Earning CPE credits is a requirement for all CPAs in the United States and in commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia and the U.K. They are a great way to gain knowledge, learn new skills and stay up to date with the latest trends and regulations.
But the guidelines surrounding CPE credits and the process for earning them can be confusing, especially for CPAs who are new to the industry. And with CPAs in most countries required to complete around 40 hours of CPE (Continuing Professional Education) each year, it can be difficult to find time in your schedule.
Worry not. In this guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about earning and managing CPE credits.
We've also included some handy links to online destinations that offer free CPE credits.
Feel free to bookmark these resources so you don't have to Google "where can I get free CPE credits?" every December.
Earning CPE (continuing professional education) credits is a requirement for CPAs to maintain their designation in the United States and many other countries.
While the guidelines and credit or hour requirements vary from country to country and state to state, the goal of CPE remains the same: to ensure that CPAs are educating themselves on the latest best practices, business trends, regulatory requirements and skills needed for the profession.
CPE credits are typically earned through live or self-study instructional courses. Institutions that offer CPE credits must be registered as a sponsor with NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) in the United States. CPAs are responsible for reporting the CPE credits they have earned and ensuring that they have followed the specific guidelines set out by their state, province or country.
On a more serious note, CPE (continuing professional education) is the term used in the United States while CPD (continuing professional development) is the term used in Canada and other Commonwealth countries.
CPE is important because CPAs (certified public accountants) are professionals who are trusted to serve the best interests of their clients and organizations. They are expected to act with integrity and to keep their skills and industry knowledge up to date.
Accounting standards, regulatory requirements and best practices are frequently changing. And new trends in business emerge all the time. This is why earning CPE credits every year is mandatory for CPAs.
Earning CPE credits ensures that CPAs are able to act with the most recent and relevant information so they can consistently perform at a high level.
For CPAs in the United States, there are two main organizations you should be aware of when it comes to CPE governance and compliance: NASBA and AICPA.
NASBA stands for National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. NASBA is a non-profit organization that serves all 55 state-level boards of accountancy. NASBA has many goals and objectives, such as:
In almost every U.S. state, an entity must be registered as a CPE sponsor with NASBA in order to provide CPE credits. When looking for places to earn CPE credits, be sure that the organization has been officially sponsored by NASBA, otherwise, any credits you earn may not be approved when you report them.
AICPA stands for American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The AICPA was established in 1887yes you read that right, 1887! While membership is entirely optional, the AICPA boasts more than 400,000 members. So how does the AICPA help its members? Here are a few benefits of becoming a member:
So how can CPAs actually earn CPE credits? There are two types of instructional methods: live and self-study. In order to qualify as a CPE program, the organization issuing the CPE credits must be sponsored by NASBA.
There are several types of learning programs and formats available, here are some of the most common ones:
CPE requirements differ depending on whether one is a member of AICPA or not.
AICPA members must complete 120 hours of Continuing Professional Education every three years. To learn more about the specific subject and learning type requirements for your state, you can contact your state board.
For CPAs who are not members of AICPA, you can view the state-specific CPE requirements on the NASBA website.
It is the responsibility of each CPA to submit official documentation of completed CPE credits and hours. Falsifying the number of CPE credits you have earned or providing fake documentation may get you in serious trouble. Examples of official documentation include:
For example, Vena Academy (a free online learning platform), provides users with a certificate that includes everything CPAs need for submission:
One of the great things about earning CPE credits is that you can select several learning formats. There are online options as well as in-person ones. And you can study independently or in group sessions. Additionally, there are self-paced options where you can go at your own speed as well as opportunities to earn CPE credits live. The choice is yours. Pick a style that works best for you.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when evaluating your options for earning CPE credits:
Many paid CPE credit options can be expensive and with CPAs in most countries required to earn 40 CPE credits or hours, things can add up quickly.
These are two easy and free ways to earn CPE credits.
There are also many options for paid CPE credits. Some organizations that offer paid CPE credits may have more subjects and courses to choose from than free options so consider that when deciding between free CPE credits and paid CPE credits.
What are the differences between free CPE credits and paid CPE credits? Which option is best for you? Weve outlined the pros and cons of both options below:
As mentioned earlier, CPE credits can be earned both online and in person.
In-person events offer a great opportunity to expand your network and learn from your peers. Additionally, in-person events also tend to be a more interactive and engaging way to earn CPE credits than doing so online. On the negative side, youre likely to have to pay for any transportation and accommodation costs associated with the event.
Earning CPE credits online is a more convenient and cheaper option than attending in-person events. Many online options for earning CPE credits, such as courses, allow you to study at your own pace which is a nice benefit. And some organizations even offer virtual events that can provide some of the interactivity and network-growing opportunities you get at in-person events.
Waiting until the last minute to get all your CPE credits can be stressful, so make sure to manage your CPE credits throughout the year. Keep an eye on how many credits youve earned and for any upcoming opportunities (courses, events, webinars, etc.) to earn more credits.
To earn free CPE credits through courses and certifications that will help you fast-track your career, check out all the self-paced options on Vena Academy.
If you prefer free online and in-person events, head on over to the upcoming events section.
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