How to Become a CPA in Virginia

Just like perhaps you are, there is someone scouring the internet to find out just what are the requirements to gain CPA licensure in the Virginia. To become a Certified Public Accountant in Virginia, just like everywhere, one must follow specific steps that span several years. Even though the Uniform CPA Exam is the same in every state, the education and experience regulations vary from state to state. Virginia CPA requirements are not scary, and they are not going to bite. They are, however, going to guarantee that no one can call themselves a CPA without truly understanding what they are doing with finances, taxes, auditing, communicating, and other CPA skills. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the organization that creates and modifies the CPA exam. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is the organization that is responsible for administering it in each state.


Historically speaking, the economy of Virginia relied on agriculture. The two most important features of the state's agricultural economy at the time of its founding were tobacco and slave labor. The civil war brought an end to both, forcing the state to reconsider everything during reconstruction. Coal mining and increasing industrialization took the place of the tobacco industry, although Virginia tobacco growing and cigarette manufacture was still a rather large export for the state. After World War II and the Civil Rights movement, integrated schools and the founding of what was then the largest community college system in the country, Virginia's economy began growing into more urbanized, skilled, technology-driven markets. With the nation's capital bordering northern Virginia, the largest and most lucrative industry is the government and government enterprises, which accounted for 18.6 percent of Virginia gross state product (money the state earns). For CPAs looking to cash in on the trends, the state is going in, having a knack for government or defense-related finance would be an asset in the state of Virginia.


Every skilled job in the country that requires a license to practice, has strict laws to maintain licensure. One skill many of us are familiar with is to be licensed to drive a car. We do not think about it in the same way because we are so accustomed to driving or being around drivers, but it is a pretty complicated process. There is an age requirement, an exam, and fees associated with it. Someone can add more skills and be licensed to drive different vehicles like motorcycles or tractor trailers. People can commit infractions and lose their ability to practice (driving a car). Just like driving around town, being licensed to make decisions about someone else's money is a big deal. The strict requirements associated with becoming a CPA is to ensure both that people take it very seriously, and that the public is safe to trust a CPA is capable of handling themselves competently and ethically.

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.

Almost every state allows their CPAs to practice outside of the licensing state. Many states put certain restrictions on this practice to maintain order, and keep the field state specific. They may not be able to work more than a certain number of hours, or there is a limit on the how much CPA can earn doing certain accounting jobs outside of their licensing state. The state board websites provide information on what the regulations are from their state to another. Depending on the state you are traveling to for work from Virginia, different rules apply, due to agreements the states have with each other.


To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Virginia, CPAs must complete requirements beyond national minimums. The Virginia State Board of Public Accountancy updates their website to inform people in the world of accounting about these requirements, with links to accounting laws that pertain to Virginia specifically, contact information to relevant people and programs, and downloadable and electronic submittable forms for CPA applicants.

Unique to Virginia, CPA Exam applicants must have a Bachelor's Degree, with a minimum of 24 semester hours in accounting courses. Of these 24, certain classes must be taken including auditing, financial accounting, management accounting, and taxation. As for business courses, graduates must have taken a minimum of 24 semester hours. Principles or introductory courses do not qualify in the 48 required hours. After completing the Uniform CPA Exam, the new CPA must also pass the AICPA Professional Ethics Exam for initial licensure. No CPA can get licensed in Virginia without passing the ethics exam.


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

Virginia offers other options for the education requirements that are suitable for CPA licensure, which includes a completed bachelor's degree, and fifteen semester hours in Accounting. Another way an applicant can be within 18 semester hours of completing a bachelor's degree, or its equivalent, from a regionally accredited college or university, and upon graduation will have completed 15 semester hours in Accounting.

In order to obtain a license CPAs must be also employed full-time for the equivalent of 1 year in academia, a firm, government or industry in any capacity involving the substantial use of accounting, financial, tax or other skills that are relevant. Whether other skills are relevant are determined by the Virginia Board of Accountancy on a case-by-case basis. Sadly, self-employment does not qualify as experience.


All CPAs must continue their accounting education to maintain licensure after it is obtained. In the field, they call this Continued Professional Education (CPE) and it is required each year, but the amount varies from state to state. The CPE Reporting Period is also different in each state. In Virginia, the period is from 1/1 to 12/31 over a three-year rolling period. General requirements for CPE include 120 hours, with a minimum of 20 per year for those three years. There is also an annual CPE in ethics requirement for most states including Virginia. The requirement, in this case, is four hours in the area of accounting professional conduct and ethics.

For those accountants who teach on the topic in college or university, they can receive 60 hours maximum in a three year reporting period. The VBOA will award the CPE hours for the year in which the exam was passed and the certification was received. CPAs will also earn instruction hours at the rate of 30 hours maximum in a three year reporting period. For instructors, credit is equal to presentation plus preparation. Repeat instruction of the same course is only accepted if the material is substantially changed. For those CPAs who are taking accounting courses at an accredited college or university, one semester hour equals 15 CPE hours and One-quarter hour equals 10 CPE hours.

Virginia accepts CPE credits for programs offered by National Registry sponsors.


Federal regulations in 2007 were designed to make it easier for a CPA to maintain clients who move away or live in another state. Historically the accountant and the client had to live and work in the same state, 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 Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants website has most of the information that Virginal-based CPAs will need to start or continue their 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 Virginia. CPAs who are members of a state professional organization will also have access to tax law changes, a common occurrence, and allows for a great way to network and meet colleagues.