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In 2021, the WMC Foundation issued a white paper titled Wisconsin 2035: A Vision for Wisconsin's Economic Future. The document noted that Wisconsin's economy is growing faster than its population, resulting in labor shortages in many sectors, including professional services.
Current and prospective certified public accountants (CPAs) appear poised to benefit from the state's increasing economic diversity and strong labor market. Projections Central predicts that Wisconsin's job landscape will include nearly 2,400 annual openings for accountants and auditors from 2020-2030.
To earn a Wisconsin CPA license, you must meet education, experience, and examination requirements. Discover a step-by-step process to becoming a CPA in Wisconsin with this helpful guide.
Education Requirements for How to Become a CPA in Wisconsin
Each state maintains education standards for CPA licensure. Wisconsin allows candidates to qualify with either a bachelor's or a master's degree. In either case, your degree must cover significant accounting coursework.
Students can most readily meet the accounting coursework requirements by majoring in accounting. However, you do not necessarily need to major in accounting to become a CPA in Wisconsin with a bachelor's degree.
Another caveat applies to bachelor's degree-holders. Like many other states, Wisconsin's CPA requirements mandate that applicants have at least 150 semester hours of college education.
Standard bachelor's programs usually cover about 120 semester hours. Thus, you may need to supplement your education with a graduate certificate or degree. Pursuing an accelerated bachelor's-to-master's in accounting offers another possible path.
Concentrations, Credits, and Course Acceptance
CPA requirements in Wisconsin include at least 150 semester hours of college credits and a bachelor's degree. Wisconsin allows candidates to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination if they have completed bachelor's degrees that meet accounting coursework standards. The degree must cover at least 120 semester hours.
Many states allow students to take the CPA exam while their degrees are in process and nearing completion, but Wisconsin does not. Exam applicants must have completed all their degree requirements.
An applicant with a bachelor's degree needs at least 24 semester hours of accounting coursework across the following topics:
- Accounting information systems (AIS)
- Cost accounting or managerial accounting
- Financial accounting
The AIS coursework must be specific to accounting. Courses in business, management information systems, or general information systems coursework no longer qualify.
You can also apply a master's degree toward earning a Wisconsin CPA license. Your master's degree must have an accounting concentration, and your graduate coursework must also cover at least 15 semester hours of the same subject matter listed above for undergraduates.
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Wisconsin Experience Requirements
CPA requirements in Wisconsin also cover professional experience. To obtain a Wisconsin CPA license, you must have accrued at least 12 months of documented and supervised accounting experience.
Candidates document work experience on Form 127 of the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Wisconsin's CPA licensing board reviews all candidate experience in detail and prefers high levels of specificity in its documentation.
Documentation standards include:
- Job or position title
- A detailed job description
- A signed and dated endorsement from the candidate's employer(s)
To qualify, a candidate must have accrued work experience no more than five years before the license application date. Wisconsin CPA licensing officials prefer full-time employment but also consider experience gained in part-time roles.
The Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants (WICPA) allows applicants to use teaching experience in place of direct professional accounting experience. WICPA makes such judgments on a case-by-case basis but requires any qualifying teaching experience to include high levels of accounting competence.
CPA Exam Requirements in Wisconsin
Anyone aspiring to become a CPA in the United States must pass the Uniform CPA Examination. This challenging multi-part examination is the same in all jurisdictions, but each state maintains specific exam eligibility standards.
The subsections below specifically cover exam eligibility requirements that apply in Wisconsin.
Eligibility to Take the Exam
CPA exam requirements in Wisconsin exclusively apply to education. Candidates must have work experience to obtain CPA licensure but do not need it to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination.
Precise eligibility standards include:
- At least 120 semester hours of college coursework
- At least a bachelor's degree
- Coursework covering required accounting and business topics
Accounting coursework must include at least 24 semester hours of undergraduate credits if you use a bachelor's degree to apply for the exam. If you use a graduate accounting degree, you must have at least 15 semester hours of graduate credits in accounting.
Accounting coursework should cover:
- Accounting information systems
- Cost or managerial accounting
- Financial accounting
Wisconsin does not attach U.S. citizenship, state residency, or Social Security number requirements to exam eligibility. However, you must be at least 18 years old to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination in Wisconsin. You must also pass a state-issued ethics examination.
