• Aug 23, 2019

    CPA Exam, Licensing Among Factors Affected by Emerging Technology

    William HayesBy William J. Hayes, managing editor, Pennsylvania CPA Journal

    Developing technologies such as blockchain, data analytics, and artificial intelligence are having a major impact on the accounting workplace, but for individuals just entering the profession, the rising technologies will affect more than their work assignments. For instance, these advancements will bring changes to CPA licensing as well as alterations to the CPA Exam. To go into detail on these changes, we sat down with PICPA members Amanda Marcy and Ashley Stampone of the University of Scranton. Marcy and Stampone are the authors of “Emerging Technologies Will Impact More Than Office Duties,” which will appear in the upcoming fall 2019 Pennsylvania CPA Journal.

    The CPA Evolution Working Group is a major focus of your piece. Can you give a bit of background on this group and what it is looking to accomplish?

    Ashley StamponeStampone: The CPA Evolution Working Group is a joint task force between the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the AICPA. What they are trying to do is explore potential changes to CPA licensure requirements that incorporate skills and competencies in the areas of technology and data analytics. Since November 2018, this group – which also has representatives from public accounting firms, state CPA societies, and academia – has been examining current licensure requirements and discussing ways to integrate technology into this model.

    What does the CPA Evolution Working Group believe needs to be done with the CPA Exam to better prepare emerging CPAs for the future of the profession?

    Amanda MarcyMarcy: The group has not actually proposed any exam changes, but it has released three concepts about the exam supporting its guiding principles. First and foremost, it calls for an exam that tests the common core related to both accounting and technology. This will allow exam candidates to demonstrate their skills in this area. Second, while still using the same exam structure, it wants to modify the breadth and depth of some concepts based on future-looking practice analysis. And third, it acknowledges that certain accounting and auditing techniques might only be applicable for some CPAs, but the knowledge of some technological components – such as system controls and emerging technologies – is important for all practicing accountants.

    The CPA Evolution Working Group has a set of five principles to meet a new model for ensuring technical expertise in the profession. Do any of the principles jump out to you as having the potential to deeply affect the profession?

    Stampone: The principle that stands out the most to us is that the profession, and therefore entry into the profession, must be redesigned to attract individuals with technological and analytical expertise. Going forward, we are going to see a shift to attract non-CPA professionals who have competencies in technology and analytics to perform assurance and other services. I also think that we are going to see more efforts to attract nonaccounting majors. For us at the academic level, we are going to see accounting programs include more technologically based classes, either in the curricula through electives or directly in the accounting core, if they haven't done so already.

    Marcy: The profession, specifically public accounting firms, is actually requesting that schools provide degrees specializing in data analytics. For example, KPMG has collaborated with nine colleges across the nation (one being Villanova University in the Philadelphia region) in developing its KPMG master of accounting with data analytics program. This program is entering its third year this fall. After participants have gone through this program, for which KPMG provides a full scholarship, they receive an internship in a KPMG audit or tax program and will receive a full-time position upon graduation. If that doesn't show you the importance of attaining these skills, I don't know what will.

    At the University of Scranton, you both come into contact with a lot of accounting students. Do they worry about the growth of technology in the profession, or do they welcome it? And what do you say to them to keep them working toward their goal of becoming a CPA despite all the technological growth?

    Stampone: Incoming students are really comfortable with technology. Because of this, I feel that it is welcomed. We were receiving a ton of questions about data analytics and how a student can be more prepared. At Scranton, we have a new minor in business analytics, so we recommend that students pursue this minor to gain exposure to these areas. But we also stress that students need to be proficient in core accounting courses to have success in passing the CPA Exam. They should also focus on their communication, teamwork, and critical-thinking skills to have success in the profession.

    Marcy: Our students coming back from their internships are very eager to learn more in this area based on what they have experienced in the field. They are coming to us and asking, "Can we have more advanced Excel classes? Can we have more topics related to data analytics?" These are the things they are being asked to do when they are working.

    Ashley L. Stampone, CPA, is a faculty specialist in accounting at the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa. She can be contacted at ashley.stampone@scranton.edu.

    Amanda S. Marcy, CPA, an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Scranton, can be contacted at amanda.marcy@scranton.edu.

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  • Jun 19, 2019

    CPAs: Tailor Your Support of Exam Takers to Their Needs

    Jessica M. Dunlap, CPABy Jessica M. Dunlap, CPA

    If you’re a CPA, I’m sure you have a horror story or two from when you were studying for the CPA Exam. I know I do. And as a manager, then partner, in a firm, time and again I saw staff stress and struggle to find their unique way to slay the exam dragon. It doesn’t have to be that way. Every knight in shining armor had a team of support before setting off on their quest. Partners, managers, and coworkers need to be the blacksmiths and squires to each CPA Exam taker as they prepare their personal journey toward success.

    Young accountant gaining CPA Exam advice from experienced coworker.Recently, I transitioned to a career in teaching at the collegiate level. In my new role, one of my goals included providing a course that encompassed a CPA Exam review. But it wasn’t going to be “my” advice. The first assignment I gave to students was for them to create their own study plan. When I was in public accounting and I would hear someone tell a staff accountant what they needed to do to pass, I would think, “What if that doesn’t work for their life?” With my course, I was insistent that each student needed to look over the material and determine for themselves the order in which they would accomplish all of the sections and be able to take a simulated exam by the end of the semester. You see, sharing your own methods and tricks may not be the right path for everyone. The goal of CPA friends, colleagues, and mentors – at work or at school – should be to help the prospective CPA develop the tools he or she needs to pass each part of the exam, each with his or her own flavor. If a particular plan is developed that fits their life and will get the job done, roll with it – even if it seems an odd path to you.

    This doesn’t mean you should be hands off. Each week my students check in with me to determine if they need to alter their plan. Sometimes they require guidance or a refresher on a specific point. Create a support network to help the prospective CPAs work through concepts they may have forgotten or may have never learned. Establishing an environment that supports study and that emphasizes how failing to plan is courting failure have been key aspects of my class, and should be incorporated into your professional support program.

    People seeking to pass the CPA Exam must plan up front with the end in mind, but they also need support, encouragement, and sometimes someone to hold them accountable to their plan. When passing the exam, we all slay the dragon in our own due time. Supporting each individual, and each individual plan, as they travel their path to becoming a CPA is, one might say, chivalrous.

    Jessica M. Dunlap, CPA, is a professor of accounting at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa., and served on the PICPA Board from 2017 to 2019. She can be reached at jdunlap@francis.edu.

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  • May 14, 2019

    Self-Care Is Essential for CPA Exam Readiness

    Mylin Batipps Jr.By Mylin Batipps Jr., PICPA public relations coordinator

    You’ve studied hard and are confident that you know all that’s needed to take the CPA Exam. But to truly be prepared, you need more than just knowing the material. You must also take care of yourself—both mentally and physically. Are you getting enough sleep? How are your eating habits? Do you have what you need for exam day?

    I spoke with Patricia Hartman, director of client services for the National Association of State Board of Accountancy (NASBA), on the steps CPA Exam candidates should take—literally and figuratively—as they prepare for the rigors of exam day.

    Q: Should CPA Exam candidates study for the CPA Exam the day/night before their exam?

    Pat HartmanIn my opinion, late night cram sessions are not a very effective way to study. I recommend using the night before the exam for reviewing any notes you may have created during your study sessions.

