Initial Licensing FAQs
Application and Status
How can I obtain an application for CPA licensure?
You can obtain the Application for CPA Licensure on the CBA website or by contacting the Initial Licensing Unit by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (916) 561-1701 and request that one be mailed to you.
How much does it cost to apply for the license?
CPA Licensure and Application Fees
- Initial Application - $250
- Hard copy fingerprint processing fee - $49
How long does the application review process take?
The review process will take approximately four to six weeks from the date the application file is complete. If your application is approved for licensure, the CBA will send you a notification with instructions on completing the initial licensure process and obtaining a license number.
How do I know the status of my application?
The CBA takes the following steps to keep you informed of the status of your application:
- Upon receipt of the application, the CBA will send you an acknowledgment card that your application has been received.
- The CBA will mail a status letter following staff's initial review of the application. This letter will advise you of any outstanding documents required to complete your application.
- If your application is not yet complete, the CBA will send a second status letter advising you of any remaining documents still outstanding approximately 60 days following receipt of the initial application.
- Applications with outstanding documents following issuance of the 60-day status letter will be placed in a pending status. If subsequent documentation is submitted to the CBA, the pending application will be reactivated, and an additional status letter will be sent.
- When all documents have been received to complete your application, the CBA will mail a letter advising that your file is complete and is in the review process.
Do I need to notify the CBA of an address or name change?
Yes. To keep you informed of the status of your application, it is important that you notify the CBA of any address or name change. If your address has changed, please complete and submit the Name Change Form.
Do I need to meet the licensing educational requirements to qualify to take the Uniform CPA Examination (CPA Exam)?
No. To sit for the CPA Exam, you must only have completed a baccalaureate degree or higher, including 24 semester units each of accounting and business-related subjects.
Once I receive my final CPA Exam score, do I have to wait until I get a pass letter before applying?
No. As soon as you know that you have passed all four parts of the CPA Exam you may apply for licensure; there is no need to wait for your pass letter.
Is an ethics examination required?
Yes. However, it is not necessary to take the ethics examination until you are prepared to apply for the CPA license. CBA Regulations section 10 requires all applicants to complete and pass a CBA-accepted ethics examination within two years of submitting an application.
Which ethics examination is acceptable for initial licensure?
The only ethics examination currently accepted by the CBA is the PETH examination administered by the California CPA (CalCPA) Education Foundation. To order the PETH examination, please visit CalCPA's website at www.calcpa.org/ethics-exam or contact them by email at email@example.com or by telephone at (800) 922-5272.
What are the educational requirements to obtain licensure?
Effective January 1, 2014, all applicants for licensure must meet the following educational requirements to obtain a California CPA license:
- Baccalaureate degree or higher
- A total of 150 semester units including:
- 24 semester units of accounting subjects
- 24 semester units of business-related subjects
- 20 semester units of accounting study
- 10 semester units of ethics study
You can find more information under the Educational Requirements.
Do I need to submit transcripts?
Yes. Transcripts detailing completion of all required courses and the conferral of a baccalaureate degree or higher and official transcripts/foreign academic credentials must be sent directly to the CBA. If official transcripts were submitted to the CBA during the exam process, it may not be necessary to have additional transcripts submitted.
Where can I obtain additional resources regarding the educational requirements for CPA licensure?
The CBA created the Educational Requirements for CPA Licensure Self-Assessment Worksheet to assist you in evaluating the education you have already completed and planning for any future education, as they relate to the educational requirements for licensure. You may obtain additional resources and samples of completed self-assessment worksheets on our website under Educational Requirements.
I took a three semester unit Business, Society and Government course. Can the units be applied to the business-related subjects, accounting study, and ethics study requirements?
Units cannot be double counted. The units can all go to one of the aforementioned three educational requirements or be split between them. For example, all three units could go toward fulfillment of the ethics study requirement, or two units could go to the ethics study requirement and one unit could go to the business-related subjects requirement. When evaluating your transcript the CBA will make every effort to allocate the units in a manner that will assist you in meeting the educational requirements.
According to the tip sheet, if someone earns a Master of Accounting, Master of Taxation, or Master of Laws in Taxation it will satisfy the 20 semester units of accounting study requirement. My institution offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting. Is that considered substantially equivalent to a Master of Accounting?
No, the CBA will not consider an MBA with a concentration in accounting as substantially equivalent to a Master of Accounting. The regulations only allow for the three specified master's degrees to qualify for the 20 units of accounting study.
I have earned a Master of Accounting. Will the courses I took as part of the master's degree program qualify toward the other educational areas?
Yes. The Master of Accounting degree will satisfy the 20 semester units of accounting study, while the units completed in the fulfillment of the master's degree can be counted toward the other three educational areas: 24 semester units of accounting subject, 24 semester units of business-related subjects, and 10 semester units of ethics study.
