Washington, D.C., CPA Requirements


Updated October 24, 2023 · 5 Min Read

CPAs in Washington, D.C., earn higher-than-average accounting salaries. Learn about D.C. CPA requirements, including education, professional experience, and testing.

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Washington, D.C., is the U.S. capital and home to many government entities. Consequently, the D.C. job market offers a multitude of private and public sector roles. Both sectors need certified public accountants (CPAs), whose expertise can help government agencies, businesses, and individuals who live and work in multiple countries.

CPAs in Washington, D.C., earn a higher average salary than CPAs in other states: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors in the nation's capital make an average annual salary of $110,240, almost $17,000 more than the $83,980 national average salary for these professionals.

Many specialized accounting roles require CPA licensure. Earning this credential is a multistep process, which includes fulfilling education, experience, and exam requirements. Our guide explores the specific steps for earning Washington, D.C., CPA licensure, including how to renew your credential biennially.

Education Requirements for Becoming a CPA in D.C.

To obtain licensure, prospective CPAs in D.C. need a bachelor's degree and 150 semester hours of college-level education. Because most bachelor's degrees only require 120 credits, many aspiring CPAs take additional courses, sometimes even pursuing further educational credentials like graduate certificates, master's degrees, or bachelor's-to-master's accelerated programs.

Though accounting professionals in Washington, D.C., cannot obtain their CPA licenses until they complete 150 credits, the district does allow students who have completed 120 semester hours to sit for the CPA Uniform Exam.

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Concentrations, Credits, and Course Acceptance

Washington, D.C., does not require prospective CPAs to hold a bachelor's degree in a specific major. However, subjects like accounting, forensic accounting, or economics often include courses that satisfy Washington, D.C.'s academic requirements. The district stipulates aspiring CPAs must complete 27 credits in the following areas before they can take the Uniform CPA Examination:

  • 24 semester hours in accounting, including
    • 3 semester hours in financial accounting
    • 3 semester hours in cost or managerial accounting
    • 3 semester hours in auditing
    • 3 semester hours in U.S. federal income tax
  • 3 semester hours in business or commercial law

Taxation and law courses must emphasize the United States — classes about other countries' taxation and business law practices do not qualify.

To meet the 150-credit educational requirement, students can use coursework from sources like graduate degrees, junior colleges, and international schools. However, CPA review courses and credit by examination for accounting, commercial, and business law courses are not accepted.

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Washington, D.C., Experience Requirements

Obtaining a CPA in D.C. requires one year of professional experience. Accountants can complete this experience after passing the Uniform CPA Examination, but they are not eligible for licensure until completing the work requirement. Washington, D.C., defines one year of experience as at least 2,000 hours of work in a 1- to 3-year span.

Part-time and full-time employment count toward this 2,000-hour requirement. Acceptable experience includes jobs where aspiring CPAs use accounting, attest services, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax, or consulting skills. Applicants must have completed their supervised work experience requirement in the 10 years prior to applying for licensure.

An active CPA must supervise this work experience and complete an experience verification form. Employees in Washington, D.C., whose company does not have an active CPA can apply for NASBA's experience verification. An actively licensed CPA conducts an interview with you and verifies your experience to determine if your work experience qualifies.

CPA Exam Requirements

Aspiring CPAs must pass the Uniform CPA Examination to achieve licensure. The exam consists of four sections: auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation. Below, we explore exam eligibility requirements in D.C.

Eligibility to Take the Exam

Though CPAs need at least 150 credits of college-level education to achieve licensure, D.C. allows people to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination as long as they have completed 120 credits, including requisite accounting and business classes. Washington, D.C., does not require prospective CPAs to complete an ethics course before applying for the exam.

The district also maintains several other eligibility criteria: Applicants must be at least 18 years old and must provide a valid Social Security number. Washington, D.C., does not mandate citizenship or residency requirements.

Applying for and Scheduling the Exam

Prospective CPAS in Washington, D.C., can apply for the Uniform CPA Examination through NASBA's website. Applicants must send education transcripts — electronic or physical — directly from their school to the CPA Examination Services (CPAES). Learners with education from multiple institutions must send transcripts from each school individually. Because CPAES keeps transcripts on file for one year, applicants can send their records before they apply for the exam.

CPAES takes 2-4 weeks to process applications. Upon processing, applicants receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS), after which they have six months to schedule the sections of the CPA exam they applied to take. Scheduling as soon as possible can help test-takers choose exam dates that fit their schedule.

First-time NASBA applicants must pay an application fee of $170. Each section of the exam costs $238.15. Applicants may register for multiple exam sections simultaneously, though NASBA advises only applying for sections if test-takers are prepared to sit for those sections within six months.

To retake sections of the exam, applicants must pay a registration fee of $85 in addition to the $238.15 exam fee per section. It may take up to five days to re-register for exam sections after failing.

Prospective CPAs have 18 months to pass all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, a window which starts on the date they pass their first section.

After Passing the Exam

Individuals who pass the CPA exam and complete the district's experience and education requirements can submit an application for a CPA license. The licensing application fees include a $175 initial fee and a $175 transfer of grades fee. Applications take up to four weeks to process.

Maintaining Licensure

The D.C. Board of Accountancy requires CPAs to renew their license every two years. CPAs must submit renewal materials by December 31 of every even-numbered year. Late renewal applications are subject to additional fees.

CPAs in Washington, D.C., must also complete 80 hours of continuing education every two years. These 80 hours must include at least four hours about professional ethics. The D.C. Board of Accountancy provides a continuing education reporting form. CPAs should maintain these records going back five years in case of a continuing education audit.

D.C. offers licensure reciprocity to accountants with CPA licenses from other states. The district also allows anyone to own a portion of an accounting firm that provides attestation services as long as a simple majority of the firm's owners have CPA licensure.

Joining professional organizations like the Greater Washington Society of CPAs can help certified public accountants connect to peer networks and find career growth opportunities.

Questions About Washington, D.C., CPA Requirements

How do I become a CPA in D.C.?

Becoming a CPA in D.C. requires completing 150 credits of college education, logging 2,000 hours of relevant work experience, and passing the Uniform CPA Examination.

Who can take the CPA licensure exam in Washington, D.C.?

Accountants in Washington, D.C., can take the CPA exam as long as they have 120 credits of college-level education, are at least 18 years old, and have a Social Security number. Even if aspiring CPAs pass all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, they do not qualify for licensure until they complete 150 credits.

How long does it take in D.C. to become a CPA?

The journey to become a CPA in D.C. takes 6-7 years on average. In addition to completing 4-5 years of college education, prospective CPAs must complete a year (or equivalent) of supervised work experience. They must also take the Uniform CPA Examination, which may require several months of preparation.

Is getting a CPA license in Washington, D.C., hard?

As is true across the U.S., the process to obtain CPA licensure in Washington, D.C., takes a number of years and requires extensive education and training.

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