    Did you know that sleep is critical for memory formation? Give your brain a chance to rest. Studying until the last minute may lead to you having a harder time remembering the material you studied. It’s important to get a good night’s sleep, so don’t study too late! Aim for a full eight hours of sleep; you want to be refreshed and well-rested the day of your exam.

    Q: Do you recommend any kind of exercises that will help candidates physically and mentally prepare for the CPA Exam?

    Walking is great exercise and it can decrease stress and anxiety. It also improves your quality of sleep, so take a walk early in the evening the day before your exam. Go outside and get some fresh air. If you’re studying, remember to get up and move around at regular intervals. Sitting for long periods of time decreases blood flow and can impair your performance. During the exam, make use of your break time to stretch.

    The AICPA provides study materials that allow candidates to study the exam blueprints, take sample tests, and view the features and functionality of the exam. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the functionality of tools, resources, and navigation found in the exam, and practice with the sample tests.

    Q: What are the kinds of foods that students should eat the day before and the morning of the CPA Exam?

    Avoid junk food! Go for protein and complex carbohydrates. Protein helps with alertness, and carbohydrates provide sustained mental energy. Your mom was right – you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. The night before the exam, I suggest you sit down with your family or friends and enjoy a relaxing meal. You’ve studied hard, so take a break and relax before the big day. On the day of the exam, start with a healthy breakfast or a protein shake if you’re not up to a big breakfast.

    Q: What must CPA Exam candidates bring with them to the testing center that they may not be aware of? What else should they know about exam day?

    All you really need is your identification and Notice to Schedule. Your Notice to Schedule has a list of acceptable forms of identification as well as a list of prohibited items. Visit www.prometric.com for information on what to expect and how to prepare for exam day. Prometric also offers you an opportunity to do a “test drive” so you know exactly what to expect on exam day.

    Q: What steps should candidates take if an emergency occurs that prevents them from being able to take the exam on their scheduled day?

    In the event of weather-related issues, the first thing you should do is check to see if the center will be open. Sometimes, the test center may have to close due to weather conditions. You can do this by visiting www.prometric.com.

    If the test center is open, you will need to contact your state board of accountancy or its designee to let them know why you will be unable to take the exam on your scheduled day and receive next steps.

    Q: Who should CPA Exam candidates contact if they have any questions regarding the logistics of exam day?

    I encourage all candidates to read the Candidate Bulletin available on NASBA’s website. It is a comprehensive guide to everything you can expect before, during, and after the exam. In addition, NASBA’s call center (1-800-CPA-EXAM) is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern, and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern. If you prefer, you can also email us at cpaexam@nasba.org.

    For more information on CPA Exam study tips, check out Episode 2 of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation’s “Work Your Way to CPA” podcast series. All episodes of the series, as well as additional resources to help you successfully reach CPA status, can be found on www.picpa.org/workyourway.

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  • May 07, 2019

    Three Study Tips to Help Prepare for the CPA Exam

    Galina IvanivBy Galina Ivaniv

    CPA Exam preparation is a multistep process. I was determined to pass the exam, and becoming a graduate student at Temple University helped me accomplish my goal. Not only had I access to a Becker CPA review course, but I also had enough time allotted to studying for the exam full time. After passing all four parts of the exam within 10 months, I am happy to share my three study tips to prepare for the CPA Exam.

    Tip 1. Make sure to choose the right CPA review course provider.

    We all tend to have different learning styles. Some people need visual information to better comprehend the material, others learn better by listening, and some learn through experience (doing exercises and performing procedures to gain a better understanding of the process/concept). CPA review course providers have different approaches to preparing candidates for the exam, so finding the right provider that fits your needs is crucial. Some companies offer free trials of their review courses, so make sure to take the opportunity and sign up for them. After you find the one that fits, choose the provider that will best help you pass the CPA Exam.

    Tip 2. Create a study plan and stick to it.

    Use the CPA review course provider's schedule to determine the approximate number of hours needed to study for each chapter. Then, based on your schedule, set up the exam date. Having a due date in mind is helpful for keeping yourself organized; there will not be any room for procrastination. In addition, devote every day to studying so you can easily retain information learned in the beginning. Practice exams, which can be taken at the end of studying for a particular section, are useful in assessing the preparedness. If you stick to the study plan, you will have plenty of time to work on the weak areas and be ready when it comes time to take the exam.

    Tip 3. Maintain a balanced life.

    Even though studying for the exam is going to be your top priority, devoting attention to other areas of your life is important for your mental health. Do not skip your morning workout, Sunday brunch with the family, or shopping with a friend. Try to reserve some time for yourself to keep the stress away. By taking time off from studying, you will gain more energy and your loved ones will not be affected by your busy schedule. A well-balanced life is essential if you plan to pass the exam.

    Yes, preparation for the CPA Exam is time-consuming, but the reward is worth it!

    For more tips on choosing the right CPA Exam review provider for you, check out Episode 1 of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation’s “Work Your Way to CPA” podcast series. All episodes of the series, as well as additional resources to help you successfully reach CPA status, can be found on www.picpa.org/workyourway.

    Galina Ivaniv is a staff accountant with Kreischer Miller in Horsham, Pa.

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  • Feb 04, 2019

    I Just Passed the CPA Exam. When Do I Need to Take CPE?

    By Megan Killian, vice president, member relations

    Becoming a CPA is a challenging process, and by passing the CPA Exam you’re almost there! This is a huge achievement. Congratulations, my friend!

    The learning isn’t over, though. Staying informed and educated on all the rules and regulations and learning from your peers are important parts of what make the CPA profession stand out among other professions. That’s why continuing professional education (CPE) is a requirement for keeping your license active.

    Applying for Your Initial License

    When you passed the exam will determine whether or not you’ll need to have completed CPE when you apply for your initial license. Generally, preparation for and taking the exam is considered your professional education IF (notice this word is capitalized, underlined, and italicized because this is a big IF) you passed the exam during the time when you would have otherwise taken CPE.

    Let’s back up a moment: CPE is required education needed to get or renew a CPA license that’s valid for the next biennial period. Here’s an example of the cycle:

    • Take CPE during Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2019.
    • Renew your license December 2019.
    • License is valid through Dec. 31, 2021.
    • Take CPE during Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021.
    • Renew license December 2021.
    • License is valid through Dec. 31, 2023.
    • And so on.

    So, when you passed the exam and when you apply for your license will determine whether you’ll need CPE for that initial license (see chart below). If you’re unsure, I would advise that you confirm with the State Board of Accountancy as to whether or not you need CPE.


    What Are the CPE Requirements if I Am Applying for My Initial License?

    Passed the CPA Exam prior to 2016:

    • Applying for initial license on or after Oct. 2, 2017: Required to have 80 hours of CPE in previous 24 months.
    Passed the CPA Exam between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017:
    • Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017: No CPE required for initial license or to renew the license at end of 2017. Will need to take CPE during 2018 and 2019.
    • Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2018, and Oct. 1, 2019: No CPE required, but will need CPE to renew license at end of 2019.
    • Applying for initial license on or after Oct. 2, 2019: Required to have 80 hours of CPE in previous 24 months.
    Passed the CPA Exam between Jan. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2019:
    • Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2018, and Oct. 1, 2019: No CPE required for initial license or to renew the license at end of 2019. Will need to take CPE during 2020 and 2021.
    • Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2021: No CPE required, but will need CPE to renew license by end of 2021.
    • Applying for initial license on or after Oct. 2, 2021: Required to have 80 hours of CPE in previous 24 months.


    Renewing Your License

    Meeting the CPE requirements for the first renewal is where some licensees can get tripped up.

