A Comprehensive Guide to CPA CPE Requirements

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CPE requirements for CPAs

Once you’ve earned your CPA license, it becomes mandatory for you to pursue CPE (Continuing Professional Education) to keep it in active status. Moreover, by meeting the CPA CPE requirements of your state accountancy board, you get to maintain your skill sets and competency.

However, meeting CPE requirements by the stipulated deadline sometimes become a hassle for many accountants. Therefore, it’s important to know the exact requirements so that you can plan efficiently.

To help you out, we’ve prepared this comprehensive guide. This will outline all the essential aspects of CPE requirements for CPAs.



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Understanding CPA Requirements for CPE

CPE requirements for CPAs vary depending on the state you’re registered in. You’re required to meet these requirements according to the reporting period of your state accountancy board.  Here’re two essential things you need to keep in mind.

  • You’re required to earn at least 40 CPE credits each year
  • Reporting period can be annual, biennial, or triennial

The maximum number of CPE credits you’ll need to earn in a reporting cycle is 120 credits. However, states that have this requirement give you a three-year reporting period to earn the credits. So, by planning efficiently, you can comfortably earn 40 credits each year.

Whether you plan to meet the CPA CPE requirements online or in-person, just be sure to understand the exact requirements of your state accountancy board.

Comprehending CPA CPE Requirements for AICPA Members

While it’s not mandatory, holding an AICPA membership typically helps to strengthen your position in the industry. Many large companies also prefer to hire CPAs with this membership. Additionally, you can enjoy many member benefits of the AICPA.

To maintain a regular AICPA membership, you’re required to earn 120 CPE credits every three years. You’ll also get a grace period of two months after that period to complete the CPE requirements.

Qualifying Programs to Meet CPE Requirements for CPAs

You can choose from several qualifying programs to meet your requirements. The most popular ones include online courses, in-house training programs, college and university classes, seminars, and conferences.

It’s important to choose a reputable sponsor to meet your CPA CPE requirements. Ideally, you should take the courses from one of the CPE sponsors approved by the NASBA. We’ll share a checklist in one of the next blocks to help you do this efficiently.

Calculating CPE Credits Earned To Meet CPE Requirements

If you take the approved programs, you’ll earn 1 CPE credit for each 50-minute session. Also, there’re programs that don’t mention the number of credits or the number of hours. In that case, you’ll need to divide the number of minutes you took to complete the program by 50. Then you’ll round down the figure to its closest whole hour to get the number of credits.

If you attend college or university classes, here’s how you’ll calculate your credits:

  • If you’re enrolled in a quarter system, your total earned CPE hours will be the number of quarter hours multiplied by 10
  • If you’re enrolled in a semester system, your total earned CPE hours will be the number of semester hours multiplied by 15

Keeping the Major Aspects of CPA CPE Requirements in Mind

As we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s simply a must to thoroughly understand your CPA CPE requirements. This is because different states have established different rules and restrictions to pursue CPE. Depending on your state, you may find something similar to the following ones.

  • There’s a minimum number of CPE credits that you must earn by taking courses in the technical fields of study
  • There’s a maximum number of CPE credits that you’re allowed to earn in non-technical fields of study
  • There’s a fixed number of CPE credits that you must earn in ethics courses
  • You may only take ethics courses that are approved by your state board of accountancy
  • There may be some limitations on what percentage of your required credits you can earn by choosing some specific modes to meet your CPA CPE requirements

In addition to these, there may be some requirements that you must meet by taking accounting and auditing courses. You cannot fulfill them by taking courses in other technical fields of study.

Keeping the Cost of Meeting CPE Requirements within Your Budget

When it comes to the modes of meeting CPA CPE requirements, you’ll see three popular options available out there. These include fulfilling CPA CPE requirements online, taking in-person programs, and attending seminars and conferences.

Here’re the brief overviews of each of these options.

  • Taking the online route

These days, many CPAs are focusing on meeting their CPA CPE requirements online. There’re two key reasons behind this.

First, you can take these self-study courses as per your availability and from anywhere. You don’t need to travel to another place to earn CPE credits. You only need a stable Internet connection to download the study materials. Once you’ve them downloaded, you can study according to your convenience.

Second, self-study CPE programs are the most cost-efficient option among these three. You can keep the cost of fulfilling your CPA CPE requirements even lower by choosing subscription packages and bundled courses.

Some CPE sponsors also offer free CPE courses. These give you an excellent opportunity to test the quality of the sponsor and earn a couple of credits at the same time.

Just keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to fulfill your entire CPE requirements using these courses. This is because it’s very difficult to find free ethics courses. Also, you may not be able to find free courses on the latest rules and regulations and important updates.

You can also find free webinars offered by some sponsors. However, sometimes they may have average instructors or technical issues – either of which can interrupt your learning. Moreover, if you can’t attend a webinar for at least the first 50 minutes, you won’t receive any credit. Also, free webinars are usually offered during business hours. Therefore, you may need to decide between delivering your professional responsibilities and earning CPE credits.

