CPA Requirements in Colorado


Published June 15, 2023

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Colorado CPA requirements include 150 credits and one year of experience. Learn more about how to get a CPA license in Colorado. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Blue skies with clouds over rock formations in Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Credit: Ronda Kimbrow Photography / Moment / Getty Images

Colorado contributes significantly to the U.S. economy, with over $370 billion in GDP and 800,000 businesses, according to IBIS World. The state's top industries include oil and gas extraction and tourism.

A certified public accountant (CPA) in Colorado can pursue opportunities in a growing economy with a low unemployment rate of 3.5%. Colorado also has the second highest density of accountants in the country, with an average salary of $85,880, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Becoming a CPA in Colorado requires fulfilling education, experience, and examination requirements. The guide below explains CPA requirements in Colorado and how to maintain your license with continuing education requirements.

Education Requirements for Becoming a CPA in Colorado

Colorado, similar to other states, sets its own requirements for obtaining a CPA designation. Becoming a CPA in Colorado has two tiers of educational requirements, one for sitting for the exam and another for licensure. Both require a bachelor's degree along with specific coursework in accounting and business administration from an accredited university.

The CPA exam in Colorado requires 120 credits, while licensure requires 150 credits. Typical bachelor's degree programs have a total of 120 credit hours. Candidates need to take additional courses or complete programs, such as graduate certificates or bachelor's-to-master's programs, to meet the licensure credit requirement.

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Concentrations, Credits, and Course Acceptance

To sit for the CPA exam, candidates need a bachelor's but not a graduate degree. They must complete the following educational requirements, according to NASBA:

  • A minimum of 120 credits, including:
    • 27 hours of accounting coursework
      • 21 hours of the accounting courses must exclude introductory courses
      • Of these 21 hours, at least 3 must be dedicated to auditing courses on U.S. GAAS
      • Other courses can include subjects such as accounting ethics, taxation, and forensic accounting
  • 21 hours of business administration coursework
    • No more than 6 hours of a single subject
    • Course subjects include business ethics, economics, and finance

Students majoring in financial accounting, taxation, or forensic accounting can meet these requirements without the need for additional courses.

After CPA candidates meet the prerequisites for taking the exam, they can work on the educational requirements for licensure. Obtaining a license requires 150 credits of non-duplicate coursework that meets these criteria, according to NASBA:

  • A minimum of 150 credit hours including
    • 33 hours of accounting coursework
      • 27 hours of the accounting courses must exclude introductory courses
      • Of these 27 hours, at least 6 must be dedicated to auditing
        • At least 3 dedicated to auditing courses on U.S. GAAS
        • The remaining hours may be other auditing courses
      • At least 3 hours on accounting or business ethics
  • 27 hours of business administration coursework
    • No more than 9 hours can be in a single subject

The accounting and business administration courses for the exam and licensure requirements are the same. Candidates must take these courses from an accredited university to apply them to the CPA education requirements.

In Colorado, professional training, chartered accountant programs, or examinations are not accepted towards the education requirements.

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Colorado Experience Requirements

CPA candidates in Colorado need at least one year of experience in one area: public accounting, industry, government, or academia.

One year of experience, defined as 1,800 qualifying work hours, excludes holidays, sick days, and vacations. Additionally, work that focuses on clerical duties, such as recording information in a general ledger, does not qualify as working hours.

When you pass the CPA exam, you receive a CPA certificate. You can start earning one year of work experience before or after taking the CPA exam.

An active CPA must verify your work hours to qualify. The CPA must have direct knowledge of your work and submit a form upon completion.

You must complete the 1,800-hour experience requirement in 1-3 years. You must meet this requirement within five years of applying for licensure.

CPA Exam Requirements

The CPA exam, while identical across the U.S., has additional requirements per state. State requirements usually have two criteria, one to sit for the exam and one to become licensed. The following sections focus on Colorado-specific CPA requirements.

Eligibility to Take the Exam

You must first complete 120 credit hours and related courses before applying for the CPA exam in Colorado. You must also complete the AICPA ethics exam within two years of the licensure application with a score of 90% or higher.

