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Q: Tests required for certification as a CPA or actuary? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Tests required for certification as a CPA or actuary?
Category: Reference, Education and News > Job and Careers
Asked by: nautico-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 30 Mar 2006 08:06 PST
Expires: 29 Apr 2006 09:06 PDT
Question ID: 713598
I've long heard that to become certified (licensed?) as a CPA or
actuary one must take a series of arduous tests and that those
required of an actuarial candidate are especially rigorous. Is there a
single test for each of these two professions that results in entry
level certification? Do such entry level tests differ by state? How
frequently must CPAs and actuaries get recertified, and is
recertification obtained through course work or additional testing or
both? What kinds of tests exist beyond those required for entry level
certification and what areas of public accounting and actuarial
science are subject to such advanced testing?
Subject: Re: Tests required for certification as a CPA or actuary?
Answered By: hummer-ga on 30 Mar 2006 17:12 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi nautico,

Here you go. Briefly, a CPA career requires a background in accounting
(one 4-part exam), and an Actuarial career requires a background in
Mathematics (8 exams!).  I found a great little chart for you, I hope
it formats ok. If not, just click on the link and scroll down to page

Summary of Professional Certification and Licensure Requirements:

Profession      Education      Examination      Experience      
               Requirement                     Requirement      Requirement
Accounting       150            CPA Exam:       Generally         Yes (1)
(CPA)         Semester Hrs     Four Parts       1-2 Years
Actuary         None            Actuarial      3 Years for        Yes (2)
(FSA)                          Eight Exams         MAAA
Personal       Degree           CFP Exam        3-5 Years         Yes (3) 
Financial     Encouraged                        Depending
Planning    (Three Options)                   on Education
(CFP             (4) 
>>> CPA

US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook
Certified public accountants, see: Accountants and auditors
"Most accountant and auditor positions require at least a bachelor?s
degree in accounting or a related field. Beginning accounting and
auditing positions in the Federal Government, for example, usually
require 4 years of college (including 24 semester hours in accounting
or auditing) or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
Some employers prefer applicants with a master?s degree in accounting,
or with a master?s degree in business administration with a
concentration in accounting.
Previous experience in accounting or auditing can help an applicant
get a job. Many colleges offer students an opportunity to gain
experience through summer or part-time internship programs conducted
by public accounting or business firms. In addition, practical
knowledge of computers and their applications in accounting and
internal auditing is a great asset for jobseekers in the accounting
Professional recognition through certification or licensure provides a
distinct advantage in the job market. CPAs are licensed by a State
Board of Accountancy. The vast majority of States require CPA
candidates to be college graduates, but a few States substitute a
number of years of public accounting experience for a college degree.
As of early 2005, on the basis of recommendations made by the American
Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), 42 States and the
District of Columbia required CPA candidates to complete 150 semester
hours of college coursework?an additional 30 hours beyond the usual
4-year bachelor?s degree. Another five States have adopted similar
legislation that will become effective between 2006 and 2009.
Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the only States
that do not require 150 semester hours. In response to this trend,
many schools have altered their curricula accordingly, with most
programs offering master?s degrees as part of the 150 hours, so
prospective accounting majors should carefully research accounting
curricula and the requirements of any States in which they hope to
become licensed.
All States use the four-part Uniform CPA Examination prepared by the
AICPA. The 2-day CPA examination is rigorous, and only about
one-quarter of those who take it each year pass every part they
attempt. Candidates are not required to pass all four parts at once,
but most States require candidates to pass at least two parts for
partial credit and to complete all four sections within a certain
period. The CPA exam is now computerized and is offered quarterly at
various testing centers throughout the United States. Most States also
require applicants for a CPA certificate to have some accounting
The AICPA also offers members with valid CPA certificates the option
to receive any or all of the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV),
Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), or Personal
Financial Specialist (PFS) designations. CPA?s with these designations
may claim a certain level of expertise in the nontraditional areas in
which accountants are practicing ever more frequently. The ABV
designation requires a written exam, as well as the completion of a
minimum of 10 business valuation projects that demonstrate a
candidate?s experience and competence. The CITP requires payment of a
fee, a written statement of intent, and the achievement of a set
number of points awarded for business experience and education. Those
who do not meet the required number of points may substitute a written
exam. Candidates for the PFS designation also must achieve a certain
level of points, based on experience and education, and must pass a
written exam and submit references.
Nearly all States require CPAs and other public accountants to
complete a certain number of hours of continuing professional
education before their licenses can be renewed. The professional
associations representing accountants sponsor numerous courses,
seminars, group study programs, and other forms of continuing
[see association links at bottom of page]

