Your CPA license attests to many hours of study and years of experience devoted to honing your accounting skills.
However, the CPA is only the beginning. To maintain that hard-won license, you must pursue and document continuing professional education, or CPE, under the requirements of AICPA and State Boards of Accountancy.
The process is both straightforward and complex. Choosing the right CPE provider, such as Surgent CPE, assures quality and simplifies the process so you can concentrate on professional learning that leads to dynamic career opportunities. Ready to begin? Read on for the top 5 benefits of quality CPE and how to develop a powerful CPE strategy.
5 benefits of quality CPE
Top talent is never satisfied with learning the basics. Those who are devoted to professional growth and career advancement view CPE as a tool for achieving their goals.
Consider these top five reasons for taking a strategic approach to CPE:
- Compliance: CPE maintains that hard-won CPA license and lets you practice in the field where you can shine.
- Trendspotting: Accounting is in constant flux, buffeted by changing tax codes, the whiplash of economic circumstances, and technological advances. Quality CPE courses connect you with current and coming trends, for counsel to clients that’s relevant and timely.
- Specialize: The rigorous CPA exam makes you a generalist qualified to address many situations, but in an age of increasing specialization, CPE taps into higher-level knowledge that opens doors to niche fields.
- Career growth: Dedication to professional learning showcases your readiness to serve employers and clients to the best of your abilities. Knowledge makes you more employable and indispensable, giving you an edge in a competitive job market.
- Cross geographic boundaries: CPE requirements can differ among U.S. states and territories. Customizing your CPE plan to address the range of requirements in targeted areas makes you more versatile across geographic boundaries.
Governance and compliance
Before you start crafting your plan of attack, it helps to know the bodies that make the rules.
AICPA: The Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA, formerly known as the American Institute of CPAs) represents the accounting industry and individual CPAs, whose membership is optional. AICPA creates and grades the Uniform CPA Exam administered to candidates seeking their CPA licenses. The association also establishes CPE requirements, monitors CPE participation, and enforces compliance and ethics standards in the accounting industry.
NASBA: The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) serves the State Boards of Accountancy established in all 50 states, four territories, and the District of Columbia. NASBA monitors the accounting profession, tracks CPE requirements by state, and gives key stakeholders an avenue to address emerging trends.
CPE requirements for CPAs
How many CPE credits do you need to maintain your CPA license? AICPA requires that CPAs earn 120 credit hours from qualifying programs every three-year fixed period to maintain licensure. No specific subject areas are required.
However, that’s not the end of the story. Each State Board of Accountancy – those bodies represented within NASBA — can set additional, state-specific requirements or stipulations. Perhaps your state requires 80 hours of CPE every two years, spread out to ensure a minimum of 20 hours in any one year.
For state-specific CPE purposes, NASBA’s searchable, clickable CPE requirements page links to summaries of requirements in each jurisdiction.
Qualifying CPE programs
Fortunately, today’s learning environment offers CPE in a variety of formats and course structures designed to suit your needs and preferred learning style. Format examples include:
- Webinars: Interactive webinars can connect learners with top experts in the field, without geographic barriers.
- Classroom-based teaching: Face-to-face learning invigorates learning through questions, discussions, and engagement.
- Self-study courses: Self-study courses offer the convenience of studying according to your timeline and availability. According to AICPA, self-study credits are based on a 50-minute hour.
- Conferences: Many conferences host workshops that offer CPE hours, helping you make the most of your attendance.
Under AICPA and State Boards of Accountancy rules, only credits earned through qualifying programs count toward CPE. If you don’t do your homework, you could spend time studying with a source that isn’t considered qualified.
Look for authorized CPE providers with experience and a reputation for integrity, credibility, and a commitment to high-quality learning.
Documenting CPE credit hours
This is where your attention to detail pays dividends because CPAs are responsible for tracking and documenting their completion of CPE credits.