The accounting study regulations allow for a Master of Accounting to satisfy the requirement. Would a Master of Accountancy also qualify?
Yes. The CBA will allow for slight deviations to account for the fact that not all institutions designate their respective programs a Master of Accounting. Some other suitable deviations would also include a Master of Public Accounting and Master of Business Taxation.
The accounting study regulations require that a minimum of six semester units be completed in accounting study. Is this in addition to the 24 semester units of accounting subjects presently required?
Yes. At the time of licensure, if you do not possess one of the three specified master's degrees, an additional six semester units of accounting will be required bringing the total to 30 semester units.
The accounting study regulations indicate that the 20 semester units can come from accounting subjects, business-related subjects, and other academic work relevant to accounting and business. Must I have units from all three areas?
No. You will need to complete an additional six semester units in accounting subjects, but the remaining 14 semester units may be in additional accounting subjects or business-related subjects. You could also have up to nine semester units in other academic work relevant to accounting and business, but it is not required.
My college offers a course titled "Leading Organizations." Will this course qualify toward the 10 semester unit ethics study requirement?
If the course description indicates that the subject area is related to one of the terms listed on the tip sheet this course can be considered towards the ethics study requirement.
I noticed that the guidelines for the ethics study allow for a course with the word "Ethics" in the title to qualify. My college offers a course titled "Professional and Ethical Issues." Will this qualify?
Do the units for the educational requirements have to be upper division?
All course requirements can be satisfied at the lower division level with one exception. Beginning January 1, 2017, you must complete a minimum of three semester or four quarter units in accounting ethics or accountants' professional responsibilities, which must be completed at an upper division level or higher, unless it is completed at a community college.
Am I required to have a master's degree now?
No; you are not required to hold a master's degree.
How many units of financial statement auditing qualify for ethics study?
If the course title contains the word "auditing" it will satisfy up to 7 semester or 11 quarter units of the ethics study requirement.
Is there a list of pre-approved courses for ethics study?
The CBA does not pre-approve any courses. Please review the CBA's Tip Sheet for assistance in determining whether a particular course may qualify.
I obtained my license prior to January 1, 2014. Will I still be considered substantially equivalent by other states?
The California Legislature's passage of Senate Bill 819 ensured that California would maintain its National Association of State Boards of Accountancy's "substantially equivalent" designation. This designation applies to current and future licensees. Prior to practice in another jurisdiction, you should consult the individual regulatory body for more information.
I am applying for licensure with general accounting experience. How much experience do I need?
All applicants must complete a minimum of 12 months of general accounting experience. General accounting experience includes providing any type of service or advice involving the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills.
Does experience in academia count?
Yes. Experience in academia does qualify toward general accounting experience if the requirements of section 12.1 are met.
I would like to obtain a license with the authority to sign attest reports. How much experience do I need?
You will need to complete a minimum of 12 months of general accounting experience, and a minimum of 500 attest hours to the satisfaction of the CBA.
I am licensed with general accounting experience and want to obtain licensure with the authority to sign attest reports. Do I need to submit transcripts?
No. You will only need to complete the required 500 attest hours and submit the appropriate documentation and fee to the CBA. Information regarding the process to obtain a CPA license with authority to sign attest reports can be found in the CPA Licensing Applicant Handbook.
Is fingerprinting required for licensure?
Yes. Pursuant to section 144 of the California Business and Professions Code, applicants for a California CPA license are required to furnish their fingerprints for purposes of conducting a criminal history record check with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
You can obtain more information regarding this requirement in the CPA Licensing Applicant Handbook.
Will the CBA accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in lieu of a United States Social Security Number (SSN)?
Yes. Prior to issuance of a California CPA license, all applicants must provide either an SSN or ITIN. California Business and Professions Code section 30 prohibits the issuance a license if the applicant fails to disclose or is unable to provide an SSN or ITIN.
What is required after my license is approved?
Upon pre-approval of your California CPA license application, you will be required to pay an initial license fee. The initial license fee is independent of the application processing fee. The initial license fee is calculated based on the date of licensure and first expiration date of the new license. Upon receipt of the initial license fee, the CBA will mail you a congratulatory letter with your CPA license number and CPA wall certificate. You may not engage in the practice of public accountancy or use the CPA designation until you have received your CPA license number from the CBA.
When will I receive the wall certificate?
Each applicant will receive a CPA wall certificate, suitable for framing, approximately 15 days after payment of the initial CPA license fee. If a CPA wall certificate has been lost, stolen, or damaged, you may request a duplicate by completing and submitting the Wall Certificate/Pocket ID Replacement Request to the CBA.