How to become a CPA - Step-by-Step guide


With increased business activity worldwide, the demand for talented accounting professionals is increasing drastically. These accountants or financial experts play an important role in ensuring the companys financial well-being and consequently help the company to grow beneficially. They also strategize to bring growth to the company, followed by other financial departments. 
Due to their crucial role in a companys growth, accountants are well-respected in the company and are also paid handsomely. The higher salaries of accountants and their well-respected life have led many individuals to seek to become accounting professionals.
However, employers tend to hire accounting professionals with proven talent, as it is a job of very high responsibility. Well! What is a better way to prove your talent as an accountant than getting your hands on a globally recognized accounting certification, like US CPA?
CPA is the top choice for any individual looking to become a globally-recognized accounting professional. Now you may ask, how to become a CPA? Worry not! We are here for you. In this informational piece, we will be covering all the required steps for becoming a CPA.

What is the US CPA certification?

Lets start by first knowing a little about the US CPA certification. US CPA is the highest accounting credential in the United States, and it is awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), which is said to be the largest accounting body in the world. The CPA designation is recognized as leading accountants in many countries, such as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong.
The US CPA course provides a great deal of knowledge of US GAAP, IFRS, GAAS, and US Federal Taxation & Business Laws, which comes in handy when working with a US company or an MNC dealing with US markets. There is a lot of demand for CPA professionals all around the world. Many companies prefer accounting professionals with the CPA designation because of the tremendous value they bring in. 
Because of this demand and global recognition, a CPA can find a better place to work nearly anywhere in the world, with a 30-40% higher salary than other Accounting Professionals.
The CPA certification is said to be a Global Passport to a better place to work and earn much more money.

How to become a CPA - Steps

Applying for the US CPA is often quite confusing because the whole process of "how to become a CPA" can be complicated for many. Moreover, each of the 55 state boards of the United States has its own different steps and requirements, which makes the whole process more complex.
Let us simplify this overly complicated process in a few steps. Here are the most important steps for becoming a CPA. 
  • CPA Eligibility Criteria
Checking whether you are qualified/eligible to take the exam or not is one of the first steps how to become a CPA USA. 
The eligibility requirements for the US CPA can vary according to the state boards. To become an accountant with a CPA designation, the candidates must fulfill the eligibility criteria according to their respective state boards of Accountancy. There are 55 states which are members of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). Any of these 55 state boards can award the US CPA license.
Most of these states require a bachelors degree in a related field like accounting or business with certain credit hour requirements and certain coursework requirements. The candidates must gain at least 120 credit hours (a bachelors degree + 30 extra credits from a Master's degree) to take the exam and 150 credit hours for the CPA licensure. US CPA education requirements can be briefly explained as follows:
  • To take the exam, you need to complete your graduation + 1 year of post-graduation (which will give you 120 credit hours)
  • To get the License, You need to complete both your graduation and post-graduation (which will be counted as 150 credit hours)
For an Indian candidate, who wants to know how to become a CPA USA, you must possess any of the following qualifications.
  • MBA degree
  • Master of Commerce
  • Member of the Company Secretaries in India.
  • Member of the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants in India.
  • Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.
  • CAs with B. Com is also accepted in some of the 50 states of the US.
Steps explaining how to become a CPA USA include acquiring the required work experience. In order to become a CPA, one must also cover at least 2,000 hours of work experience (2 years of professional experience) in any of the relevant fields of work under a licensed CPA or equivalent level accountant (for example:- Indian CA or ACCA).
  • Evaluation
Before filling out the actual application form, you have to send all your academic transcripts to the state board. During the evaluation, your local academic transcripts will be assessed and translated in a way that a U.S.-based evaluator can understand them. 
  • Registration for US CPA
Once the evaluation is complete, the next step of how to become a CPA USA is the registration process. The first step of the registration process is submitting the necessary details about your education and your current designation if any.
After the approval of your application, the state board will issue an Authorization to Test (ATT). This document can be used to sign up for your state's US CPA exam section. After choosing the US CPA exam section, you have to log into your NASBA account and have to pay the CPA exam section fee.
After 3-4 weeks of submitting the necessary details and paying the associated fees, you will receive the Notice to Schedule (NTS). The NTS is the document that will allow you to sit for the uniform CPA exam. You can use your NTS document to schedule your examination.
  • Schedule Your US CPA Exam
Upon receiving the NTS document, you can log into the Prometric testing center website and schedule your exam on whichever date is convenient for you. You can take the CPA USA exam in any testing location center where you wish to take the exam. CPA USA exam centers in India are located in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Trivandrum.
  • Pass the CPA Exam
On the selected date of the exam, dont forget to bring two valid forms of ID and your NTS. The Prometric test centers will not allow you to sit for the CPA exam without checking your NTS and ID. Besides that, you must prepare thoroughly for the CPA exams to pass them with flying colors.
The final step for becoming a CPA is to acquire the CPA license to start practicing as a CPA in the United States. You can get the CPA license from the state boards, which are members of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). 

How to get a CPA license?

