California CPA Requirements for Continuing Professional Education

  • Feb 3
California CPA Requirements for Continuing Professional Education

California CPE Requirements for CPAs

Many organizations which certify business professionals for licensure rely on continuing professional education methods to ensure their members stay up-to-date with industry trends and keep their skills sharp. However, it is common for continuing professional education requirements to vary with each state or territory, even within the same organization. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is a prime example, as each location is governed and regulated by a state Board of Accountancy, so it is important for members of the AICPA to stay aware of their local state requirements, lest the recertification process become more confusing and frustrating than need be.

Members of the AICPA who live in California are required to renew their license every two years and must complete 20 hours of continuing professional education per year, for a total of 80 hours each recertification period, and the table below highlights the primary recertification limitations and deadlines imposed by the Board.

License Renewal DateCPE Reporting PeriodTotal CPE HoursSelf-Study Credit Limitations
Last day of birth month (odd or even year corresponding to the odd or even year of birth)Biennial on the last day of birth month (odd or even year corresponding to the odd or even year of birth)80 hoursCourses must be passed with a score of 90 or higher

Subject Area Requirements

Though there are several subject area requirements for CPAs in California, one of the primary stipulations is that 40 hours (50% of the total hours required) must be in technical subjects each two-year recertification period, with yearly minimum of 12 CPE hours in subjects including: accounting, auditing, taxation, consulting, financial planning, Board-approved professional conduct and ethics courses, computer and information technology (except for word processing) and specialized industry or government practices related to public accounting skills. Furthermore, there is a requirement that every 4 hours of ethics be taken every recertification period, and every six years, a two-hour, Board-approved Regulatory Review course must be taken. Ethics courses must be at least one hour in length, or if part of a course covering multiple subjects, have an Ethics component that is at least one hour in length.

If the licensee engages in planning, directing, conducting substantial portions of field work or reporting on financial or compliance audits of a government agency or entity, 24 hours of government CPE are required per recertification period. If a licensee engages in the same tasks for a non-governmental entity, 24 hours of A&A are required per recertification period.

If a licensee only performs preparation engagements as their highest level of service, 8 hours of CPE specific to preparation engagements or accounting and auditing are required per recertification period.

For licensees who are subject to the A&A, Government or Preparation Engagement CPE requirement, an additional 4 hours of fraud CPE related to the detection and/or reporting of fraud in financial statements is required. The fraud CPE is part of the 80 hours of CPE required for license renewal but is not part of the 24-hour A&A or Government CPE requirement.

Credit Limitations and Calculation

It is possible for CPAs in California to earn up to 50% of their required continuing professional education credits through instruction methods or by giving formal presentations. Credit for repeat presentations is only allowed if the program material has substantially changed. Credit for this method is equal tot he actual presentation hours, plus up to two additional hours for actual preparation time for each hour taught.

For nontechnical subjects, including communication skills, word processing, sales, marketing, motivational techniques, negotiation skills, office management, practice management and personnel management, credits are limited to 50% of the maximum required amount. Learning or teaching the use of accounting software qualifies as general CPE in the technical subject area but not as credit for accounting and/or auditing. Furthermore, California does not accept CPE for the following subject areas: personal growth, self-realization, spirituality, personal health and/or fitness, sports and recreation, foreign language and cultures, etc.

Licensees who are active participants in college or university courses can claim up to 15 CPE hours per semester hour or 10 CPE hours per quarter hour of their accounting or auditing-related courses. Non-credit university courses are worth 1 CPE hour per classroom hour.

For self-study CPE credit, licensees are required to pass any courses with a 90% or higher score.

Other Policies and Exemptions

There are no continuing professional education requirements for any CPAs listed in the following categories, so long as no services are being used or offered in the interest of third parties:

  • Members who are retired
  • Members who are currently unemployed
  • Members who have temporarily left the workforce (even if they plan to return at some point in the future)
  • Members who have formally listed their status as “inactive”

It is also possible for members to request waivers for the following reasons if they feel they are an insurmountable barrier to obtaining continuing professional education in the given time frame:

  • Health complications
  • Active-duty military service
  • Extreme natural disasters (in accordance with California Board policies)
  • Other specified circumstances (subject to Board review and approval)

Additional CPE Resources for CPAs

Article written by Braden Norwood