CPA Exam Costs & Fees

Updated:November 20, 2018
Jason Galaif, CPA

Passing the CPA exam can be a life-changing achievement. An individual who has a CPA license will be eligible for a wide range of jobs that require expertise in accounting. You can expect to command a higher salary and a greater degree of job security.

Many roles within certain organizations are open only to CPAs. You could also stand a better chance of getting promoted and being considered for senior positions within the company.

Of course, you have to pass all four sections of the CPA exam first. This requires dedication and hard work. Additionally, you have to be prepared to pay several thousand dollars in fees and costs.

5 Types of CPA Exam Fees

What are the expenses that are involved in passing the CPA exam and getting your license?

There are five different types of costs that you will need to incur. These are:

  1. Cost of the CPA Review Course
  2. CPA Exam Application Fee
  3. Examination Fees
  4. Registration Fees
  5. CPA Ethics Exam Fees

These expenses exclude licensing fees and the costs associated with your Continuing Professional Education (CPE) in the period after you pass the CPA exam. These will be addressed in the latter part of this article.

Let’s first examine the costs associated with studying and passing the CPA exam.

#1: Cost of a CPA Review Course

  • Between $1,000 to $3,000

Consider this as one of the best investments that you will ever make. There are several available at different price levels. Don’t assume that the most expensive course is the one that will provide you with the greatest benefits.

What should you look for when you are deciding on a CPA Review Course? Each course has distinct features. Here is what is on offer:

⇨ Video lectures – all the courses provide this feature. It’s a good idea to watch a sample video before you select a course.

⇨ Help center and email support – some courses even offer live chat or a personal counselor.

⇨ Audio course – if you’re more comfortable with audio, check if the course that you are considering offers this feature.

⇨ Pass guarantee – no, this isn’t an assurance that you will pass the exam. It’s merely an undertaking that you will have access to the course until you pass the exam. If you need to retake the exam, you need not pay any additional amount to the CPA course provider.

Familiarize yourself with the features of the different CPA review courses and select the one that best matches your needs.

#2: CPA Exam Application Fee

  • Varies by state
  • $50 to $200

Paying this fee to your state board entitles you to apply to take the CPA exam. It is a fee that you pay to determine if you are eligible to take the exam.

Your application will be approved if you meet the conditions that have been laid down. Each state has its own rules. You can check your state’s requirements here.

Most states specify that you must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting. A degree in business could also help you to meet the eligibility criteria. If your application is approved, you will receive an authorization to test (ATT) notice. However, if your application were rejected, you would need to reapply. This would involve paying the CPA exam application fee once again.

Remember that the ATT is valid for a limited period. It usually expires in 90 days. Before this period is over, you should pay your exam fees.

#3: CPA Examination Fees

  • Varies by state
  • About $200 for each of the four sections of the exam

The examination fees vary by state. You can check your state’s fee through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s (NASBA) website. Payment is also required to be made through the NASBA website.

At this stage, you are required to select the sections that you plan to take and pay the relevant exam fees. As an example, consider the fees in New York:

Sections Price
Auditing and Attestation (AUD) $208.40
Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) $208.40
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) $208.40
Regulation (REG) $208.40

If you plan to take all four sections, you will have to pay $833.60 ($208.40 X 4).

It’s advisable to pay for the sections that you plan to take in the next six months. Why should you do that? Read point 4 to find out.

#4: CPA Exam Registration Fees 

  • Varies by state
  • About $300 for all four sections

When you make the payment of the examination fee detailed in point 3 above, you also need to pay a registration fee. Again, registration fees vary by state. The NASBA website provides state-wise details of the payment that is required to be made.

Some states followed a tiered structure for registration fees. Opting to take more than one section allows you a discount on these fees. For example, in Massachusetts, registration fees are payable in the following manner:

Sections Price
4 exam sections $177
3 exam sections $157
2 exam sections $137
1 exam section $117

So, it would seem that there are considerable savings to be made by opting to take all four sections together. But there’s a catch. The Notice To Schedule (NTS) that you receive after paying your fees is valid only for six months. If you don’t take all four sections in these six months, you will have to pay your exam fees and your registration fees once again.

However, it is important to remember that your state may specify a different validity period for the NTS. You should check this before you pay your registration fees.

What is the relevance of the NTS? It is the document that allows you to log onto the Prometric website to schedule your exam date. Prometric is the organization that conducts the CPA exam and manages the test centers.

#5: CPA Ethics Exam Fees

  • Not required in all states 
  • About $150 – $200

This is an easy exam that can be taken before you pass the CPA exam or even afterward. It’s not even required in all states. You can check whether you need to take this exam here.

The exam is conducted by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA).

Here’s a table that summarizes these five costs:

CPA Exam Cost Chart

Type of Fee Amount Range Estimated Total Cost Payable To:
1. CPA Review Course $1,000 – $3,000 $3,000 CPA Review Course Provider
2. CPA Exam Application Fee $50 – $200 $125 Your State Board
3. CPA Examination Fees About $200 for each of the four sections of the exam $800 Payment varies by state. Details available with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy – NASBA
4. Registration Fees About $75 for each of the four sections of the exam $300 Payment varies by state. Details available with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy – NASBA
5. CPA Ethics Exam Fees (not required for all states – you can check your state’s requirement here) $150 – $200 $175 Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA)
Total $4,400

Note – We have assumed an expense of $3,000 for the CPA Review Course. This is on the higher side. You can probably buy a perfectly good course for much less than this sum.

Post CPA Exam Fees

In addition to these expenses, you will have to bear two additional costs after you pass the CPA Exam. These aren’t CPA exam costs, but you should know about them all the same. These are payable on a recurring basis.

  1. CPA Licensing Fees
  2. CPA Continuing Professional Education (CPE) costs

Let’s examine these in a little more detail:

1: CPA Licensing Fees

  • $50 to $500 per year

The different states charge varying levels of CPA licensing fees. The yearly amount that you can expect to pay would range from $50 to $500. It’s essential to pay these charges as a CPA license authorizes you to practice as a CPA and carry out activities like signing tax returns and audit reports.

2: CPA Continuing Professional Education (CPE)

  • costs about $1,000 per year

The Continuing Professional Education Program conducted by the AICPA ensures that you maintain your professional competence and knowledge after passing the exam. You can view the CPE requirements of different states on the NASBA website and also see how much the various courses will cost.

Expect to pay about $1,000 per year to comply with this requirement.

Invest In Your Future, You’re Worth It!

The total amount that you will have to spend to pass the exam is about $4,400. Of course, this sum could vary based on the CPA Review Course that you choose. Additionally, each state has its own rules and charges, so this could also result in a higher (or lower) total cost.

You also have to remember that you may not pass on your first attempt. This could mean additional exam fees and registration charges.

However, the total expenditure for passing the CPA exam is a small fraction of the financial gains that you can make as a member of one of the world’s most respected accounting bodies.

2018-11-06T19:19:27-08:00

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