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How to Become a CPA in Tennessee

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Becoming a CPA in Tennessee will take an accounting expert in various directions. Residents in the Volunteer State have the exact needs as people anywhere in the nation for investment advice, tax preparation, and estate planning. The state’s small businesses need basic accounting and auditing services. These entities often outsource everything from complex accounting work to mundane but resource-intensive jobs like managing payroll. Firms like LBMC are significant players in Tennessee. LBMC maintains offices in Chattanooga, Nashville, and Knoxville. They provide opportunities for CPAs to work around the state.

Nashville Tennessee

Some CPAs desire to work for large corporations. These professionals find plenty of organizations needing well-trained CPAs. Accounting experts cover many industries, from logistics kingpin FedEx in Memphis to retail giant Dollar General headquartered in Goodlettsville. There are all kinds of accounting specializations one can imagine in Tennessee. Industries range from forest products to healthcare. There is no shortage of opportunities for working CPAs in Tennessee to find their niche.

All the demand adds up to a robust employment market for CPAs in the state. The U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored O*Net reports that Tennessee’s demand for accountants and auditors will increase by 17 percent in the ten years leading up to 2030. That demand will result in over 2,500 job openings for accountants there annually.

Here are the Steps to Become a CPA in Tennessee:

Here are the four steps:

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

Getting Your Education in Tennessee

Future CPAs in the state begin by requesting information from Tennessee colleges and universities that feature accounting programs. The Tennessee State Board of Accountancy (TNSBA) requires CPA applicants to hold an undergraduate or higher degree and complete 150 credit hours of college education.

The average bachelor’s degree in accounting includes 120 credit hours of coursework. CPAs typically earn a post-baccalaureate certificate or accounting master’s to get the 30 additional credits. Many of the nation’s top programs are available through online learning. Future CPAs can find specialized five-year CPA degrees that include a blended bachelor’s and master’s curriculum. These programs give students 150 semester hours to meet Tennessee’s CPA requirements.

The Tennessee State Board of Accountancy accepts all relevant degrees and credits granted by colleges and universities that hold institutional accreditation from one of the regional accreditation bodies, including:

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
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Qualifying courses completed at two-year or non-accredited four-year colleges are acceptable. These courses must be transferred to the accredited degree-granting school where the degree was earned.


Future CPAs in Tennessee must meet the state’s CPA curriculum and degree requirements. The minimum requirement is an undergraduate degree with 150 semester/225 quarter hours of college course completion. These hours include:

  • Thirty credit/forty-five quarter hours in accounting. At least twenty-four credit/thirty-six quarter hours must be at upper division levels.
  • Twenty-four-credit/thirty-six quarter hours must be in general business topics. At least twelve credit/eighteen quarter hours must be at upper division levels. 

Business subjects include courses like:

Business communicationsBusiness lawAlgebra
CalculusStatisticsOrganizational Behavior
ManagementMarketingTechnology/information systems

CLEP credit, correspondence, pass/fail grades, and online coursework is acceptable. Qualifying students must have received credit for them through accredited colleges or universities. They must appear on a candidate’s official transcript.

Taking the Uniform CPA Exam in Tennessee

Candidates are eligible to take the Uniform CPA exam if they are within 200 days of completing the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy educational requirements. Tennessee CPA candidates can complete their applications through CPA Exam Services online. The following items should be submitted at the time of application to the following address:

CPAES at CPA Exam Services-TN
PO BOX 198469
Nashville, TN 37219

  • A headshot photo taken within the last three months.
  • Official transcripts. Applicants may submit the transcripts themselves if they’re in sealed envelopes. Business schools participating in the official electronic transcript program can email them to [email protected].
  • A $170 payment for the initial application and exam fees for all chosen sections. The payment can be a money order or certified check payable to CPA Examination Services for students applying by mail. Applicants can also pay with a credit card if applying online. Test takers should note their names and exam sections to be taken in the Memo section on checks.

