How to Become a CPA in Illinois

To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the state of Illinois, you have to pay close attention to details. Both because this is a huge percentage of what accounting is, but also because there are several steps from point A to point CPA. Starting with a bachelor's degree in any discipline is a great place to start. After your bachelor's degree, the national licensing body requires 30 additional credit hours of accounting or business courses, after which the future CPA must successfully complete each of the four sections of the uniform CPA exam. The final step is to work under the supervision of a licensed CPA for one year. After filling out the licensing paperwork correctly, becoming a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Illinois is a matter of waiting on the paperwork.


Illinois is home to the largest city in the Midwest, Chicago. As such, the economic possibilities are wider reaching than Midwestern states with no huge city in the middle of them. The state is home to 36 fortune 500 companies including Walgreens, Boeing, State Farm, and McDonald's. In 2017, Illinois had a per capita personal income of $52,808, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The most profitable industry in the state is the financial industry, including insurance, real estate, and rental homes and buildings. These entities earned Illinois $820.4 billion in 2017 and ranked 5th in the United States.


*Content Source: BLS Data


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 the 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.

The national requirements to become a CPA have four basic starting points. First, licensees have completed 150-semester units of postsecondary education. The first 120 or so (bachelor's degree) can be in any degree field, but business and accounting majors get a leg up on the specific coursework requirements at the state level. Next, they must take a state-specified set of accounting and business courses (outlined below) to complete the remaining 30 credit hour education requirement. Third, they must pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Finally, applicants must complete one year of accounting related work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA to be considered for licensing.


Content Source: college and university websites

The requirements for the state of Illinois to grant CPA licenses to applicants include several specific guidelines. The Illinois State Board of Public Accountancy website has all of this information as well as printable license applications and more. Proof of completed requirements of these should be in order before applying for the CPA license. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and must pass AICPA Professional Ethics Exam for initial licensure. They must have completed 150 semester hours of a college education as well as 1-year general experience in government, industry, academia or public practice.

The specific academic requirements for CPA licensure in Illinois can be obtained in several ways. The first option is to obtain a graduate degree in accounting from a program that is accredited by AACSB. Second, to obtain a graduate degree in business from an AACSB or ACBSP accredited school. With this option, the applicant must have studied a minimum of 30 semester credit hours in accounting, with at least one course in financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and management accounting. The third educational option for CPAs in Illinois is to have earned a bachelor's or graduate degree (including Bachelor's degree in business) with a minimum of 30 semester credit hours in accounting.


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

Content Source: National Association of State Boards of Accountancy

To remain licensed in the state of Illinois, which is a great place to be in the field of finance, CPAs must complete a license renewal process including obtaining 120 Continued Professional Education hours, every three years. The renewal date is on September 30, three years after becoming initially licensed, and triennially after that. CPAs can report anytime in those three years. Four of the 120 hours must be specifically in the area of ethics and accounting.

Professors and instructors may also receive CPE for instruction, but these credits are limited to 60 hours. Credit is equal to presentation plus preparation. Preparation is limited to two times presentation. Preparation time for repeat instruction will only be granted if the material is substantially changed. If the licensee is studying accounting in university or college, one semester hour equals 15 CPE hours, and one-quarter hour equals 10 CPE hours. For automatic approval, that is to not be reviewed for accuracy each time they report with any of these methods of earning CPE, the CPA must be a member of NASBA's National Registry or a Board approved program, or fall into a special Board category.


Content Source: BLS Data

Federal regulations were passed in 2007 that makes it possible for CPAs to maintain their clients even if the client or the CPA move themselves or their business across state lines. Prior to 07, if both client and accountant were required to conduct business in the same state. The regulating bodies who organized this new governance are the NASBA and AICPA.

The regulation is called the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA), and it comes with the language associated with moving across state lines in section 23. It is referred to as "no notice, no fee, no escape." This section is often compared to the driver's license model, because like with a driver's license, you can be licensed in one state, and drive in any other state without applying for a new license. If you were to break a traffic law of the state you are visiting while you are outside your licensing state, where the infraction occurred, would be responsible for enforcing the law or correcting your error. The same applies to the UAA.

Content Source: BLS Data

Each State has a board of State Society or professional organization for accountants. The Independent Accountants Association of Illinois website has all sorts of helpful information for future and current CPAs, as well as CPE requirements and information for conferences and CPE events that are specific to Arkansas. Membership in a state professional organization will also ensure that CPAs are up to date on any tax law changes, which happen constantly, and give working professionals a great way to network and meet colleagues.