Washington CPA Exam & License Requirements: How to Become a CPA in Washington

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Washington’s journey to CPA licensure is one of balancing traditional requirements with the evolving needs of the profession. Despite discussions on modifying requirements, like the 150-hour education rule, Washington maintains this standard.

As stated in “The Washington CPA Spring 2023” issue, “We are well conditioned to maintain the status quo… It takes conscious thought and practice to notice a potential barrier and dissect it.” This reflects the broader challenge of adapting the CPA pathway to contemporary needs without compromising the profession’s integrity.

Aspiring CPAs in Washington must navigate these traditional paths while being aware of potential shifts in the landscape, recognizing the profession’s commitment to dismantling barriers, and facilitating easier access to the CPA career. Here are some of the specifics of Washington CPA licensure.

Steps to Get a CPA License in Washington

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

  1. Minimum age: None
  2. U.S. Residency NOT Required
  3. State Residency NOT required

Education Requirements

Washington requires 150 credit hours to earn a CPA license. However, you may sit for the CPA exam up to 180 days prior to meeting this education requirement. The work experience requirements are more lenient than in most states and allow qualifying part-time and volunteer work.

  1. Bachelor’s degree or above
  2. 150 semester units from an accredited university or educational institution
  3. Accounting courses: 24 semester units (at least 15 units in upper level/division)
  4. Business courses: 24 semester hours, which can include the following: Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Budgeting, Investments, Business Law, Statistics (Maximum of 6 undergraduate units), Banking, Finance, Management and Admin, Accounting courses in excess of the required 24 semester hours.

Work Experience

  • 1 year (2,000 hours) of public accounting work experience
  • Work can be in accounting, attest, management advisory, financial advisory, tax , tax advisory, or consulting
  • Experience must be verified by either a Washington CPA or any CPA who has had an active license for at least 5 years (Does not need to be your direct supervisor)
  • Part-time and even volunteer work can be counted
  • See Washington Board of Accountancy for more information

Ethics Exam

  • Passing of the AICPA ethics exam (Cost of course is $299 or $245 for AICPA or CIMA members)

Washington CPA Exam Fees

The cost to take all four sections of the CPA exam in Washington is $1,379.20 ($344.80 per section) plus the initial $90 education evaluation application fee. The re-examination registration fee varies depending on the number of sections you are signing up for. 

**Important Note: You should not apply and pay for exam sections that will not be taken within six months because your Notice to Schedule (NTS) in Washington expires 6 months after issuance.

CPA License Requirements Recap

  1. Pass all 4 sections of the CPA exam with a score of 75% or higher
  2. Complete verified accounting work experience
  3. Pass AICPA Ethics Exam
  4. Fill out and submit all required CPA license application paperwork
  5. Pay the CPA license application fee

CPA Exam Updates in Washington With the CPA Evolution Initiative

The CPA licensure landscape in Washington is set to undergo significant changes with the implementation of the CPA Evolution Initiative. This initiative, spearheaded by the AICPA and NASBA, is a transformative step in adapting the CPA licensure model to the rapidly evolving skills and competencies required in the accounting profession.

Starting in January 2024, the Uniform CPA Examination will see substantial changes. The CPA Evolution Initiative aims to align the exam more closely with the contemporary demands of the profession. One of the most notable changes is the introduction of a more flexible exam structure. This new format will allow candidates to choose from three distinct disciplines in addition to the core subjects. These disciplines are:

  1. Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR)
  2. Information Systems and Controls (ISC)
  3. Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP)

This approach is designed to cater to the specific interests and career goals of CPA candidates, ensuring that they are well-prepared for the diverse demands of different areas within the accounting field.

Candidates and professionals seeking more information on the CPA Evolution Initiative and the upcoming changes to the CPA Exam can refer to the Evolving CPA website and the Washington State Board of Accountancy’s newsletter, which provide detailed insights into the initiative and its implications for the CPA licensure process in Washington. Additionally, NASBA’s transition policy for the CPA Exam offers guidance on navigating the changes.

Expert Tips to Become a CPA in Washington

When pursuing your CPA license in Washington, one unique tip I always share is to leverage the state’s diverse economic landscape. Washington is not just about tech giants; it’s a hub for various industries, from aerospace to agriculture. Tailor your study and work experience to these sectors. For instance, if you’re interested in technology, aim for internships or mentorships at companies like Microsoft or Amazon. This targeted approach not only enriches your resume but also gives you a competitive edge in the job market post-licensure.

Another piece of advice I often give is to actively engage with the Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants (WSCPA). This isn’t just about networking; it’s about immersing yourself in the local accounting culture. WSCPA frequently organizes workshops and seminars that are goldmines for CPA candidates. These events are not only educational but also provide insights into the latest industry trends and regulatory changes specific to Washington, which can be incredibly beneficial for both your exam preparation and long-term career growth.”

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of Washington’s natural landscape as a study backdrop. Preparing for the CPA exam can be intense, and finding serene environments to study can make a significant difference. Whether it’s a weekend study session overlooking the Puget Sound or a quick review under the canopy of the Hoh Rainforest, integrating Washington’s natural beauty into your study routine can provide a refreshing and calming effect, enhancing your overall learning experience.

Local Professional CPA Organizations and Networks

Washington is home to several professional CPA organizations and networks that provide valuable resources, networking opportunities, and continuing education. The Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants (WSCPA) is a prominent organization offering a platform for CPAs to connect, learn, and grow professionally. They provide a range of services, including advocacy, education, and community engagement.

Another notable organization is the American Institute of CPAs, which, while national, has a strong presence in Washington. The AICPA offers extensive resources for CPAs, including professional development courses, certification programs, and industry insights.

Local chapters of these organizations often host events, seminars, and workshops, providing CPAs in Washington with opportunities to stay updated on industry trends and connect with peers.

Washington Exam Resources and Local CPA Organizations

For more information, please contact:

PO Box 9131
Olympia, WA

Phone: 360-753-2586
Fax: 360-664-9190
Email: [email protected]

What’s Next?

Now that you have started the CPA exam application process, your next step is to find a CPA review course that 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!


What are the educational requirements for CPA licensure in Washington?

Candidates must complete 150 semester hours of education, including a bachelor’s degree. The coursework should include specific accounting and business subjects as defined by the Washington State Board of Accountancy.

Is work experience required for CPA licensure in Washington?

Yes, candidates need one year (2,000 hours) of work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA. This experience should include a variety of accounting tasks and responsibilities.

Does Washington require an ethics exam for CPA licensure?

Washington CPA candidates must pass an ethics exam as part of their licensure requirements. The specific ethics exam and its details can be obtained from the Washington State Board of Accountancy.

How often must a CPA license be renewed in Washington, and what are the CPE requirements?

CPA licenses in Washington must be renewed every three years. CPAs are required to complete a specified number of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours during each renewal cycle, with specific requirements available from the Washington State Board of Accountancy.

Can I transfer my CPA license to Washington from another state?

Yes, Washington allows CPA license transfers through reciprocity. However, candidates must meet Washington’s specific licensure requirements, which may include additional educational or examination criteria based on their original state of licensure.

Bryce Welker, CPA

Bryce Welker is a regular contributor to Forbes, Inc.com, YEC and Business Insider. After graduating from San Diego State University he went on to earn his Certified Public Accountant license and created CrushTheCPAexam.com to share his knowledge and experience to help other accountants become CPAs too. Bryce was named one of Accounting Today’s “Accountants To Watch” among other accolades.   As Seen On Forbes