If you’re a CPA or hold another accounting credential, you must complete a number of continuing professional education (CPE) credits to keep your certification. The exact number varies by state, but generally, a CPA must complete 120 hours of CPE every three years or 80 hours every other year.
Accounting and finance professionals are busy, so sitting in a classroom for hours isn’t always an option. That’s why remote CPE courses are a popular alternative. These come in two flavors: self-study and live webinars. Which option is most appropriate for you depends on several factors, and you may even choose a combination of the two to meet your requirements.
In this article, we’ll go through the basics of each type of CPE, their pros and cons, and how to decide which is your best option for completing your CPE hours.
What is self-study CPE?
Self-study CPE is continuing professional education that is completed independently. All coursework and materials can be accessed at the learner’s pace and timeline. There are no virtual lectures to attend on specific dates, no webinar breakout sessions and no designated professor. You won’t interact with other students or need to complete any in-class activities. Once you finish the course, you’ll take an online exam; if you pass, you’ll receive your certification.
Pros of self-study CPE
Self-study CPE courses have several benefits, and flexibility is chief among them. Learners can take their time with the material and learn at their speed. You might spend more hours on challenging or especially interesting concepts. You might quickly glance over subjects you’re familiar with. The course can be made to fit your schedule and not the other way around.
Another benefit of self-study is immediate access to course materials. If you sign up for a live webinar, you must wait until that online session to start learning. That’s not the case with self-study. Once you register for the course, you’ll receive instant access to downloadable resources and videos. In addition, you can create hard copies of those materials if you want to highlight, tab or add notes to help you better understand the subject matter.
Cons of self-study CPE
You’ll need to exhibit strong self-discipline to be successful at self-study. For some, that’s a major con of this type of CPE. Sticking to your schedule, creating your goals and being responsible for your motivation can be a massive challenge.
In addition, self-study doesn’t allow interaction with other students or with qualified instructor. You won’t be able to ask questions about the most recent changes to the tax code or discuss tricky topics with other webinar participants. Instead, you’ll have to rely on your own study and research skills to answer any questions you may have.
Is self-study CPE right for me?
The best self-study CPE for CPAs depends on their needs and preferences. If you have a busy schedule and can’t block off hours or entire workdays to attend scheduled webinars, self-study CPE might be the right choice for you. Those with professional, family or other daily obligations may benefit from the self-paced nature of this type of CPE. If you’re not in a hurry to meet your requirements, self-study is also a good option, as you’ll unlikely need to cram hours in at the last minute.
However, if you struggle with self-discipline, are looking to interact with other accounting professionals or need to get hours in quickly, live CPE webinars are probably the better option for you.
What are live CPE webinars?
Live CPE courses usually take the form of a scheduled webinar or webcast. Learners log in to participate in the course at the specified date and time. To make sure you’re paying attention and gaining an understanding of the material, these classes usually involve some degree of interaction, such as Q&A or class discussions.
Pros of live CPE webinars
Like self-study CPE, live CPE webinars come with their own set of benefits. For one, once you complete the course, you’re done. This option allows you to meet your hours requirements in one fell swoop, letting you relax until the next CPE season rolls around. Because these online sessions are often scheduled far in advance, you can address any potential scheduling conflicts ahead of time, freeing up your time to focus on the webinar content. Plus, you don’t have to worry about setting your study schedule — it’s already structured for you.
In addition, live CPE webinars allow you to meet and interact with other students and the instructor. The information being shared is also the most up-to-date since self-study courses take longer to create. You can ask questions about the latest tax regulations, get updates to the tax code and get answers right then and there.
Cons of live CPE webinars
One major con of live CPE webinars is the lack of flexibility. You won’t be able to learn the material at your own pace and on your schedule. You’ll also need to block off significant time (usually an entire day) to complete the course.
As with any live learning experience, the quality of the course depends on the instructor. Some are incredibly engaging and tailor their presentation to different learning styles, while others are less enthusiastic or concerned with holding the audience’s interest.
Are live CPE webinars right for me?
If you need to meet your hours requirements quickly, live CPE webinars will help you do it. Also, they’re a great learning option if you don’t feel you have the self-motivation required for self-study. Live CPE webinars also allow you to meet with other accounting professionals, so it’s definitely the better choice if that’s important to you.
Surgent offers CPE courses that meet your needs
Partnering with Surgent means gaining instant access to some of the most diverse accounting course offerings on the market. Surgent provides the best self-study CPE for CPAs and top-quality live CPE webinars. We currently offer:
- In-firm training: Let Surgent instructors come to you! We offer both in-person or remote options for your tax firm.
- Live webinars: This option combines the convenience of online with the interaction of a classroom experience.
- Self-study: If this option is more your speed, we deliver downloadable PDFs and on-demand webcasts that deliver the best self-study CPE for CPAs and beyond.
As a leader in continuing professional education for accounting and financial professionals, we offer more than 1,500 CPE webinars each year. We also have a full library of self-study courses and accounting exam prep programs for several core credentials and certifications.
Our courses are tailored to you
Whether you prefer self-study CPE, live CPE webinars or some combination of the two, the goal is to receive your required continuing education credits. So, be sure to take the time to carefully select the right option for you. Surgent offers a variety of webinars and self-study CPE courses designed to help you reach your certification goals. Browse our course offerings here today.