How to Become a CPA in South Carolina

South Carolina, with its 187 miles of stunning coastline, historic and colonial sites, lush green gardens, and 46 distinct counties, is a state full of intrigue. In 1860 this was the state that first voted to succeed from the union, and following the Civil War in 1868, it was readmitted into the United States of America. Bordered by North Carolina, Georgia, and the Atlantic Ocean, South Carolina makes up the most eastern point of the deep south. The name of South Carolina is in honor of the first King Charles of England, who was responsible for creating the first English colony. The state’s nickname is the Palmetto State, referring to the Sabal Palmetto, which is the state’s tree. The tree is featured in white on the South Carolina flag on a blue background, representing indigo fields, with a white crescent in the upper left-hand corner. This state’s flag has existed since 1775.

In the Palmetto State, the economy relies on the finance industry, as well as tourism and agriculture to keep things running smoothly. Being so close to the finance and banking supercity of Charlotte, North Carolina where becoming a CPA is also a great plan, there is no mystery how this region dominates in this sector as well. There are also many tourist destinations in South Carolina like Charleston’s Civil War attractions and Myrtle Beach, each that bring income to the state. The islands off the coast of the state enjoy many visitors in all seasons of the year, but mostly in the summer months. In terms of agriculture, tobacco, soy, and cotton do their part to keep South Carolina going strong, as well as industrial chicken farming, and hog farms. In hurricane Florence and Michael in 2018, these industries were damaged beyond repair in many cases. Since the state is right in the pathway of many hurricanes each year, finance and insurance companies will always be in demand. 

South Carolina Accounting Programs

The accounting programs at colleges and universities in South Carolina are at the University of South Carolina in the Darla Moore School of Business, at Clemson University in the College of Business and Behavioral Science, and the College of Charleston School of Business. While there are many more programs in the state, these are the programs whose business and accounting programs are AACSB accredited. What this means is that these programs have gone through the process of ensuring that their programs are capable of instructing students at some of the highest levels in the country. The faculty in these programs are highly qualified, the teaching methods are sound, and the technology they employ is at the cutting edge for the professional field of accounting. Graduates of these programs are expected to have acquired the skills to be an asset to any position in accounting they are credentialed for. The seal of the AACSB is a mark of distinction, setting up graduates for success when seeking employment in business or accounting.

Becoming a CPA in South Carolina

The educational requirements for becoming a CPA in South Carolina are that the applicant must have acquired 36 or more semester hours in accounting courses from regionally accredited institutions. The college or university must be accepted by the SC State Board of Accountancy and the coursework must be applicable to a BA, MA, or Ph.D degree. Of those 36 hours, at least 24 must be taught at the junior/ third-year level or above. Four of the courses must focus on auditing, intermediate or financial accounting, cost or managerial accounting, and a US tax course. Applicants are allowed to apply a maximum of 12 semester hours of lower level courses toward their CPA education credits.

Unique to South Carolina, to be eligible to sit for the CPA Exam the applicant must have completed at least 120 overall semester hours from regionally accredited institutions. At least 24 of these semester hours must be in business courses. Before becoming eligible to be licensed, the applicant would need to finish the 30 credit hours beyond the undergraduate degree in a graduate or certificate program but may sit for the exam with the 120 from undergrad. Applicants must be 18 years old or older and must be citizens of the U.S. to become licensed in South Carolina, with a valid social security number.

Before being eligible for licensure, CPA applicants must earn at least one year or the equivalent of 2,000 hours of accounting experience in public, governmental, or private employment. This experience must be directly under the supervision and review of a licensed CPA who is licensed to practice accounting in SC or another state in the U.S. The experience must have been obtained at least 7 years prior to the application for licensure in SC. If not, however, the applicant must only complete 6 more months or experience to satisfy the board’s requirements. For experience earned 7 or more years prior to licensure, 6 months of additional experience is required. Before becoming licensed in SC, the applicant must also pass AICPA Professional Ethics Exam for initial licensure.

The South Carolina Post Licensure Requirements for CPAs

After an applicant becomes licensed in SC, they must keep their license active by completing Continued Professional Education credits. Each year in South Carolina, CPAs must report a minimum of 40 hours of CPE. Two of these hours must be coursework that is focused in the South Carolina Rules & Regulations for accountants. Two more hours of these 40 must be focused on professional ethics for accountants. South Carolina offers a specific, State Board- sponsored, 2-hour ethics course which can be taken only once in a 3-year cycle. The next cycle years include 2018, 2021, 2024 etc. CPAs can only count 1 two-hour S.C. ethics course per three-year period. CPAs can report their hours anytime in the year to the state board and must have all their reporting completed by the New Year’s eve of each year.

University instructor credits, for those CPAs who are also college professors, are eligible for CPE credit for those teaching university, college, and graduate level courses. These credits for licensed CPAs in South Carolina are limited to 25% of total CPE hours for the year. No CPE credit is available for instructors teaching introductory level courses. Personal development courses are acceptable but are limited to 20% of total CPE hours for the year and must be State Board accepted. Educators in Accounting may also apply credits to published materials that are intended to be educational in accounting study. Authorship credits are limited to 25% of total annual CPE hours.

Instructors can receive credit that is equal to two times the time they use for presentation or active instruction. No CPE credit is given for preparation in South Carolina. The only way that repeated instruction of the same material or course is only acceptable is if the material is changed significantly. For those CPAs who re-enroll in an accounting program, their graduate-level credit courses are eligible for CPE credit, where 3 semester hours of university credit is equal to 10 hours of CPE credit for the year. A maximum of 20 credit hours may be carried from one reporting period to the next reporting period in South Carolina. These credits are only applicable to State and Nationally accredited CPE coursework, and sadly not those earned from the exceptions like instruction of university/college courses, published materials, peer review, or self-study. South Carolina also has a funny rule that no more than 10 hours of CPE can be earned in a 24 hour period.