How to Become a CPA in Washington, D.C.

To understand the process of becoming a CPA in Washinton, D.C., is to understand, in some part, the economy of D.C. To understand the economy of our nation’s capital is also to understand a bit about the federal government itself. It is no surprise that government and government enterprises are the largest income bringers to this tiny non-state. For a place with only 693,972 residents, the city of Washington, within the District of Columbia brought in $131 billion in gross state product in 2017. Now most know, that by far the largest employer in the area, at 38% of all workers, is the federal government. In fact, many accountants and auditors work for the government in D.C. From custodians at the Library of Congress to the President of the U.S., federal employees are everywhere in D.C. The average personal income for these workers is $79,989 per year, which is much higher than the national average. It should be considered, however, that the highest paid federal employees are included in this average, possibly skewing the results higher.

We know of Washington DC as the capital of our country, but sometimes it’s hard to hear the echoes of the Algonquian language, the region’s native tongue, spoken by the Nacotchtank people who were the first inhabitants of the territory. This territory that sits beside the Potomac River was first chosen by the first President of the United States, George Washington. This region has always been known as one with a large concentration of African American people, and therefore, has always been a Black cultural epicenter as well as a hotbed of civil rights organizing. The capital of the United States was originally in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, PA, but on July 16, 1790, that all changed. Washington DC became the permanent capital of the nation. Based on George Washington’s Coat of Arms, the Washington DC State flag shows two red horizontal lines below three red stars on a white background.

District of Columbia Accounting Programs

For such a small area and populous, Washinton D.C. has a relatively high number of colleges and universities, not only with business and accounting programs but also with those that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The AACSB is considered the most reputable source for determining the academic merit of business and accounting schools worldwide. This body is responsible for determining and encouraging the excellence of these programs, and reviewing and renewing the programs every five years, ensuring their continued commitment to excellence. The George Washington University and Howard University each have earned this accreditation.

The George Washington University, School of Business was founded in 1928 as an elite educational opportunity for future politicians and their sons. The hope was that enterprise and government would work hand in hand to develop the United States into a business superpower. In that, the culture has succeded, and the school has since branched out in its goals. They offer full-time and part-time coursework in accounting for undergrads and master’s degree seekers. They also offer a full-time doctorate in accounting. There is 120 full-time faculty in business at GW, 98 percent of whom have a doctorate in business. Howard University was founded in 1867, as a theological seminary for Black clergymen. Since then, it has endured decades of changes to the makeup and the values of the country, as well as changes to its mission. It is now a private research school, a Historically Black University, and has a business school that was founded in 1970. School of Business faculty includes 52 full-timers, 84% of these with a terminal degree in business, accounting, or marketing.

Becoming a CPA in Washington, D.C.

In Washington DC, CPA applicants have to be 18 years of age or older to become eligible to sit for the CPA exam. There is no citizenship requirement, meaning international students can achieve full, licensed CPA status by completing the requirements in DC. Applicants do not have to have residency in The District, though applicants do have to have a social security number to apply. Each applicant for CPA licensure is required to achieve 150 hours of education, which is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, plus 30 semester hours, to qualify for sitting for the Uniform CPA Exam. Students will have to achieve 24 semester hours specifically in upper division accounting, plus three more specifically in commercial law. Each student will have to complete one year of experience in the field of accounting, learning more from the hands-on approach than they ever could in the classroom alone. This year or 2,000 hours of full-time experience can include government, academia, public practice, or industry. In DC there is no ethics exam required to earn CPA licensure.

CPAs in D.C. and Their Post Licensure Requirements

For CPAs in the District of Columbia, after earning the CPA license, there are still requirements for licensure that include continually learning about the field. These are called Continued Professional Education hours, and every state and territory requires some every year (except for Wisconsin, but that is another story). For the District, licensed professional accountants need to complete 80 hours every two years. These hours could come from a conference where days or even weeks of planned educational workshops are available to professionals on topics ranging from auditing to the use of accounting software, and everything in between. The hours must be reported to the Board of Accountancy every other year, on years that end in an even number. There are both requirements and limitations to these hours. The ethics requirement for D.C. is four hours, and the course must be taught by a NASBA certified instructor or certified course.

For professors of accounting, the CPE credit they can claim and receive for instruction is limited to half of the requirement, so in this case, limited to 40 hours per reporting period (or 20 hours per year). They can only earn credit that is twice the number of contact hours in the class. If a class meets for 48 contact hours over a semester, for example, the instructor can claim only 96 hours maximum for teaching that course. The credit these CPAs earn for preparing the educational material they write and publish is a quarter the number of required hours (20 hours per period, 10 hours per year). If a CPA has gone back to school to learn more about accounting, that naturally can be claimed as CPE. Academic credit like this is very generous for CPE purposes. Each credit hour earned in a College or University setting counts toward 15 CPE hours for that licensee.

The District of Columbia has more quirky and little know facts than most cities its size. From the number of lions, tigers, and bears in the 19 Smithsonian museums, to the presidents who kept alligators in the White House (Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams), D.C. has seen its fair share of sharp teeth and strong jaws. In terms of books, and other library collectibles the largest collection of items is at the Library of Congress, with 160,000 items being held there. Even though all roads lead to the Library’s neighbor, the capitol building, there is an even larger network of roads underground in Washington. This is not to mention the metro system, known for being the second busiest in the country, rather the miles and miles of tunnels built as escape routes for politicians in an emergency.