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Student Resources

Steps to become a CPA

Your journey to the CPA license will be a challenging, yet rewarding, experience. We want to ensure you have the information and resources to help you achieve your goal. There are many steps to the process, but your journey begins with learning the basics.

There are essentially three components to earning the CPA license: Education, Examination, and Experience. In many cases, there is also a final Ethics exam component depending upon the jurisdiction where you want to be licensed.

The AICPA’s CPA Exam Booklet and National Association of State Board of Accountancy’s (NASBA) Candidate Bulletin can provide you with valuable information to help you along your CPA journey. You’ll also find support and other resources through This Way to CPA, a LinkedIn CPA Exam Candidate Group, or by joining the AICPA as an Exam Candidate Affiliate Member.

So, what are the basic steps to earning the CPA license?

Determine your eligibility

By visiting the NASBA website, you can learn whether you meet the education requirements needed to take the CPA Exam. Most candidates can take an Exam section with only 120 college credits, but you should verify with the Montana Board of Public Accountants.

Submit your application

Once you’ve determined your eligibility, it’s time to apply. Complete the application through NASBA’s CPA Central portal and submit the required documentation for verification. Once verified, you’ll receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS), which is valid for six months and allows you to schedule your CPA Exam section.

Schedule your CPA Exam section

After deciding when you want to take your CPA Exam section, use your NTS to schedule your test day through Prometric. U.S. candidates can test anywhere in the world where the CPA Exam is administered.

Study for the CPA Exam

Each section of the CPA Exam is a rigorous assessment of the minimum technical knowledge and skills required for initial licensure. You’ll take one section at a time so make sure to use all the resources and tools available to you, including the CPA Exam Blueprints and the CPA Exam Sample Tests.

Taking the CPA Exam

You’ll have 18 months to pass all four CPA Exam sections with a minimum score of 75. The CPA Exam is administered continuously throughout the year, so this gives you the flexibility to test when it’s most convenient for you. Check our score release dates to find out when you can expect to receive your score after testing. Once you’ve passed all four sections, the state of Montana requires a separate Ethics examination before applying for your license.

Apply for your license

When applying for your license, verify that you have the required college credit hours. Generally, you must have 150 with a concentration in accounting. This includes 30 hours in accounting subjects and 24 hours in business administration subjects. A minimum of 15 hours must be at the upper-division or graduate level.

As for experience, all candidates for licensure must have a minimum of one year of experience (approximately 2,000 hours) verified by a licensed CPA. Your experience should include work in accounting, attestation, auditing, or taxation.


CPA Evolution

New model for CPA licensure expected to launch in 2024. (see link)

If you plan to take the CPA Exam in 2024 or later, make sure you’re familiar with the CPA Evolution initiative.

The new model is a core + disciplines licensure model. The model starts with a deep and strong core in accounting, auditing, tax and technology that all candidates would be required to complete. Then, each candidate would choose a discipline in which to demonstrate deeper skills and knowledge. Regardless of chosen discipline, this model leads to full CPA licensure, with rights and privileges consistent with any other CPA. A discipline selected for testing would not mean the CPA is limited to that practice area.

This model:

  • Will provide students with the growing skills necessary to perform high-quality work, meeting the needs of organizations, firms and the public.
  • Will enhance public protection by producing candidates who have the deep knowledge necessary to perform high-quality work, meeting the needs of organizations, firms and the public.
  • Is responsive to feedback, as it builds accounting, auditing, tax and technology knowledge requirements into a robust common core.
  • Reflects the realities of practice, requiring deeper proven knowledge in one of three disciplines that are pillars of the profession.
  • Is adaptive and flexible, helping to future-proof the CPA as the profession continues to evolve.
  • Results in one CPA license.

Who will this impact?

Aspiring CPAs who are college sophomores and freshmen now will be among the first to take the overhauled version of the Uniform CPA Examination when it launches in 2024. However, if you’ve already started the CPA licensure process by then, don’t worry. Current CPA candidates will be able to sit for the current CPA Exam until the launch of the new Exam. In February 2022, NASBA announced the transition policy for candidates who have started, but not completed, the CPA Exam process by January 2024.

If you have not passed AUD, FAR or REG on the current CPA Exam, you will need to take the corresponding new core section of AUD, FAR or REG on the 2024 CPA Exam. If you have not passed BEC on the current CPA Exam, you will need to take ANY of the three discipline sections. (Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR), Information Systems and Controls (ISC), Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP).

If, however, a candidate loses credit for AUD, FAR or REG after December 31, 2023, they then must take the corresponding new Core section of AUD, FAR or REG. A candidate who loses credit for BEC after December 31, 2023, must select one of the three Discipline sections to be tested. It is important to note that none of the sections of the current CPA Exam will be available for testing after December 31, 2023. There is a hard cutover from the current CPA Exam sections to the 2024 CPA Exam sections on the January 2024 launch.

Read the full policy here

CPA Exam Transition FAQs

Becoming an Accountant in Montana

Montana is counted among only a handful of states that has a two-tier CPA licensing process. Once CPA candidates complete 150 semester hours of college credit within a bachelor’s degree or higher and pass the Uniform CPA Exam, they are granted a certificate but do not have full practice rights. Becoming a fully licensed CPA with a permit to practice, which legally grants practice rights independent of oversight, comes once candidates have completed at least one year of experience in public, governmental, or academic accounting that has been approved by the Montana Board of Public Accountant.

Because a bachelor’s degree will only result in about 120 semester hours of college credit, aspiring CPAs often enroll in a master’s degree program in accounting to earn the additional 30 semester hours required for a CPA license at the same time they are satisfying the experience requirement.

CPAs in Montana are found working for CPA firms and in private industry in many different areas of specialty that include audit and attestation, financial control, and risk management. Big Four international CPA firm KPMG has offices in Billings and Helena, and nationally recognized public accounting firm, Moss Adams, has a regional office located in Billings.

The corporate headquarters of payroll outsourcing company, Avitus Group, which is a leading employer of tax specialists, is located in Billings. Fortune 200 diversified energy company, Cenex Harvest State Cooperatives (CHS), with has its corporate offices in Laurel, is one of the single biggest private employers of accountants in the state. CHS retains financial controllers and cost and capital accountants as part of its corporate staff, as well as accountants trained in sustainability management practices responsible for helping maintain compliance with EPA regulations. The headquarters of First Interstate Bank is located in Billings and is a major employer of managerial accountants in the state. The State of Montana’s government offices in Helena employ fund accounting specialists in all state and municipal agencies, including Health and Human Services, Labor and Industry, and Military Affairs.


Candidate Performance Overview

How did others (every other student on the planet) do on the exam? 

Learn more about CPA Exam scoring and pass rates.

Below are pass rates for calendar year 2022:

MTCPA Student Representative

Each year, a student representative is selected to serve on the MTCPA Board of Directors. This position must attend the Annual Meeting and at least one board meeting between June and January.

Current Student Representative


Past Student Representatives

Riley Nielsen, Montana State University
Term: 2020/2021

Berenise Esparza, U of M
Term: 2019/2020

Sara Schlepp, Montana State University
Term: 2018/2019

Amy Sexton, MSU-Billings
Term: 2017/2018

Michelle McDowell, Montana State University
Term: 2016/2017

Academic SUCCESS

Other Resources

Create a Study Plan
Study Smart Before Exams
Take Effective Notes
Manage Your Stress
Use Test-Taking Strategies on Exam Day


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