Requirements to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) are set by the California Board of Accountancy (CBA). Requirement approval is completely and autonomously up to the CBA. The requirements mentioned on this page only apply to California. If you are applying to be a CPA in another state, please review the specific requirements for that state.
If you would like to track your progress with the CPA requirements, please bring a copy of your course history from GOLD to the Career Connection Office.
Please note that the Accounting elective courses ECON 189 and ECON 185 do not count towards meeting your CPA unit requirements.
- Prerequisites for CPA Exam
To sit for the CPA exam, students must have:
- Baccalaureate degree
- At least 72 quarter units of coursework
- 36 quarter units in Accounting subjects
- 36 quarter units in Business-Related subjects
Students who start at UCSB as Freshmen and complete the Economics & Accounting Major should have the credits required to sit for the exam upon graduation. However, please check prior to graduation, especially if you are a transfer student.
- Taking the CPA Exam
Please refer to the CPA Exam Handbook in the sidebar for information on how to apply for CPA Exams.
All students who plan to sit for the CPA exam upon graduation must send official transcripts from every institution they have attended. Refer to the CPA Exam Handbook for where to send transcripts.
Students can send their UCSB transcripts by contacting the Office of Registrar. To send transcripts without having to contact the Registrar, students can add themselves to the rush degree award list by:
- Placing a transcript order via GOLD to the CPA Board
- Placing the order on hold, to be released after your degree has been awarded
- Programs to Complete your CPA Units
While only 72 units are required to sit for the CPA Exam, licensure will require 225 total units of coursework. Most employers will want you to have completed the required 225 units before working.
In order to graduate from UCSB, students need a minimum of 180 quarter units. To fulfill CPA requirements, students will need an additional 45 units in Accounting Study or Ethics Study. While it is possible to complete all 225 units at UCSB, the Department has established additional programs to help students fulfill their unit requirements for the CPA:
- Outside Programs to Complete your CPA Units
Although the Economics & Accounting Major is the best way to get your units for the CPA at UCSB, we also understand that it’s sometimes not the right fit. The following are some outside resources to help get your CPA certification:
- Licensure Requirements
To officially receive your license and start working, students must have:
- Baccalaureate degree
- 225 total quarter units of coursework
- 36 units must be in Accounting subjects
- 36 units must be in Business-Related subjects
- 30 units must be in Accounting Study
- 15 units must be in Ethics Study
- Pass all four sections of the CPA exam with a 75% or higher
- Finish all four sections of the exam within 18 months of passing the first section
- One year of accounting-related experience under an actively licensed CPA. The experience must begin after graduation (internships do not count towards this requirement)
Frequently Asked Questions about the CPA
- Do I have to be in the Economics & Accounting Major to get my CPA?
Not necessarily. We advise that the best way to get your requirements for the CPA is to be in the Economics & Accounting Major. You will not be able to take upper division Accounting courses unless you are in the Major.
- Do I have to complete the total 225 quarter units required for licensure before graduation?
No. With the Economics & Accounting Major, you should have 36 quarter units of Accounting subjects and 36 quarter units of Business-Related subjects upon graduation. This will allow you to sit for the CPA exam in California, but please double-check prior to graduation, especially if you are a transfer student. However, most firms will want you to have the 225 units required for licensure before you are working.
- If I study abroad during my time at UCSB, will those credits count towards the CPA?
Yes. Courses that you take during a Study Abroad Program run through UCSB will show up on your official transcript. As long as the course titles meet CPA requirements, they will apply towards your CPA coursework. Most commonly, students can find Economics classes that count towards their Business-Related Subjects requirement or towards the total 225 units needed for licensure.
In most cases, Career Connection does not recommend studying abroad during the fall of your Junior year. This is when a majority of Accounting recruitment takes place. It is in your best interest to be on campus during this time.
- Do classes taken on a Pass/No Pass basis count toward CPA course requirements?
Yes, they count as long as you Pass. However, we advise that all of your Accounting courses are taken for a letter grade, as this is what firms will want to see on your transcript.
- Do both Upper Division and Lower Division classes count toward the CPA course requirements?
Yes, both levels of coursework count. There are currently no requirements that any of the units required for the CPA be Upper Division.
- Can I list a class more than once on the planning worksheet?
No, classes may only be listed once.
- Do courses taken through UCSB Extension meet CPA course requirements?
Yes, Extension courses count towards the total 225 units needed for licensure. They may also count towards the subject unit requirements if they have the appropriate course title.
- If I have taken the same class at two different institutions (e.g. community college and UCSB), will all of the units count toward the CPA requirements?
Yes. Because community college coursework is documented on a separate transcript, you are allowed to count all of the units. If your community college operated on a semester system, remember to convert the units to quarter units by multiplying by 1.5. However, if you repeat the same course at the same school, the units for that class will only count once towards your CPA requirements.
- Do Advanced Placement (AP) credits from high school count towards the CPA?
Yes. AP credits will count towards the total 225 credits needed for licensure. There have been cases where credits will count towards your Accounting, Business-Related, or Ethics unit requirements, and some cases where AP credit does not count towards these subjects. We recommend only counting APs towards your 225 total unit requirement, not the subject unit requirements needed for licensure.
- I will fall short of the CPA course requirements by one or two courses. What should I do?
Many students are in this situation. We recommend that students consider taking classes at local community colleges or at UCSB Extension during the Summer or Fall after graduation. Many of these classes are offered online and can be flexible to meet your post-graduation schedule.