    The time of year you apply for your initial license and the valid dates on that initial license will determine whether you need to be taking CPE for the next renewal. Look for the expiration date on your initial license (or look it up here). If it expires at the end of the current biennial period, then you need to have your 80 hours by the expiration date. (And don’t forget the annual 20-hour minimum!)

    You worked hard to pass the CPA Exam, and you don’t want to put your license status at risk. Contact the PICPA or the State Board with specific questions, and don’t take any chances that you won’t meet the requirements for initial licensure or renewal.

    CPE Requirements in Pennsylvania

    Every state has different requirements. In Pennsylvania, you need 80 credit hours every two years, with a minimum of 20 credit hours each year. The biennial reporting period ends on Dec. 31 of every odd numbered year (2019, 2021, 2023, etc.). Here are additional important points about the requirements:

    • There are four categories of CPE: tax, A&A, ethics, and other.
    • As part of the 80 hours, all licensees need four hours of ethics credits. If you work in attest, then you need 24 A&A credits as part of your total.
    • A maximum of 40 credit hours can be self-study.
    • When you renew, you don’t need to submit your CPE records as part of that process. However, you should keep all your records because the State Board does audit about 10 percent of licensees to verify compliance.
    • Verify with your CPE provider that it is an approved provider by the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy and/or National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. The PICPA is a Pennsylvania-State-Board-approved provider.

    There’s a helpful CPE requirements-at-a-glance guide on the PICPA website. You can find professional education requirements for other jurisdictions here.

  • Nov 23, 2018

    Zero or 24? Understanding the New A&A CPE Requirements

    By Michael D. Colgan, CEO and executive director

    The PICPA has received inquiries from several firms regarding the interpretation of Pennsylvania’s new CPE requirements, which were effective Jan. 1, 2018. Specifically, firms are asking for clarification on which licensees are now required to obtain 24 CPE hours of accounting and auditing (A&A).

    Figuring out A&A education requirementsGenerally, the new regulations eliminate the minimum eight-hour tax requirement for all licensees, but require 24 hours (increased from 16) of A&A credits for those CPAs participating in attest activities. Licensees not participating in attest activities will have no A&A minimum. The four-hour biennial ethics requirement remains in place for all licensees. The changes allow licensees to select and complete CPE in the areas most related to their own professional development needs. The question firms have raised, however, is how to define “participating in attest activities” to determine whether or not licensees need to meet the expanded A&A requirement.

    Examples raised have included a licensee who is a tax professional, but audits the tax provision included in the financial statements of a company; or a tax professional who completes an uncertain tax position checklist for a pass-through entity, corporation, or nonprofit, and may perform an analysis to determine if any uncertain tax position exists.

    The PICPA requested clarification from the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy (SBOA) as to how to interpret the new regulations with respect to A&A. Here is the response, but in brief the SBOA is relying on the definition of attest activity in the CPA Law, but does not define the term “participating.”

    From our discussions with the SBOA prior to these changes being adopted, I am confident that its intent on eliminating the minimum CPE requirements for A&A and tax for most licensees was to allow CPAs to determine which CPE would best help them maintain and build competencies in the areas in which they practiced. The SBOA included the 24 hours of A&A CPE for those participating in attest activities due to changes in the experience requirements to become a CPA, which no longer required a portion of the experience gained to come from the attest area. The intent, I believe, is not to require licensees who do not work in the attest area to increase their required A&A CPE from 16 to 24 hours.

    The SBOA has verbally communicated that “participating” will likely be a firm-by-firm interpretation. Some firms may conclude that any service charged to an audit code defines participation, and will require their licensees to get 24 hours of A&A; others may deem the review of a tax provision as incidental and not fully participating in attest activity, so they will not require their licensees to get 24 hours of A&A.

    The PICPA will work to add more clarity to the next revision of the CPA regulations, but that will not arrive prior to the end of the licensing period that concludes in December 2019.

    Licensees will self-report on their license renewal applications in December 2019 on whether they participated in attest activities, which would trigger the 24-hour A&A requirement.

    If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    For A&A courses provided through the PICPA, visit our Accounting & Auditing CPE page. 

    From now until Dec. 1, PICPA is offering an A&A Survival Kit at a discounted rate. Get webcasts of the A&A Conference and two seminars - totaling 24 credits - for just $599. That's a $280 savings! Purchase by Dec. 1 to save >>

  • Feb 01, 2018

    Expungement May Soon Be Available for Pa. Licensees

    By Peter Calcara, vice president – government relations

    The legislative process can be unpredictable, frustrating, and painfully slow. Such is the price to pay for democratic institutions. But, on occasion, the process can shock you when, almost out of nowhere, an issue or specific piece of legislation breaks your way and starts moving almost uninhibited through the process.

    A case in point is the recent passage of Senate Bill 354 (SB 354). The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), started out as a way to address misconduct by those licensed under the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs’ (BPOA) 29 professional and occupational licensing boards and commissions, which includes the State Board of Accountancy. Tomlinson introduced a similar bill in the 2015-2016 legislative session, but it died during the legislative process.

    Erasing a MistakeAs Tomlinson’s bill was moving through legislative committees this session, the House Professional Licensure Committee added an amendment that would allow licensees to “expunge” their records under certain, limited conditions, a PICPA legislative priority for several years. Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) sponsored legislation to address this in each of the past three sessions, only to be thwarted in the process.

    Expungement is already a legal concept under Pennsylvania’s criminal statutes. An expungement is a legal order that removes a criminal record from public view and restricts access to law-enforcement agencies.

    SB 354 defines expunge/expungement as the “removal of a disciplinary record, accomplished by: (1) permanently sealing the affected record from public access; (2) deeming the proceedings to which the affected record refers as not having occurred; and (3) except with respect to any subsequent application for expungement, affording the affected party the right to represent that no record exists regarding the subject matter of the affected record.”

    Under the bill, the BPOA commissioner would be required, under certain circumstances, to expunge the disciplinary record of a licensee if the imposition of discipline was for a violation involving failure to complete continuing education requirements or practicing for six months or less on a lapsed license, registration, certificate, or permit. PICPA’s support for expungement is predicated on the fact that most of these violations are of the “traffic ticket” variety, and are not criminal or fraudulent in nature.

    To have your record expunged, the following must apply:

    • The record must be at least four years old.
    • The record must be the only disciplinary record the applicant has.
    • The applicant must not be the subject of an active investigation related to professional or occupational conduct.
    • The applicant must not be in a current disciplinary status, and any fees or fines assessed must be paid in full.
    • The applicant must not have had a disciplinary record previously expunged.
    • The licensee, registrant, certificate holder, or permit holder shall pay all costs associated with the expungement as established by the commissioner by regulation.

    As of this blog posting, SB 354 needs to clear one more legislative hurdle (the state Senate) before it is sent to Gov. Tom Wolf and hopefully becomes law in Pennsylvania.

  • Jan 15, 2018

    Modernization of the CPA Exam Continues

    Meg Killian, VP Member RelationsBy Megan Killian, vice president – member relations

    Exciting changes are coming to the CPA Exam in 2018. New software and tools will be added to the exam experience in April, one year after the launch of the most recent updates to the exam content and format.

    Cover of Become a CPA bookletThe AICPA and a consulting firm used feedback from test takers over the course of the year to evaluate the platforms. The result is a more user-friendly, modern system that reflects the work environment of most CPAs. In addition to an updated testing interface, new features include a highlighting tool, cut and paste functionality, and the ability to work on two documents on the same screen. And, finally, an addition that candidates have been waiting for – the CPA Exam will now make Microsoft Excel available!

