5 Steps to Becoming a CPA in West Virginia

Most West Virginians, and many folks in other parts of the country, believe that coal is king here. It’s true that mining, oil, and gas remain a big part of the state GDP, coming in as the third largest contributor according to research and analytics firm IBISWorld.

But those same stats show that mining is beat out by manufacturing and healthcare today, reminders that national and local economies are dynamic things that evolve over time. Accounting work in the Mountain State is drifting in the same direction, with more big corporate work moving away from mining and extraction to outfits like Champion Industries in Huntington or NGK Spark Plugs in Sissonville.

Of course, there are also all the traditional individual and small business accounting services here that are in demand. Nuts and bolts CPA work like budgeting, cash management, revenue accounting, and tax planning are all standard for the 113,000 small businesses estimated to be operating in the state in 2020 according to the Small Business Administration. And just like in any other part of the country, state residents need retirement planning and investment advising services too.

It all falls squarely in the wheelhouse of the many small accounting firms you’ll find dotted through the jutting ridges and valleys of the Appalachians – companies like Gianola, Harmon & Associates or Arnett Carbis Toothman in Charleston. Or you can start up your own small accounting shop, and show a little bit of that independence that West Virginian’s are famous for.

Taking any one of those paths starts with learning how to become a CPA in West Virginia by following the 5 steps outlined below.

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

1. Get Your Education

a. Request information from universities in West Virginia offering accounting programs. The West Virginia Board of Accountancy requires its certified public accountants to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with a total of at least 150 semester hours of college education.

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 required to become a CPA in West Virginia. 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 West Virginia.

b. The West Virginia Board of Accountancy will recognize any accounting degree and additional business and accounting credits earned through colleges and universities anywhere in the U.S. that hold standard regional accreditation through one of these agencies:

If you are attending or are a graduate of a program lacking accreditation, it must be evaluated by the West Virginia Board of Accountancy to see that it fulfills the state’s requirements for you to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination. Graduates from foreign schools must have their transcripts evaluated by Foreign Academic Credentials Services, Inc. or NASBA International Evaluation Services.

c. Meet specific CPA degree and coursework requirements. The 150 semester hours of education you complete through a combination of your bachelor’s degree, any accounting certificate you earn concurrently and through graduate work must include the following courses:

  • 27 semester hours of accounting courses consisting of:
    • 6 semester hours of financial or intermediate accounting
    • 6 semester hours split between auditing and accounting information systems
    • 3 semester hours on taxation
    • 3 semester hours on managerial, cost, not-for-profit or governmental accounting
    • 9 semester hours of accounting electives
  • 6 semester hours of business law courses
  • 27 semester hours of business and business-related courses consisting of:
    • 3 semester hours of economics
    • 3 semester hours of finance
    • 3 semester hours of marketing
    • 3 semester hours of statistics
    • 3 semester hours of management
    • 12 semester hours of business-related electives
  • One 3 semester hour course in ethics is required and may count among either your accounting electives or business-related electives
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2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam

After fulfilling West Virginia’s educational prerequisites, you are eligible to take the Uniform CPA Exam.

a. Complete the Initial Application Packet of the West Virginia Board of Accountancy to take the Uniform CPA Examination. They may be contacted by phone at (304) 558-3557. Applications may be downloaded here.

b. Enclose the appropriate documents with your application:

  • Your college must submit your transcripts directly to the Board at West Virginia Board of Accountancy, 106 Capitol Street, Suite 100, Charleston, WV 25301-2610
  • Character witness statements from two non-relatives and one CPA must be included with your application
  • You must submit a 2” x 2” photo of your head and shoulders
  • Complete the Intent to Sit form and pay exam fees according to the form

c. You should receive your Notification to Schedule (NTS) the Uniform CPA Examination from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) within five days of the Board receiving your Intent to Sit and fees. You may then go to Prometric’s site at www.prometric.com where you can schedule your examination. West Virginia testing sites are in Morgantown and Charleston. (If you do not receive your NTS within five days of when the Board should have received your Intent to Sit, call the Board’s Exam Coordinator at 304-558-3557)

d. Check in at the exam site on testing day ready to take the test.

e. NASBA will issue your grade results to the Board, who will then mail your scores to you and post a list of successful candidates (with your name included, if you passed the exam) on their web site.

There is a section on the Uniform CPA Exam application to indicate if you need special testing accommodations. You can also call the West Virginia Board of Accountancy Exam Coordinator at (304) 558-3557 to make these accommodations or if you need more information. For details on what to expect from the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.

3. Gain The Necessary Experience

After passing the Uniform CPA Exam, you’ll need to fulfill the West Virginia Board of Accountancy’s practical experience requirements.

a. You must indicate that you have completed at least one year of experience during the four-year period prior to applying for West Virginia certification/licensure. Your school’s career center can help you find appropriate employment. Conditions of this employment include:

  • This employment experience may occur in government, private practice, non-profit organizations, industry, public practice or academia
  • This employment must be verified by a registered public accountant in West Virginia (or one who holds out-of-state certification)
  • This employment must be documented on an Experience Verification Form

Competencies that should be practiced during this experience include

  • Attest
  • Accounting
  • Management advisory
  • Audit, review, and compilation of financial statements
  • Tax (including preparation of tax returns)
  • Tax research
  • Financial advisory
  • Consulting skills
  • Keeping books and records

Responsibilities of the Verifying CPA

  • Employment must be verified by a registered or certified West Virginia public accountant or by one certified in another state
  • The verifying CPA must state the dates that the applicant worked for him or her on the Experience Verification Form, along with the numbers of hours and months
  • The verifying CPA must list the types of experience gained by the applicant during this time on the Experience Verification Form The verifying CPA must sign a certification attesting to the applicant’s experience and have the Experience Verification Form notarized

