CPA CPE Hours: The Ultimate Way to Excel in Your CPA Profession
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Organizations, businesses, and individuals view CPAs as trusted financial advisors. And to best serve their clients, CPAs must remain aware of the all latest rules and regulations in the industry. And that’s where the importance of CPA CPE hours comes into the picture.
In simple words, if you, as a CPA, want to maintain the active status of your license and continue to deliver professional services at the highest level, you’ve to take completing CPE hours for CPA seriously.
As one of the leading CPE sponsors, we frequently receive different types of queries related to CPA CPE hours. Rather than answering each of them individually, we decided to come up with this ultimate guide.
Here, we’ll discuss every important thing related to CPA CPE hours, from required CPE hours for CPA and qualifying CPE programs to meet CPA CPE hours requirements to the pros and cons of different programs and whether or not you should try to complete free CPE hours for CPA.
So, let’s get started!
CPAs advise different types of clients on many different accountancy issues that may have a direct impact on their businesses. The accounting field is built on a massive knowledge base that’s continuously changing, expanding, and becoming more complex.
In order to keep pace with the ever-changing accounting field, CPAs must continue lifelong learning. And completing CPA CPE hours is the only method to ensure that you’re on the right track to that learning.
Additionally, your active status is the only thing through which your clients can understand that you’re a competent financial advisor. Failure to complete the required CPE hours for CPA may make you non-compliant with your CPE.
State boards of accountancy generally grant grace periods so that their CPAs can meet their CPE requirements. However, repeated failure to meet CPE requirements may lead to the deactivation of your CPA license.
And if your CPA license becomes inactive, it can cause some irreversible damage to your professional career. This is another reason completing CPE hours for CPA on time is extremely important.
Before we delve deeper, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the roles of different governing bodies in the context of CPA CPE hours. You already know that AICPA and NASBA are the two main governing bodies in the CPA profession. Let’s see how they contribute to the profession.
The AICPA (American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants) represents individual CPAs. The Uniform CPA Exam is created and graded by the AICPA. AICPA is also responsible for enforcing ethical standards and compliance within the accounting industry.
Here, it’s important to mention that you should try to become a member of the AICPA. Although holding this membership isn’t mandatory, it can certainly help expedite your professional growth. In fact, when screening CPAs, some large accounting firms give preference to those who have active AICPA membership.
NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) is the forum that represents state boards of accountancy. The key objective of NASBA is to improve the effectiveness of its members (the state boards) and advance their common interests.
NASBA also serves as a platform for state-level CPA societies to discuss vital issues related to the accounting field.
NASBA also maintains the National Registry of CPE Sponsors which many state boards use as a list of qualified sponsors of CPA CPE hours. In fact, this is the reason, when defining their CPE requirements, some state boards mention that their CPAs must take the courses from a NASBA-approved CPE sponsor.
Here’re the things you need to know about CPA CPE hours requirements.
· If you’re a member of the AICPA, it becomes mandatory for you to complete 120 CPA CPE hours every three years to keep your membership active.
· If you aren’t a member of the AICPA, you’re still required to earn 120 CPE hours for CPA every three hours. However, license renewal periods vary from one state board to another and they can be annual, biennial, or triennial. Therefore, depending on your state accountancy board, you may have to complete 40 CPE hours in one year, 80 CPE hours in two years, or 120 CPE hours in three years. Be sure to thoroughly check the NASBA website to obtain a clear understanding of your state board’s CPA CPE hours requirements.
· Completing 50 minutes of approved learning is equal to completing one CPE hour. If you take a program that doesn’t indicate the number of CPA CPE hours, you can calculate it by dividing the total number of minutes spent finishing the program by 50. You need to round down the figure to the closest whole hour.
It’s important to understand that all CPE programs aren’t created equal, meaning all of them may not help you complete CPA CPE hours. So, you must decide on your CPE programs and their sponsors ahead of time. Ideally, you should choose a sponsor that offers programs in different learning formats, has years of experience in the field, and has garnered a strong reputation.
Let’s see different qualifying programs that you can choose to meet your CPA CPE hours requirements.
· Self-study programs
Self-study programs refer to the programs that you can take to complete CPA CPE hours at your own pace. Depending on your sponsor, you can take these programs either online or offline (if they’re available in downloadable PDF versions).
The main advantage of self-study programs is that they’re usually cost-effective and can be taken anytime from anywhere. Since CPAs generally have a hectic schedule, choosing self-study programs help them complete their required CPE hours for CPA on time while fulfilling their professional commitments.
On the downside, self-study programs may not be the ideal option for those who learn better in a classroom setting. Also, you’ll get fewer opportunities to expand your professional network by taking this route.
