Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Do I Have To Wait To Get My Degree to Apply for the CPA Exam?

For today’s edition of “help me figure out my life even though the answers are pretty much freely available on Google and/or here on Going Concern”, we get a reader question about the CPA exam application process or, more specifically, how to get a jump on the process. Let’s go:

I am a college student I will have 150 credits in May 2010. Do I have to wait until I get my actual diploma before I can start the process of applying to sit for the test? I guess I’ve heard that it take up to 2 months to receive an NTS so I am worried that I will have to wait until August to actually take the CPA exam. Are there loopholes?

Well, dear reader, firstly if you are going to write in asking us a question like this, it really helps to know what state you will be applying in. All jurisdictions have their own rules and their own crap to sift through, so application timelines can vary wildly depending on where you are applying. I know for a fact you can bypass California’s 8 – 10 week application time by applying when you are not eligible to sit for the exam (like your last semester of college) and then just reapply when you ARE eligible as it will only take about a week to get a reapplication processed. If you call the exam unit in California, they might even give you this suggestion themselves. As for other states? Without knowing where you are it’s hard to tell you what to expect.

The general rule is that you must meet your state’s requirements before application. Some states allow you to apply when you are not eligible as long as you will meet their requirements within a set period of time (like 180 days). Call your state board to see if this is an option.

If you’re lucky enough to be in a 120 state, you can apply for the exam with 120 units and just have to reach 150 by the time you have passed all four parts of the exam.

Most states require your degree to have posted to your transcripts before you can apply for the exam. Again, there are always exceptions so your best bet is to talk to your state board directly and ask. Asking “are there any shortcuts to licensure?” won’t get you very far so try instead to ask if there is a way to apply for the exam before you are eligible to sit or if they have any suggestions for speeding up the process.

The best way to accomplish that is to make sure you have all your paperwork in order and, if available at your school, have your degree fast-tracked to appear on your transcripts as soon as possible. Your school may charge you a nominal fee for this service, but ask them if that’s a possibility if you’re trying to get this over with sooner rather than later.