maintain documentation of your CPE hours for at least three years in case you are audited. You must keep copies of the certificates of completion that you receive for your CPE credit. If you did not receive a certificate but received CPE credit from an in-house program given by your employer, your employer must provide records of this CPE including the course provider’s name, title and course description, date of the course and number of CPE credits you received.

Now That You’re a CPA in Virginia

You are now a fully licensed Virginia CPA! Consider joining the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The AICPA offers its members continuing professional education opportunities, professional development, professional guidance, networking opportunities and discounts on office supplies and shipping services, among other benefits. Virginia’s local state professional accounting societies offer many of the same benefits and include the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Accountants Society of Virginia.

You might also want to think about specializing in a sub-discipline of accounting. In Virginia, budgeting analysis, tax services, financial planning, auditing, forensic accounting, and information systems are among the specialties CPAs pursue.

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