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In order to start a business as a certified public accountant or otherwise serve in a certified accounting role, you first need an accounting license to show that you have been properly trained in financial regulations and requirements for business.

Do Accountants Have to Have an Accounting Business License?

No. You can work as an accountant who is not a licensed professional, but you’ll be limited in the work you can legally perform. A Certified Public Accountant, on the other hand, can command a higher salary. Consider a CPA like a Master’s Degree: it’s an additional layer of education, business licensing, and training that better helps you do the job.

How Can I Become a CPA?

Each state may have slightly different requirements for getting your certified accounting license, so check with your state’s business licenses, permits & tax board to find out what you need to do.

The first step in becoming a CPA is taking an exam. Some states offer exams that provide you with an accounting license to operate only in your state, as well as other exams that permit you to operate in multiple states. If you think you might move out of state in the next few years, this is something to take into consideration.

There are other requirements you’ll need to secure your accounting license. Here’s what California requires, as an example:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • 24 semester units in accounting-related subjects
  • 24 semester units in business-related subjects
  • Passing grade on Uniform CPA Exam
  • Two years of general accounting experience supervised by CPA with an active license
  • One ethics course

The requirements are stringent because finance and accounting are so highly regulated. The mention of Arthur Anderson brings to mind accountants who didn’t stay above the law, and federal and state regulators are implementing more regulations than ever to prevent fraud at that level from happening again by requiring so many hoops to jump through for CPAs.

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