California CPA Exam & License Requirements

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California CPA candidates are subject to the 150 hour rule beginning January 1, 2014. This means they will now be required to fulfill 150 semester hours along with 1 year of work experience to obtain a CPA license (prior to 2o14, 120 semester hours and 2 years work experience was accepted). In order to get a California CPA license you are required to have a social security number.

To be eligible to sit for the CPA exam students must first fulfill these qualifications and education requirements:

  1. No minimum age requirement
  2. Bachelor’s degree or higher
  3. 24 semester hours in accounting subjects above the intro level and 24 semester hours in business-related courses (see list of qualifying subjects)
  4. US Citizenship NOT required
  5. California residency NOT required
  6. Social Security Number Required

Additional Requirements for Licensure

*Non-public accounting work qualifies but must be under the supervision of an active US CPA licensee. Also, at least 500 attest hours are required for anyone who wants to sign attest reports.

California Exam Fees

The cost to take all four sections of the CPA exam in California is $873.80 plus the initial $100 application fee.  The re-examination application fee is $25 plus the exam fees.

California Professional Ethics Exam (PETH)

  1. Pass the CA Professional Ethics Exam with a score of 90% or higher
  2. Cost of course materials and online test is $150. You get a 20% discount if you sign up as a CALCPA member – 1st year free for recently graduated accounting majors
  3. There are 50 multiple-choice questions
  4. The exam must be completed within one year from the date of purchase
  5. Your test results are valid for two years as you complete all of your licensing requirements for the California Board of Accountancy
*Important Note: You will have three attempts to pass the exam with a grade of 90% or better. If you fail your first three attempts you can call them at 1 (800) 922-5272 and they will give you access to 3 more ethics exams for free. If you fail these 3 attempts they will sell you 3 more for 50% of the original purchase price ($75).

Additional CPA Requirements

  1. Pass all 4 sections of the CPA exam with a score of 75 or higher
  2. Pass the California Professional Ethics Exam (PETH) with a score of 90 percent or higher
  3. Pay the $120 annual fee for your permit to practice
  4. Pay the $250 application fee
  5. Get your fingerprints taken and sent by a notary ($65)
  6. Fill out and submit all required paperwork

CA Exam Information and Resources

For more information please visit:
  1. California Board of Accountancy


2000 Evergreen Street, Suite 250
Sacramento, CA 95815-3832

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 916-561-1703

What’s Next?

Now that you have started the CPA exam application process, your next step is to find the right CPA review course that best fits your budget, learning style and schedule.
It can take several weeks for your application to be processed so don’t waste that valuable time waiting to hear back from your state board.  If you start studying now you will get a nice jump start on the material and will be better prepared to pass your first CPA exam!
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  • Selam
    Posted at 11 January, 2019 07:01 AM Reply

    Hi, I have a bachelors degree in Accounting (143 credit hours ). And three and half years of experience . Am I qualified to take the CPA exam.? And if I am not qualified, what do you think should I do to upgrade the credit hours that I have? Thank you in advance .

    • Bryce Welker, CPA
      Posted at 15 January, 2019 09:04 AM Reply

      Hi Salem, for your specific situation you should definitely contact the California Board of Accountancy directly to get a 100% accurate answer. I've had to call them many times over the years and they are very helpful :) Cheers, Bryce

    • Bilal A
      Posted at 6 December, 2018 16:57 PM Reply

      Hello. I passed the CPA exams 2 years ago but have remained in IT/business consulting. I would love to find out my options to licensed/certified as a CPA? I live in California and am afraid that I will not be able to get the work experience under a CPA given my career path. What can I do? I would love to be Bilal A, CPA!

      • Alice
        Posted at 22 October, 2018 20:38 PM Reply

        Hi Bryce! Your guides have been very helpful and I thank you for that! I just want to confirm on what ScottyB mentioned. Like him, I selected one exam and after I finish that exam, are you allowed to select another exam and just pay for THAT exam or will you also have to pay the additional $50 application fee to sit for another exam? Or is the NTS only applicable to the ONE exam you have chosen? Thank you very much! I appreciate your help!

        • Bryce Welker, CPA
          Posted at 2 November, 2018 16:15 PM Reply

          Hi Alice, yes unfortunately if you only pay for one exam/section at a time you would have to pay the $50 application fee each time. My advice would be to pay for 2 exams at a time so you only have to pay the application fee twice. Cheers, Bryce

          • Bryce Welker, CPA
            Posted at 15 January, 2019 09:46 AM Reply

            Hi Alice, You will have to pay the registration fee everytime you pay for another section(s) of the exam and get a new NTS. CHeers, Bryce

          • ScottyB
            Posted at 18 May, 2017 21:27 PM Reply

            So I applied to take only REG (I wasn't sure when I would be able to pay for the others and was hesitant to sign up for them in case I didn't have the money to pay for them within the required window after getting approval). I now can afford to take the others (it's been less than a year since I applied). Am I going to have to pay the $100 application fee again? It was unclear that I needed to sign up for all 4 at once and I really don't want to have to pay an extra $100 just because they don't explain things clearly (or because I was dumb, I realize there is probably at least a little fault with me).

            • BWelk
              Posted at 22 May, 2017 17:36 PM Reply

              Actually, you are doing the smart thing by signing up one at a time! I always tell people to register for one or two sections at a time because signing up for all four at once ends up costing you more money.It might seem like signing up for all four would save you money, but in reality, it doesn't. This is a clever trick by NASBA to make more money from fees. Your Notice to Schedule (NTS) has a validation period in which you must take the exams you paid for (most expire in 6 months, but check your state for specifics). If the sections you signed up for are not taken within that 6 month period, your NTS and fees for those sections will be forfeited and you'll have to pay again.So unless you plan on taking all 4 exams within a 6 month period, I would highly suggest that you stick to what you have right now and reapply for the next sections when you’re ready.Good luck on REG and the rest of your exam! You're going to crush it!Bryce

            • Aref Elgaali
              Posted at 28 April, 2016 00:52 AM Reply

              Hi Guys I am an old graduate, back in 1996 with Master Degree from India - Pune Unv. in Advance accounting and i have work experience of more that 15+, i am working as CFO out of USA, now i have come to California - San Francisco last month and i would like to do my CPA, So i need your help to direct me from where i should start.Thanks Aref Elgaali

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