The CPA credential is a license issued by one of the 55 states or territories of the U.S. that authorizes the holder to practice as a CPA in that jurisdiction. Licensing of CPAs helps to protect the public interest because only those individuals who have met prescribed requirements are permitted to identify themselves to the public as CPAs. One component of the licensing requirement designed to ensure only qualified individuals become licensed as CPAs is the Uniform CPA Examination. Also most states/jurisdictions require at least two years public accounting experience.
The 55 Jurisdictions: The CPA license is issued at the jurisdiction level. To become a CPA, you must be declared eligible for the examination, and subsequently licensed, by the Board of Accountancy in one of the 55 U.S. jurisdictions. The Constitution of the U.S. grants each state or territory the power to regulate the practice of the professions within that jurisdiction’s borders. In most jurisdictions, these powers are carried out by a “Board of Accountancy.” These Boards of Accountancy are made up of appointed individuals and staff (many of whom are CPAs) who are charged with the responsibility of carrying out the laws promulgated by the legislatures and providing an appropriate examination for licensure.
The Board of Accountancy is an administrative agency that handles the day-to-day operations relative to regulating the practice of accountancy including activities involved with entry into the profession. In some cases, the Board of Accountancy contracts out certain examination related tasks such as the review of applications and collection of examination fee to NASBA. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is the association of the 55 State Boards of Accountancy. It takes care of the outsourced work from the state boards.
Upon completion of the CPA exam, CPAs must meet requirements defined by their licensing state board of accountancy to maintain the license. For dedicated professional accountants, earning a CPA license is just the beginning.
Many state licensing boards require that CPAs maintain and improve their skills through continuing professional education (CPE) courses and other opportunities for professional development.