How to Become a CPA in Georgia

The larger U.S. economy is made of the state's smaller ones coming together to create a strong economic front, that is impressive on the world stage. The southern state of Georgia is not one of the largest economic powers as compared to other states in America, but if it were its own nation, would rank as 28th largest economy in the world. Becoming a CPA in Georgia is a rewarding career choice, and Georgia ranks as the number 1 state in the nation to do business in and has the honor of having the best business and labor climate for workers in the nation. It also has the best workforce training in the U.S., with an outstanding state economic development agency. The large metropolitan areas in Georgia have a huge and growing real estate market, that is only being outshined by the exponentially developing film and television industry. In fact, in 2016 Georgia produced more feature films than the state of California.

Georgia's 2016 total gross state product was $531 billion. Its per capita personal income averages nearly $36,000. Certified Public Accountants in the Peach State can expect to average closer to $68,800 per year, and closer to $80,000 in cities like Atlanta where CPAs are in higher demand, and there is a higher cost of living. The Georgia Bureau of Labor has forecasted up to a 16-percent increase in position availability by the year 2026, citing the wide array of job environments and duties available.

Georgia Quick Facts

*Source: BLS Data

Accounting Programs in Georgia

So many professional fields require a very specific and highly regulated process of certification. Certified Public Accounting is no exception, as applicants must complete a state-specific type and amount of financial, tax, and legal education before they receive a license to practice. Most of the day-to-day professional functions of a CPA are the same state to state. CPA licensing is state specific is to ensure that CPAs are equipped to handle not only the federal tax, business, and financial laws and regulations, but also the state tax laws and guidelines that not only vary from one state to another, but change frequently, and without warning. This does not mean that CPAs cannot practice outside of their home state, as almost every state, gives those licensed to practice, the freedom to do so outside of the state they were licensed in. In Georgia, applicants must only fill out a form indicating the type of work they intend to perform, and the amount of money they expect to earn across state lines and submit it to the Georgia State Board of Accountancy.

The national requirements to become a CPA include a minimum standard of 150-semester units of post-secondary education, one year of accounting related work experience, and passing the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Once an applicant is licensed as a CPA in any state, rules and regulations begin to apply immediately, including interstate CPA licensing requirements. There are no exceptions to this, regardless of the type of client services the professional performs, and regardless of their prior knowledge of inter-state guidelines. Educational programs in accounting include sections on inter-state laws regarding accounting practice.

Accounting Degrees in Georgia

To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Georgia, applicants must exceed the national minimums in specific areas. Georgia State Board of Accountancy has a website describing these requirements. They also provide links to various laws that govern accounting and ways to download and submit documents right online. A blessing, for the millennial within us all. The person applying must have a Bachelor's degree in Accounting, plus 30 additional hours in business or accounting (often in the form of a Master's degree in business or accounting, not necessarily). Applicants must prove they have acquired 150 educational hours from an accredited post-secondary school. Unique to Georgia, these hours must include a course on communications, a course on computer science, one on economics, ethics, finance, humanities, international environment, law, management, and finally, one on statistics. Most Georgia-based accounting programs embed these requirements into required coursework. Any person applying who has a Master's degree in accounting, tax law, finance, economics, or business administration is also eligible.

In Georgia, CPAs must also complete adequate work experience before applying for their license. The experience may consist of one full-time year of any type of services or advice using accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax or consulting skills. This type of experience must be supervised by a licensed CPA. If the applicant is an accounting instructor in a college or university, this can also qualify as work experience. Teaching experience must be in the accounting discipline for academic credit at an accredited four-year college or university. Applicants who choose to apply teaching as experience must teach at least two different courses of accounting above at an advanced level. One year of experience equals no less than 24 semester hours

After completing these steps, the applicant must sit for and pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (Uniform CPA Exam) with a 75% or better on each of the 4 sections of the test. 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 Georgia.

CPA Licensure in Georgia, Steps Toward Eligibility

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

Source: Georgia State Board of CPA Examiners Website

In addition to these three minimum national standards, CPAs in Georgia (and everywhere) must complete continuing professional education (CPE) to maintain their CPA licensure. This can be accomplished through educational conferences held by the AICPA, or through specific coursework given in-person or online through the AICPA website. Georgia, CPAs must complete An applicant for renewal of their individual license to practice as a CPA (as opposed to the license of their accounting firm) must have completed 80 hours of acceptable continuing professional education, of which 16 hours should be in accounting and auditing subjects. This begins to apply after the initial year of licensure. The way Georgia requires CPEs to be reported is 80 hours every two years, although a minimum of 20 of the 80 hours will be earned in each year.

Accounting professors can get credit here too, as well as discussion leaders or speakers will be allowed for any meeting or engagement provided that the session is one which would meet the continuing education requirements of those attending. The credit allowed for presentation by an instructor, discussion leader, or a speaker is granted by of one hour of continuing education credit for each hour of teaching. In some states CPE is added for planning courses, but not in Georgia. No additional credit will be allowed for repetition of the same program, so each class or presentation must be unique to count for CPE credit.

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

Source: BLS Data

As recently as 2007, federal regulations passed that ensures if, for example, a CPA had been working with a client for years, and that client moved to the next state or took a job just over the border, or (a newer scenario) is telecommuting to a state neither of them lives in, that CPA could continue working with that client. 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.

Source: BLS Data