CPA candidates' eligibility requirements vary by state. In Colorado, there are no age, citizenship, or residency requirements. Applicants who reside in the U.S. are required to provide a valid SSN.

For candidates that hold a CPA in another jurisdiction, Colorado offers a reciprocity agreement. An active CPA holder must hold a license from an equivalent jurisdiction or meet the Colorado CPA requirements, pass the AICPA ethics exam, and have completed all continuing education in their other state at the time of application.

Applying for and Scheduling the Exam

If you wish to apply for a CPA in Colorado, you can sign up through the NASBA portal. Your school must send your official transcripts to the CPA Examination Services (CPAES) office in Nashville, Tennessee. The CPAES will keep transcripts on file for one year.

Once CPAES receives your transcripts and you complete the other CPA prerequisites, you can apply for the exam. Once your application is approved, you will receive a notice to schedule, which is valid for six months. You must complete the test during this timeframe. There are no refunds.

The first time you apply, you must pay a first-time application fee and exam fee, which are $160 and $238.15, respectively. You will become a re-examination candidate after successfully paying for the first-time application fee, which lowers future exam registration fees from $160 to $85.

While you can schedule multiple tests at the same time, NASBA recommends that candidates only sign up for tests they can complete within six months.

You can take the tests in any order, but you must complete them within a rolling 18-month period, starting on the date you first passed the exam. If you fail a test, you can reapply for it 72 hours after you receive the score.

After Passing the Exam

After candidates pass all four sections of the uniformed CPA exam, they can work towards getting 150 credits and one year of experience. Candidates who meet these requirements can apply for licensure and pay the $150 application fee.

Applicants must wait up to six weeks for the application to be processed and sent to the Colorado Board of Accountancy for approval. The board then approves applicants at their next monthly meeting. Applicants or their employers can check the status of their CPA licensure anytime on the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies website.

Retaining Licensure

All CPAs in Colorado must complete 10 hours of continuing education per active licensure quarter. Professionals must complete the required continuing education hours by December 31 of each odd-numbered year. The Colorado Board of Accountancy may request proof of continuing education after each two-year reporting period.

Colorado CPA licenses expire on November 30 of each odd-numbered year. CPAs can renew their licenses six weeks before the expiration date. They can have their licenses reinstated — the requirements are dependent upon how long ago the license lapsed. CPAs who let their licensure lapse for two years or less must submit a $55 fee and attest to fulfilling the continuing education requirement.

Colorado is generally considered one of the easier states to obtain or transfer CPA licensure. CPAs in Colorado can join professional groups, such as the Colorado Society of CPAs (COCPA). COCPA has over 6,700 members and offers professional learning and career development opportunities. CPAs can also pursue opportunities as an owner in a Colorado CPA firm as a majority of shareholders must be licensed CPAs in the U.S.

Questions About CPAs in Colorado

How do I become a CPA in Colorado?

Becoming a CPA in Colorado consists of meeting the examination and licensure requirements. This includes a bachelor's degree, 150 credit hours of study, and one year of relevant work experience.

Who can take the CPA licensure exam in Colorado?

Potential CPA examinees in Colorado can be anybody with a social security number who meets the prerequisites, which include a bachelor's degree and relevant coursework. There are no barriers in regard to age, citizenship, or residency.

How long does it take in Colorado to become a CPA?

Individuals who want to become a CPA in Colorado need to spend up to 18 months on the uniform CPA exam, complete relevant work, and meet educational requirements. Candidates with a bachelor's degree can complete these concurrently, but should expect to take at least one and a half years to meet the requirements.

Is getting a CPA license in Colorado hard?

Candidates across the U.S. take the same CPA exam, only the additional prerequisites differ by state. Colorado prerequisites are not considered difficult in comparison to other states.

How do I transfer my CPA license to Colorado?

If you hold a CPA in another state, you can transfer it to Colorado. You must hold an active CPA license from a reciprocal state, complete the continuing education requirements in your original state, and pass the AICPA ethics exam to be considered for licensure transfer.

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