Pursuing a continuing professional education (CPE)? There are tons of online courses for accountants and other finance professionals who are interested in getting the CPE credits they need to become certified public accountants (CPAs) or to maintain their CPA licenses in 2023.
However, not all courses are created equal. Some are arguably better (and more enjoyable) than others. Here’s everything you need to know about CPE programs, why and how often you need to take them, and which options are your best bets.
How Do You Become a CPA?
While all CPAs are accountants, not all accountants are CPAs. If you’re an accountant or a financial professional looking to become a CPA, you must first aquire a license. The licensing requirements for CPAs vary by state, district and county of practice, but all CPAs must:
- Complete an accounting program at a college or university
- Pass the Uniform CPA Exam
- Obtain a level of professional work experience (varies by licensing jurisdiction)
You can learn more about your requirements via the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), which regulates the practice of public accountancy. The NASBA serves as a forum for the 55 State Boards of Accountancy that administer the Uniform CPA Exam and CPA licenses upon passing the exam. In fact, the NASBA has licensd more than 650,000 CPAs in the country.
But once you become a CPA, you’ll still need to keep up your studies. That’s where CPE programs come into play.
What is a CPE program?
All CPAs (with few exceptions) are required to complete at least 120 hours of CPE for each three-year reporting period in order to maintain a license to practice, according to the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). (For every 50 minutes, you earn one CPE credit.) This has been the case since January 1, 2001.
The reporting period starts on January 1 of the new calendar year after joining the AICPA or after upgrading to a “Regular Member.”
Programs must be approved by the NASBA and your State Board of Accountancy, which means that they must meet specific requirements.
5 CPE Programs to Consider
Qualifying CPE programs can be in-house training courses, trade conferences or college and university classes. But although you have many options, not all options are the best.
So while you’ve been busy accounting, we’ve been busy digging up the CPE programs you should be seriously considering to snag the credits you need. Here are five top places to pursue your CPE.
Just keep in mind that, for each program, you should be able to document the sponsor title and description of the content, date(s), location and number of CPE hours.
NASBA itself boasts endless course material for you to consider. The course library clearly lists out the courses you can take with their descriptions, program levels and just how many CPE credits you’ll receive upon completion. You can even filter by factors like state, topic and credit amount.
The AICPA has also created hundreds of expert-led courses to get you the credits you need. Moreover, these credits are widely accepted. Since the AICPA sets many of the accounting standards that “the big four” (Price Water Cooper House, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG) use, getting credits through AICPA courses is a smart move. Plus, some of the courses are even free.
3. One of the “Big Four” Accounting Firms
Price Water Cooper House (PwC), Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY) and KPMG are considered the “big four” accounting firms with some of the world’s biggest corporations as their clients. All of these firms offer libraries of on-demand webinars and live seminars, which can count as CPE credits.
4. Corporate Finance Institution
The Corporate Finance Institution (CFI) offers a whole host of classes for CPAs, and certifications from the CFI are recognized around the world, including from the NASBA. The institute provides five courses.
5. Accounting Conferences
All CPAs must receive and maintain their CPE credits. But you don’t need to be a CPA to attend an accounting conference. There are tons of industry events you should consider attending, whether you’re an accountant, a certified one or another type of financial professional.
For example, the Treasury Symposium at the Marriott in Santa Clara on May 12th is a great event hosted by the San Francisco Treasury Management Association (SFTMA), which is an affiliate of the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP).
Then there is always the AFP Conference, one of the largest conferences for finance and accounting professionals, which will take place from October 22nd to October 25th at the San Diego Convention Center. The event will be a weekend of educational sessions, networking opportunities, speakers and solution providers.
The Bottom Line
Pursuing CPE credits is key in accounting and finance. But while aspiring and good CPAs acquire and maintain their credits, great ones go a step further by staying in the know. You can always read up on resources for accounting and all-things finance—from cash-flow management to cash forecasting—on Trovata’s blog to supplement your studies.