NASBA (National Associations of State Boards of Accountancy)
"Candidates in all other jurisdictions must contact their board of
accountancy for further information. To obtain detailed information on
requirements, fees and how to apply, click on your jurisdiction in the
map below."
Select a State


American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. 
Steps to Become a CPA

Median Salary By State
For Job=Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

How Is A CPA Different From An Accountant?
"A CPA is different from an accountant who is not a CPA in many important respects:
1. Higher level of knowledge and experience with serving clients.
2. Greater experience with issues involving independence and objectivity.
3. Deeper understanding of matters which are not traditionally in the
domain of accounting, such as personal financial planning and
information technology consulting, but which are related to accounting
and serving clients.
4. Credentials.
5. More experience working with other professionals such as attorneys,
brokers, agents, etc."

>>> Actuary

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,
"Actuaries need a strong background in mathematics. Applicants for
beginning actuarial jobs usually have a bachelor?s degree in
mathematics, actuarial science, statistics, or a business-related
discipline such as economics, finance, or accounting. About 100
colleges and universities offer an actuarial science program, and most
offer a degree in mathematics, statistics, economics, or finance. Some
companies hire applicants without specifying a major, provided that
the applicant has a working knowledge of mathematics, including
calculus, probability, and statistics, and has demonstrated this
knowledge by passing one or two actuarial exams required for
professional designation. Courses in economics, accounting, finance,
and insurance also are useful. Companies increasingly prefer
well-rounded individuals who, in addition to having acquired a strong
technical background, have some training in liberal arts and business
and possess strong communication skills.
In addition to knowledge of mathematics, computer skills are becoming
increasingly important. Actuaries should be able to develop and use
spreadsheets and databases, as well as standard statistical analysis
software. Knowledge of computer programming languages, such as Visual
Basic, also is useful.
Two professional societies sponsor programs leading to full
professional status in their specialty. The Society of Actuaries (SOA)
administers a series of actuarial examinations in the life insurance,
health benefits systems, retirement systems, and finance and
investment fields. The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) gives a series
of examinations in the property and casualty field, which includes
fire, accident, medical malpractice, worker?s compensation, and
personal injury liability.
The first four exams in the SOA and CAS examination series are jointly
sponsored by the two societies and cover the same material. For this
reason, students do not need to commit themselves to a specialty until
they have taken the initial examinations, which test an individual?s
competence in probability, calculus, statistics, and other branches of
mathematics. The first few examinations help students evaluate their
potential as actuaries. Many prospective actuaries begin taking the
exams in college with the help of self-study guides and courses. Those
who pass one or more examinations have better opportunities for
employment at higher starting salaries than those who do not.
After graduating from college, most prospective actuaries gain on-the
job experience at an insurance company or consulting firm, while at
the same time working to complete the examination process. Actuaries
are encouraged to finish the entire series of examinations as soon as
possible, advancing first to the Associate level (with an ASA or ACAS
designation) and then to the Fellowship level (FSA or FCAS
designation). Advanced topics in the casualty field include investment
and assets, dynamic financial analysis, and valuation of insurance.
Candidates in the SOA examination series must choose a specialty?group
and health benefits, individual life and annuities, pensions,
investments, or finance. Examinations are given twice a year, in the
spring and the fall. Although many companies allot time to their
employees for study, home study is required to pass the examinations,
and many actuaries study for months to prepare for each examination.
It is likewise common for employers to pay the hundreds of dollars for
examination fees and study materials. Most actuaries reach the
Associate level within 4 to 6 years and the Fellowship level a few
years later."
[see association links at bottom of page]

Education as an Input to Success on Actuarial Exams: Evidence and
Policy Implications
"Actuaries in the U.S. and Canada achieve professional status by
passing a set of examinations and attends a capstone course on
Professionalism and Ethics they will satisfy the membership
requirements as a Fellow, CAS. For the SoA, there are eight formal
examinations, a 50-unit Professional Development component and a
similar capstone course in Professionalism and Ethics for Fellowship
in the SoA..."
"The examinations for both Associate and Fellowship levels are
difficult. Generally, well under half the candidates pass a particular
[see] Exhibit I
Course (Exam) Sequence for SoA and CAS

Actuarial Qualifications

kime1r-ga has already kindly given you the BeAnActuary website:

Median Salary By State
For Job=Actuary

I was glad to work on this for you. As always, if you have any
questions just let me know.

