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Brush up on the requirements for CPA certification

BOA Business

Anne Janotta Erickson, MNCPA senior business & industry marketing coordinator | June/July 2018 Footnote

Pop quiz: What do the following items have in common? 

  • State capitols
  • U.S. presidents
  • CPA certification requirements

Answer: Once upon a time, each was committed to memory. Now? Perhaps you're a little rusty.  

We'll save the first two for a later lesson. Today, let's review the requirements for CPA certification. You never know when a CPA candidate will come to you for advice, so keep these details handy.

CPA exam 101

For many, the CPA exam conjures up the image of paper and pencils -- but times have changed. Here's an overview of the four requirements for certification:

  1. Exam
    Candidates have four hours to complete each section of the exam. Sections are taken individually and in any order at a Prometric test center.  
    1. Auditing and attestation (AUD)
    2. Business environment and concepts (BEC)
    3. Financial accounting and reporting (FAR)
    4. Regulations (REG)
  2. Education
    In Minnesota, college credit requirements to sit for the CPA exam differ from those to become certified. 
    1. 120 credits needed to sit, including certain accounting-related courses.
    2. 150 credits needed to become certified.
  3. Experience
    Earn a minimum of 2,000 hours of work experience using accounting, attest, compilation, tax, consulting or other skills noted in the BOA's rules. The experience can be in industry, government, education or public practice. Experience must be earned in no less than one year and no more than three years. 
    1. Paid internships count provided the candidate didn't use the internship to fulfill the education requirements.
    2. Only CPAs with valid certificates (active or inactive) can verify a candidate's work experience.
  4. Ethics exam
    Take a specific self-study ethics exam, available for purchase through the AICPA. 
    1. Select the product labeled "for licensure."
    2. Successfully complete it within two years of the date you apply for licensure.

Common certification hiccups

You don't need a CPA certificate to encounter compliance issues at the Minnesota Board of Accountancy (BOA). Help those you supervise understand how to avoid headaches on their way to certification.

The three-year rule

After passing the CPA exam, candidates have three years to complete the remaining certification requirements. But, sometimes, this takes the candidate longer than three years. While they aren't technically out of compliance, they will need to take and document 120 CPE credits prior to applying for their initial CPA certificate.

Use the date of the letter the BOA sends notifying you that you have passed the CPA exam when determining the three-year deadline.

Some good news: Once a candidate has passed all four sections of the CPA exam, their scores never expire.

60-day error

CPA candidates working in public accounting or for the legislative or state auditor must pay special attention to the BOA's 60-day application deadline. Once the education, exam and experience requirements are met, these candidates have 60 days to apply for their CPA certificate. Failure to comply could result in disciplinary action.

Making assumptions

It's always smart to double check that the BOA has received exam scores, experience verification forms, transcripts and other necessary documentation. The BOA recently launched an online application for CPA candidates. This is great news, as it allows individuals to check on the status of their application at any time.

CPA candidates: Turn to the MNCPA

Rely on the MNCPA for details on earning your CPA certificate. Visit www.mncpa.org/becoming-a-cpa for a variety of online resources, including video tutorials and a step-by-step guide. Or, reach out with specific questions by calling 952-831-2707 or messaging membership@mncpa.org.


The BOA certifies CPAs in Minnesota. The BOA can be reached at 651-296-7938 or www.boa.state.mn.us.


Are you ready for June 30?

The Minnesota Board of Accountancy's CPE year ends June 30. Active CPAs are required to maintain 120 CPE credits, including eight ethics credits, for the reporting period of July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2018.

Remember, CPE rules changed Jan. 9, 2018. CPAs are now required to earn a minimum of 60 technical credits per three-year reporting period. This rule change applies to the current CPE period ending June 30, 2018. Visit www.mncpa.org/cpe-rule-changes for details on ensuring your credits fit the new rules.