How to Become a CPA in Florida

Florida’s economy is routinely considered in the top 5 best of all states in the country. The economic industries of greatest importance are tourism, agriculture, healthcare research, aerospace, and more recently, commercial space travel. The Gross Regional Product (GRP) of Florida in 2016 was $926 billion. Florida operates 7 international airports, several international tourist destinations like Disney, Epcot, Universal Studios Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa, and heavily visited beach towns.

With such a strong economy, CPAs in Florida are essential to help companies and individuals to handle so much business. As of April 2018, Florida reported only a very low 3.7% unemployment rate. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics from the Department of Labor, the expected growth for CPAs and other financial advisors in Florida is 10% between now and 2026. In a state that already employs nearly 74.000 CPAs, that means many opportunities for employment in the Centennial State in the coming years. Another great reason to be a CPA in Florida is that all four of The Big Four accounting firms (PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, and KPMG) have headquarters across the state. Any CPA who was able to land an internship with one of these firms during or after college will have many professional doors opened to them.

FL Quick Facts

*Source: BLS Data

Accounting Programs in Florida

Everyone who wishes to become a Certified Public Accounting is required to gain a certain amount and particular type of education in the state where they hope to practice. Many of the functions of a CPA are the same in every state in the country, but licensing is state-specific to make sure that CPAs are educated in the varied state tax laws and guidelines, which are not transferable across state borders. Most states allow CPAs to practice in other states with what is called Mobility Rules or Legislation. Some states cap the number of hours or the amount of money a CPA can make outside of their licensing state, while others require that the CPA can only own property in their licensing state. These agreements vary from state to state, meaning Florida has agreements with some states, but not with others. The website CPAmobility.org is an easy way to find out where Florida CPAs can practice, and what documentation they must submit, depending on where they wish to practice.

Nationally, people who are applying to become a CPA are required to take a minimum of 150-semester units of college education, in any concentration, accounting related work experience, and passing the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Once you are licensed as a CPA in any state, interstate CPA licensing requirements begin to apply, regardless of the type of client services you perform, and regardless of how well you know about the laws in the next state over.

CPA Certifications in Florida

To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Florida, specific eligibility requirements must be met beyond those of the national minimums. The Florida Board of Accountancy has a website describing these requirements, with links to the relevant statutes, contacts, and in many cases, downloadable and electronic submittable forms for CPA applicants.

In Florida, the person applying must have a bachelor’s degree in Accounting with 150 educational hours from an accredited post-secondary school. This means that in addition to the 120 hours a bachelor’s degree offers, applicants must obtain an additional thirty hours of upper-division coursework in accounting or business. Unique to Florida, these hours must include 24-semester units in accounting taxation, auditing, cost/managerial, financial, and accounting information systems. Accounting courses for non-accounting majors or elementary accounting courses for MBAs will NOT be counted. Any person applying who has a Master’s degree in accounting, tax law, finance, economics, or business administration is also eligible. Applicants are also required to complete Business courses to the tune of 24-semester units, with one course in microeconomics, 1 in macroeconomics, 1 in statistics, 1 in business law, and 1 in an introduction to computers course. Most Florida-based accounting programs embed these requirements into required coursework.

Anyone who wishes to become a CPA in the United States, must sit for and pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (Uniform CPA Exam). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the body that creates and regulates the exam, and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) administers it in each state. The Uniform CPA Exam is the same, or uniform, in every state, however, the requirements for being eligible to sit for the exam, and subsequently passing, determines if you can be licensed in your state.

CPA Licensure in Florida, Steps Toward Eligibility

To be eligible for CPA licensure in Florida, candidates must meet these following qualifications:

Source: Florida Board of Accountancy

In addition to the minimum national standards, CPAs in Florida (and everywhere) must complete continuing professional education (CPE) hours to maintain their CPA licensure. Specific to Florida, these must be earned throughout the year and reported once every two years. Florida CPAs must report at least 80 hours for the 2-year period that goes from 7/1 to 6/30 of the second year. Four of these 80 hours must be in the area of ethics in accountancy.

For those CPAs who are also instructors of Accounting, CPE credit is given at the rate of 2-times the number of hours for non-instructors. They make count credit for presenting on accounting, given that their presentation/lecture is original and they have not given it before. If a CPA is enrolled in a university or educational program, they can count each semester in accounting and business courses at 15 CPE hours per semester, per course.

Best Cities in Florida to Work as an Accountant (Based on Salary)

Source: BLS Data

In the year 2007, federal regulations were passed to allow CPA mobility, meaning if, for example, a CPA had been working with a client for years, and that client moved away or is working in a state they do not live in, that CPA could continue working with that client, even outside of the state the CPA is licensed in. The regulating bodies who govern accounting, and who passed this new regulation are The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

The regulation itself is referred to as Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) and the section dealing with mobility across state lines is section 23, or “no notice, no fee, no escape”. Section 23 is often compared to the driver’s license model. Any driver who is licensed in a U.S. state can, without penalty, drive across the country without applying for new driver’s licenses in each state she visits. If she were to disobey the traffic laws of the state she is visiting outside her licensing state, she can be disciplined by the state where the infraction occurred. The same applies to the UAA, and specifically section 23. The UUA in its entirety was developed and is maintained, reviewed and updated by the AICPA and NASBA. It provides a uniform approach to regulation of the accounting profession.