Continuing Professional Education (CPE) is a pre-requisite for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) to sustain their license. Getting CPE credits helps them stay updated about the latest accounting practices and maintain their knowledge database.
To earn the CPA license, you have to fulfill your State Board of Accountancy’s (BOA) education and experience requirements and pass the Uniform CPA ExamCPA ExamThe CPA Exam assesses accounting professionals not just on their financial knowledge, but also on their ability to review and seek out key abilities.. However, your journey doesn’t end here, as you need to keep renewing the license from time to time by earning the required CPEs.
What is CPE?
CPE refers to a set of learning requirements to be fulfilled by CPAs for continuity of their license. The purpose of CPE is to make sure that CPAs engage in learning activities that sustain and improve their professional competence. This ensures that they render quality expert services.
CPE requirements vary as per state boards. A CPA needs to ensure compliance with state-specific CPE requirements, typically every 1-3 years. Precisely put, CPAs need to earn a certain number of CPE hours by taking up learning programs in relevant subjects to ensure that their license stays valid.
The CPE programs must meet the standards set by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). These standards provide a framework for developing, awarding, evaluating, and reporting CPE programs.
CPE credits from NASBA & AICPA
AICPA offers thousands of hours of free and paid CPE programs. These programs include several basic and advanced level courses on a variety of topics. They help CPAs maintain and improve their professional skills with sheer ease.
Kindly check the AICPA website for more information on these courses. The website provides details regarding the number of credits offered, content, mode of learning, and the cost of each course. This helps you can make an informed choice.
NASBA also offers a broad range of CPE courses but only through the registered CPE sponsors. Most jurisdictions acknowledge courses from CPE registered sponsors. However, some jurisdictions have additional requirements.
CPE Credit Requirements for CPAs
Please note that CPE requirements vary according to the jurisdiction you have chosen to practice as a CPA. However, the essential pre-requisites are:
- Typically 40 credit hours every year
- 1-3 years of renewal period
For AICPA Members
All regular AICPA Members must complete 120 hours (or equivalent) of CPE programs every three years. The CPE programs can be in-house training courses, college classes, or trade association conferences, etc.
Calculation of the equivalent credit hours:
|CPE Programs||CPE hours|
|College or university programs||Number of semester hours x 15|
Number of quarter hours x 10
|Associations programs||50 minutes = 1 CPE|
|Programs not stating the number of hours||Actual minutes spent in program/50 = CPE hours|
AICPA members must maintain a record of the following details related to each program attended:
- CPE sponsor name
- Details of the content
- Program dates
- Place or location
- Number of program hours
Please check out all the basic requirements, guidelines, and exceptions at the AICPA website.
Qualified Fields of Study for CPE
The following table lists some technical and non-technical fields of study that qualify for CPE.
|Information Technology||Personal Development|
|Governmental Accounting||Business Management & Organization|
|Management Services||Personnel/Human Resources|
|Auditing||Communications & Marketing|
|Governmental Auditing||Computer Software & Applications|
Please note that CPAs can also choose a field of study other than the ones above. This is because CPE sponsors can re-issue the CPA certificate with an alternative study field not included in the specified list.
Please note that it occurs only when the sponsors believe that the state-specific, alternative fields of study reasonably demonstrate the course’s underlying content.
Reporting CPE hours
CPAs must ensure accurate and appropriate reporting of their CPE hours. They must retain the required documentation for at least the next five years of the period of completed learning activities. This helps them acquire their credits on time and without any hassle.
Below-mentioned is the list of acceptable documents required to claim your credits.
|Learning Program||Documents Required|
|Group, Blended, & Independent Study Program||Certificate or other verification by CPE Program Sponsor|
|Self-study & Nano learning Program||Certificate by CPE Program Sponsor after the qualified assessment|
|Instruction & Content Review||Documents required as per the State Board|
|College or university Credit Course||Record or Transcript of the Grade|
|Non-Credit College/University course||Attendance Certificate issued by the College or University representative|
|Published Books, Articles, or CPE Programs||Copy of publication (course development documentation for CPE Program) naming CPA as an author/contributor The writer’s statement supporting the number of claimed CPE hoursName and contact details of publisher/content reviewer|
8 Best ways to earn CPE credits
AICPA offers several types of CPE certification programs to assist CPAs in enhancing their skills, improving their career prospects, and venturing into new areas. Before you dive deep into these methods and pick one of them, ensure compliance with your state BOA requirements.
Please note that AICPA Members enjoy a specific discount for every paid method. Also, you can cancel or return any CPE product (online and offline) following the AICPA’s Return and Cancellation Policy.
AICPA, jointly with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), holds over 60 conferences (online and on-site) from time-to-time that makes the CPAs earn a significant number of credits with ease. Just visit the website, register yourself, and pick the preferred date or date range for available conferences to participate.
You can choose from a wide variety of upcoming conference options as per topic, content, format, credits, the field of study, or program level. All the conference options have attendance and pricing details. You can also get your entire group registered for a conference.
