Hawaii CPA Requirements


Updated June 9, 2023

CPA candidates in Hawaii must meet elevated education and experience standards. Explore all the technical details with this complete CPA career prep resource.

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Dawn at Mokolii Island in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii from Kualoa Regional Park Credit: Photography by Jesse Warren / Moment / Getty Images

Often glamorized as a Pacific paradise, Hawaii also offers less expected than beautiful beaches and tropical cuisine: business opportunities.

Its capital of Honolulu is a major regional economic center. Honolulu is a bustling regional focal point of both corporate and small business activity.

Hawaii's economy has ongoing needs for licensed certified public accountants (CPAs). The state's CPA licensing standards mostly align with those used in many other states.

Candidates need at least a bachelor's degree that includes extensive accounting coursework, along with multiple years of relevant experience.

Aspiring CPAs can attend accounting programs in Hawaii, or seek licensure in the Aloha State after completing their education elsewhere. This guide to Hawaii CPA requirements explains all relevant factors.

Education Requirements for Becoming a CPA in Hawaii

In every state, CPA candidates must meet minimum education requirements to take the Uniform CPA Exam, and to obtain a license.

Hawaii mandates that aspiring CPAs need the equivalent of at least 150 credits to qualify for licensure.

Most bachelor's programs cover only 120 credits. To fill in gaps, candidates may need to take additional undergraduate courses or earn a graduate certificate.

Accelerated bachelor's-to-master's accounting programs are another option, as they are designed to meet typical CPA educational requirements.

Since 2003, Hawaii has also required candidates to hold U.S. citizenship, permanent residency, or authorization to work in the United States without limitation.

The following subsections explain the educational requirements needed to take the CPA exam in Hawaii and get a Hawaii CPA license.

Concentrations, Credits, and Course Acceptance

Hawaii's education requirements are fairly straightforward. To sit for the Uniform CPA Exam in Hawaii, a candidate needs:

Note that the bachelor's degree has no set amount of required credits. The candidate must complete the required education before taking their first CPA exam, or within 120 days of taking their first exam.

Candidates with bachelor's degrees from outside the United States can qualify for the CPA exam in Hawaii by:

Different educational requirements apply to Hawaii's CPA licensure process. In addition to passing the Uniform CPA Exam, a licensure candidate needs:

  • At least 150 credits (225 quarter-hours) of college education at either the bachelor's or graduate level
  • At least 24 semester-hours (36 quarter-hours) of college accounting credits, including coursework in auditing, financial accounting, managerial accounting, and taxation
  • At least 18 semester-hours (27 quarter-hours) of upper-level or graduate accounting courses
  • At least 24 semester-hours (36 quarter-hours) of business courses in non-accounting areas at either the upper undergraduate or graduate level

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Hawaii Experience Requirements

Candidates have two routes for meeting Hawaii's work experience requirements. The first involves accumulating chargeable auditing hours. The second relates to general accounting practice in a professional setting.

Those pursuing the auditing route must obtain 1,500 auditing hours that meet the following conditions:

  • The employer must bill a client for all 1,500 hours.
  • The auditing must adhere to generally accepted accounting principles.
  • Candidates must accrue their hours in the context of full-time employment in a public accounting practice.

License-seekers choosing the general accounting practice route must obtain two years of full-time work experience. Acceptable work settings include:

  • Public accounting practice
  • Private enterprise
  • Educational institution
  • Government agency

Candidates must also fulfill the following conditions, regardless of chosen route:

Hawaii accepts work experience obtained in other U.S. states, as long as it meets all the aforementioned requirements.

CPA Exam Requirements

Hawaii's CPA requirements include passing the Uniform CPA Examination. All U.S. jurisdictions require aspiring CPAs to pass this challenging multi-part exam.

However, states have varying rules with regard to eligibility, time limits, and other aspects of the process.

Eligibility to Take the Exam

To sit for the CPA exam in Hawaii, a first-time candidate must be at least 18 years of age and meet the state's education requirements. These requirements include a bachelor's (baccalaureate) degree in accounting.

Applicants with bachelor's degrees in non-accounting subjects can still qualify. Their degree must cover at least 18 semester-hours (27 quarter-hours) of upper-level or graduate accounting coursework.

Candidates do not need to meet these educational standards to schedule or sit for the exam. However, first-time examinees must fulfill the education requirements within 120 days of their exam date.

Applicants who reside in other states can take the CPA exam in Hawaii. The state does not specify that exam candidates need U.S. citizenship or a Social Security number (SSN).

