How Long Does It Take to Get Your CPA? (Timeline to a CPA)

Becoming a CPA is a long and hard journey. Just ask any CPA. It requires grit, determination and maybe even a few failed attempts at the CPA exam. That is all after you thought you had it all figured out with four years of college.

We will look at the timeline it takes to become a CPA so if you want to become one, you will know how long it takes.

woman CPA smiling open laptop

How Long Does It Take to Get Your CPA?

On average, 6 to 9 years is how long it takes to get a CPA. Some people will say as early as 4 years but that isn’t very realistic for most people since they will need work experience and 150 credits. 

Let’s get into an actual timeline that is realistic for your CPA.

Starting Off: Getting an Accounting Degree

man going to class backpack

The first step for all CPAs is a bit of education. You can take two routes here. One option is to go to community college for your first two years and the second option is to go to a four-year college right away.

Year 1: You’ve got into a community college or four-year college and have decided in advance you are going into an accounting major. In your first year, you’ll learn the principles of accounting and complete some of your core business classes.

Year 2: In year two, you continue with your core business classes but move on to more advanced accounting. If you are at community college, you’ll need to look to transfer to a college for years three and four.

Year 3 of pursuing an accounting degree: Now is when you will start to cover higher-level accounting courses like audit, tax and cost accounting. You should have a firm base of accounting skills under you from your first two years of study and it may be a good time to look for an internship.

Summer classes: Yes, you read that right – summer classes. If you want to be able to get licensed for your CPA then you will need 150 credits and not the 120 that most college students graduate with after four years of college.

Think about doing some summer classes or the winter session to get these extra credits.

Year 4: At this stage, the end of school is in sight but that will be just the beginning. You should be sorting out a job at a career fair and mentally prepping for the CPA exam. It is just around the corner.

Read More:

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Is It Hard to Become a CPA? (The First Few Years After College)

The next steps after college are settling into a job, studying for the CPA exams and passing them. You’ll also need to get 2,000 of work experience in most states.

Year 5: Congrats, if you graduated with a degree in accounting and found an accounting job then you are well on the path to becoming a CPA. Take this time to study at work when they let you and in the evenings so you can book your first few exams.

Few candidates are likely to get through all 4 exams in this first year.

Year 6: By now you will be coming up on or getting that work requirement complete. 2 years out of college is plenty of time to pass all your exams.

Year 7: As life has it, there may be some ups and downs with the exam, don’t be surprised if you are failing a few parts that it takes you into year 7.

Years 8 & 9: Typically you’ll have your CPA way before years 8 or 9 but for some people, the marathon can drag on. Don’t worry, grind it out and you’ll become a CPA.

Read More:

Can I Learn Accounting On My Own? [The Surprising Truth]

What Does It Take to Become an Accountant?

woman CPA working on laptop

 There you have it, the timeline and road to becoming a CPA. To become just an accountant, you’ll only need those 4 years of college studies to get an accounting degree.  To go further and become a CPA, you’ll need a lot more studying to pass the CPA exam. 

Not every accountant needs to become a CPA, the choice is up to you. It is certainly worth it though.

How Much Does It Cost to Become an Accountant? (Two Options)

As we mentioned, there are two options to becoming an accountant. First, you can go with the community college option and then to college for the next two years.

If you attend an instate community college and then go to a public state college, it would cost roughly in the ballpark of $40,000 for an accounting degree.

That figures $8,000 for community college for two years and $12,000 for state school for two years.

Alternatively, you could go right to college and pay more like $48,000 and up.  The cost to become an accountant is highly subjective though. If you went to a private college, each year of college could be around $40,000 or more.

The cost to get an accounting degree depends highly on where you plan to study.

Final Thoughts on How Long It Takes to Become a CPA

It may seem like a long time to become a CPA but in reality, 6 to 9 years will fly by. Plan out those years because they will fly by and you’ll need a plan to reach your CPA. If you can stick to the above timeline, you’ll be well on track to a CPA.

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