Applying for and Scheduling the Exam
To become a CPA in Wisconsin, candidates must know the exam application, approval, and scheduling process. You can apply for Wisconsin's CPA exam on the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) website.
Candidates must submit complete academic transcripts with their applications. Your educational institution(s) must send transcripts to NASBA's CPA Examination Services on your behalf.
After applying, WICPA reviews your transcripts to confirm your eligibility. Unlike other states, you cannot take the CPA exam in Wisconsin unless you have formally completed your bachelor's degree and the required coursework.
If WICPA approves your application, you will receive a Notice to Schedule from the online NASBA account it prompts you to create. According to NASBA, it typically takes WICPA 2-4 weeks to process examination applications.
The Uniform CPA Examination covers four sections. You may take each section individually, several at a time, or all four simultaneously. However, you must pass all four sections within 18 months, beginning on the date you passed your first section.
Fees depend on the number of sections you sit for during any examination session. As of May 2023, the breakdown is as follows for first-time applicants:
- One section: $444.15
- Two sections: $707.30
- Three sections: $970.45
- Four sections: $1,233.60
Re-exam applicants seeking to pass failed sections or update credit for sections that have expired pay the following fees as of May 2023:
- One section: $361.15
- Two sections: $624.30
- Three sections: $887.45
- Four sections: $1,150.60
After Passing the Exam
Upon passing all four Uniform CPA Examination sections within 18 months, you can proceed through the licensing process by:
- Upgrading your education to cover 150 semester hours, if necessary
- Obtaining the required 12 months of work experience
- Passing Wisconsin's open-book accounting ethics examination
After meeting these Wisconsin CPA requirements, you must complete and submit Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services' Form 130. As of May 2023, a $43 fee applies.
Wisconsin CPAs can verify their licensure standing to employers, clients, or other institutions in two ways. First, you can perform a credential search through the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Alternatively, you can use NASBA's CPA Verify service.
Maintaining a Wisconsin CPA License
Under CPA requirements in Wisconsin, active licenses expire each odd-numbered year on Dec. 14. This standard also applies to new licensees who received their initial credentials shortly before the expiry date.
Licensees who fail to renew by the required deadline lose their eligibility to practice as CPAs and must reobtain good licensure standing to resume their professional activities.
Wisconsin adopted new continuing professional education (CPE) requirements in 2021. Under the new guidelines, CPAs must meet the following CPE standards to maintain renewal eligibility:
- At least 80 CPE credits per two-year licensing period
- At least 20 CPE credits in each of the two years
- At least 40 CPE credits covering accounting education
- At least three CPE credits covering professional ethics
License-holders track their CPE credits themselves and must submit documentation to WICPA. You can view other CPE requirements here.
To comply with state guidelines, accounting corporations, companies, partnerships, and sole proprietorships must be individually and separately licensed in Wisconsin. At least one CPA participating in the organization must hold a Wisconsin CPA license.
Questions About Wisconsin CPA Requirements
How do I become a CPA in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin's CPA requirements include at least a bachelor's degree, 150 semester hours of college coursework, and 12 months of accounting experience. Your degree must include extensive accounting coursework. You must also pass all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination and a state-issued ethics exam.
How long does it take to become a CPA in Wisconsin?
Education CPA requirements in Wisconsin typically take at least five years of full-time study to complete. You must also have at least one year of work experience. In total, this process places the minimum CPA licensure timeline at approximately six years.
How much does it cost to take the CPA exam in Wisconsin?
It depends on how many sections of the exam you plan to sit for during any session. Re-exam candidates also pay lower fees than first-time applicants. Maximum fees would apply to first-time applicants taking all four sections individually, which costs a total of $1,776.60 as of May 2023.
What is the ethics exam for CPAs in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin's ethics examination is issued by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. The open-book test covers the legal guidelines regulating professional CPA practice in Wisconsin. You must obtain a score of at least 80% to pass.
What do you need to sit for a CPA exam in Wisconsin?
You must have at least a bachelor's degree covering a minimum of 120 semester hours and at least 24 semester hours of accounting coursework. Unlike some other states, Wisconsin does not permit students to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination while their undergraduate degrees are in process.
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