How to Become a CPA in Iowa


Published June 28, 2023

Iowa's CPA licensing standards reflect those used in most other U.S. jurisdictions, but with a few state-specific details. Plan your path to licensure with this Iowa career guide for CPAs. 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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Downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa Credit: Aaron Yoder / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Iowa has moved beyond its traditional economic reliance on agriculture and natural resources to host a thriving and diverse lineup of advanced manufacturing, food processing, and aerospace technology industries.

Businesses in these and other sectors have ongoing needs for licensed certified public accountants (CPAs). The U.S. Department of Labor expects strong demand for CPAs in Iowa in the coming years, projecting a 15.8% job growth rate for accountants and auditors from 2020-2030.

Iowa's CPA requirements align with qualifications in most other U.S. jurisdictions. Key standards include a bachelor's degree covering accounting coursework and 1-2 years of experience. Explore information on CPA licensure in Iowa with this helpful guide.

Education Requirements for Becoming a CPA in Iowa

In Iowa, aspiring CPAs must pass the Uniform CPA Examination. Candidates must meet minimum educational requirements to qualify for this exam and obtain CPA licensure.

Iowa's CPA requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and at least 150 college education credits. Most bachelor's programs only cover 120 credits, requiring candidates to complete an additional 30 credits after their undergraduate degrees.

Aspiring CPAs can fill this gap through accelerated bachelor's-to-master's accounting programs, which meet the 150-credit CPA requirement. Graduate certificate programs and non-degree course sequences in accounting or business offer another option.

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Concentrations, Credits, and Course Acceptance

First-time applicants for the CPA exam can hold either a bachelor's or a graduate degree. Bachelor's-level candidates must meet at least one of the following sets of conditions:

Examinees qualifying with a graduate degree must meet at least one of these conditions:

In all cases, qualifying accounting coursework must be above the introductory level. According to Iowa's Accountancy Board, exam candidates must meet the same 150-credit requirement needed to obtain a CPA license in the state.

  • Each Iowa exam candidate and CPA license-seeker must possess at least a bachelor's degree and 150 college credits, or the equivalent.
  • Business or accounting majors with bachelor's degrees must have at least 24 semester hours in accounting coursework.
  • Those semester hours must cover at least one auditing, financial accounting, management accounting, and taxation course.
  • Non-business, non-accounting majors must meet the accounting coursework requirements. They also must have at least 24 semester hours of specialized business education.
  • Introductory-level courses do not count toward these academic requirements.

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Iowa Experience Requirements

Candidates looking to become CPAs in Iowa may find the state's experience requirements more complex than most. The state defines eligible experience as any professional service covering:

License-seekers must have at least one year and no more than three years of part-time or full-time service engagement. The experience must cover at least 2,000 hours in academia, government, private industry, or professional accounting practice. Notably, internships qualify as experience under Iowa's CPA requirements.

Candidates looking to earn CPA certification for attestation must have at least two years of experience instead of one. In all cases, applicants must accrue experience under direct supervision or with the endorsement of a licensed CPA. Non-supervisory endorsements must confirm that the applicant's experience meets Iowa's requirements.

Applicants can also cover experience requirements by teaching postsecondary accounting courses. Teaching experience must cover at least 24 semester hours of accounting coursework. Students in eligible courses must qualify for academic credits, which need to appear on their academic transcripts.

  • CPA applicants must have 1-3 years of experience covering at least 2,000 hours in academia, government, industry, or private practice.
  • Experience must cover accounting, attestation, compilation, financial or management advising, or taxation.
  • Experience gained through internships counts.
  • All experience must be supervised or endorsed by a licensed CPA.

CPA Exam Requirements

The Uniform CPA Examination plays a major role in every aspiring accountant's journey to licensure. While candidates in every state take the same exam, eligibility standards vary among jurisdictions. The following sections cover Iowa-specific requirements.

Eligibility to Take the Exam

In Iowa, candidates may apply to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination while still in school. These applicants must:

Beyond these core requirements, Iowa imposes no other education restrictions on exam eligibility. Candidates are not required to apply or sit for Iowa's CPA exam within a certain period after graduating.