It’s also important to note that some state boards have restrictions on the number of CPE hours for CPA that you can complete through self-study programs. So, if you want to meet your CPA CPE hours requirements only by taking these programs, check the CPE requirements of your state board first.
· Live webinars
Almost all popular CPE sponsors conduct live webinars to help CPAs complete CPA CPE hours. Here, the topics are presented by a live instructor via an online platform. Unlike self-study programs, where you must pass the final exam to complete CPE hours for CPA, webinars just need your active participation.
All you need to do is remain present for a specific duration (50 minutes in a 60-minute webinar) and answer a number of poll questions to complete CPA CPE hours. One major benefit of attending live webinars is that you can have your queries clarified immediately by the live instructor. And since you’re participating in a live session, you’ll automatically earn the credits just by proving your active participation.
One key disadvantage of live webinars is that sometimes, they’re presented during business hours, especially those that provide free CPE hours for CPA. In that case, you may have to choose between your professional commitments and completing your CPA CPE hours.
Another drawback of live webinars is that if you cannot attend them properly due to some technical issues at your end, neither you’ll receive any credit nor you’ll get any refund. So, both your time and money will be a complete waste.
· In-person programs
In-person CPE programs are ideal for those who want to learn in a classroom setting and expand their professional network at the same time in a cost-effective manner. The cost of in-person programs tends to be higher than self-study programs and live webinars.
Similar to live webinars, one key advantage of in-person programs is that you don’t need to plan your study schedule to complete your required CPE hours for CPA. You can complete them just by attending the programs.
On the downside, if you’re a fast learner, you may have to slow down the pace of your learning to keep pace with the class. On the contrary, you may not get sufficient time to internalize a complex topic if there’re many fast learners in the class.
You should also note that the majority of CPE sponsors organize in-person programs at prominent locations to attract more attendees. Therefore, if you don’t live in such a location and need to travel to and from another location to attend the class, it may not be the ideal option for you. It’ll eventually become difficult for you to maintain your schedule and shoot your CPE cost up to a good extent.
· Seminars and conferences
Some large accounting firms and sponsors organize seminars and conferences regularly to help CPAs complete CPA CPE hours. These are generally organized on weekends and presented by eminent speakers and industry leaders.
One major benefit of taking this route is that you can complete a large portion of your required CPE hours for CPA just by attending one seminar or conference. Additionally, you can meet CPAs working in many different industries, which may help you find new professional opportunities.
However, seminars and conferences are usually the most expensive method to complete CPE hours for CPA. Attending just one 2-day conference may need you to spend several hundred dollars. This is the reason seminars and conferences are often attended by CPAs whose organizations bear the cost of their CPE.
· College or university programs
You can complete CPA CPE hours by enrolling in a course that’ll help improve your competence as a CPA. If the program follows a quarter system, one credit will help you earn 10 CPE hours. And if it follows a semester system, one credit will let you earn 15 CPE hours.
However, if you’re working full-time, it may be difficult for you to maintain a balance between your professional life and student life. Moreover, some state boards have restrictions on the maximum number of CPE hours for CPA that can be completed through college/university programs.
· Completing CPE hours as a presenter, speaker, or author
It’s also possible to complete CPA CPE hours by being a presenter or speaker on relevant subjects in the accounting field, or by writing a book or article on relevant topics.
In many states, there are also limitations to this method. For instance, you may either complete up to a specific number of hours or if you give a 2-hour lecture, you may claim only one CPE hour.
As you can see, each of these methods has its own advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right one should entirely depend on your individual circumstances and preferences.
However, regardless of the method you choose to meet your CPA CPE hours requirements, be sure to research the sponsor properly. There are thousands of CPE sponsors that you can choose from to complete CPA CPE hours.
Joining the wrong sponsor not only may waste your time, effort, and money but may also jeopardize your CPE plan. Apart from experience and reputation, make sure that your chosen sponsor has the required accreditations, a solid pool of qualified authors and instructors, a large library of CPE programs, and offers programs at affordable costs.
To attract attendees, some CPE sponsors offer self-study programs and live webinars that offer free CPE hours for CPA. You should try to complete these hours as long as the programs help improve your professional competence.
Ideally, you should try to complete free CPA CPE hours from reputable sponsors. This is because if you’re satisfied with the quality of the free programs, you can comfortably opt for their paid courses without spending time searching for another sponsor.
We hope that this post has been successful in helping you understand all the important aspects of CPA CPE hours. If you’re confident enough to embark on your journey to start completing your CPE hours for CPA, you can start browsing our course library.
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