How to Become a CPA in North Carolina

The economy of North Carolina is one that heavily relies upon the financial sector, both because of several mega-corporations located there, but also because many of these hugely successful enterprises are themselves banks and accounting firms. When, in accounting circles, people refer to the “big four” firms, they are talking about Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (known as just “Deloitte”), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (E&Y), and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG). The latter three of these have offices in North Carolina. Bank of America is based in Charlotte, and BB&T comes out of a city called Winston-Salem. There are 14 Fortune 500 and 26 Fortune 1000 headquarters that call the Tar Heel State home, as well as hundreds of accounting firms.

With an especially strong economy, particularly in the 15 metropolitan or urban areas across the state becoming a CPA has never been a better idea. North Carolina reports consistently low unemployment and a gross state product that hovers around $528 million. These and other reasons mean that North Carolina’s accounting sector is steadily growing.

Quick NC Facts

*Source: BLS Data

Accounting Programs in North Carolina

Certified Public Accounting, like many professional fields, require those who practice to complete a state-specific type and amount of financial, tax, and legal education before they are entitled to practice. While many of the duties CPAs perform seem fairly uniform throughout the country, the reason 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 varied state tax laws and guidelines that are not transferable across state borders. Nearly every state, however, makes it an option for CPAs to practice in other states. Some states cap the number of hours or the amount of money a CPA can make outside of their licensing state, while others require simply that the CPA not own property in the state they are practicing if it is not their licensing state.

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 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. Educational programs in accounting include sections on inter-state laws regarding accounting practice.

Accounting Degrees in North Carolina

Source: AACSB Website

To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in North Carolina, specific eligibility requirements must be met beyond those of the national minimums. The NC State Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners 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. The person applying must have a bachelor’s degree in Accounting with 150 educational hours from an accredited post-secondary school (with a few exceptions). Unique to North Carolina, 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 North Carolina-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 North Carolina, CPAs must also complete one of the following options of work experience before they can obtain their CPA; work for one year, 30 hours per week, under the supervision of a licensed CPA, work as a non-CPA accountant for four years, or spend four years teaching accounting specific courses, at least half of which must be teaching advanced accounting courses such as Auditing or Advanced Managerial Accounting. If the applicant chooses to work less than 30 hours per week, the number of required time doubles (2 years, 8 years, and 8 years respectively).

CPA Licensure in North Carolina, Steps Toward Eligibility

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

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.

In addition to these three minimum national standards, CPAs in North Carolina (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. North Carolina, CPAs must complete 40 hours annually, of continued professional education or CPE. Two of these 40 must specifically be in the area of Accounting Ethics. CPAs can report to the state of North Carolina about their professional development all year long and must have all of their reporting done by New Year’s Eve each year. The type of instruction can be varied, however, 50% must be instructor based either teaching or learning, 25% can be self-study coursework of courses that are at least 25 minutes long, and the remaining 25% can be granted for any educational accounting material the accountant publishes.

For instance, if you are an accounting professor, you can apply the hours you spend teaching towards CPE, or if you publish educational material on accounting, you can apply the hours it took to plan and publish this as well. If you become a CPA in North Carolina and begin practicing, but neglect your CPE requirements in the first or any subsequent year, your CPA license will be placed on inactive status. CPAs with an inactive license may reinstate to active status by completing a form and submitting it to the North Carolina CPA Board, pay the current certificate application fee, submit three certificates of good moral character and endorsements of eligibility, and furnishing the Board with documentation of the completion of the necessary hours of CPE, including the required course on the North Carolina accountancy statutes and rules.

Best Cities in North Carolina to Work as an Accountant (Salary)

As recently as 2007, federal regulations passed that ensure if, for example, a CPA had been working with a client for years, and that client moved to the next state over or took a job just over the border, or (a newer scenario) the client is telecommuting to a state neither of them lives in, that CPA could continue working with that client, even though the clients finances are now the concern of a state the CPA is not licensed in. The regulating bodies who govern accounting, and who passed this new regulation are the AICPA and 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