You can also get conference materials, live streaming, and archived content at the AICPA Conferences online portal. Moreover, registered CPAs can visit and acquire presentation materials for upcoming conferences, finish the conference evaluations, and download CPE transcripts.
AICPA offers the CPAs complete flexibility in choosing the preferred date or date range for the upcoming webcasts. Just get yourself registered and pick up a suitable attendance option. Again, you can choose from various upcoming webcasts as per topic, format, or required credits.
Annual Webcast Pass
Subscribe to AICPA’s Annual Webcast Pass to access several interactive webcasts exploring a range of topics from auditing, tax, and management accounting to fraud and practice management.
This annual subscription helps you gain knowledge in areas other than your domain of specialization without any additional expense. Some of the features of the pass are as follows:
- Low costs ($525-$695)
- One-year unlimited access to CPE
- Flexible sessions (1-8 hours)
- Immediate certification (no assessment required)
- One-year unlimited access to archived webcasts
So, go through the webcasts available in the subscription and pick the most suitable ones that enhance your future career prospects.
From Comprehensive References to Authoritative guides, AICPA offers CPE credits through several published materials. CPAs can subscribe to them individually or in a group as well. Again, it covers a wide range of topics. Some of them are as follows:
- Accounting & Reporting
- Audit & Assurance
- Firm Practice Management
- Forensic Services
- Management Accounting
- Personal Financial Planning
- Professional Development
- Valuation Services
If you don’t have the time to pick and choose each CPA program to earn the required credit, or wish to learn from various programs in multiple formats, then select a bundle and earn credits without any hassle.
AICPA offers this feature for every topic mentioned above so that you can select the one that suits your interest area. Each bundle is a combination of subject-specific CPE programs in one or more formats. For instance, a bundle may include CPE published materials, webcasts, certificates, or exams.
5. Certification Exam
You can also challenge yourself to take the AICPA certification exams to fulfil your CPE requirement. The certification exams include a variety of topics to choose from, like auditing, forensic services, taxation, personal financial planning, etc.
Furthermore, before opting for any of these exams, kindly check the details related to key topics covered, learning outcomes, credits received, and the cost involved. You can opt for an individual or group subscription to take these certification exams.
6. Self-study Courses
AICPA also provides a wide range of top-quality self-study courses so that you can fulfil the CPE requirements at your own pace. As the name implies, these educational programs are finished without the interaction or help of a real-time instructor.
These courses must utilize instructional strategies that do the following:
- Define learning objectives
- Guide the CPAs through a learning program
- Offer evidence of their successful program completion
The CPE sponsor usually issues a certificate after you successfully complete their qualified assessment. You are entitled to credits for self-study courses only after receiving this certificate. The credit hours are determined using pilot testing or specified word count formula methodology.
CPExpress is an online self-learning resource. You can use it for availing unlimited online access to hundreds of CPE courses from AICPA subject experts. So, you can enhance your learning in topics like accounting, ethics, not-for-profit, forensics, and more with sheer ease. Some of its features are:
- Provides quality content
- Enables to track and print CPE certificate
- Adapt to your schedule
- Affordable rates ($525 for Non-AICPA Members and $315 for AICPA Members)
7. College Course
One of the simplest ways to earn CPEs is by enrolling yourself in an accredited college or university for a relevant course.
Calculation of credits:
1 college credit (quarter system) = 10 CPE Credits
1 college credit (semester system) = 15 CPE Credits
Moreover, kindly go through the state BOA requirements before opting for a college course.
8. Other resources
Apart from AICPA’s CPE certification programs, there are a few popular CPE courses offered by private companies. Some of the leading state BOA-approved CPE courses are as follows:
- Becker CPE courses
- Surgent CPE courses
- Lambers CPE courses
These programs are offered in multiple learning formats like conferences, webinars, videos, self-study material, etc.
Webcasts offered by the ‘Big Four’
The well-known “Big 4Big 4Big Four refers to the top four accounting firms in the world that audit more than 80% of the US public companies. These firms are Deloitte, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, KPMG, and Ernst & Young. These firms have earned this title because of their huge size, good reputation and the worldwide reach in the field.” accounting firms also offer CPE webcasts. Some of their webcasts are as follows:
- Deloitte’s Dbriefs live webcasts
- EY’s latest CPE webcasts
- PwC’s accounting and reporting webcasts
- KPMG’s upcoming and archived webcasts
Well-known media executive Shari Redstone rightly said, “Complacency is the kiss of death.” Earning CPEs saves you from this complacency. It avoids you being the “know-it-all” and sustains that learning spirit within yourself.
So, earning a CPA credential may be the perfect way to kick-start your career, but to keep it going well and sound, license sustenance is an absolute requirement. Hence, choose any one (or all) of these CPE-earning methods and ensure to keep yourself updated.
This has been a guide on how to get CPE credits. Here we discuss all about CPE credits – their meaning, requirements, reporting, and the best ways to earn them. You may also have a look at the below articles –