Applicable candidates should include the following:

  • Certificate of Enrollment form for students currently enrolled in college at the time of their initial application. This certifies they will complete their courses and graduation requirements within 200 days of taking the first CPA test section. The test taker and an authorized member of the university’s administrative staff must sign the form.
  • ADA Modification Form for exam takers needing disability accommodations per the American Disabilities Act.
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Test takers wait for approval of their applications. First, their applications are processed and approved to take the chosen exam section(s). The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) sends a notification to schedule (NTS). Test takers who do not receive their NTS within 20 business days of submitting the payment invoice should contact CPAES by email: [email protected].

Gaining the Needed Experience in Tennessee

Aspiring CPAs in Tennessee should pass all four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam in a rolling 18-month period. These candidates are a year away from obtaining their Tennessee CPA license.

Students should complete the American Institute of CPAs ethics exam with a score of 90 percent. Test preppers can order information for the self-study exam.

Future CPAs in the Volunteer State must obtain the required experience. All Tennessee candidates are required to have accounting experience that satisfies the following criteria:

  • Experience can be gained through employment in academia, government, industry, or public accountancy.
  • There is a minimum of 2,000 hours earned between one and three years.
  • Work provides tax, accounting, attest/audit, consulting, management, or financial advisory services.
  • A licensed/certified CPA verifies all work.
  • Future CPAs in Tennessee who sign reports on financial statements for firms must have two years of experience within the last decade in audits, reviews, and compilations.
  • Candidates must complete the Experience Affidavit in the application packet.

Getting your Tennessee CPA License 

Candidates who pass the CPA and ethics exam and obtain the required work experience are ready to apply for their Tennessee state CPA licenses. 

Here is a list of things these candidates have completed to this point:

  • Complete the education requirement of a bachelor’s degree and 150 semester/225 quarter hours of education. The coursework includes 30 semester hours of accounting subjects and 24 business course credits.
  • Pass the Uniform CPA Exam with a score of 75 on all sections within a rolling 18-month period.
  • Complete the AICPA’s ethics course and have the scores sent to the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy (TNSBA).
  • Obtain the required one year of work experience validated by a licensed/certified CPA.
  • Submit the Experience Affidavit with verification from a licensed CPA to TNSBA.

Staying Current Through Continuing Professional Education 

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Continuing professional education (CPE) is an excellent way to sharpen your skills. Tennessee CPA licenses renew biennially. Tennessee CPAs must complete eighty hours of continuing professional education (CPE) each two-year registration renewal term.

A minimum of twenty hours must be completed each year. A $120 fee for renewing a CPA license is due every two years. Current CPAs in Tennessee can use the online renewal process or fill out a General CPE Reporting form.

The eighty hours include the following requirements:

  • Forty hours in the areas of taxation, accounting, accounting ethics, attest, or management advisory services.
  • A board-approved ethics course of four hours.
  • CPAs in Tennessee who perform attest services need at least twenty hours in subjects of accounting and affirm theory and practice.
  • Accounting professionals who testify as expert witnesses in accounting, advisory, management, attest, or tax need twenty hours in respective expert testimony area.
  • Twenty-four CPE hours of the required eighty can be carried forward.
  • There is a CPE Record Retention Requirement that maintains the CPE course documents for five years.


All CPAs age 70 or older are exempt from CPE requirements. Tennessee CPAs who are disabled for six or more months are also exempt. Lastly, CPAs in Tennessee who are active in the military or do not perform accounting services are exempt from this requirement.

Becoming a CPA in Tennessee

Becoming a CPA in Tennessee is no small task. Certified Tennessee CPAs have proven they can stay focused and committed to their careers.

Certified Public Accountants can join professional organizations. These entities promote the profession and provide professional development. CPAs can meet others in the profession and gain networking opportunities. At the national level, Tennessee CPAs benefit from membership within the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The Tennessee Institute of CPAs provides CPE opportunities. It also offers ethics courses that expose professionals to ethical dilemmas that accountants face.

Don’t wait another minute. Start the process to become a CPA in Tennessee today.

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Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?