How to Become a CPA in New Jersey

In the Garden State, people are enjoying a strong economy, in a small but mighty place. The per capita gross state product in New Jersey averages around $54,699, which is second in the U.S. and happens to be above the national per capita gross domestic product of $46,588, if they do say so themselves. This means that New Jersey produces more valuable products, or more products in general, per person than most other states in the nation. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicate that the most powerful industries in Jersey are manufacturing, education and health services, and Professional & Business Service. These are also areas that are growing daily. Any accounting inclined person should look for companies in these fields if they are interested in a long, successful career.

Unlike many of the states Accounting Degree Review has featured, New Jersey charges sales tax (at 6.625%) and has an income tax that ranges from 1.4% (for those who earn less than $20k) and 8.97% (for those who earn more than half a million dollars per year). The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that New Jersey’s gross state product in 2016 was $575 billion. Despite narrowly missing the opportunity of becoming the first Silicon Valley, before the South Bay Area in California won out the tech world’s heart, New Jersey is still a huge producer of software and telecommunications products. They host twenty-four Fortune 500 companies and Trenton, New Jersey is home to one of the busiest international airports in the country.

NJ QUICK FACTS

*Source: BLS Data

Accounting Programs in New Jersey

New Jersey differentiates better than most states what is required for an applicant to sit for the CPA Exam, and that is required to be a licensed CPA. To be eligible to sit for the exam, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university, where they studied a minimum of 24 semester hours in accounting and 24 semester hours in business. This bachelor’s degree should have earned them 120 semester hours, which is the minimum to be eligible, although these hours can be in any field of study.

For an applicant to be licensed in New Jersey, they must obtain another 30 hours totaling 150 semester hours from an accredited school. Luckily, New Jersey has some of the best accounting degree options in the country.  These credits can be obtained within or beyond a degree program, meaning a certificate program works, or a series of accredited courses that do not earn a credential, as long as they are in business and/or accounting, as per the request of the New Jersey State Board of Accountancy. The applicant should then obtain one year of experience, equaling 1,750 full-time hours working under a CPA whose active license is from NJ or from a state that is substantially equivalent to NJ (which is all states in the U.S.). The experience that the applicant receives in that year must be in the areas of auditing or accounting to maximize the potential that the new accountant can encounter CPA experiences while they have a licensed CPA present to assist in their learning.

The national requirements to become a CPA also include a minimum standard of 150-semester units of post-secondary education and one year of accounting related work experience. To pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, they must achieve a 75% in each of the four sections to be tested. 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 New Jersey

To maintain a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license in New Jersey, specific eligibility requirements must be met beyond the national minimums. New Jersey State 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. Unique to New Jersey, there are no particular course requirements outlined by the state board. The number of accounting and business courses required is the minimum needed to complete the education requirements to eventually become licensed in New Jersey.

CPAs must also complete adequate work experience before applying for their license, as mentioned above. In addition to working under a licensed CPA, an applicant may gain experience by teaching accounting. 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, or one of the state or nationally recognized organizations dedicated to professional development for accountants. Teachers can apply one credit hour for each 50-minute period of service provided the topic/discussion is one which meets the continuing professional education subject requirements of state law. For the lecturer’s, instructor’s, discussion leader’s, or speaker’s preparation time, they can receive two additional hours of continuing professional education credit for each credit hour of instruction. Requests for credit shall be accompanied by an outline of the instruction, discussion, or presentation and an indication of how this progressed the development of the professional.

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 New Jersey.

CPA Licensure in New Jersey, Steps Toward Eligibility

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

Source: New Jersey State Board of CPA Examiners Website

In addition to these three minimum national standards, CPAs in New Jersey (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. New Jersey, 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 New Jersey 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 New Jersey. 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 New Jersey To Work as a CPA (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