How to Become a Licensed CPA in Illinois

Illinois is one of the strictest states as far as qualifications to take the exam for the first time. IL requires you to have a bachelor’s degree as well as all 150 credit hours completed before you are even eligible to apply to take the CPA exam. They also have quite detailed instructions for what makes up the 150 credit hour requirement. IL is also one of the few states that doesn’t require a Social Security Number.

Let’s take a look at what you need to do to take the exam and get licensed.

Illinois CPA Exam Requirements

In order to be eligible to sit for the exam in Illinois, candidates must meet the following personal qualifications and educational requirements.

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Not required to be a US citizen
  • Not required to be an IL resident
  • Not required to have a Social Security Number – an extra fee might apply
  • IL does participate in the International Examination Program

Educational Requirements to Sit

Illinois requires all candidates to complete their bachelor’s degree and all 150 semester hours before they can take the exam. There are a few different degrees that are acceptable by the state. You can get one of the following:

Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting or Business (120 credit hours) including:

  • 24 credit hours in Accounting classes including financial accounting, auditing, and taxation.
  • 24 credit hours in Business Administrative courses like Management, Marketing, and Law.
  • Plus an extra 30 credit hours to reach the required 150.


Graduate Degree in Accounting or Business including:

  • 24 undergraduate credit hours in Accounting
  • 15 graduate credit hours in Accounting

There is also a student provision that can be applied for. If you are still a student with less than 120 from graduation or fulfilling the minimum educational requirements, you can apply to take the exam. Your transcripts must be reviewed by the board and approved before you will be eligible.

Exam Fees

The total cost to take the CPA exam in Illinois is $849.08 including an initial one-time $120 application fee. The cost for each section is listed below.


AUD – Audit $192.03
FAR – Financial Accounting and Reporting $192.03
BEC – Business Environment and Concepts $172.51
REG – Regulation $172.51


The fees are typically based on the duration of the exam. That’s why the FAR and AUD exams cost the most.

IMPORTANT – Don’t go all out and register for all the sections at once. Your NIT or notice to sit is only valid for six months. After that, it will expire and you will have to re-register. Re-registration application fees are $40 for one section and vary depending on how many your sign up for at once, so only sign up for the exams that you are ready to sit for in the next 6 months.

Registration Fees

Here is the breakdown for the registration fees you will have to pay. As you can see, registering more exams at once will save you some money.

  • 1 section $40.00
  • 2 sections $76.00
  • 3 sections $108.00
  • 4 sections $120.00

Also note that IL will charge an extra $67.50 to perform a background check on all U.S. residents if they do not provide a valid Social Security Number.

CPA License Requirements

You might be thinking that just taking the exam is a huge process. You’re right, but it’s only the first step in becoming a CPA in IL. After you pass the exam, there are a few administrative things you must do before you can truly call yourself a Certified Public Accountant. Here is the basic process.

Pass the Exam

You’ll have to pass all four sections of the exam with a score of at least 75 in an 18-month period.


Submit all the required paperwork to the state board usually includes transcripts, license application, and proof of work experience.


Pay the applicable license fees with your application.

Ethics Exam

Take and pass the AICPA Professional Ethics exam (found on the AICPA website)

Additional Education

There are no more additional education required after you pass the exam.

Work Experience Requirements

Illinois has a pretty standard work experience requirement. Before you will be issued a license, you will have to complete the following:

1-year of general accounting experience in Public Accounting, Governmental Accounting, Private Industry, or Academia under the supervision of a current CPA

All of the work experience must start after you have passed the entire exam. So this means everyone will work one full year after passing the exam before they are certified. Even if someone has been in public accounting for 10 years before taking the exam, it doesn’t matter. It must be one year after the exam is finished.

More Exam Resources and Information

The entire process of applying, taking the exam, and sending your paperwork can be quite an involved, especially if you attended more than one college. Since you have to show proof of your education, you’ll have to send in transcripts from every college you’ve attended. This can be a pain.

This whole process can be kind of confusing, especially because you rarely get feedback from the state board. Many times you don’t know if they even received any of your application information. I think it’s important to contact the state board directly to see what they already have on file and more importantly what they need to complete your application.

For example, sometimes the state doesn’t receive your test scores from Prometrics. They will rarely contact you and say something is missing. It’s a good idea to contact them directly to confirm they have everything they need.

Here is the contact info for the state board.

Illinois State Board of Accountancy

Illinois CPA Application Forms

    • Illinois Board of Examiners
    • 1120 E. Diehl Road, Suite 107
    • Naperville, IL 60563


  • Phone: 815-753-8900
  • Fax: 815-753-8953


Illinois Society of CPAs

NASBA – Illinois