However, note that you cannot obtain a CPA license in Hawaii unless you have U.S. citizenship, permanent residency, or unencumbered U.S. work authorization.

Hawaii does not require first-time CPA licensure candidates to pass an ethics exam.

Applying for and Scheduling the Exam

Candidates can apply for the CPA exam in Hawaii through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). The process involves creating an online account to submit and manage applications.

Exam officials review applicants' documentation to ensure they meet eligibility standards. Approved candidates then receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) through their online NASBA account.

With their NTS, candidates receive a list of available dates and times. NASBA recommends applying as early as possible, which often grants access to a broader choice of scheduling options.

Transcript requirements apply for each school listed on the exam application. All institutions must submit transcripts directly to NASBA's CPA Examination Services on the examinee's behalf.

The Uniform CPA Examination covers four sections, which examinees can take individually. However, they must complete all sections within 18 months from the date on which they passed the first section. Credit for passed sections is valid for 18 months.

As of April 2023, application fees are $170 for first-time applicants or $85 for re-exam applicants. Additional fees of $238.15 per exam section also apply. Thus, a first-time applicant taking all four sections of the exam at once would pay a total of $1,122.60.

Examinees can transfer CPA exam credits earned in other U.S. jurisdictions to Hawaii. However, those credits need to be earned under the same eligibility and examining standards that apply in Hawaii.

After Passing the CPA Exam in Hawaii

After passing the CPA exam, you become eligible to apply for a Hawaii CPA license. Remember, different education requirements apply to license-seekers.

To obtain a CPA license, you need at least 150 semester-hours (225 quarter-hours) of college education plus a bachelor's degree.

Another reminder: you have 120 days after your exam date to meet education requirements if you didn't already meet them when you applied.

Your CPA exam credits expire after 18 months. If you do not meet the education standards within 18 months of passing your first CPA exam section, you must retake the section(s) for which credit expired.

To apply for a license, submit your application, supporting documentation, and fees to Hawaii's Board of Public Accountancy.

Fees vary, depending on whether your license is issued in an even- or odd-numbered year. In even-numbered years, the licensure fee is $195 and in odd-numbered years, it is $127 (as of April 2023).

Licensed CPAs can verify their status to employers and institutions using the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy's verification form.

Maintaining Licensure

In Hawaii, CPA licenses expire on Dec. 31 of each odd-numbered year, regardless of issue date. Licensees must renew prior to expiration to maintain their good standing.

CPAs in Hawaii must also hold a Permit to Practice. After obtaining your CPA license, you must then apply for a Permit to Practice at least 30 days before you require an active permit for professional activity.

Permits to Practice expire on the same schedule as CPA licenses. To renew your Permit to Practice, complete at least 80 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) during the 24-month period immediately preceding the renewal application.

CPAs seeking to renew their permits for the first time are eligible for prorated CPE standards. You need at least 10 hours of CPE per quarter, beginning from the issue date of your first permit. All CPE hours must be approved by Hawaii's Board of Public Accountancy.

If your CPA license or Practice to Permit expires and you continue to practice as a CPA, you may be subject to disciplinary action. This is considered a violation of Hawaii's unlicensed activity standards.

Shareholders offering services in Hawaii CPA firms must hold a Hawaii CPA license. The firm must also be 100% owned by Hawaii-licensed CPAs.

Questions About CPAs in Hawaii

How do I become a CPA in Hawaii?

Core Hawaii CPA requirements include a bachelor's degree in accounting or another subject. Non-accounting majors need extensive upper-level or graduate accounting coursework. You must also have auditing or professional accounting experience and passing scores on all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination.

How many hours do you need to be a CPA in Hawaii?

To qualify for CPA licensure, you need at least 1,500 hours of auditing experience or two years of professional accounting experience. In either case, you must obtain that experience working full time, which Hawaii defines as at least 35 hours per week.

How much is the CPA exam in Hawaii?

First-time examinees pay an application fee of $175, while re-exam applicants pay $85. Examinees must also pay $238.15 per exam section. The Uniform CPA Examination consists of four sections.

Can a Hawaii CPA work across state lines?

Hawaii CPAs can work across state lines if the other state is a mobility jurisdiction. However, you must hold both a valid Hawaii CPA license and an active Permit to Practice to do so.

Can I transfer my CPA license to Hawaii?

Hawaii does not maintain a reciprocal licensing program. Professionals with valid CPA licenses from other states must apply for a Hawaii CPA license and Permit to Practice. Licensed CPAs who do not already meet Hawaii's licensing standards must bridge any gaps in their credentials prior to applying.

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