Responsibilities of the Applicant

  • You must choose a registered public accountant or CPA licensed in West Virginia or another state (excluding Colorado, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands)
  • You must provide your verifying CPA with the Experience Verification Form
  • The Experience Verification Form must be mailed in with your Application for Certification to the West Virginia Board of Accountancy, 106 Capitol Street, Suite 100, Charleston, West Virginia 25301

4. Get Your West Virginia CPA License

Now that you have passed the Uniform CPA Examination and fulfilled the practical experience requirement of the state of West Virginia, you may apply for certification. Make sure that you have completed the following steps on the checklist below:

a. Checklist

  • Satisfy the 150 semester hour educational requirement. College transcripts (including the school’s raised seal) must be sent directly from your school the West Virginia Board of Accountancy, 106 Capitol Street, Suite 100, Charleston, West Virginia 25301
  • Apply via the West Virginia Board of Accountancy to take the Uniform CPA Examination
  • Fulfill the state’s practical experience requirement of one year’s work experience in the field. Have a CPA or registered public accountant in West Virginia verify this experience on the Experience Verification Form.
  • Submit the signed and notarized Experience Verification Form along with your West Virginia certification application to the West Virginia Board of Accountancy

b. Apply for your Initial CPA Certificate/License in West Virginia. Use the Application for Initial Certificate/License.

Forms for this application may be downloaded from the West Virginia Board of Accountancy website.

Interstate Reciprocal License

Individuals from other states who already hold CPA certification and licensure must fulfill West Virginia’s Substantial Equivalency requirements. All states except the Virgin Islands are considered to be substantially similar to West Virginia. To secure a West Virginia license:

  • If you hold an out-of-state certificate from a state with substantial equivalency to West Virginia, you must file the Application for Reciprocal Certificate form for those from substantially equivalent states . Along with this application, send a 2” x 2” photo of yourself, have your college transcripts mailed directly to the Board, and enclose the appropriate fees. You must call the Board at (304) 558-3557 to check to see if you need to file an Experience Verification Form along with your application.
  • If you hold an out-of-state certificate from a state without substantial equivalency to West Virginia, you must prove that you meet the state’s requirements for certification. You may obtain the National Qualification Appraisal Service verification from NASBA, showing that your CPA qualifications are substantially equivalent to the CPA licensing requirements of the Uniform Accountancy Act. You must also file the Application for Reciprocal Certificate form for those from non-substantially equivalent states and send the same information, after calling the Board to see if additional information is necessary.

International Reciprocal License

Those who hold accounting credentials from another country will have their credentials recognized by NASBA provided they hold licensure in certain jurisdictions. These jurisdictions include:

  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia
  • Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
  • Instituto Mexican de Contadores Publicos
  • Chartered Accountants in Ireland
  • New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants
  • Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants

You must take and pass NASBA’s International Qualification Examination (IQEX) to demonstrate a full understanding of U.S. Professional Standards, taxation, and business law. Information on the IQEX exam may be found here.

If you’re a chartered accountant or CPA from a non-approved international jurisdiction, you must have your educational credentials evaluated by Foreign Academic Credentials Services, Inc. or NASBA International Evaluation Services and follow standard protocol by taking the Uniform CPA Exam.

5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in West Virginia

The West Virginia Board of Accountancy requires CPAs to fulfill continuing professional education (CPE) requirements each year. Only programs that contribute directly to a CPA’s competence qualify for credit.

a. Complete at least 40 hours of CPE annually (except for your first licensing period, during which time you are exempt from this requirement)

  • Include 4 hours of ethics credits every three years
  • Take only approved ethic courses, with subjects including state-specific statutes, ethical reasoning, and professional conduct standards
  • Obtain your ethics credits from the following Board-approved entities:
      • West Virginia Society of CPAs
      • West Virginia Public Accountants Association
      • West Virginia Tax Institute
      • Local chapters of state CPA societies
      • Other state CPA societies
      • College and university ethics courses
      • Ethics courses approved by NASBA
      • Ethics courses approved by AICPA
      • Ethics courses approved by other state boards of accountancy
      • Ethics courses provided by state or federal governmental agencies

b. Meet the following Board guidelines for CPE programs:

  • Do not claim programs in which you provide services to clients
  • Do not claim presentations to nonprofessional groups
  • Do not claim informal reviews of professional journals
  • Make sure your chosen CPE programs meet the Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Programs issued jointly by AICPA and NASBA.
  • Claim self-study programs as long as you receive a certificate after completing an examination
  • Claim published articles, books or CPE programs as long as you are named as a writer or contributor and you have a statement from an independent reviewer or publisher
  • Verify your program’s eligibility, as the Board does not review programs for CPE credit

c. Document your CPE hours on the Board’s CPE reporting form (found here). Maintain records of CPE, including attendance, course dates, course titles, completion certificates and other supporting documents, for at least four years.

Now That You’re a CPA in West Virginia

Good for you! You are now licensed and certified to practice public accountancy in West Virginia! You might want to think about joining the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). This national organization offers many continuing professional education opportunities, as well as development, networking, professional guidance, and discounts on computer and office items. West Virginia-based accounting organizations that you may want to consider joining include the West Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants and the West Virginia Public Accountants Association.

Consider specializing in one of the many sub-disciplines of accounting. Fields that West Virginia CPAs may specialize in include (but are not limited to) taxation, forensic accounting, management accounting, accounting information systems, auditing, and cost estimation.

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