  • Choosing in-person programs

When it comes to taking in-person courses, these are not only more expensive than self-study programs, but you’ll also necessarily need to travel to another place. If the programs are being taught in another city, attending them at fixed schedules may not be possible for most busy CPAs.

One key advantage of attending these programs is that you’ll be able to meet other accountants who’re working in different roles. Therefore, you can expand your professional network by having discussions and interacting with them. And having a good professional network offers several advantages.

  • Attending seminars or conferences

These tend to be the most expensive option among the three. Choosing this option to fulfill CPA requirements for CPE may need you to pay thousands of dollars in a single renewal cycle. However, some organizations may pay the cost of the CPE of their employees. But if you don’t have that opportunity, you should think twice before finalizing this option.

Seminars and conferences offer bigger networking opportunities than in-person programs. So, if your objective is to earn CPE credits while expanding your professional network, this’ll be an ideal option.

In most states, you’re required to earn a minimum of 40 CPE credits per year. It means the total cost of fulfilling your CPA CPE requirements will quickly add up. But by meeting your CPA CPE requirements online, not only can you maintain your budget but also enjoy utmost flexibility and convenience.

Choosing the Right CPE Sponsor to Meet CPA CPE Requirements

You’re certainly aware of the fact that not all CPE sponsors are the same. Even minor differences may lead to a waste of your time, effort, and money. Here’s a checklist that’ll help you in choosing the right provider.

  • Proper accreditation

Make sure to only take courses from a properly accredited CPE sponsor when fulfilling your CPE requirements. Thousands of CPE sponsors are available in the market. Therefore, do your research diligently.

  • Course instructors

It’s a must to inquire about the instructors or developers of the programs. Ideally, these persons should be active CPAs with experience in teaching or developing CPE courses.

  • Reputation of the sponsor

It’s always better to take the courses from a reputable CPE sponsor. Even if you need to pay slightly higher than what a new sponsor may charge, you’ll have the assurance of getting quality learning materials. Just take a look at the customer review section of your shortlisted providers, and you’ll get a clear idea of their reputation.

Choosing the Right Courses When Fulfilling CPE requirements

As you already know, you can choose from courses on many different topics. Once you’re on the right track to meet your CPA CPE requirements, you should consider pursuing courses on other important topics.

Here’s how you can choose the courses.

  • Up-to-date topics

You should try to take courses that cover the latest topics in the accounting field. Not only will it help you to stay updated but also let you be one step ahead of your fellow CPAs who don’t do this.

If you aren’t sure how to choose the topics, you can follow the latest discussions and talks by industry leaders. You can also talk to a mentor who you think may be able to offer suggestions.

  • Reasonable  pricing

Up-to-date course materials are important, but affordability also plays a role when it comes to fulfilling CPE requirements for CPAs. Pursuing CPE isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t make any sense to unnecessarily pay higher when you may take the same course at a much lower price. That’s why it’s important to do thorough research before making any final decision.

  • Money-back policy

No matter which courses you finally take, it’s always better if they come with a money-back guarantee. Even if somehow you want to return the materials, you’ll get your money back.

When it comes to the duration of the refund policy, more is always better. For instance, at CPEthink.com, we offer a 100-day, 100% money-back guarantee. If you want to cancel your course within 100 days from the date of purchase, we’ll refund your money.

Keeping Proof of Meeting CPE Requirements

It’s the sole responsibility of CPAs to retain all the documents and evidence of fulfilling CPA CPE requirements. You may have to prove your CPE to the governing bodies or other organizations. According to the AICPA, you should keep records for a minimum of five years after completing the programs.

In the event of an audit, you may be required to submit these documents.

  • Certificates of completion issued by your CPE provider
  • For self-study courses, documents that prove that you’ve successfully passed the assessments
  • For college or university courses, a transcript or record of the grade issued by the institution

Also, you’re responsible for proper reporting of your CPE. All CPE program providers recommend a certain number of CPE credits against their courses. You must not claim more credits than those.

As a CPA, you’re surely entitled to participate in different types of sponsored programs, but you should only claim CPE credits for activities that actually add value to your professional expertise. You also need to keep in mind that if you attend just a particular part of a program, which makes you eligible for credits, you can only earn credits for that particular part and not for the entire program.

In Conclusion

When it comes to fulfilling your CPA CPE requirements, the choice should be completely yours in terms of choosing the option between taking online and in-person programs. In some states, you can earn all your required credits by taking self-study courses, whereas in others, you can earn only a certain number of credits.

So, ensure that you understand your CPE requirements clearly. Once this is done, you can start exploring the options mentioned above. With different types of options available these days, you shouldn’t have any problem finding the combination that works the best for you.



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