How to Become a CPA in Iowa


For Accountants who have made the decision to live their professional lives in the Hawkeye state, the Iowa CPA requirements are easy to understand. Across the country, CPA applicants must follow strict guidelines to ensure that they are ready to perform the duties of Accounting in any professional setting they might find themselves in. The Iowa licensing board handles the processing of accounting professionals who apply to become CPAs.

Understanding Iowa's Economy

The economy of Iowa is driven largely by manufacturing heavy machines and food processing. There are plants and factories all over the state, broken up by corn fields as far as the eye can see. Iowa leads the nation in corn production, in a country that uses corn for nearly everything from food, to additives, to medicine, alcohol, clothing, and even tools! Accountants who are savvy with big agriculture and large industrial practices can do very well for themselves in Iowa. There are three fortune 500 companies headquartered in Iowa, Principal Financial Group, Casey's General Stores, and Rockwell Collins Trust Company. Two of the three of these are finance companies, and one is a retail corporation. Because of this trend, it is easy to understand that finance is the largest revenue source statewide and that it cannot hurt for Iowan accountants to also have some background in finance.

Quick Iowa Facts

Accounting Education in Iowa

There are two university business schools in Iowa that have been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. These two are Iowa State University and their College of Business, and The University of Iowa and the Tippie College of Business in Iowa City. These programs have proven to be dedicated to business and accounting education by presenting eager students with the most rigorous, consistent, and up to date business education.

The AACSB was founded in 1916 to foster engagement in business education. What they have accomplished in the last century is setting a very well-respected industry standard of education for business and accounting schools around the world. Students, faculties, and professionals alike can take advantage of the multitude of opportunities the membership organization offers, from networking to post-graduate continuing business education. They even host an accounting podcast. They have three headquarters, Tampa, U.S.A., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Pulau Ujong, Singapore. They serve more than 1,600 organizations and over 3 million members around the globe.

Becoming a CPA in Iowa

In order to become a CPA in Iowa, applicants must complete 120 hours of undergraduate study, plus 30 more credit hours of coursework beyond the initial 120. Of the 150 total credit hours, 24 semester hours cannot be in elementary level accounting or principles of accounting. This means for some people, a master's degree in business or accounting, and for others, it could mean an associate's to bachelor's program, as long as long as 8 accounting courses are upper division level. After post-secondary education, accountants are required to take and pass the uniform CPA exam. The exam consists of four parts, which test for the basic functions of an accountant. These four parts are Auditing & Attestation, Financial Accounting & Reporting, Regulation, and Business Environment & Concepts. Test takers must score higher than an average of 75% on each weighted exam in order to pass this portion of the requirements.

Passing the Uniform CPA Exam is two of essentially four stepping stones towards getting the CPA license in Iowa. After education and exam, would-be accountants must spend one-year gaining experience in more than one employment situation. This can include paid work or unpaid internships in government, industry, academia, or public accounting. Most states simply require 12 months full-time, or 2,000 hours of experience, but Iowa is more hardcore than most states. They want their CPAs to have the sense of what it is like to work in a variety of settings before deciding on which career path is for them. This experience, each different one, must be overseen by a licensed CPA and is required before the license can be issued. Finally, the last step in getting a CPA license in Iowa is passing a national Ethics in Accounting Exam with a 90% or better.

Maintaining a CPA License in Iowa

After finishing all of the necessary steps for becoming a CPA in Iowa, accounting professionals are required to complete steps to stay on top of their profession and incorporate any changes that take place in tax and financial law over time. Without this requirement, many accountants simply could be inaccurately reporting information that would be damaging to clients, and the overall health of the economy. Iowans are required to obtain 120 hours of Continued Professional Education every three years following their initial licensure. Reporting can happen throughout the year, and progress toward the 120 hours is required every year by June 30th.

Four of these 120 CPE hours must be specifically in the area of Ethics and accountancy and professional conduct for accountants. Eight of the 120 hours must be in Accounting and Auditing if the work the CPA does is in the area of supervising or signing compilation reports on financial statements. CPAs who are also educators may not claim more than 50% of their CPE as instruction they have given. For instructors who also publish educational material, they can only claim 25% of the time taken to produce material to publish as CPE credit.

For those CPAs who are getting certified in further accounting fields, CPE credit will be accepted at five times the number of hours of the certifying exam. This is included to account for the studying time it takes to prepare for the exam itself. Instructors can claim CPE credit for 2 hours of preparation per hour of instruction. Courses cannot be claimed if they are taught at the elementary level. For those CPAs who return to academic coursework, academic credit can be claimed as CPE and can be claimed at the rate of 1 semester hour equals 15 CPE hours. Unique to Iowa, a CPA who holds a currently valid license from a different state of residency, but who practices with clients who reside or work in Iowa, may meet the Iowa CPE requirement as long as they have shown to meet the minimum standard for their state.

Finding Support as an Iowan Accountant

There are many organizations that make up the regulating bodies of the field of Accounting. In Iowa, the state regulatory body is the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau. This is who administers and scored the CPA exam for residents in the state, as well as the agency that the CPE must be reported to at the end of each year. The Iowa membership organization that supports professionalism holds conferences for connecting accounting professionals through networking, and supports continuing education through workshops is the Iowa Society of CPAs. The Society, as they are referred to, also has an accounting youth program for young professionals to feel like they have a place in the field with other young people, and to find mentorship with accountants who have been working much longer and are seasoned with tips and tricks.

The AACSB is the accrediting body for business and accounting programs, while the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy helps to enhance how effective each state board can be. They assist with licensure and examination administration. Since the CPA exam is uniform across the 55 jurisdictions that NASBA oversees they are able to clarify regulations in certain circumstances or step in to assist when state boards experience staff turnover or regional natural disaster.