    In a big step for inclusion, the exam will introduce technology to assist visually impaired candidates.

    As with most changes in the past, the new features will delay the release of scores for the last three testing windows in 2018. This delay allows the psychometric experts time to ensure the testing has been fair and accurate.

    New versions of sample tests and simulations are available on the AICPA’s website.

    Read more about the CPA Exam updates in the Journal of Accountancy.

  • Sep 25, 2017

    CPA Regulatory Changes Official: Impact CPE and Experience Verification

    By Michael D. Colgan, CEO and executive director

    On Sept. 23, 2017, long-awaited new regulations proposed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy (SBOA) were published in The Pennsylvania Bulletin. With this publication, the two most recent amendments to the Pennsylvania CPA Law (Act 73 of 2008 and Act 15 of 2013) as well as a clarification of civil penalties for CPE violations have been implemented. Included are revisions to the CPE requirements for all licensees and clarification on how a CPA candidate’s experience is verified. The new regulations will be effective Jan. 1, 2018, so they will not impact the current biennial license renewal due Dec. 31, 2017.

    Harrisburg capitol buildingWith respect to CPE requirements, the new regulations eliminate the minimum eight-hour tax requirement for all licensees, and will require 24 hours (increased from 16) of accounting and auditing credits only for those licensees participating in attest activities. Licensees not participating in attest activities will have no A&A minimum. The four-hour biennial ethics requirement remains in place for all licensees. These changes allow licensees to select and complete CPE in areas most related to their current professional development needs. The regulations also outline a schedule of civil penalties for licensees who fail to comply with the biennial CPE requirements.

    In Act 15 of 2015, a general experience requirement replaces the previous requirement that every licensee obtain 25 percent of his or her required experience in attest services. Under the new regulations, CPA licensees who supervise attest services, and sign or authorize another to sign an accountant’s report for attest services, must meet at least one of the following: at least 400 hours of attest experience within the previous five years and at least 24 hours of CPE in accounting, auditing, or attest during the immediately preceding 24 months of issuing a report; or be a member of, or employed by, a firm registered with the Board that has met the peer review requirements.

    The regulations also clarify the types of general experience permitted by Act 15 to meet the requirement for CPA licensure. They clarify who can verify an applicant’s experience: an individual who possesses a current CPA license during the entire period of the verification, either employs or is employed by the same employer as the candidate, or has a relationship approved by the SBOA prior to the period of verification. This final provision provides an opportunity for candidates who work for entities that do not employ another licensee to seek approval from the SBOA to allow a different relationship to verify their experience.

    If you would like to review the proposed regulations in detail, you can check out the Schedule of Civil Penalties or the Act 73 and Act 15 Amendments.

    If you have any questions or need additional clarification on the new regulations, please feel free to contact me.

    Listen to Mike explain the details of the changes, when they will take effect, and what they mean for Pennsylvania CPAs.

    If you are required to meet the 24 A&A credit requirement to renew your license by Dec. 31, PICPA is offering a discounted A&A Survival Kit. Get webcasts of the A&A Conference and two seminars - totaling 24 credits - for just $599. That's a $280 savings! Purchase by Dec. 1 to save >>


  • Jul 10, 2017

    NASBA 2017 Data Summit – Examining the Statistics

    Mylin Batipps Jr.By Mylin Batipps Jr., PICPA public relations coordinator

    CPAs from state accountancy boards, state societies, colleges and universities, and firms from all over the country came together to talk CPA Exam numbers at the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) 2017 Data Summit held June 21-22 at PICPA headquarters in Philadelphia.

    NASBA Data Summit at the PICPARepresentatives of NASBA presented data on the number of candidates nationwide who have taken the exam over the past decade, the pass and fail rates of those candidates, and a multitude of factors contributing to the rates and trends.

    The goal of the summit was to dig into the national rates and determine the why behind the numbers. According to the educators, firm members, and accountancy board representatives, a variety of factors contribute to the number of candidates from year to year and the pass/fail rates and trends, including diversity demographics, the degree programs in which the candidates are involved, changes to the exam, and time.

    A point emphasized at the summit was that there is a strong correlation between the number of those sitting for the CPA Exam and the date they graduated from college. The longer it has been since graduation from a college, the less of a chance those graduates will sit for the exam. Reasons range from decreased motivation, increased responsibilities, the distraction of life-changing events, among others.

    Attendees also looked into the CPA Exam itself, specifically how its content areas and skills tests have changed. The number of content areas in each section of the exam are decreasing, but, conversely, the number of skill areas are increasing. Educators expressed a strong desire to leverage score data. Carlo J. Silvesti, CPA, an accounting professor at Gwynedd Mercy University, said he is interested in accessing the data to see where his students are succeeding and where they are falling short. “I want to dig in and see how my students have done,” Silvesti said. “We have a four-year, 150-hour program, and I want to see how they’ve fared. I would really like to see their strengths and weaknesses.”

    Sheri L. Risler, CPA, a Temple University accounting professor and a member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy, has found the CPA Exam candidate statistics and learning about the exam changes to be useful. “As a new State Board of Accountancy board member, it’s really valuable for me to just learn about all the resources available from NASBA,” she said. ”As a faculty member, I look forward to using the various reports and information to help us continuously fine-tune our undergraduate and graduate curriculum to meet the needs of the CPA Exam.”

    Diversity in the profession was an overarching theme discussed during the summit. Attendees explored reasons why rates have been so low as they relate to minorities taking and passing the exam, along with ways to help raise those rates. For instance, the process of preparing for the exam is one that is costly. This affordability issue may be preventing students in minority groups who may have an underwhelming support system from pursuing the exam. In addition, students of these groups are not as exposed to internship opportunities; thus, they may not be getting direct feedback as to what firm members want from potential hires.

    State society members discussed increasing their efforts to approach students from colleges and universities and to offer information on scholarship and internship opportunities. They also suggested providing a platform for students to ask questions or express concerns. Representatives from national associations such as the AICPA, the National Association of Black Accountants, and NASBA discussed ways they can improve connections with students in high school, middle school, and even elementary school.

    Courtesy of PICPA’s Inspire Future CPAs in the Classroom program, CPAs in the state have visited students at middle schools and high schools to not only present financial literacy tips, but also inform the students about the diverse career options that are available in the CPA profession. An even newer initiative that was launched this year is the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation, which aims to help increase the CPA profession’s visibility among young students of diverse backgrounds and to provide them with the resources necessary to consider accounting as a career, pass the CPA Exam, and enter the profession. Visit www.picpa.org/cpa-foundation to learn more about the Foundation and how you can contribute.

  • May 02, 2017

    CPA Exam Stats in Pennsylvania on the Rise!

    By Meg Killian, vice president - member relations

    More than 3,600 candidates took at least one section of the CPA Exam in Pennsylvania in 2016. That was a five-year high, and maybe not surprising given that an updated version of the CPA Exam was scheduled to launch this year. Regardless, more is better. Let’s review the numbers:

    • There were 936 successful candidates (SCs), a 7.5 percent increase over 2015.