One of the other crucial steps in the process of how to become a CPA USA is to acquire a license from any of the 55 state boards of the United States. Each state has different CPA licensing requirements; you have to verify those requirements from your state and then pass the CPA examination. However, passing the CPA exam will not provide you with the license automatically to begin practicing as a CPA. Some states may require an ethics exam, while some require licensed CPAs to participate in continuing professional education (CPE) to maintain their license.

Can I do CPA certification online in India?

Earlier, an Indian aspirant who wants to become a US CPA must travel to the United States or countries like Dubai to take the US CPA Exam. However, since the dawn of 2022, the AICPA has started to conduct the CPA examination in the country of India, and these examinations can be taken on demand. Thus, making the US CPA designation a lot more accessible to the Indian audience.
So, if you plan to become a US CPA, now is the best time to start your CPA journey. Recommended is to join a top CPA certification course in India like the one offered by the NorthStar Academy (NSA).
You can prepare online for the CPA exam. However, for the CPA examination, you need to travel to the selected exam center on the selected date and time. For further info, you can contact us.

How to become a CPA? - Duration

Since the US CPA curriculum consists of only four exams that can be taken on-demand, there is a lot of freedom given to the candidates regarding how quickly or late they can finish their CPA certification course. So, even if you give significant time to prepare for the exam, you still will be able to become a US CPA in 1 to 1.5 years.
For an average candidate, it is recommended that you should commit at least 300 to 400 hours of integrated learning in their schedule to be able to attempt the US CPA exams comfortably.

How to become a CPA without a degree?

Many individuals think that an accounting degree is necessary for taking the CPA USA exam and getting certified as one. However, this is not true. You just need to fulfill the required eligibility criteria for the education. Candidates with just 120 credit hours of professional studies are eligible for CPA Exam, and those with 150 credit hours are eligible for the CPA license. These credit hours can be obtained by taking up the certification course from the training partner.
So, if you want to become a CPA USA without having a Degree, just join the top partnered training institute like NorthStar Academy and kickstart your career.


1. Is CPA tougher than CA?

Both CPA and CA exams are challenging. However, most accounting professionals second that the CPA is comparatively easier to clear than the CA examination. The CPA USA examination has only four papers, whereas the CA examination has three stages and 18 papers in total.

The CPA exam can be taken on demand, and even if you give a significant amount of time preparing for each exam, you can easily pass the CPA examination in a year or so. However, for the CA examination, it is difficult to complete the CA examination in less than three years.

2. Who Earns More CA or CPA?

CPA, the more widely recognized accounting designation, can help you earn slightly higher than a CA. Even in India, a CPA-certified professional can earn an average salary of Rs 8-10 lakhs per annum. In comparison, a CA gets an average salary of Rs 6-7 lakhs/p.a. in India.

CPA can earn considerably higher by going abroad, especially to the US. But a CA is not recognized abroad, so the international scope is limited for CA

3. What is one of the first steps for becoming a CPA?

One of the first steps in the process of how to become a CPA before actually applying for the CPA certification exam is to check whether you are even eligible to take it or not. That is called CPA Evaluation.

4. How hard is the CPA Exam?

The CPA exam is tough; the candidates need to put a lot of effort into passing the examination. It tends to test the conceptual clarity and working knowledge of the candidate in a wide variety of fields and requires quite a large undertaking of planning, studying, and preparing
The passing rate of the CPA exam is less than 50%, which means more than half of the candidates taking the exam fail. The Multiple choice questions are quite tricky, often, there is more than one correct answer, and you need to choose the best of the provided options. If your fundamentals are not strong enough, passing the CPA becomes a hard nut to crack.

5. Is it possible to pass the CPA Exam in 6 months?

Owing to the four sections and the vast syllabus topics (18+ subjects) of the US CPA exam, it is highly unlikely to pass the exam in just 6 months. Studying the vast syllabus of CPA may become hectic in less than six months. Moreover, it might be impossible for working professionals who have to dedicate their time to work and then their studies.
If you are wondering how to become a CPA in the least possible time, NorthStar Academy (NSA) is here for you. We are committed to providing the best education possible to help our students to crack the CPA exams.

6. How to get 150 credit hours for CPA?

Acquiring 150 credit hours is one of the crucial steps toward becoming a CPA. To get 150 credit hours, the candidates have to complete their bachelor's and master's degrees in the field of accounting or finance. However, the candidates can sit in the CPA examination with only 120 credit hours (a bachelors degree + 30 extra credits from 1 year of a Master's degree).


Now, you know all the steps of how to become a CPA USA. Still, the whole process of becoming a CPA can be a challenging task to go through. Therefore, it is recommended to join a top training academy to help you through this CPA USA journey, such as NorthStar Academy.
The CPA USA certification course provided by the NorthStar Academy will help you in every aspect of your CPA journey. NSA provides the most-preferred study material, curated by Indias best accounting faculty possessing years of experience in the field.
So, what are you waiting for? Join the NSA and obtain the CPA USA certification to boost your career growth. Contact us here to discuss all your queries with our consultants.
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