pexels fauxels 3184298

How to Become a CPA in Illinois

Ready to start your journey?

The path to becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Illinois can be challenging, but it is a smart career move for those interested in pursuing a career in accounting. As a CPA, you’ll have a wide range of career opportunities available to you, from public accounting to government agencies and private companies. However, Illinois has strict eligibility requirements and a rigorous exam process. In this article, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step account on how to become a CPA in Illinois.

Chicago Illinois


When you think of Illinois, you need to think “industry.” The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that a recent GDP in the state came in at over $885 billion. That GDP ranks Illinois fifth in the nation. The impressive per capita GDP is $70,000, $4,000 above the U.S. average. Illinois has grown almost 10 percent over the past five years while the state’s population has fallen.

There are some Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state. You know household names like McDonald’s, State Farm, and Boeing. Those goliath corporations support a solid web of specialized accounting professionals and accounting firms handling services like inventory, auditing and compliance, and payroll.

Big Four accounting firms have a substantial presence in cities like Springfield, Chicago, and Urbana. PwC, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young are the top three ranked in the state. With the steady increase in demand across Illinois, it’s easy to find entry-level jobs and high-paying specialist positions for suitably qualified CPA professionals.

Here are the Steps to Become a CPA in Illinois:

Are you interested in starting your journey to become a CPA in Illinois? If you are aiming for one of those hot jobs, you’ll want to take these four steps to get there:

  1. Getting Your CPA Education in Illinois.
  2. Taking the Uniform CPA Exam in Illinois.
  3. Gaining the Needed Experience in Illinois.
  4. Getting Your CPA License and Continuing Education in Illinois.

Overall, while the process of becoming a CPA in Illinois is challenging, the rewards can be significant. CPAs in Illinois enjoy higher earning potential, greater job opportunities, and increased professional recognition. With dedication and hard work, anyone can become a CPA in Illinois.

Getting Your Education in Illinois

You can pursue an accounting degree in person at any of Illinois’ good business schools or earn an online degree from anywhere in the country. Begin by requesting information from colleges and universities that feature accounting programs. The Illinois Board of Examiners reports that candidates for CPA licensure must have an undergraduate degree with 150 credit hours of college experience.

Some of the top accredited business schools in Illinois with undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting include:

University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignSouthern Illinois University Carbondale
DePaul UniversityUniversity of Illinois at Chicago

Most accounting-intensive bachelor’s degrees include 120 credit hours. Pursuing a Master’s in Accounting or a post-baccalaureate certificate is how to get the 30 additional credits required to become an Illinois CPA. Online programs offer the convenience and flexibility working professionals seek in education. There are specialized five-year CPA track programs. They offer a blended undergraduate and graduate curriculum designed to give accounting students in Illinois the 150 credit hours needed to meet CPA requirements.

The Illinois Board of Examiners recognizes accounting and business degrees and credits found at colleges and universities that meet standard accreditation requirements. Qualifying coursework includes thirty hours in accounting at the bachelor’s or master’s level. Financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and management accounting courses are qualifying topics. There must be two credit hours in accounting research and analysis.

students studying

Taking the Illinois Uniform CPA Exam

Before sitting for the Illinois CPA Exam, each person must be intentional about preparation. Studying for the Illinois Uniform CPA Exam requires time and effort. Here are four suggestions on how to prepare for the CPA Exam:

  1. Create a study plan: Develop a detailed study schedule. This will give you intentional time to study all the required topics before the exam. Schedule yourself enough time to review and practice, and make sure to include breaks in your schedule to avoid burnout.
  2. Use CPA Exam review materials: There are many review courses and study materials available that can help you prepare for the Illinois CPA Exam. These courses typically include textbooks, practice questions, and simulations that mimic the actual exam environment.
  3. Take practice exams: Practice exams are a great way to assess where you are. Many review courses offer practice exams that closely mirror the format and difficulty level of the actual CPA Exam.
  4. Focus on your weak areas: Pay extra attention to the topics where you struggle the most. Spend more time studying these areas.

Apply for the Exam

After completing all educational requirements listed above, future CPAs qualify to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam in Illinois. Begin the process by creating an account online through the Illinois Board of Examiners (IBOE). Candidates should submit the final transcript showing education requirement completion to IBOE. Mail original, official transcripts in sealed envelopes to the Illinois Board of Examiners (IBOE) at the address below: 

Illinois Board of Examiners
1120 E Diehl Rd, Suite 110, 
Naperville, IL 60563. 

