If you’re a newly-minted member of the AICPA, congratulations. Because passing the licensing exam is no easy feat. However, it’s only the beginning of a much longer journey. In fact, license upkeep is something you’ll have to work toward every year for the rest of your professional career. And without a doubt, the most time consuming aspect of that is CPE. But if you’re new to the world of public accounting, you might be wondering, “What is CPE, exactly?” The most basic answer is that CPE stands for continuing professional education. But there’s much more to the subject. So, if you’re looking to get a handle on this important requirement of AICPA/NASBA licensure, keep reading.
What is CPE?
Ultimately, CPE is a type of learning activity meant to reinforce or enhance a CPA’s skills and abilities. But it’s also the abbreviated term for the type of credit AICPA members have to earn in order to renew their licenses. And, of course, this distinction is an important one. Because there are many other professional certifying organizations out there, each with their own requirements and credit types. For example, SHRM requires its members to earn PDCs and HRCI licensees must obtain PDCs. That’s because there are different kinds of courses and activities available for members of these organizations. And continuing professional education isn’t necessarily the same from one industry or organization to the next. In other words, CPAs need to complete activities which enhance their accounting skills. And AICPA CPE learning activities are designed to meet this need.
So, essentially, CPE can refer to:
- The overarching idea, “continuing professional education”
- A specific learning activity designed for business professionals, including CPAs
- The specific type of credit AICPA members must earn to recertify
Ultimately, the differences between these three meanings might seem trivial. But it’s important for CPAs to ensure that the activities they complete are specified for NASBA CPE. Because there are other organizations out there, like ISACA, which also require members to obtain CPE credits. Admittedly, this all might seem a bit daunting, or even confusing. So, CPAs have to be careful to understand what’s required when earning CPE credit. Fortunately, in practice, discerning which learning activities are appropriate for AICPA members is much simpler. And typically, activity providers will make sure to specify which type of CPE they’re offering.
Why Is It Necessary for License Renewal?
Very few industries are completely static – they regularly shift and change as new best practices are developed. And the accounting world is far from being an exception to that rule. Consistently, Boards of Accountancy and other corporate entities institute different laws and regulations. And if CPAs fail to recognize these important updates, they lose the ability to provide quality services. Whether they’re an independent party or a high-level corporate executive. So, CPE helps combat this by regularly ensuring CPAs interact with important ideas and concepts. And to that extent, CPE is necessary for at least two reasons.
- CPE helps CPAs hone their existing skills and knowledge
- It also contributes to their professional growth through encounters with new and updated accounting practices
What are Standard CPE Requirements?
Generally speaking, the basic CPE requirements for AICPA members have been the same since January 1, 2001. Essentially, licensees must complete 120 credit hours every three years. However, the way these rules actually apply varies from one place to another. Because, in each state, a different Board of Accountancy has the final say on CPE requirements. This means there are different licensing periods, additional rules, and even limitations on the types of CPE activities. So, while the overall requirement for AICPA members is the same, it’s quite different in practice.
Because of the wide array of rules, CPAs should always pay attention to their state requirements. Otherwise, they risk failing to meet their location’s stipulations, which can result in steep financial penalties.
How to Earn CPE Credit
In almost all states and territories, CPAs can choose from a wide variety of learning activities. For example, they can take online, self-study courses – what VTR Learning offers. Alternatively, they might choose to attend a webinar or in-person conference. In some instances, teaching at a university or college is a Board-approved method. And even writing and publishing educational material related to the accounting profession counts as a CPE activity. So, if one method doesn’t work well, there are always other options to explore. One of the best places to start is NASBA’s Registry of CPE Sponsors. Because it lists all of the pre-approved learning activity providers, their websites, methods, and other important information. So, if you’re stuck on where to begin, it’s a great resource.
Earn Credit with VTR Learning
So, now you have a better idea of what CPE is. But if you still want more information, you’re in luck. Because we’ve created The CPA License Renewal Ultimate Guide. It dives deep into a whole litany of topics like career paths and benefits, the renewal process, free CPA CPE options, and more. We even have five quick tips for earning CPE. And if you’re ready to start learning, we have you covered there as well. VTR Learning offers a host of narrative and video course options to help meet the needs of every CPA. So, be sure to check out our full catalog.