Thank you,

I searched the US Department of Labor Occupational website and
searched Google for cpa, actuaries, examinations, actuary, actuarial,

Clarification of Answer by hummer-ga on 30 Mar 2006 17:14 PST
Nautico, it didn't format correctly - "ethics" moved down to the next
line.  Best to click on the link!
nautico-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
A comprehensive/exhaustive answer. Many thanks!

Subject: Re: Tests required for certification as a CPA or actuary?
From: kime1r-ga on 30 Mar 2006 10:42 PST
Assuming you live in the US, you can learn about the process for
becoming an actuary at this site, run jointly by the Society of
Actuaries and Casualty Actuary Society:

A summary of the testing procedures is here:

The first exam focuses on Probability, and is used by SOA, CAS, and
also the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.  You can read about it here: .  Unfortunately, you've
missed the registration deadline for the Spring sitting, but the
Summer sitting, in August, isn't that much further off.
Subject: Re: Tests required for certification as a CPA or actuary?
From: hummer-ga on 31 Mar 2006 06:32 PST
You are welcome, nautico, and thank you as well for your nice note,
rating, and tip!  Take care, hummer
Subject: Re: Tests required for certification as a CPA or actuary?
From: scubajim-ga on 03 Apr 2006 11:35 PDT
Becoming an Actuary is not easy.  On the average it takes 7 years to
pass the exams.  I have seen a couple of people pass in as few as 4
years, but that is exceptionally fast.  Why does it take so long?  You
can't sit for all the exams at once.  You would be hard pressed to
study all the material and then sit for the exams in one sitting. 
Most people take a couple of exams at once. (They used to be 10 large
exams, now they split them up into sub parts.  For example, what used
to be the third exam - Operations Research, Numerical Analysis,
Statistics (?  it has been awhile) was split into three seperate exams
instead of one large one.)  That made it take longer in some ways. 
You know had to pass three exams instead of pass two and do well on a

Fortunately, most insurance companies have an Actuarial Student
program where you work for them and take actuarial exams.  They often
give you some time off to study for the exams.

The SOA (Society of Actuaries) has a very fair but rigorous testing
process.  They don't have racial quotas and you don't have to know
someone to be a part of the club.  You don't even have to attend
college.  You just have to pass exams.

The profession is not for everyone, but actuaries are in very high
demand.  If this type of work interests you and you have an excellent
head for math and test taking, then go for it.  The initial tests are
not that expensive to sit for.
Subject: Re: Tests required for certification as a CPA or actuary?
From: irlandes-ga on 05 Apr 2006 18:36 PDT
My son two or three years ago talked to a woman at an insurance
company in Des Moines, a major insurance company. He is a minority
male, and had experienced absolute discrimination, being tossed out of
temp jobs he performed at a high level when they wanted to hire him,
and they gave the jobs to white women. He was told that there is a
strong need for minorities in the actuary, since few white women wish
to be actuaries.

he was told that specific company, if he passed the first test, would
hire him at around $40,000 a year, and that during work hours he would
be scheduled to study as part of his work assignment.  He was also
told it is: Up or out.  That is, there is a fixed time in years to
pass the next test or you are knocked out of that career.

He actually prepared for that test, using the study guide on the URL
mentioned. Alas, without warning, they changed the test, and the new
material was stuff he had not studied for.

He ended up as a deputy sherriff, and just prior to entering med
school, he contacted a small company which was looking for a person
with no test background to work and train for the exam. He decided he
preferred med school.

My nephew is working as an actuary in Des Moines.  As one approaches
the top, the pay quickly approaches $100,000 a year. He said his
company did indeed toss you out after so many tries at the test, but
he said motivated individuals at his company even if they failed to
pass the next test after so many tries, were usually placed elsewhere
in the company, though probably at less lucrative pay scales.

The thing to really understand is that one need not pass all the
levels nor have a degree to start this career.

Since few white females enter this career, though my nephew says they
do have several Asian women, they are in constant trouble for
affirmative action, which means minority males are really hot. (Of
course, so are white and minority females, the problem is few enter
the career.  if you are a white or minority female with extremely high
math skills, this is your fantastic opportunity!!!!!!)

When a minority passes the test, the testing cost will be paid for them.
Subject: Re: Tests required for certification as a CPA or actuary?
From: irlandes-ga on 05 Apr 2006 18:42 PDT
When I took the CPA exam in 1980, I passed all parts but theory, and
passed it on the next try.

As such, there is no need to re-certify for the CPA. As stated in the
answer, one supplies continuing education proof, and pays the fee to
renew the license to practice.  There has been a requirement to work
under another CPA, and show proof of certain types of assignments
before one can actually practice.  In Iowa, I know that has been
modified, but as a retiree I pay no attention any more.

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