Somewhere in childhood, a teacher probably said to you, “Your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

You rolled your eyes. But now, you know. Planning is crucial — especially when it comes to completing CPE credits every year. But it’s harder than ever as work and family responsibilities pile up.

If you’re that accountant who scrambles to acquire CPE credits as the year ends, it’s time to develop a system. Creating a continuing professional education plan minimizes the prospect of losing your CPA license. Consider these CPE planning tips, and you can concentrate on advancing your career instead of scrambling to preserve it.

Choose your types of CPE credits

CPE planning isn’t complete until you consider the pros and cons of the three types of credits available and decide which methods work for you.

1. In-person

Sometimes, in-person learning is still the best option for your continuing professional education plan, especially if the topic is complex or you prefer personal interaction with the instructor. On the deficit side, in-person courses adhere to rigid schedules and might require travel.

2. Streaming online

Online learning has vastly simplified how to plan your CPE credits. CPE courses are at hand any time, and online learning travels with you to doctor’s waiting rooms, coffee shops, or airport lounges. You can sit for an entire class if you have the time or grab a few minutes that accumulate into hours. If you need to revisit a topic, hitting rewind won’t interrupt the instructor.

The biggest downside of online CPE could be your self-motivation. Are you disciplined enough to log on after a long day or turn down that invitation to happy hour? The only person you’re accountable to is yourself, so you’ll need to set — and stick to — a deadline for completing the course.

3. Live, online courses

Live webinar courses online eliminate the need for travel while providing more motivation than streaming, self-scheduled online courses. You still have to sit down at a scheduled time, but you save the time, money, and inconvenience of travel. These courses are typically stocked with questionnaires, surveys, polls, and quizzes to prove that you are present and paying attention.

Free vs. paid

If a free CPE course fills a gap in your knowledge, go for it. But remember that the world’s most knowledgeable organizations and people aren’t going to fork over their trade secrets without recompense. Free courses usually deliver generalized topics that are not in high demand.

In paid CPE, courses are strategically designed around the hot topics of the day. Instead of merely racking up credit hours, you are absorbing complex information that sharpens your skills. Plus, the production quality of paid webinars is usually better without the frustrating technological glitches that burn up time.

Paid courses have their cons in your CPE planning. They are often paper-based or delivered through self-study books that add costs. You also might pay for features you don’t need, such as access to reference materials or discounts on future CPE courses. 

Fortunately, an increasing number of providers are creating CPE courses that are high quality and low cost. Innovative providers such as Surgent CPE offer full menus of reasonably priced CPE courses taught by industry-leading experts. They are relevant, convenient and enlightening without draining your bank account.

Choose the right CPE provider

The right CPE provider makes all the difference to the success of your continuing professional education plan. As you plan your CPE credits, a reputable provider creates a smooth technological experience and accommodates your learning style. The right provider doesn’t leave you scrambling to make up for deficits in your credit count.

To find a good provider, look for these five elements in a course:

  • Content quality: Content must be recent and relevant, based on the latest information.  
  • Top instructors: Effective instructors do more than read from slide decks. They are engaging, experienced and highly qualified.  
  • Reasonable cost: High cost doesn’t automatically mean high quality. There are plenty of affordable CPE courses that suit your unique needs.  
  • Certification: If providers aren’t approved by a reputable national body, they are wasting your time and won’t satisfy your licensing requirements. Always look for courses approved by NASBA or your state’s licensing body.  
  • Reporting: There’s nothing more frustrating than completing a course and then having to fight for proof that you earned those credits. The best providers promptly deliver a certificate of completion for simple reporting to your state and employer.

Manage your CPE credits

It’s the fourth quarter of the year. Do you know how many credits you earned this year? If you lost track, you can waste many hours trying to recreate your status. If you’re short, you could jeopardize your professional standing.

A credit-tracking strategy is essential to your continuing professional education plan. Make sure you know:

  • How many credits you need  
  • The deadlines for earning them 
  • State annual minimums 
  • How many credits you already have

Start the year by reviewing the courses that appeal to you. Schedule them in advance, and keep a running tally of credits completed. Use a spreadsheet, calendar, or tracking software. When you finish a course, you get the satisfaction of inputting information on your reporting requirements and the number of credits earned.

Be sure to build study time into your schedule. Reserve a specific amount of time weekly, or take a day off once a month to study.

Surgent CPE meets all your needs for quality content

Surgent CPE is a leader in helping accounting and financial professionals create their continuing professional education plans. More than 1,500 CPE webinars each year keep accountants up to speed in a fast-moving field. Surgent CPE offers a full library of self-study courses, tailored in-firm seminars and training, and accounting exam prep programs for several core credentials and certifications.

At the team level, Surgent promises relevant, engaging, and up-to-date continuing education, plus simplified administration that eliminates running a program internally. 

The Surgent CPE advantage includes:

  • Firm CPE Portal. Get instant reports on your team members’ progress. 
  • Timely content. Your people learn the latest findings from industry experts. 
  • All-in-one courses. Staff can put their learning to use immediately. 
  • Monthly webinar series. The latest industry updates arrive without delay.

Larger firms can also leverage Surgent CPE’s flex access program, a cost-effective and convenient option for firms with 10 or more CPAs that includes:

  • Bank of CPE credit hours that anyone in your firm can use. 
  • Users’ choice of live webinars and self-study CPE courses from a comprehensive catalog. 
  • Ability for administrators to track usage, monitor compliance and add more hours.


These CPE planning tips don’t make you more knowledgeable, but they make it easier to accumulate knowledge. Weigh your options, choose a reputable provider, and establish a basic system for tracking progress. In short, with proper planning, you’ll accumulate CPE credits that burnish your professional standing. It’s a journey worth taking and one that Surgent CPE is ready to help you navigate.

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