When you’re a CPA, there’s no getting around continuing education. Not only is it a requirement, but it’s just about the best way to keep yourself informed about what’s happening in the industry and how to best serve your clients. If you want to maintain your designation and continue to perform at the highest level, you need to take CPEs seriously.
CPE, which stands for Continuing Professional Education, is a requirement for all CPAs in order to maintain an active license and remain in good standing with the board. Standards differ from one state to the next, but all 50 states require a certain number of CPE credit-hours.
In California, for example, all licensees who aim to renew their license in an active status will have to complete at least 40 hours of CPE in each of the two years prior to renewing. Further requirements specify which subject areas the hours must cover.
Although the number of credits you need will be unique to the state in which you practice, a credit is basically one hour of professional training. Thus, if you attend a six-hour class on a Saturday, it’ll most likely be worth six credits. (You should always verify this, but it’s a general rule of thumb.)
Fortunately, a variety of CPE learning mediums, subjects, and programs are available to support you. If a formal classroom doesn’t suit your taste, you might try a self-paced online program that can be taken in your office or at home. If printed materials don’t cut it, try video training or a webinar. (You can find a broad variety of options and combinations.)
Though CPEs are a requirement, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the how, when, and what of the CPEs you choose to take.
Here are 5 simple tips that may help you make the best use of your credits.
5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your CPE Credits
Start the process by researching available credit options and filtering them through your goals and requirements.
Start with requirements. If you’re required to get a certain number of credits in a particular subject matter or area of expertise, begin with these. Then you may turn to your personal objectives and interests.
Do you want to pivot into another field? Take a look at CPEs that could prepare you for that shift. Are you interested in addressing a particular area of weakness? Find a CPE credit which focuses on that issue.
It’s easy to regard CPEs as something you have to do, but it’s worthwhile to remind yourself that they’re helpful and constructive. You do have to take them, so you might as well leverage them for your personal good and professional gain.
Always research the CPE provider ahead of time. Two different vendors may teach the same course but produce very different learning outcomes. You want a company that’s an authorized CPE provider, experienced, and known to have a good reputation.
Speaking of authorization, never take a company’s word for it. Check with the state board to make sure the company meets the board’s CPE provider requirements. You want to receive credit for all of the CPEs you have earned. In 99 percent of situations, there shouldn’t be an issue. But it’s always wise to double-check.
How do you learn best? Are you a visual learner, or do you prefer to read? Do you like sitting in a physical classroom, or are you more comfortable taking an online course? Do you need structure, or are you disciplined enough to work at your own pace?
A number of learning mediums and course structures exist to meet different needs and styles. Make sure you pick the right kind of course for yours. Examples include:
You’ll also find hybrid programs in which parts are taught live and others are conducted online at the individual student’s pace. You want to find the program that fits your needs the best.
If you push off CPE until the last minute so it’s at the bottom of your priorities, you’re only hurting yourself. They may not be the most exciting thing you’ll do all year, but CPEs are crucial and should be given due attention.
Be intentional with your CPEs and delegate time in your schedule for the specific purpose of completing the required coursework well. When you’re purposeful about making space on your calendar for your education, you’ll learn more (and probably do it in less time).
Few errors are more detrimental to CPE than procrastination. You can’t earn all your credits in one day, and you risk losing your CPA status if you neglect to collect sufficient credits until the final day of eligibility.
Sure, it’s technically possible to lock yourself in a basement for a week and complete your credits, but why put such unnecessary pressure on yourself? When you stretch the learning over a period of six to 12 months, you will complete the credits at a reasonable pace and never feel rushed.
Not all CPEs are created equal. CPAs should be thoughtful about which credits they pursue and the programs they leverage to obtain them.
Quite a few online CPE organizations have surfaced over the past decade, but few offer the depth or experience of the Wiley brand. We’ve been delivering high-quality content for more than 200 years and would love the opportunity to help you stay informed and on the cutting edge of your craft.