Understanding and Earning CPE Credit

  • May 5
Understanding and Earning CPE Credit

In the modern world, many people view a quality education as one of the highest pursuits. For example, in the United States, most children must attend school for at least nine years, apart from special circumstances. And afterward, there’s a certain expectation that some will go on to earn a higher degree. But these educational requirements stem from a much more intrinsic, human drive to learn. We are born curious, and we die the same. Because ultimately, those who fail to learn fail to grow. So, it’s no wonder continuing professional education is such a large part of a successful career. In fact, many individuals in different industries have to earn CPE credit in order to maintain licenses and positions. So, from cyber security to occupational safety and even accounting, professionals of all stripes need to understand CPE credit.

However, this is easier said than done. Because while earning CPE credit is such a large part of a professional career, there are many different variations and rules to follow. IT workers have drastically different recertification requirements than OSHA certified associates. And CPAs even have different requirements by state, despite all being part of the same organization. So, it’s simple to recognize some professionals have to earn CPE credit. But actually understanding and doing so is slightly more complex.

What Is CPE?

Stated plainly, CPE stands for continuing professional education, which closely aligns with the idea of lifelong learning. In accounting, as with any other industry, regulations, ideas, and norms shift over time. Often, these alterations might take years or even decades, though occasionally they might happen faster. And because these professions aren’t static, it’s vital for those working within them to keep up with advancements. Take medicine, for example. If doctors don’t recognize to the most recent findings, they cannot offer informed advice. So, in some cases, learning saves lives.

Conceptually, CPE represents different activities that either enhance or reinforce an individual’s professional capabilities. And while the specific types of activities can be discussed in more depth later on, they easily include:

  • Online Courses
  • Conferences
  • Seminars
  • In-Person Classes
  • Other Skill-Enhancing Activities

How are CE and CPE Credit Different?

While there’s quite a bit of overlap between CE and CPE, they are distinct concepts. Continuing education (CE) is an overarching term denoting the concept of continuous learning. However, CPE is a specific type of continuing education credit, as determined by a certifying organization. For example, members of the AICPA have to earn CPE credit, as do OSHA certified associates. However, HR professionals certified with SHRM earn professional development credits (PDCs). Furthermore, members of HRCI earn CEUs (continuing education units). So, CPE is one of the many types of credit required by organizations for the larger activity of CE.

Planning Ahead for CPE Credit

When it comes to actually earning CPE credit, planning ahead is vital to staying on task and avoiding disruption. Because license renewal often hinges upon individuals obtaining a specific amount of credit, their professional standing relies on timely completion. Otherwise, there’s the potential of incurring penalty charges or even losing their license.

Fortunately, the license recertification process for those earning CPE credit often constitutes a longer period of time. For example, AICPA members typically have three years to earn 120 CPE credits. However, some states break this down further, requiring 40 per year or 80 biannually. Ultimately, the specific requirements depend on organization and location. Understanding the specific stipulations is the first step toward planning ahead.

Once CPAs or other professionals know their requirements, they can fill in the blanks of how, when, and where. Of course, as part of planning, individuals should take into account certain factors like cost and time. Because these are typically the largest expenses when it comes to earning CPE credit. Understandably, the process of planning ahead can become somewhat overwhelming, because many different aspects have to be accounted for. However, when professionals have a plan in place and work ahead, they can preempt other issues that might come up along the way.

CPE Credit Options

While there are surely a multitude of CPE credit options for professionals in various fields, CPAs truly have many opportunities. And these activities are also variable within themselves. For example, online courses represent one possible option for obtaining CPE. However, individuals can generally choose between taking live, online courses or self-study options. So, even in settling on one type of activity, there are different methods available.

Alternatively, members of the AICPA can obtain credit through online webinars, where they must participate and submit questions. Furthermore, individuals can write and publish educational material for credit. Although, this method typically has to pass a board-approval process to count. College or university courses are another great way for licensees to earn credit, as are formal instruction opportunities.

Ultimately, the point is that there are several different ways CPAs in particular can go about collecting CPE credit. So, if one particular method doesn’t work well for someone, they can always find another. Of course, when it comes to ease of accessibility, online options are always helpful. However, for networking purposes, individuals might find in-person events more satisfactory. It all comes down to finding a good provider who meets personal preference and need.

Free and Paid Opportunities

When it comes to the cost of CPE credit, there’s good and bad news. It’s definitely possible to find cheap or even free CPE credit opportunities. In fact, VTR learning offers at least one free online course option at all times. However, the downside is that it’s difficult if not impossible to fully complete CPE requirements without paying something.

Because of the large amount of credit CPAs have to obtain, they’ll likely have to utilize several providers or resources. Since this can get expensive, it’s a prime point where prior planning comes into play. Because if professionals know in advance where they can find free or cheap options, they won’t necessarily be blindsided by high cost. Instead, they can allot funds toward different activities across the time period for recertification. So, while it might not be easy to recertify without a cost, there are ways to mitigate the expenses.

Completing the Requirements

From start to finish, the CPA license renewal process can seem like a daunting journey. There are requirements to meet, payments to make, forms to submit, and more. And even though continued learning is an important part of the renewal period, it doesn’t account for everything. So, for any professional accountant who might be confused about the process, it could be helpful to refer to a guide. Here, they can better understand which requirements they’ve met, what else they need to do, and by when. Then, once they’ve completed everything, they can turn in their recertification forms at their correct portal. Typically, the state of licensure or residency determines this.

Once that’s finished, they can breath a sigh of relief, knowing they’ve successfully completed the relicensing process.

Earning CPE Credit with VTR Learning

Call for readers to earn CPE credit through VTR Learning's online courses

If you’re a CPA looking to earn CPE credit for license recertification, VTR Learning offers a unique option. The majority of our courses are story-based, meaning they cast the learner as an intern at a fictional company. And through this, professionals can learn how the concepts might play out in a real setting.

However, since this kind of learning style isn’t for everyone, we also offer eBooks, presentation-lecture style courses, and more. So, be sure to check out our full shop of CPE credit courses to find one that suits your needs.

Article written by Braden Norwood

Last updated March 16, 2023