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How to Become a CPA in Penn­syl­va­nia

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Are you interested in becoming a CPA in Pennsylvania? It requires a combination of education, experience, and passing the Uniform CPA Exam. This can be a challenging process, but the rewards of obtaining a Pennsylvania CPA license can be significant. 


Once you become a CPA in Pennsylvania, you can work as an accountant in public practice or private industry, providing services such as auditing, tax preparation, and financial advising. As a CPA, you have the benefits of increased job opportunities, earning higher salaries, and greater credibility in the accounting profession. In this article, we will provide information specific to Pennsylvania on the steps to earning a CPA license. 

Here are the Steps to Become a CPA in Pennsylvania:

The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy manages the licensing process of CPAs within the state. To become a practicing CPA in Pennsylvania, accountants need to meet these requirements:

  • Getting Your CPA Education in Pennsylvania.
  • Taking the Uniform CPA Exam in Pennsylvania.
  • Gaining the Needed Experience in Pennsylvania.
  • Getting Your CPA License and Continuing Education in Pennsylvania.

To become a CPA in Pennsylvania, in addition to the above requirements, you must also be 18 years of age or older. 

Educational Specifications for a CPA in Pennsylvania

To be eligible for a CPA license in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. You will also need to have at least 150 semester hours of higher education, including a minimum of 24 credits in the following:

  • Business law,
  • Accounting and auditing,
  • Finance, or
  • Tax subjects that meet the Board’s approval.

In addition, you’ll need to have 12 more credits in tax or accounting and auditing subjects (again, that meet the Board’s approval) that do not need to be part of your undergraduate or graduate coursework. Because of these requirements, you’ll likely need to take additional courses beyond your undergraduate business classes. Courses and degrees can even be found in flexible online formats.

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Some might be able to sit for the CPA exam if they only have a bachelor’s degree and 120 credits, assuming those are in accounting and auditing, finance, business law, or tax. But you’ll still need to complete the total 150 credits in order to become fully licensed as a CPA. All education credits must come through academic coursework at an accredited school. 

The Uniform CPA Exam

The CPA Exam is an exam that tests knowledge and skills in the following areas:

Financial accounting and reportingAuditing and attestation
RegulationBusiness environment and concepts

The exam is a computer-based exam with multiple-choice questions, and each part takes four hours to complete.

Preparing for the CPA Exam

Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Pennsylvania is a great way to advance a career and open up new opportunities. An important step towards becoming a CPA in Pennsylvania is to study for and pass the CPA Exam. This exam consists of four sections: Auditing & Attestation, Financial Accounting & Reporting, Regulation, and Business Environment & Concepts. Each section must be passed separately to become certified. 

To prepare for the CPA exam, it is recommended that you take courses related to accounting, finance, taxation, auditing, and business law at an accredited college or university. You should also consider taking a review course or studying with a CPA review book. Once you have completed your studies and passed the exam, you can apply for licensure from the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy.

The best way to study for the CPA exam is by taking practice tests, brushing up on your accounting knowledge, and reviewing previous topics. Many CPA practice exams are available to help you prepare for the real CPA exam. Here are some options:

These are only a few examples of the many exam tools available. These are all great options for accountants. Practice, Learn, and Repeat!

Scheduling Your CPA Exam


Individuals will need to contact the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to schedule their exams. Residents of Pennsylvania can apply online through the CPA Examination Online Application System

To take the CPA exam, the following documents are required by the CPA Examination Services (CPAES):

  • Your official academic transcripts must be sent from your academic institution.
  • You must submit a character reference. 
  • You must submit a Social Security Number Certification form.
  • If needed, you must also submit a Testing Accommodations form. 

Pennsylvania does not have a residency requirement. 

Once all the application requirements and fees have been submitted, the NASB will reach out with your Notice to Schedule (NTS) via email. This usually takes anywhere from two weeks to a month. The NTS you receive will provide you with the list of the sections you are eligible to take and include the contact information for Prometric. At this point, individuals will schedule their exam time through Prometric. 

You must pass all exam parts within 18 months with at least a score of 75 on each section.

Each time you want to take any of the sections of the examination, you’ll need to resubmit an application with all your relevant documentation and relevant fees. Each section has a fee associated with it which is around $200. You will also need to pay either an application fee, which is around $100, for each re-examination. 

The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy will contact you with your results after reviewing your exam. 

Work Experience to be a CPA in Pennsylvania

In addition to passing the CPA exam, you must meet the experience requirements to become a CPA. You must have at least a year or 1,600 hours over 60 months of experience earned through employment in one of the following:

Bachelors in Accounting
  • Academia,
  • Government,
  • Industry, or
  • Public practice.

This experience must include providing advice or service around the following areas of skills:

  • Accounting.
  • Attestation.
  • Compilations.
  • Consulting.
  • Financial advising.
  • Management advising.
  • Tax.

A licensed CPA must also verify this experience. Upon approval of your application, you will receive your CPA license from the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy. It is important to note that Pennsylvania has additional requirements for maintaining your CPA license, including completing continuing professional education (CPE) credits and complying with ethical standards.

Apply for a CPA license in Pennsylvania

Once you have met the educational and experience requirements, you can apply for a CPA license in Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania Department of State. You will need to set up a Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS) account the first time you log in. Several pieces of documentation are required to apply for your CPA license through PALS. 

  • Submit a $65 fee.
  • Provide a recent Criminal History Records Check (CHRC) from the official repository for criminal history record information in every state where they have lived, worked, or completed professional training for the past five years.
  • If you complete your CPA Exam in Pennsylvania, the Board will request the exam file from NASBA. If you take the exam in another state, you’ll need to provide proof of passing the exam to the Board. 
  • You will also need to provide an official transcript from your college or university if you obtained a graduate degree after applying for the CPA, or if you passed the CPA Exam in a state other than Pennsylvania.
  • And lastly, you will need to verify your experience, which must be completed and uploaded by your CPA verifier if licensed in Pennsylvania or sent directly by the verifier if licensed in another state.

Continuing Education and Renewal as a CPA in Pennsylvania

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Every two years, you’ll need to renew your Pennsylvania CPA license. Eighty hours of CPE credits are required to renew your license. These 80 hours must be filled with coursework relevant to accountancy competency. You do not need to do CPE work during your first biennium when you initially receive your license.  

You will renew your license through the PALS portal. The same requirements listed above for your initial license application still apply. However, upon your renewal, you must also provide proof of completion of CPE credits over the past two years. 

It is helpful to note that, unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not require an ethics exam to become a CPA. However, the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy does require that you take four hours of professional ethics as part of your CPE renewal requirements every two years. 

There are multiple ways to gain CPE credits to maintain your CPA license in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy accepts CPE credits from many places. Accountants can use various sources, like webinars, courses, conferences, and self-study. CPE providers must be approved by:

Additionally, the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy provides a searchable database of approved CPE courses and providers on its website.

The particular type of license and reporting period will dictate the specific CPE requirements each CPA needs. For more detailed CPE requirement information for the Pennsylvania CPA license renewal, contact the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy or refer to their website.

Now is a great time for professionals to become a CPA in Pennsylvania.

Related Resources:

Best Bachelor’s in Accounting
What is a Bachelor’s in Accounting Degree?
Free Resources for Accountants

Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?