State Board of Accountancy

It is unlawful for a person to provide services related to preparing and evaluating the accuracy of financial statements in the State of Pennsylvania without first obtaining a Certified Public Accountant License from the State Board of Accountancy. The Board is regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of State and is tasked with administration of the CPA licensing process, establishing professional standards of conduct and handling disciplinary matters. Candidates must meet the various requirements to become licensed, and then must maintain their license in good standing under renewal requirements. Pennsylvania recently joined a group of other states that have eliminated the attestation requirements previously mandated in order to acquire a CPA license.

Obtaining a license

In order to obtain a Certified Public Accountant license to provide accounting services in the State of Pennsylvania, candidates must meet certain minimum educational and experience requirements, and then pass examinations as established by the Board.

Educational requirements

As a part of obtaining a baccalaureate degree, the Board requires CPA license candidates to complete 24 semester credits in such fields as established by the Board, which shall include:

  • Accounting;
  • Auditing;
  • Business law
  • Finance; and/or
  • Tax subjects.

Individuals seeking their CPA license must also attain an additional 12 credits in the same areas. All educational credits must be equal to or more than 150 hours. Candidates can take the Uniform CPA Examination described below before all 150 hours/24 semester credits are earned; however, they cannot apply for licensure until all credits are complete.

Examination requirements

After graduation, candidates for CPA licensure must apply for and pass the Uniform CPA Examination, as administered and graded by the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy. Eligible individuals are sent a Notice to Schedule when the application to take the CPA Exam is approved.

There are four sections to the test, each of which must be passed within six months of the application date. Each section may be taken separately, so long as all are competed within the six month period. The four sections cover the following topics:

  • Auditing and attestation of documents;
  • Financial reporting;
  • Professional regulation; and,
  • Business concepts.
Experience requirements

Applicants for a CPA license in the State of Pennsylvania must also complete 1,600 hours worth of accounting experience. Experience may be gained through working in the industry or in academia, so long as such positions cover the following areas:

  • Accounting;
  • Attest;
  • Compilation;
  • Consulting;
  • Financial advisory;
  • Management advisory; and/or
  • Tax.
Licensure by reciprocity

Candidates for a CPA license may obtain the proper credentials by applying for reciprocity with the Board. The requirements for licensing are similar to those for getting an original license, including education, experience and passing the CPA Exam.

Maintaining a license

CPA license holders are required to renew their license every two years, by December 31 of every odd numbered year. The cost of renewal is $100 and the Board sends out a renewal application to license holders approximately two to three months before license expiration.

Continuing education requirements

CPA licensees are required to complete 80 hours of continuing professional education in order to renew their license, including:

  • 16 hours of accounting and auditing;
  • 4 hours of ethics; and,
  • 8 in tax matters.

All continuing education requirements must be completed via programs approved by the Board. The reporting period for continuing education requirements is January 1 of even numbered years, through December 31 of odd numbered years, i.e., the license expiration date. Of the 80 hours, a minimum of 20 must be completed per year.

and no more than 20 hours in behavioral topics. There is no need to self-report professional education hours, but receipts of completed coursework should be retained in the event that the candidate is randomly selected for auditing.

Disciplinary actions

The Board has enacted rules regarding professional ethics that all CPA licensees must follow, including standards of competence, responsibilities to clients and confidentiality matters. Minor violations of these rules can result in fines, reprimands, while more serious issues can result in license suspension or revocation.

Elimination of attest experience

On August 18, 2013, an amendment to the an amendment to the Pennsylvania CPA Law became effective for all candidates seeking their CPA license. The law removes the specific requirement that candidates must obtain attest experience as part of the overall experience requirement CPA certification. Applicants must still comply with the general experience requirements, as the new law only eliminates the 400 or 800 hours of attest experience.