Transcripts can be emailed to [email protected].

Candidates submitting credentials evaluation applications complete the Initial Exam Request using the online Illinois Board of Examiners system. Fees vary from $40 to $120 based on how many exam sections are scheduled.

Applicants wait for an approval letter from IBOE authorizing them to take the exam. Test takers receive a payment coupon from NASBA. The coupon is good for 90 days. NASBA issues a Notice to Schedule (NTS) after candidates pay their fees. Applicants schedule their exams within six months of receiving the NTS.

Future CPAs schedule their exams through Prometric’s website. They can take anywhere from one-to-four sections in one exam sitting. The Illinois Board of Examiners offers resources for exam scheduling. Test takers receive information about testing windows and rescheduling.

Ethics Exam

computer tech

During the CPA Exam process, candidates take and pass a professional ethics course offered by the AICPA. Test takers score at least 90% on the open-book exam to get a CPA certificate. Test takers can request that AICPA send Ethics exam scores to the Illinois Board of Examiners.

Once you pass the Uniform CPA Exam and AICPA Ethics Exam, you will receive a certification of CPA Exam Completion from the Illinois Board of Examiners. However, you are not yet licensed as a CPA. It is time to acquire the needed experience.

Gaining Experience in Illinois

The next course of action in the journey to becoming a CPA in Illinois is to fulfill experience requirements.

Here are the steps to take after passing the uniform CPA exam:

1. Obtain one year of supervised experience within public practice, government, industry, or academia where you provide service in the following areas:

  • Tax consultation or services.
  • Accounting.
  • Attestation.
  • Management advisory.
  • Financial advisory.

2. Gain work experience and have it recorded by a supervising CPA. The Verification of Employment/Experience form within the Application for CPA licensure packet will document the experience.

Getting Your CPA License and Continuing Education in Illinois

Candidates who have completed their work experience are eligible to apply for an Illinois CPA license.

Here is a checklist for first-time Illinois CPA license applicants:

Completed an undergraduate or graduate degree with at least 150 credit hours and a minimum of twenty-four hours in accounting. There should be an additional thirty hours in business courses.
Applied credential verification to the Illinois Board of Examiners.
Taken and passed four sections of the CPA exam.
Passed the AICPA ethics test with a 90% score.
Worked an accounting job to get the experience of a year.

Candidates should download and print the application packet. They should follow the directions in its completion as they apply. You will be using the Acceptance of Examination. Candidates submit supporting documentation. The packet includes Verification of Experience forms future CPAs provide to their employers to complete.

Maintaining Your Licensure Through Continuing Professional Education

After obtaining the Illinois CPA license, future CPAs comply with the continuing professional education requirements.

Illinois CPAs obtain 120 hours of continuing professional education every three years. Four of the 120 hours cover ethics. CPAs are exempt from CPE requirements for their first renewal.

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy offers CPE courses for subsequent renewals. These courses are available through approved sponsors on the registry and the Illinois CPA Society. CPAs in Illinois maintain records of their hours every three years between renewals.

accounting job

Becoming a CPA in Illinois

Illinois CPAs should consider joining professional organizations to stay current on topics affecting practices in the state and nationwide. The American Institute of CPAs sets ethical standards for the profession. It also influences U.S. auditing standards for external audits of private companies, nonprofit organizations, and local, state, and federal governments.

The Illinois CPA Society is a professional organization. It represents Illinois CPAs in government and nonprofit work, public accounting and consulting, and corporate accounting and finance. This organization offers continuing education opportunities through conferences, courses, and webcasts. The Illinois CPA Society provides chapter events and programs that include professional development topics. It offers self-study, computer courses, and online learning opportunities in partnership with other organizations.

Becoming a CPA in Illinois is a great way to enjoy a fruitful finance and business leadership career. The journey is long, with rigorous education and experience requirements. It starts with choosing an excellent business school. Find undergraduate and graduate programs that train you well as an accounting expert. Study for your CPA Exam in Illinois. Pursue the proper work experience. You are then ready to become a CPA. You will know you have made the right choice when you see the difference you can make as an accountant in Illinois.

Related Resources:

What is a Master’s in Accounting Degree?
Best Online Master’s in Accounting Programs
Best Degrees to Become an Accountant

Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?