      Year  2016 2015
       842  944  1,067
    • A record number of 2,741 new candidates entered the exam process. Nationally, the new candidates number almost doubled from 42,439 to 78,178.
    • The Pennsylvania pass rate fell a few points from 49 percent to 47.3 percent. This is likely due to the number of candidates, but it was not as low as the last candidate surge in 2011 when the pass rate was 38.8 percent. Ouch. The national pass rate decreased also, from 49.8 percent to 48.7 percent in 2016.
    • The average score in the state also fell slightly, from 71.8 to 71.2 There was a similar decline nationally, from 71.9 to 71.5.
    • Nationally there were more female candidates than male candidates, but in Pennsylvania the reverse is the case. About 46 percent of candidates were female, a percentage that hasn’t changed much over the past five years.

    As I reported last year, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s candidate performance reports now include cohort tracking, which looks at candidate performance based on the year in which they started the exam process. In Pennsylvania, 316 candidates passed their fourth part within 12-18 months after taking their first part, and 272 candidates passed the final part more than 24 months after taking their first part.

    Fifty-three candidates passed within six months, which represents 5.7 percent of all Pennsylvania successful candidates in 2016. This is a bit lower than the national average of 6.3 percent of successful candidates who did the same.

    I need to include a shout-out to Pennsylvania schools and colleges who continue to produce strong CPA Exam candidates. The Elijah Watt-Sells Award winners were announced as I was writing this, and six out of the 58 went to schools in our state. Check out the full list here. Congratulations to all the winners!

    Our work is far from done. Last year saw a surge because of the new CPA Exam launch. While early number of 2017 successful candidates are coming in pretty good, history has shown that every time the exam changes there is a significant decline in candidates. The gains of 2016 could be offset if that trend continues. Couple that with a few lean years prior to 2016, and that means less candidates in the pipeline. We need to continue with our mission of educating students and their influencers on the benefits and opportunities of obtaining the CPA credential. In this time of transition that message is more critical than ever.

  • Oct 31, 2016

    PICPA-Sponsored Changes to CPA Law Pass State Legislature

    Mike Colgan, PICPA CEOBy Michael D. Colgan, CAE, executive director and CEO

    PICPA’s proposed changes to the Pennsylvania CPA Statute – SB 1018, sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne, CPA – cleared its final hurdle last week by being unanimously approved by the state House.

    The primary objective of the legislation is to adopt a new comprehensive definition of attest services, which are restricted to current licensees. This change was needed because certain unregulated non-CPAs were performing some types of attest services using the accounting profession’s standards. The new definition includes all examinations, reviews, and agreed-upon procedures completed in accordance with the AICPA Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements. This updated definition addresses the fact that CPAs are now being asked to perform attest services on nonfinancial information, such as XBRL, sustainability reports, greenhouse gas emissions, and service organization control reports.

    In addition, the new law removes a requirement that an inactive CPA from another state, upon applying for domestic reciprocity in Pennsylvania, must have completed a year of experience within the previous 60 months. This restriction created an unnecessary burden for an individual who may have left the profession for a period of time to raise a family and is now reentering the workforce. The revised statute now aligns with language in the profession’s model Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA).

    The amendments also include an exemption from the Private Detective Act of 1953, which states that individuals providing expert testimony in a legal proceeding should have a private investigator license. New language ensures that the CPA Statute is the sole law governing CPAs and their services, which would include providing forensic accounting services. We would not want to see a member in court questioned by opposing counsel on whether or not they had a private investigator license under a 1953 law!

    The concept of non-CPA ownership of CPA firms is already law in Pennsylvania and most other states. The CPA Law permits up to 49 percent of firm owners to be non-CPAs, which recognizes a reality in a CPA firm today as the diversity of services provided may require other professionals. Our amendments include a provision to allow the office managing partner to be a nonlicensee owner, but still requires that the partner in charge of the attest function in a CPA firm be a current licensee. This provision promotes a realistic standard for today’s practice environment and keeps Pennsylvania’s law consistent with the UAA and other states.

    I would like to thank Sen. Browne for his sponsorship of this bill, and the support from our other CPA legislators in the House: John Maher, George Dunbar, Keith Greiner, and Mike Peifer. If you have any questions regarding these changes, please feel free to contact me.

  • Oct 24, 2016

    You Wanna Be Where It All Happens? Learn How to Golf

    Meg Killian, VP Member RelationsBy Meg Killian, vice president – member relations

    Every accounting program includes accounting and auditing, tax, economics, finance, and other core business courses you need to earn a degree. No matter what your long-term career goals, there are additional courses you should consider taking -- not just to meet the 150-hour credit requirement to become a CPA, but also to enhance your skills and increase your appeal in the job market. Here are just a few.

    Writing and Composition

    When you ask employers about desired skills, writing is inevitably among the first things they mention. Writing is the No. 1 means of communication in most professional service businesses. Whether it’s a lengthy report or a simple e-mail, being able to write in clear, concise, and grammatically correct prose is absolutely essential.

    Public Speaking

    Training on speaking and giving presentations will be beneficial if your future job is going to require you to speak at meetings or in front of groups. If you’re in a nonprofit or a closely held company, chances are you’ll be the face of the organization in front of board members, donors, or customers, and you need to be able to tell the organization’s story confidently and effectively.


    Data analytics, forensic accounting, cybersecurity, and information systems are quickly becoming more than niche services. Firms are offering more technology-based services, and recent graduates are in a perfect position to build and grow that part of a practice. Also, if you find yourself working in industry chances are you’ll have your hand in the technology end of the business, either from an operations or financial perspective. Having some knowledge of how it all works will be a huge asset.

    Learn Another Language

    As with any business major, a second language is always a good idea. Fluency in a foreign language continues to be a skill that is in high demand. Being bilingual or multilingual gives you high marketability in government or global organizations.

    Don’t Just Take the 100 Level Course

    Many accounting programs have introduction-level courses in their curriculum requirements or recommendations, but consider taking the higher levels to hone your knowledge in the areas of organizational management, economics, supply chain, international business, and marketing.

    Liberal Arts and Humanities

    Courses in psychology, sociology, women’s studies, political science, religion, philosophy, and other humanities can spark your creativity. It will also help you learn more about the people you’ll work with and the world around you.

    Don’t Take Basket Weaving

    Refrain from fringe arts classes, unless you’re planning on going into the textile business or just love basket weaving. If you do, then by all means go for it.

    Take Golf Instead

    Golf may be experiencing a general drop in popularity, but it can still be an important part of building business relationships. You don’t need to own the fanciest clubs or shoot a 90, but being able to swing and knowing basic golf etiquette can at least get you in the room where it all happens ... or on the green where it all happens, as the case may be.

  • Oct 10, 2016

    MBA to CPA: A Recipe for Success

    Meg Killian, VP Member RelationsBy Meg Killian, vice president – member relations

    Meg recently interviewed Jeremy Spencer, CPA, regional controller in the Allentown office of Sodexo, a multinational food services and facilities management company, about the transition from holding an MBA to gaining the CPA credential.

    A few years ago the MBA became the most popular post-graduate degree in the United States, according to Fortune magazine. There are several reasons, but much of the growth was driven by economics. It is a degree that is widely accepted by employers, and MBA candidates enjoy a high employment rate. An MBA can also be a great foundation for someone who is planning to become a CPA or might decide later on to pursue the CPA.

    I recently spoke with one PICPA member about his path to the CPA credential. Jeremy Spencer started his career as a chef, got his MBA, and moved into financial operations. He shared with us why he decided to change careers and eventually become a CPA, and how he did it.

