How to Become a CPA in Arizona

Beating the heat in Arizona should be priority number one for anyone who wants to become a CPA in the Grand Canyon state. Shortly after that, earning your CPA license should be next on the list. Becoming a CPA in Arizona is not only possible, there are straightforward steps to accomplishing this goal. But first, you'll need a little background on the southwestern state.

Understanding Arizona's Economy

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the economy of Arizona is dominated by the industries of finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing. This means that people who work in the financial and housing sectors earn more money together than all of the people who work in other industries in the state. The largest manufacturing industry in Arizona is airplanes and aircraft parts, and the largest agricultural export is the lettuce at a whopping 20% of the grown exported crop. Beef and dairy cattle are the largest livestock industry in Arizona.

Unique to Arizona, their economy is based largely on what they call the Five C's: Copper, Cattle, Cotton, Citrus, and Climate, meaning tourism. The Copper industry was the largest in the region for much of the 1800's. Before that, indigenous people used it and other precious metals found in the rich earth of Arizona for all manner of jewelry, weapons, and other tools. Copper ore is still prominent and mined to this day in the deserts of Arizona. The excessively sunny climate helps the last two C's, citrus and climate. Arizona grows mainly limes, lemons, grapefruit, and oranges. Tourism in Arizona centers around the Grand Canyon and other natural earth formations like it. There are hot springs, desert mountains, hiking trails, wide open skies, and much more.

Not a C, but relevant to Arizona industry is the many retirees calling Arizona home. Retirement communities are common in the state due to the health benefits of warm dry air and low altitude of the southern part of the state. Since the largest industry in the state is finance, including real estate, CPAs who have some background in real estate finance will do well in this market.

Quick Arizona Facts

Source: Data

Accounting Education in Arizona

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or AACSB is an organization made up of business school members around the world. There are more than 1,600 member organizations worldwide. A large part of what the AACSB does is grant accreditation to business schools that adhere to strict educational standards. There are only two AACSB accredited business schools that are also accredited in accounting in Arizona. These two are Arizona State University and their W. P. Carey School of Business, and The University of Arizona with the Eller College of Management. Both of these schools are able to provide their business and accounting students with the educational resources necessary to receive a superior business education.

Attending an AACSB accredited school also comes in handy when applying for jobs, as employers understand the mark of distinction this accreditation is. There are over 800 business programs that have taken the required steps to earn and maintain this distinction. The benefits do not stop after the student leaves school. Continuing education programs, networking opportunities, and the most up to date accounting and business publications are among the benefits of being connected to this organization. Job postings about positions around the world are available. Innovative workshops, cutting-edge technologies and tools for professionals are often exposed to members first is another plus to being apart of the AACSB. Most importantly though, is being able to connect with the hundreds of thousands of others who share in believing the importance of business associations helping better the field of Accounting.

Accounting Degrees in Arizona

Source: IPEDS

Many individuals, families, and businesses use the services of a CPA each year to prepare their taxes. Beyond this, the job that a CPA does may not be clear to the average layperson. CPAs are the "doers" of accounting, where accounting is the language of business. CPAs are the people who interpret and communicate all of the economic occurrences for business in this country. From small to large, where finances are concerned, a CPA has had some measure of involvement.

CPA Licensure in Arizona, and Steps Toward Eligibility

As of 2014, all of the states in the United States began requiring a uniform number of educational credits. Now, in order to apply for a CPA license, applicants must have completed 150 credit hours of schooling. Unique to Arizona, 36 of these must be in the area of accounting specifically, while only 6 of the accounting courses can be in lower-division level coursework. After passing all four parts of the uniform CPA exam with a 75% or greater average weighted score, CPA applicants are nearly ready to complete the third step, experience. Arizona requires 2,000 hours within 12 months of CPA supervised work experience. Finally, the applicant must complete the AICPA ethics exam with a 90% or better.

Source: Arizona State Board of Accountancy

Keeping Current

After becoming a licensed CPA in Arizona, accountants must keep their license current by earning Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits each year. For Arizona, these are required in a relatively strict way. The license renewal date comes up every two years, and it falls on the last business day of the birth month of the accountant, odd or even year, based on birth year. For example, if my birthdate were January 12th, 1980, my renewal date would be the 31st of January of even years only. They are also required to report 80 hours every two years. Four of these must be in the area of ethics.

Further requirements include the CPE courses cannot be taught by an employer or co-worker. Of these 80, 40 hours must be in Accounting, Auditing, Taxation, Business Law, or Management Advisory Services, and 16 must be in a Classroom or Interactive Webinar setting. Introductory computer related courses for CPE are limited to 20 hours. For those CPAs who are also accounting teachers, instructor credits are limited to 40 hours. For those who publish educational material for in accounting, authorship credits are limited to 20 hours. These regulations for CPE in Arizona are current as of 2016.

Source: Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants

The agency that is responsible for the certification and licensing of CPA in the state of Arizona is the Arizona State Board of Accountancy. They handle all CPA applications and provide an interactive website that includes downloadable resources, educational materials, and other important things for CPAs to access. Another resource for CPAs in Arizona is the professional membership organization The Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants. They represent more than 6,000 CPAs across the state, making it the hub for accounting professionals in the Grand Canyon State. In the last 75 years, the ASCPA has given CPAs in the state a professional home. Without statewide professional organizations like this one, CPAs would not have a cohesive body of representatives who hold together the responsibilities of organizing, networking, and educating future generations in the work.

Best City in Arizona to Work as an Accountant Based on Salary

How much does an Accountant make in the highest Paying city in the state? According to Payscale, the online crowd-sourced salary platform, reports show that in August of 2018, the average Accountant in Phoenix was bringing home $66,129 annually. The Average additional compensation for this job is estimated at $3500 in bonus and $8750 in profit sharing, bringing the total up to $78,379 a year. Not too shabby for an entry-level bachelor's degree job, eh?