Before you begin, familiarize yourself with acceptable documentation and evidence of CPE completion. According to NASBA, they include:
- For group and independent study programs, a certificate or other verification supplied by the CPE program sponsor.
- For self-study courses, a certificate of completion supplied by the CPE program sponsor after satisfactorily completing an examination.
- For a university or college course that is successfully completed for credit, a record or transcript of the grade you received.
- For university or college non-credit courses, a certificate of attendance issued by a representative of the university or college.
- For published articles, books, or CPE programs, you need: (1) A copy of the publication (or in the case of a CPE program, course development documentation) that names the writer as author or contributor; (2) a statement from the writer supporting the number of CPE hours claimed; and (3) name and contact information of the independent reviewer or publisher.
NASBA recommends that CPAs retain their records for at least five years.
Reporting CPE credits
CPAs are also responsible for accurately reporting their credits. They can only claim credits for learning that improves professional competence – no credits allowed for that tie-dying class — and they can only report credit for the portions of a course they attended or completed.
It’s also the CPA’s responsibility to confirm that the learning activity is recommended by CPE program sponsors and adheres to the state board’s regulations.
Types of CPE credit hours
While NASBA is the forum for the diverse State Boards of Accountancy across the U.S., it also works to create uniformity in CPE credits for CPAs. NASBA’s CPE Committee evaluates learning activities for their relevancy and divides the different fields of study into two categories that improve a CPA’s competency. The categories are classified as “technical” and “non-technical.”
Technical learning activities include those covering:
- Information Technology
- Accounting (Governmental)
- Management Services
- Regulatory Ethics
- Auditing (Governmental)
- Specialized Knowledge
- Business Law
Non-technical learning activities include those covering:
- Behavioral Ethics
- Personal Development
- Business Management and Organization
- Personnel/Human Resources
- Communications and Marketing
- Computer Software and Applications
Surgent is your trusted source for CPE credits
Not all CPE programs are created equal. The best offer high-quality, relevant, up-to-date learning. They are accessible and easy to administer, freeing a firm’s HR team from time-consuming, swivel-chair tasks.
Surgent is a CPE leader for accounting and financial professionals. Partnering with Surgent helps you and your firm attract, retain, and upskill the teams that drive organizational success. Consider the Surgent CPE difference:
- More content: First-to-market with content on new tax laws and legislation. Surgent offers more than 1,500 CPE webcasts and adds at least 15 webinars to its online course catalog every month.
- Timely content: The Surgent team of industry experts provides real-time releases of content when your staff needs it most.
- Accessible formats: Surgent options include webinars, a full library of self-study courses, and tailored in-firm seminars and training, for convenient training for individuals and groups.
- All-in-one courses: Surgent’s all-in-one course offerings create extra value by empowering your associates to apply their learning in immediate and practical ways.
- Leading faculty: Surgent’s experts have won more than 500 CPE Speaker of the Year awards.
- Flexible bundles: Buy in bulk with three options for firms of all sizes.
- Firm CPE Portal: The Surgent CPE portal eases administrative tracking burdens through instant access to detailed performance reports about employees’ progress and usage of your flex access hours.
Larger firms with 10 or more CPAs can also leverage the Surgent flex access program. This cost-effective, convenient option 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 full catalog with Surgent’s Firm CPE Portal
- Letting administrators track usage, monitor compliance, and add more hours as needed.
Surgent offers CPE learning that matters
Are you getting value from your CPE, or are you just racking up hours? In a climate where AICPA requirements overlap a patchwork of state requirements, it’s vital that CPAs and their firms maintain compliance while also seizing the power of CPE to drive competitiveness and differentiation.
Surgent is the first to market with CPE content that’s relevant to individual CPAs and to firms seeking to position themselves as providers of cutting-edge solutions in finance and accounting. Visit the Surgent CPE course catalog to explore the wealth of knowledge available in a variety of formats. Register for upcoming courses and take your knowledge to new heights.