The Bellarmine Blog

Certified Public Accountant

How to Become a CPA in Kentucky: Your Path to a Public Accounting Career


It’s no wonder you decided to become an accountant. The field is diverse and holds a wide range of options for those eager to help others. Though employment growth in accounting is closely tied to a region’s overall economic health, it’s a necessary service for every business – and for many individuals as well.

Opportunities for accountants exist in nearly every industry including healthcare, entertainment, construction, non-profits, and government. Organizations of all kinds need finance professionals to help manage their expenses, revenue, and taxes. With Kentucky’s thriving aerospace and motor vehicle manufacturing industries, there are ample opportunities for accountants in the Bluegrass state. And those opportunities can expand even more for certified public accountants.


But, first, what is a CPA?

There are several different accounting credentials, but the certified public accountant (CPA) credential is often considered the gold-standard certification for accountants. This designation provides you the experience, knowledge, and opportunity to take on many responsibilities that a non-certified accountant could not do.

A CPA license is required to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Earning a CPA license can also grant you the ability to audit public companies and have certain privileges related to preparing taxes.


4 Steps to becoming a CPA in Kentucky 

Since each state has its own criteria for CPA licensure, you should get to know the specific requirements that apply to you. If you’re looking to become a CPA in Kentucky, we’ve laid out the steps below.


1. Complete the education requirement 

One of the critical requirements of earning a Kentucky CPA license includes 150 college semester credit hours, including at least 27 credits in accounting and 12 in business. 

Accounting classes will include topics such as:

  • Taxation 
  • Attestation 
  • Auditing 
  • Financial reporting 
  • Managerial accounting 
  • Cost accounting 

While your accounting courses will directly prepare you for the CPA exam and the work you’ll do as an accountant, the general business courses will provide you with a strong foundation to help you understand general business operations and their effects on your accounting work. 

Business classes typically include topics such as: 

  • Statistics 
  • Business Ethics 
  • Business Law 
  • Communications 
  • Management
  • Marketing

Once you complete all of the education requirements, you’ll need to have your official transcripts sent to the Kentucky State Board of Accountancy as a part of your application to take the exam. All your transcripts must be from institutions accredited by a regional agency that the board recognizes.

While regional accreditation is critical when looking for a college or university to take courses from, once that is checked off the list, there are many other factors to consider. In addition to regional accreditation for the entire college, AACSB accreditation is a more specific accreditation to look for. 

AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation is awarded to strong business schools that meet 15 specific standards pertaining to the school’s innovation, impact, and engagement in the higher education business realm. This is an esteemed status held by fewer than 5 percent of business schools worldwide. The W. Fielding Rubel School of Business at Bellarmine University is one of only six schools in the state of Kentucky with an AACSB accreditation. With over 100 years or providing guidance and standards for accounting and business educational programs around the world, their seal of approval is highly sought after in the business school world.

It’s also important to find a program that works for your education level. While a full undergraduate degree in accounting might be right for someone with few or no college credits, an entire bachelor’s program in accounting might seem unnecessary to someone who already holds a bachelor’s degree in another subject. For these individuals, Bellarmine offers a post-baccalaureate accounting certificate. This program meets state requirements and can be completed part-time in 24 months with day or night schedules. 

Once you fulfill all of the education requirements and send in your transcripts, you can apply to take the CPA exam. 

Apply to, and pass, the uniform CPA examination.

Once you’re prepared, you’ll apply to take the CPA exam. Once approved, you have six months to take it without having to reapply. The CPA exam assesses candidates in three ways:

  1. Multiple-choice questions 
  2. Task-based simulations: Condensed case studies that use real-life accounting scenarios 
  3. Written communications tasks: Students read a scenario and then write the appropriate document

These questions can cover anything from audits and attestation to corporate governance, financial reports, economic concepts and ethics, and taxation. Though these are topics you’ll have covered in your college courses, you’ll still need to study quite a bit. Generally speaking, it’s recommended to devote about 300-400 hours to studying for the CPA exam.

In order to continue in the licensing process, applicants must pass all four sections of the CPA exam with a 75 percent score (or higher) within an 18-month period. Unlike licensing exams in other fields, the exam is not the last step in the licensing process for CPAs. 


2. Gain experience

For many CPA hopefuls, this is the exciting part. You’ll get to put down the case studies and finally pick up some real-world cases while working toward your CPA license. Part of the licensing requirements includes one full year of experience, or 2,000 hours over the course of the 12+ months after completing your education.

This experience can include working in an accounting or auditing position in public practice, industry, government, or academia with a provisional license, under a licensed CPA. While many opt for paid positions, these hours can also include volunteer work or internships. 


3. Apply for your CPA license 

After fulfilling the education requirements, receiving a passing score on the exam, and gaining experience, it’s time to officially apply for your initial license as a Kentucky certified public accountant. It’s a long process but finally receiving your CPA license and seeing those letters after your name makes it all worth it. 

Even so, the learning doesn’t end there. Tax code and finance laws are constantly changing, and you must stay up-to-date in order to properly assist your clients. Continuing education is required for biannual renewal of your license. 

In Kentucky, the amount of continuing education is dependent on the sector in which you work. CPAs who work full-time in public accounting are required to complete 80 hours within every two-year period, while CPAs in government, industry and education take 60 hours during that same timeframe. All continuing education for CPAs includes two hours of ethics content. No matter what sector you end up in, don’t expect the learning to stop upon receiving your CPA license. 


Start your journey toward becoming a CPA in Kentucky 

Though becoming a CPA isn’t a quick process, you’ll grow an interesting, rewarding career in the process. This coveted credential is worth pursuing – especially in Kentucky – where you can play a vital role in keeping local businesses and individuals financially sound. 

Now that you know the steps you’ll need to take, it’s time to plan your path. If you’re looking to earn a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, visit the Bellarmine University’s Bachelor of Arts in Accounting program page.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, it may be a better choice to fulfill Kentucky CPA licensing education requirements by earning an accounting certificate, instead. Check out Bellarmine’s Post-Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate program page to learn more about your options. 

Tags: CPA

About Bellarmine University

Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.