CPA Certificate Vs. CPA License

The CPA course certificate implies you have finished the academic coursework necessary to practice as a Public Accountant and have the skill to provide professional services. To get the CPA course certificate, you must pass the CPA test and meet the minimal criteria. However, to get a CPA license, the candidate must complete the practical training and experience requirements. Once you have completed all of the prerequisites, the accounting body or authority will award you a CPA license.

Each state has its own set of laws and standards that regulate the CPA profession. In addition, each state has its Board of Accountancy that oversees the CPA licenses.

Even though there is a legal distinction, the terms “CPA certificate” and “CPA license” are interchangeably used in most jurisdictions. There is, however, a contrast between the two in the case of “two-tier states.”

How to get a CPA Certificate

The only criteria to get a CPA certificate is to clear the CPA exam. Below is the eligibility, structure, costs incurred, and the syllabus for the CPA exam.

Eligibility for CPA Course

A candidate must be a Postgraduate, ideally in Commerce, to be qualified for the U.S. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) test. Their educational background also determines Indian students’ eligibility for the CPA course test. Candidates with any educational backgrounds listed below are qualified to take the CPA course test.

• Member of the Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants

• Member of India’s Institute of Cost and Works Accountants

• Member of the Indian Society of Company Secretaries

• Master of Business Administration


Some jurisdictions in the United States recognize Indian CAs with a B.Com degree. However, the criterion may differ from one state to the next.

Syllabus of the CPA Course

The applicant must take four exams:

• Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

• Business Concepts and Environment (BEC)

• Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)

• Regulation (REG)

Course Fee for CPA

The following are the CPA course fees by subject:

• AUD (Auditing and Attestation): $356.55

• Business Environment and Concepts (BEC): $356.65

• FAR (Financial Accounting and Reporting): $356.55

• Regulation (REG): $356.55

The CPA course pricing is the same in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, and India.

Duration of the CPA Course

To be eligible for a CPA license, the candidate must complete the four assessments within a maximum of 18 months. A candidate can complete all four CPA exams in a year.

Difference Between a CPA Certificate and a CPA License

Difference between a CPA certificate and a CPA license

# CPA Certificate  CPA License 
Work Experience that is Relevant To earn the CPA course certificate, the candidate does not require any prior job experience. To acquire the CPA course certificate, the candidate must have prior job experience. For the licensure, most states need at least 1-2 years of relevant accounting experience under the supervision of a CPA.
Continuing Professional Development The candidate just has to pass all of the CPA tests and has no continuing education requirements for the CPA course credential. As most states require a CPA license, candidates must pass all CPA tests and complete at least 40 hours of continued education each year.
Official Document Attestation With a CPA certificate, the candidate is not permitted to sign tax returns, audit reports, or use the term CPA on any official or legal report. With a CPA license, the candidate can sign tax returns, audit reports, and use the term CPA on any official or legal report.
CPA Firm Owner or Partnership The candidate cannot be the owner or a partner in a public accounting company. The candidate might be the owner or a partner in a public accounting business.
Use of CPA title Only some states allow the candidate to use the designation CPA after their name on unofficial documents All states allow the candidate to use the designation CPA after their name on unofficial and official documents


One-Tier Judiciary-

Each 55 U.S. states and territories’ Boards of Accountancy may have slightly varying certified public accounting licensing requirements. The Boards have designed a reasonably straight road to the CPA license in so-called “one-tier” jurisdictions. In these states, passing the CPA Exam and having a specific education and experience is sufficient to obtain the CPA certificate and license.

Jurisdictions in Two Levels

To become a licensed CPA in a two-tier jurisdiction, you must first complete the standards of both levels. When you pass the CPA Exam, you are awarded a “CPA Certificate.” Even if you are a qualified CPA, you must still have at least one year of experience (more extended in some jurisdictions) before applying for the CPA accounting license. Only seven jurisdictions in the United States are two-tier states, according to the NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy):

• Alabama

• Connecticut

• Hawaii

• Illinois

• Kansas

• Nebraska

• Oklahoma

As an example, consider the state of Illinois. As a two-tier state, you will have to interact with two distinct state bodies to obtain your CPA accountant license. To pass the first tier, you must pass the CPA Exam and an ethical exam. According to the Illinois Board of Examiners, the Illinois Certificate of CPA Exam Completion ” will offer you the “Illinois Certificate of CPA Exam Completion” if you pass the CPA Exam and complete Illinois’s ethics exam criteria. Then, once you’ve satisfied the experience criteria for the second tier, you’ll apply to the IDFPR for your CPA license (Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation).

CPA Certificate and its perks.

The CPA certification is offered to individuals who pass the CPA Exam.

• The majority of jurisdictions do not require job experience.

• There is no CPA CPE (continuous professional education) hours necessary to maintain CPA certification.

• Your prospective area of employment is limited because certificate holders are not allowed to run a CPA company (either as a sole owner or as a partner) or sign audit reports.

• You cannot generally represent yourself as a CPA. Some jurisdictions, however, permit you to refer to yourself as a “CPA but not in public practice.” Others, though, do not let you use the title in any form.

CPA LICENSE and its perks.

• Typically, 1-2 years of work experience overseen and validated by a CPA license is required.

• CPE hours are necessary to keep your license current. Most states demand at least 120 hours every three years.

• You can use the term CPA on your business cards, run a CPA firm, and sign audit reports.

CPA for International Candidates-

It makes no difference whether you operate in a one-tier or two-tier jurisdiction; you’ll only earn your CPA credential after passing the CPA Exam. Hence, obtaining the CPA certificate is the first step. The “second step” is the license or authorization to practice. In reality, many overseas students pursue certifications just because the CPA qualification is primarily utilized to boost their credentials. Most states have shifted from a two-tier system to a one-tier system due to confusion and certain abuses.

Other Forms of CPA Licensing

The status of your CPA license is described in most states using a variety of phrases. The terminology used is active, active certificate, practicing, registered, inactive, inactive with experience, non-practicing, expired, and lapsed.

CPA License Inactive or Non-Practicing

Some states provide inactive or non-practicing licenses to CPAs who are no longer actively practicing. These non-reporting or inactive licensees may or may not be required to meet CPE obligations, depending on the jurisdiction. Furthermore, inactive CPAs frequently do not have to pay licensing fees regularly. If you have an inactive license in most jurisdictions, you must indicate that in your title.

A CPA career is a very lucrative option and can widen your career scope. Besides, due to global recognition, it is relatively easy to get a job abroad. If you are having difficulty meeting the educational or experience criteria, Simandhar Education can assist you in resolving the problem. Get in touch with us to kickstart your CPA career.

For more information on the CPA course and its required skills, please feel free to Contact Simandhar Education @ +91 7780273388 or mail us at


Simandhar is the official partner of Becker and AICPA - Largest Training provider for US CPA, US CMA , IFRS and EA courses in India. Learn how to clear your CPA exams with extremely satisfying results by getting proper guidance and knowledge through our online courses and video tutorials taught by industry Experts. We’re here to provide you with all the help that you need in order to ace your CPA, CMA exams. We are just a call away for any assistance. Simandhar Education is the leading training provider for the CPA Exam in India. Contact us@ 91 7780273388. Hurry up !! CPA exam now in India and Simandhar Education will help you to achieve it.

1 Comment

  1. Alan Waler Reply

    Great post again! Your lists are always very helpful to me.

Write A Comment