Test-takers who studied outside the United States must have their academic records evaluated by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) International Evaluation Services or the Foreign Academic Credentials Service.

Iowa's CPA requirements do not include minimum age limits, U.S. citizenship requirements, or Iowa residency. However, each applicant must have a Social Security number. First-time license-seekers must also pass the Professional Ethics Exam administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Finally, Iowa requires CPA exam applicants to be of "good moral character and reputation."

Applying for and Scheduling the Exam

Candidates can apply for Iowa's CPA exam directly on the NASBA website. The application process involves submitting academic transcripts from all schools attended. Institutions must send these transcripts directly to NASBA's CPA Examination Services on the applicant's behalf.

As of April 2023, the following fees apply:

The CPA exam includes four sections. Iowa applicants can take each section individually or up to four sections at once. The exam section fee applies individually to each section. An examinee taking all four sections at once pays a total of $952.60.

Applicants planning to take exam sections individually should know that credit for passing remains valid for 18 months. An examinee must pass all four sections within 18 months of taking the first section of the exam to qualify for CPA licensure.

Iowa considers 75 as the minimum passing score for the CPA exam and 90 as the minimum passing score for the AICPA's ethics course.

Examinees should also know the difference between applying for and scheduling the CPA exam. When applying for the exam, candidates submit eligibility documentation for NASBA review. After approval, NASBA provides a Notice to Schedule (NTS) notification.

Upon receiving your NTS, you will gain access to a list of available examination dates and times. Candidates seeking scheduling flexibility should apply early, as this generally results in access to the broadest selection of scheduling options.

After Passing the Exam

Once you pass the exam and meet educational and experience requirements, you may apply for your Iowa CPA license through the Iowa Accountancy Examining Board. The board maintains a regularly updated fee schedule for CPA license applicants.

Iowa does not stipulate any particular timeframe in which applicants must apply for their license after passing the CPA exam. However, exam scores expire after 18 months, making this period the maximum time limit.

CPAs can verify their licensure status to employers, clients, and educational institutions through Iowa's Accountancy Board.

Maintaining Licensure

In Iowa, CPA licenses expire annually on June 30. License-holders must renew each year to maintain good standing. Iowa's Accountancy Board notifies licensed CPAs of their upcoming renewal responsibilities each year in May.

Continuing professional education (CPE) requirements apply to licensed CPAs in Iowa. Renewal applicants must complete 120 hours of CPE every three years. The three-year period ends on the final day of the year (Dec. 31) preceding license expiration.

Exceptions apply:

In cases requiring prorated amounts of CPE, the license-holder must complete the professional education by Dec. 31 of the year preceding license expiration.

In Iowa, only licensed CPAs can legally offer attestation services through CPA firms. For detailed information on the permitting process for Iowa CPA firms, please consult this Iowa Accountancy Board resource.

Iowa has permitted CPAs licensed in other U.S. jurisdictions to practice in Iowa without obtaining an Iowa license since 2009.

Questions About CPAs in Iowa

How do I become a CPA in Iowa?

Iowa CPA requirements apply to education and experience. CPA license-seekers must have at least a bachelor's degree with extensive upper-level accounting coursework and a minimum of 150 postsecondary credits. Experience requirements include 1-2 years of part-time or full-time work covering at least 2,000 hours.

Who can take the CPA licensure exam in Iowa?

Candidates who meet Iowa's education requirements for CPA licensure may sit for the Uniform CPA Examination in the state. You may also apply for and take the exam as a student. However, you must certify that you will complete all education requirements within 120 days of your initial exam date.

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

Becoming a CPA in Iowa usually takes about 6-7 years. Students can meet educational requirements in around five years of full-time study. CPA candidates also need 1-2 years of professional experience.

Is getting a CPA license in Iowa hard?

Iowa's CPA licensure standards align with most states. Technicalities may make some parts of the process easier or more difficult to complete, but on the whole, it is no harder to get a CPA license in Iowa than elsewhere in the United States.

How much does the CPA exam cost in Iowa?

A first-time examinee pays a $170 application fee plus $238.15 for each of the Uniform CPA Examination's four sections.

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