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Stepping Stones to Licensure

July 24, 2023

by Monette Anderson, CAE

Education, Exam, and Experience. These three components serve as the essential building blocks for achieving CPA licensure. As someone who has worked with the accounting career program for nine years, I am well-versed in guiding students through this often-overwhelming process of meeting these requirements. I know how challenging it can be for students navigating the sea of education evaluation forms, experience affidavit signoffs, and choosing the best review provider. Our end goal, of course, is to set aspiring accountants up for a fulfilling and inspiring career. Let's take a closer look at how the Washington CPA Foundation and the WSCPA support aspiring accountants in these areas. 

1. EDUCATION
The first stepping stone is education, which requires 225 quarter hours. Students engage in a comprehensive curriculum that covers various accounting principles, tax regulations, auditing standards, and business ethics. This knowledge equips them to excel in their chosen accounting focus and prepares them for success in the exam.

To support students, the Foundation awarded $556,000 in scholarships to students in Washington state. Our scholarships of $5,000 for junior, senior, and 5th-year students play a vital role in entering the accounting pipeline. Additionally, our $10,000 scholarships for master's students address the challenges of the 5th year and ensure they are well-prepared for the exam. We also introduced $2,000 scholarships for first- and second-year students to encourage early interest in accounting, particularly among first-generation and underrepresented individuals. Generous support from individuals like Bill Reed and Len Hermitage has created additional scholarships for community college students, opening new pathways into the profession.

2. EXAM
The second stepping stone is the examination phase, where candidates must conquer four rigorous exams. These exams cover auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and business environment and concepts. They test not only technical knowledge but also critical thinking and problem-solving skills in real-world scenarios. Passing these exams demonstrates a candidate's expertise and readiness to navigate the complexities of the accounting profession.

To support students during this phase, the WSCPA launched the CPA Exam Fireside Chats, providing regular information and a supportive community. Our membership community actively advocated for an extended exam window, resulting in National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) recommending a 30-month window, a positive step that benefits future professionals.

3. EXPERIENCE 
The final stepping stone is experience, where aspiring CPAs gain a minimum of one year of relevant experience. This practical experience provides invaluable insights into the day-to-day operations of accounting firms, corporate finance departments, or government agencies. It allows candidates to apply their theoretical knowledge, refine their skills, and deepen their understanding of the profession.

The WSCPA recognizes the importance of engaging new professionals through networking, professional development, and mentorship. Our Emerging Leaders Committee ensures that new professionals are actively involved from the early stages of their careers. We are excited to announce our first-ever Emerging Leaders Conference, offering student members, scholarship award winners, and working new professionals a platform for leadership development and professional growth.

Through the Foundation's scholarships and the collaborative efforts of the WSCPA and the Foundation, we have witnessed the transformative impact of financial resources on students pursuing their accounting dreams. By investing in the education and development of future CPAs, we directly contribute to the growth and success of our profession.

I encourage you to engage with the Washington CPA Foundation, support our scholarship program, become a reviewer, and find ways to contribute to the accounting profession's growth and success. Whether through mentorship, volunteering, or financial support, everyone can make a difference in shaping the future of the accounting industry. The path to becoming a CPA may be challenging, but with the support of the Washington CPA Foundation and the collaborative efforts of the WSCPA, aspiring accountants can navigate these stepping stones with confidence, knowing they are not alone on their journey.  

Monette Anderson, CAE, is Executive Director of the Washington CPA Foundation. You can contact Monette at manderson@wscpa.org