    Tell us a little about your early career path.
    I worked in restaurants/foodservice since I was 14. Up until about my junior year of high school, my plan was to go to college for banking and finance. I’d been working at a local restaurant during high school and really enjoyed the pace and the environment, so I changed plans to go into restaurants as a career. I went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., where I completed my culinary training as well as a bachelor’s degree in food service entrepreneurship. I was a chef and food service manager for about 10 years when I decided that I wanted to move into finance where I’d originally planned to be way back my teen years.

    Why did you initially get an MBA?
    Once I made the decision to move out of culinary and operations and into finance, I knew I’d need further education. At that point, due to my work schedule and personal life commitments, I enrolled in the MBA program online at Jones International University. I worked full time (still as a chef) while completing this program.

    Jeremy Spencer and friends at Dorney Park

    Jeremy Spencer (top left) and friends enjoying PICPA’s Day at Dorney in 2015.

    Fortunately for me, I was working with my present employer (Sodexo), and my manager knew that I was taking these courses. An opening within my operation came up as a unit controller, so I moved from my role as a chef and manager into the controller position. It was a great fit for me and for the company, as the operations background helped me to better lead the team from a financial perspective. Since I knew many of the systems, I didn’t need to start from ground zero and was able to make an immediate impact with the team.

    What made you decide to pursue a career in accounting?
    I’ve always enjoyed math and numbers. While there are days I truly miss being a chef, I didn’t want the schedule that goes with being a chef…working nights, weekends, and holidays. Plus, the challenges for a chef are more physical in nature, and I wanted to be challenged more from an intellectual perspective.

    Did you need additional work experience or education to qualify for the CPA?
    I did need more accounting credits to sit for the CPA Exam since my undergrad work was not in accounting and my MBA was in finance. Fortunately, when I was wrapping up the CPA Exam and preparing for licensure, Pennsylvania changed the requirements pertaining to attestation. So, I did not need any additional work experience as they accepted the experience that I had as a controller.

    How did you get the additional education?
    I completed a specialized diploma program at Northampton Community College. That program is designed for people with undergrad degrees in majors other than accounting, and it gave me what I’d needed to sit for the exam (accounting and business law credits).

    How was your experience taking the CPA Exam?
    This was really the most challenging aspect for me. The time commitment was greater than I would have expected, but it truly paid off. I used Kaplan review materials (self-study), and that really was great in preparing me for each section of the exam. The biggest challenge was really committing to a review plan and sacrificing the time to be on a regimented review and study schedule.

    Do you have any advice for other MBAs who may be considering getting their CPA license?
    I would say that the CPA is a great complement to the MBA. My advice – and I’ve had several people ask – is get your MBA in accounting and not finance. As I mentioned, since my undergrad and MBA programs were not in accounting, I needed to take additional classes to sit for the exam. I would also say that I think having the CPA has really been more of a benefit than the MBA. It has opened many more opportunities up, so it really is worth the investment in both time and financial terms.

    What has been the biggest benefit of getting your CPA?
    After getting my MBA, there certainly were opportunities for career advancement, but the CPA opened up many more. Almost immediately after adding my CPA credentials onto LinkedIn, I began getting e-mails from recruiters. Prior to that, I was the one reaching out to them. Additionally, within Sodexo, this certainly has added interest to leadership and internal recruiting. So, again, I’ve seen significantly more opportunities compared to just having my MBA. Lastly, having the MBA and CPA opened up another door: I have become an adjunct professor of accounting, and teaching was never on my radar!

    Were there any hurdles you’d like to share?
    There was a significant time and financial commitment to pursuing the CPA. It was tough to make the decision to be a career changer after investing what I had to become a chef, but I am very satisfied now that I’ve done it. Those sacrifices were definitely worth it.

    The Pennsylvania CPA Foundation was created to inspire students to pursue careers in accounting and to provide educational, motivational, and financial support to those working to attain the certified public accountant credential. Learn more about how you can support our mission!

  • Apr 06, 2016

    New Uniform CPA Examination Changes

    Liz KolarBy Elizabeth Kolar

    The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has stated that the next version of the Uniform CPA Examination (CPA Exam) will launch April 1, 2017 (the 2017 Q2 testing window). The CPA Exam will continue to include four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). However, each section will now be four hours in length, for a total testing time of 16 hours.

    Candidates will be offered a 15-minute break midway through each section, which may be accepted or declined. This break will not count against testing time. In addition to this standardized break, optional breaks between testlets (which do count against candidates’ testing time) will continue in the next CPA Exam, consistent with current practice.

    Additional task-based simulations (TBSs) will be included to assess higher-order skills. These include, but are not limited to, critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical ability. The TBSs will contain background material (i.e., real-world documents and exhibits) and data that will require candidates to determine what information is or is not relevant to the question.

    A new type of TBS, called the Document Review Simulation (DRS), will be introduced in the AUD, FAR, and REG sections beginning with the 2016 Q3 testing window (July 1, 2016). The DRS will continue to be used after the launch of the next CPA Exam, where it will be added to the BEC section as well. Candidates are encouraged to visit the AICPA website to review the DRS format under the “Sample Exam” option.

    In connection with testing higher-order skills, the CPA Exam will use a skills-based framework consistent with the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is further supported by the exam blueprints. The blueprints contain about 600 representative tasks across all four exam sections and replace the Content Specification Outline and Skill Specification Outline. They will identify content knowledge linked directly to representative tasks performed by newly licensed CPAs.

    Scoring weights for AUD, FAR, and REG will be about 50 percent multiple choice questions (MCQ) and 50 percent TBS, while scoring weights for BEC will be about 50 percent MCQ, 35 percent TBS, and 15 percent written response simulations.


    Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
    Task-Based Simulations (TBSs)
    Written Response Simulations


    Candidates will still get credit for passing sections of the current CPA Exam after the next exam launches. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, state boards of accountancy, and the AICPA have agreed that any combination of passed current exam sections and passed next exam sections will count toward licensure. All candidates will take new CPA Exam sections beginning in the second quarter of 2017. Thus, any sections passed prior to the launch of the next exam in the second quarter of 2017 will count toward licensure requirements (subject to the 18-month rule) going forward.

    To increase candidate convenience, there will be a 10-day extension of the testing window each quarter in the months of March, June, September, and December. The 10-day extension will not be available during June 2017, as additional time will be required to analyze exam results and set new passing scores.

    Elizabeth Kolar is vice president of Surgent CPA Review.

  • Mar 28, 2016

    Did Pennsylvania CPA Exam Stats Improve in 2015?

    Meg Killian, VP MembershipBy Meg Killian, Vice President - Member Relations

    The launch of the new CPA Exam next year has created a sense of urgency among exam candidates, and it would appear a surge of applicants began in 2015. Nationally, the number of new candidates rose to 42,439 in 2015, the highest it’s been in the past five years. But what about Pennsylvania?

    PICPA Womens History MonthThe number of new candidates in Pennsylvania increased by about 10 percent from 1,360 in 2014 to 1,491 in 2015. Unlike the national number, though, it was not a five year high. That honor goes to 2011, which had a huge increase of candidates before the 150 hour licensing requirement went into effect.

    At 3,278, the total number of candidates did help Pennsylvania reclaim the No. 5 spot among the top states for number of candidates. The last time we cracked the top five was in 2011.

    The number of successful candidates in Pennsylvania was a bit disappointing. Only 871 candidates passed their final part of the exam in 2015, up slightly from 842 in 2014. The pass rate of Pennsylvania candidates remained at 49 percent, but the average score dropped slightly to 71.8. Other statistics show the average candidate age was 27.2 years, but the largest number of candidates were between 22 and 25 years of age.

    Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), the “easy” section, continues to have the highest pass rate: 65.1 percent. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) had the lowest at 47.5 percent.

    Notable National Rankings for Pa. Schools

    Pass Rate, First Time, All Programs
    No. 1 - University of Pennsylvania

    Institutions by Size, Most Candidates
    No. 4 - Penn State University Park

    New this year from NASBA was more detailed cohort tracking, which looks at candidate performance based on the year in which they started the exam process. In Pennsylvania, 264 candidates passed their fourth part within 12-18 months after taking their first part. There were 268 candidates who passed the final part more than 24 months after taking their first part. Fifty-five candidates passed within six months! That was 6.1 percent of all Pennsylvania successful candidates in 2015, which is slightly higher than 5.1 percent of successful candidates nationwide who did the same.

    No doubt, the number of exam candidates will be very high in 2016, and that will help fill the gap created by a couple of lean years. But I’m not going to lie; I am nervous about what lies beyond 2016 as students, universities, and exam review providers adapt to the new exam format and content. We’re likely to see another dramatic drop in candidates like we did in 2004 when the electronic exam debuted.

    Convenience factors like shortening the blackout months will help eliminate some barriers going forward. But lots of educator encouragement and employer support and incentives will be essential to keeping accounting graduates on the path to the CPA credential and to ensure a strong pipeline of future CPAs.

  • Feb 22, 2016

    Where Should You Apply to Take the CPA Exam?

    By Meg Killian, Vice President – Member Relations

    Pennsylvania colleges and universities attract many out-of-state students, so we at the PICPA often get questions about where they should apply to take the CPA Exam. The least complicated option is to apply to take the exam in the jurisdiction in which you plan to apply for your CPA license. But there are instances when this may not be ideal or possible.

    For nonresident students who want to begin the exam process while still in school, or those temporarily residing in a different location from their permanent residence, there are some important considerations when deciding where to apply to take the CPA Exam.

    First, it’s important to know that regardless of the jurisdiction in which you apply, you can sit for the CPA Exam at any Prometric location. Find a list of the testing centers here.

    While it doesn’t matter where you physically take the CPA Exam, the requirements to sit for the exam can vary by state. The exam requirements in the jurisdiction in which you apply to take the exam will apply.

    Here are a few things to consider:

    • What are the education requirements to sit for the CPA Exam in that jurisdiction?
    • In what jurisdiction are you planning to apply for your CPA license?
    • What are the education and work experience requirements to get a CPA license in that jurisdiction?
    Become a CPA in Pennsylvania Guide

    Your comprehensive guide to becoming a CPA in Pennsylvania.

    Pennsylvania requires that you have at least a bachelor’s degree to sit for the exam, but there are a few states that only require the completion of 120 credits. Most, but not all, states require a bachelor’s degree and 150 credit hours to qualify for a CPA license.

    The best place to find the exam requirements for all jurisdictions is at CPA Central on the NASBA website.

    If you are an international student or have a degree in an unrelated field, it’s a good idea to submit your transcripts as early as possible to make sure that you have met the education requirements to sit for the exam. Many, but not all, states offer a pre-evaluation option, but there is a fee. Get more information about this on the NASBA website.

    Candidate Bulletin

    NASBA’s Candidate Bulletin contains information for all jurisdictions.

    If you want to apply for a CPA license in a different state than where you took the CPA Exam, you’ll need to contact the state board where you took the exam and request that they send verification that you passed the exam to the state in which you are applying for the license. In Pennsylvania there is a $25 fee for this service. You’ll still have to meet all the requirements in the jurisdiction in which you are applying.

    Where you take the exam should not impact your long term career plans. Once you have a CPA license, substantial equivalency has made it easier to practice across jurisdictions. So if you relocate or are servicing clients in a state that are not in the same jurisdiction of your place of business, you will still have the privilege to practice without applying for a license in the other jurisdiction. There are some exceptions and not all states follow substantial equivalency, so be sure to verify on the NASBA website or at www.cpamobility.org.

    For answers to additional questions, contact the PICPA at careers@picpa.org or (215) 496-9272. We’re here to help you during this exciting journey to becoming a CPA! Good luck!

  • Jan 25, 2016

    Studying Abroad: Q&A with Future CPA Karen Purkey

    By Meg Killian, PICPA's Vice President of Member Relations

    In-the-fieldIf you think studying for the CPA Exam is hard, try doing it in sub-Saharan Africa. Karen Purkey, a recent CPA Exam scholarship winner, is doing just that. Upon graduation from Moravian College, Karen decided to begin her career in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the obvious logistical challenges of taking the exam, she is committed to becoming a CPA.

    What is your age and where did you grow up?

    I am 24, and I spent my whole life before Congo in the rural farmlands of Pennsylvania, outside of Allentown.

    Did you always want to be a CPA?

    No, most of my life I didn’t even know what a CPA was. I didn’t even consider a career in accounting until my junior year of college.

    Why Democratic Republic of Congo? Did you set out to relocate there specifically or is that where you ended up because of your job?

    I never dreamed of living or working in Africa. During my senior year of college, I heard about Samaritan’s Purse accounting internship program, and thought it would be cool to spend five months experiencing another part of the world before I settled down into a “normal” accounting job in the U.S. They offered me an internship in the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite the fact that I didn’t speak any French. It was a huge adjustment for me at first, but within a couple months I grew to love the country, the people, and the team I was working with. I knew I didn’t want to leave. When my manager decided he wanted to move back to the U.S. that opened up the opportunity for me to take his job and continue working in DRC.

    What kind of organization is Samaritan’s Purse?

    Cabbabe-PatchSamaritan’s Purse is a Christian nongovernmental organization (NGO) that does emergency disaster relief all over the world, with the mission of meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the people who are suffering most. Growing up I was familiar with Samaritan’s Purse and the work that they did, and was involved in packing shoeboxes each year for one of their most well-known projects: Operation Christmas Child. When I heard they had an international internship in accounting, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to use my skills and abilities to serve an organization that I knew was doing a lot of good in the world.

    Have you taken any parts of the CPA Exam?

    Yes. This past August I took (and passed!) the FAR section of the exam. I am currently studying to take the REG section the next time I go home.

    How did you manage the logistics of studying and then actually traveling to Pennsylvania to take the exam?

    In-the-Office Studying here in DRC is really hard! But I’m sure it is for anyone who works a full-time job while also studying for the exam. I think the key for me is routine and discipline. Though it seems NGO work never ends, and we often work nights and weekends, I make a point of stopping at 4:30 each day and going back to the house to study for an hour or two. I know that I won’t be able to focus as well later in the evening.

    In order to take the exam, I have to plan my vacation around it. I traveled home to Pennsylvania, took a few days to get over jet lag, and then spent a whole week before the exam getting up early and going to the library so that I could have full days of studying without distractions. I took the exam, and then had about one more week at home with my family to just relax.

    Do you think you’ll continue to work in the nonprofit world?

    Playing-with-Village-ChildrenI’ve learned that life is always full of twists, turns, and new opportunities, so it is hard to say where I’ll be even one year from now. But as long as I practice accounting, I always want to know that the work I am doing is going toward a good and meaningful purpose. So, it seems likely that I’ll continue to work in the nonprofit sector, whether internationally or in the USA.

    What is your biggest motivation to become a CPA?

    One motivation is that I love to learn and I enjoy the challenge of studying for the CPA Exam. Secondly, and probably a better reason, is that I know that becoming a CPA can open many more doors of opportunity for me. In the U.S. it is obviously a highly valued title, and even overseas it is well recognized. If I continue to work internationally in relief and missions work, where the knowledge of a CPA is not always very applicable, just having that title will add credibility to my work and my organization.

