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Despite having one of the smallest populations among all the U.S. states, Montana has active and highly concentrated business and financial operations. The state's financial activities industry contributes nearly 20% of the state's GDP. Between 2008 and 2018, this sector experienced over 20% growth.
The significance of the financial services industry is good news for certified public accountants (CPAs) in the state. These specialized accounting professionals have the skills to support the most complex financial activities and operations. CPAs also have advanced qualifications and licensure, which positions them for some of the top positions and salaries in the field.
Becoming a CPA is complex. The path to joining the profession has very particular education, examination, and experience requirements. In this guide, explore Montana's CPA requirements, along with the accounting programs in Montana that can lead to jobs in the field.
Education Requirements for Becoming a CPA in Montana
In Montana, prospective CPAs need to meet education requirements at two stages: examination and licensure. To qualify for the Uniform CPA Examination, candidates need 24 credits in accounting courses and 24 credits in business courses.
To qualify for state licensure, candidates need a bachelor's degree and 150 credits in total. Of those 150 credits, 24 must be in accounting and 24 must be in business. Since most bachelor's degrees feature 120 credits, candidates usually need 30 additional credits. They can earn these from separate courses, a master's degree, or a bachelor's-to-master's program.
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Concentrations, Credits, and Course Acceptance
According to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), Montana CPA requirements include a bachelor's degree and 150 credits. For both the exam and licensure, candidates need 24 accounting credits above the introductory level, including at least one course in each of the following disciplines:
- Financial accounting
- Management accounting
CPA candidates also need 24 credits in business, which can cover any of the following topics:
- Business law
- Information systems
- Organizational behavior
- Quantitative applications
Montana has no graduate credit requirements, but the 30 additional post-bachelor's credits may come from a graduate program.
All credits must be included on an official transcript to qualify, which makes transfer credits ineligible. All credits must come from an accredited school that offers a bachelor's in accounting program.
Courses from a completed chartered accountant program may count toward the credit requirements. However, courses from a commercial CPA review program do not qualify.
Montana Experience Requirements
According to the Montana Board of Public Accountants, CPA candidates need a minimum of 2,000 hours of accounting or auditing experience to qualify for licensure. The experience can come from full-time or part-time work completed within the three years preceding an application.
All experience must be supervised by an active CPA and verified on an experience form. As a one-tier state, Montana's CPA candidates can complete the professional experience requirements before or after the exam.
Eligible experience can come from the following sectors or services:
Advisory or consulting
CPA Exam Requirements
In Montana, the Uniform CPA Examination looks the same as it does in every other state. Administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the test has four sections:
- Auditing and attestation
- Business environment and concepts
- Financial accounting and reporting
All CPA candidates take the same exam. The differences come from the eligibility requirements and the steps that follow the exam.
Eligibility to Take the Exam
In Montana, CPA candidates need to complete all 24 accounting credits and 24 business credits before taking the exam. They can take the exam at any point after meeting these requirements.
Montana has no age, Social Security number, citizenship, or residency requirement. However, candidates do need a certificate of good moral character. They also need to complete the AICPA Professional Ethics Exam for initial licensure.
Applying for and Scheduling the Exam
Test-takers go through NASBA's CPA Central to apply for the exam. Along with submitting their application, applicants must pay a $245 fee.
A complete application includes official transcripts sent by the school to CPA Examination Services. Applicants also indicate which part of the test they wish to take and pay a $238.15 fee for every section.
About 2-4 weeks after submission, applicants receive a notice to schedule with a six-month testing window. Candidates can schedule the sections of the test in any order or all at once, but they should only book what they can complete within the testing window. Failed sections can be repeated but not in the same window.
All four test sections need to be completed within 18 months. Incomplete applications will be rejected and fees forfeited. To reapply, candidates need to pay a $100 registration fee.
After Passing the Exam
After completing the exam and the other Montana CPA requirements, candidates can apply for licensure with the Board of Public Accountants. While applicants have 12 months to complete their applications once they start them, CPA exam scores do not expire in Montana.
Scores from the exam typically get released by AICPA within two weeks and sent to the CBA. A completed licensure application includes:
- Application form
- Passed AICPA ethics exam
- Official transcripts with 150 credits
- Experience form
- Application fee of $150
- Oath as prescribed by the Board
CPA license verifications can be done through the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.
CPAs in Montana need to renew their licenses every year by December 31. As part of the license maintenance, they also need to complete 120 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) every three years. At least 60 of those hours must come in technical subjects, including two hours of ethics.
CPAs need to maintain CPE records in case of an audit. The hours can come from the following sources:
Lecturing or public speaking
Technical committee or reviewing work
Acceptable technical subjects include:
CPAs from states with requirements substantially equivalent to Montana's may pursue a license transfer. In Montana, a majority of ownership in a firm must be held by licensed CPAs.
Questions About CPAs in Montana
What are the requirements to be a CPA in Montana?
Montana's CPA requirements include a bachelor's degree and 150 credits, including 24 accounting and 24 business credits. CPAs also need to pass the exam and complete 2,000 hours of professional experience.
Who can take the CPA licensure exam in Montana?
To take the CPA exam in Montana, candidates need a minimum of 24 accounting credits above the introductory level and 24 business-related credits.
How long does it take in Montana to become a CPA?
It takes about five years to complete the education component of the Montana CPA requirements. The experience takes at least one year, and the exam takes a maximum of 18 months. That works out to 7.5 years in total.
Is getting a CPA license in Montana hard?
Getting a CPA license in Montana can be difficult. Candidates need to be committed to completing the education and the experience requirements. They also need to pass the CPA exam, which has pass rates from 43-60% depending on the section.
Does Montana require an Ethics exam for CPA?
Yes. The Montana CPA requirements include the AICPA ethics exam. This needs to be completed before applying for licensure.
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