    What do you do for fun while living in Congo? How has your lifestyle changed?

    Celebrating-International-Woman's-DayLiving in Congo is very different from life in the U.S. There are no malls, movie theatres, parks, or anything recreational, really. Once you get outside of town, Congo is a beautiful country with exotic forests and rolling green hills. Hiking or taking motorcycles out is always a highlight, but you constantly have to be aware of the security situation.

    Most of the time we are pretty limited to our compound, so watching movies, playing board games, reading, and cooking are common free-time activities. I’ve learned to be creative and to appreciate the little things—such as when the power stays on long enough to freeze the milk so that we can make some form of ice cream! Those are the best days.  

    Any other insights, life lessons, advice you’d like to share?

    I think one thing I have learned from my experience is to not limit myself to my own ideas of what my life should be like. While in school, I imagined that after graduating with my degree in accounting I would get a good job, maybe working for one of the Big 4, and I’d wear suits and have my own cubicle and be a sophisticated career woman climbing the corporate ladder. Now I wear jeans and flip-flops to work, or a traditional Congolese dress, and I attend business meetings in a conglomeration of three different languages, and sometimes a chicken or a cat wanders into my concrete-floored office that I share with three other people. Many days I sit in my office and work on Excel spreadsheets and do bank reconciliations and expense coding, but other days I visit beneficiary gardens and taste carrots pulled straight from the earth, or learn how to fly an airplane, or teach our new cook how to make American pizza. Though it is not what I once thought my dream job would look like, this has become my dream job. I wouldn’t trade it for the whole corporate world. So my advice is dream big, but be open and available to a life even bigger than your dreams.

    What are you most excited about in the future?

    The past two years have been pretty crazy, in the sense that I have had opportunities, adventures, and responsibilities way beyond what I ever could have imagined. So in looking to the future, I guess I am just excited to see where God leads me next and what opportunities he will give me to use my abilities to make a small difference in the life of an individual, a community, or even a world.

    J Learn more about taking the CPA Exam and getting your CPA license in Pennsylvania. >
  • Oct 12, 2015

    The Top Five Things You’ll Need When Renewing Your CPA License

    By Francesca Zampaglione, CPA, former PICPA Vice President, Professional Education

    Greetings, my fellow CPAs! For those of you who are ready to renew your license, the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy is ready for you. Here is a quick list of things to have on hand as you prepare for the process of remaining an active CPA:

    1. Your registration code

      This code can be found on the business size or wallet version of your license. This will be needed to log into the system, which is here: https://www.mylicense.state.pa.us/PersonSearchResults.aspx?process=APP

      On this page, you will be asked for your last name and your registration code. 


    2. Your ID and password

      Once you’ve entered your name and registration code, the system will take you to a screen to create and confirm a password for your account. If you have the password that you created on your previous visit to the site, you can use the same one; you won’t need to create a new password.


      Once you’ve completed this section, you will be asked for your ID, which is your last name and your password, and then will be directed to the License Home Page. This is where you will continue with the process.

    3. Your credits

      Once you have successfully logged in, you will be provided with an online renewal checklist that highlights reporting your continuing professional education. This is summarized at the top left corner of the page, where you’ll see the following listed under Renewal Checklist:

      “Demographics,” “License Address,” “Questions,” “Finish.”

    4. “Complete” your forms

      Each item listed under the Renewal Checklist requires action by you.


      The first box is “Demographics.” This will bring you to a page with information that is familiar to you. To successfully move to the next section, however, you must click on “complete.” Once you “complete” the Demographics section, the box will be checked and you will need to do the same for the License Address section.

      If you do not “complete” each of these two sections, the system will not stop you from filling out the “Questions” form, but it will give you an error message that you have not completed the questions. You will know that you have successfully completed the sections as the boxes will have been checked. The system does not allow you to manually check these boxes. This must be done by clicking on “complete” in each section.

      Once each section – Demographics, License Address, and Questions (this is the official renewal form, by the way) is “checked,” you can submit your form. Here you will be asked for payment.

    5. Your credit card for the $100 fee
      The system accepts all major cards, and the fee is the same as last renewal period. You will see a confirmation page, and you should print the receipt page for your records. The board makes it clear on this page that although the fee has been accepted, it does not indicate that your license renewal/application has been issued successfully. You should expect your new license in the mail. The sooner you do this, the sooner you will receive your new license.

    Hopefully, you find the process as simple as I did, even if you haven’t completed your CPE yet. If you haven’t, the PICPA has ample opportunity for you to do so.

    Download PICPA's printable guide to renewing your license, a helpful tool for any CPA's desk.

  • Jun 29, 2015

    State Board Proposed Regulatory Changes Impact CPE and Experience Verification

    By Michael D. Colgan, PICPA CEO & Executive Director

    Regulations image The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy (SBOA) published on June 13, 2015 proposed regulatory changes for CPAs to implement the two most recent amendments to the PA CPA Law (Act 73 of 2008 and Act 15 of 2013) and to clarify civil penalties for CPE violations. Included in the proposals are revisions to CPE requirements for all licensees as well as clarification for how a CPA candidate’s experience should be verified. More details are provided below, along with a link to the proposed regulations.  The comment period expires July 12, 2015, and PICPA will be providing a comment letter.

    You will recall that in Act 15 of 2015, a general experience requirement replaced the previous requirement that every license obtain 25% of their required experience in attest services. In the proposed regulations, CPAs licensed by the SBOA after August 18, 2013 to supervise attest services and/or sign or authorize another to sign an accountant’s report for attest services, the licensee must have at least 400 hours of attest experience within the previous five years and at least 24 hours of CPE in the area of accounting, auditing, or attest during the immediately preceding 24 months of issuing the report. The licensee would also need to be a member of or employed by a firm that has met the peer review requirements.

    The proposed regulations clarify the types of general experience permitted as a result of the passage of Act 15 of 2015 to meet the experience requirement for CPA licensure. In addition, the proposed regulations clarify who can verify an applicant’s experience. The verifier must hold a current CPA license during the entire period of the verification, either employs or is employed by the same employer as the candidate, or has a similar relationship approved by the SBOA prior to the period of verification. This final provision provides an opportunity for candidates who works for an entity that does not employ another licensee to seek approval from the SBOA to allow the relationship to serve to verify their experience.

    With respect to CPE requirements, SBOA proposes to eliminate the 8 hour tax requirement for all licensees, and will require 24 hours of accounting and auditing credits only for those licensees participating in attest activities – licensees not participating in attest activities will have no A&A minimum.  The four hour biennial ethics requirement remains in place. This change will allow licensees to complete CPE in areas most related to their current professional development needs. The proposed regulations also outline a schedule of civil penalties for licensees who fail to comply with the biennial CPE requirements.

    If you would like to review the proposed regulations in detail, please use the following links:

    Understand that these proposed regulatory changes have been published in The PA Bulletin for comment and will not be effective until final promulgation after the comment period expires and comments may be addressed. The proposed CPE changes will not impact the current biennial license period expiring December 31, 2015. Licensees will still need to meet the current requirements when renewing your license (16 hours of A&A, 8 hours tax, 4 hours ethics, minimum of 20 hours per year). The PICPA has been actively engaged with SBOA during this regulatory process and will formally respond to the proposed regulations. If you have any thoughts or input please reach out to me in the next week.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.
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