What is CPE in accounting?

professionals sit in a conference room

You’ve passed your exam, completed your experience requirement and earned the prestigious three letters after your name. Now what? Once you’re officially a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA), the hard work is far from over. You will still need to complete a specified number of continuing professional education (CPE) credits in order to remain a licensed CPA or certified CMA. 

CPE is a requirement for CPAs and CMAs but should be considered by all tax preparers and accounting professionals. The truth is, to be more valuable to your firm or organization, you need to continue to stay up to date with accounting industry rules, trends and policies, as well as skills key to professional development. 

Accountants can keep up with relevant industry changes and important career development information with CPE, meaning these opportunities are essential for all accountants - not just licensed CPAs and CMAs. Additionally, professionals who have earned CPE in specialized topics, like tax or information technology, could use the courses or certifications as career development opportunities. You have new knowledge that could help you further contribute to your organization's growth.

Let's look a bit deeper at the importance of CPE and share how you can easily earn them to maintain your credential.

What is CPE?

What is CPE exactly? CPE stands for Continuing Professional Education. Continuing professional education, or continuing professional development, is how professionals maintain and develop the qualities required in their working lives. Different types of professionals require CPE - professionals like engineers, pilots, lawyers, therapists and teachers all have continuing education requirements to remain licensed. This ensures that they do not stop learning once they have earned their professional certification or licensure. Continuing professional education maintains the skills required to do their jobs properly.

What is CPE in accounting?

What does CPE stand for in accounting? CPE in accounting ensures that CPAs, CMAs and other similar professionals maintain their professionalism, competency and expertise. CPE opportunities educate accountants on skills and knowledge that are necessary to effectively complete their jobs. The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) both publish CPE requirements for CPAs and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) publishes CPE requirements for CMAs. Accounting professionals earn a designated number of CPE credits for each course, webcast or certificate that they attend. The number of credits required per year is determined at a state level.

What is CPE for CPAs?

You're probably asking, "What is CPE credit and why do I need to earn it? I mean, haven't I achieved enough once I've passed the CPA Exam?" CPE credits are required for CPAs, CMAs and other accounting professionals to maintain professional status and stay up to date on accounting best practices. You receive one CPE credit for every 50 minutes of coursework.

What is CPE for CPAs specifically? For a CPA, CPE requirements are dependent upon where you’re licensed or certified to practice accounting. These requirements vary, so be sure to understand the CPE requirements set by your state.

Ways to earn CPE credits

There are many ways to meet your CPE requirements, including online and in-person courses, webcasts, conferences and events. The best ways to earn CPE credits are totally dependent on your learning style and schedule. 

The best online CPE courses are those that have detailed, in-depth content and a flexible format. Look no further! For more than 60 years, Becker has been the leader accountants trust to help them stay current with the latest industry content. We have flexible learning formats that fit your lifestyle and preferred way to learn, including on-demand CPE courses, webcasts and certificates.

CPE courses

Becker’s CPE courses feature a constantly growing catalog of trending topics with flexible learning formats. Our online courses are designed to ensure that you’re always in-the-know, taking a deep dive into the latest topics, covering updates for A&A, state and federal tax and entity tax issues, along with in-depth reviews of the latest GASB and PCAOB standards, Yellow Book, ethics and more.

Webcasts offer CPE credits in an online format with a live instructor. Becker has a large library of webcasts and offers a reliable webcast schedule with three offerings every weekday, plus most nights and select weekends.

CPE certificates allow accountants to earn required CPE credits and give resumes a boost. Program topics can vary from tax policy to ethics. Becker offers unique certificate programs, including Microsoft Excel Fundamentals + Data Analytics

Conferences and events

Conferences and events offer opportunities to earn CPE credits and networking with other accounting professionals. Conferences generally offer enough CPE credits to meet your annual state requirement, but they obviously require a bigger time investment. Becker is hosting an Accounting and Auditing virtual conference in 2021. Don't miss out on a chance to experience exclusive content and great speakers as you learn about A&A hot topics. 

Get a free CPE course 

CPE in accounting isn't a box to check or a requirement to meet. At least, it's a lot more than that. Instead, think of it as a way to elevate your career, meet your goals, and gain skills that will help you to stand out in the workplace. As the financial landscape evolves, you can use CPE as a way to improve your resiliency and adaptability and invest in a thriving career.

Ready to start working on your CPE credit requirements? Get a FREE CPE course from Becker!

Frequently asked questions about CPE

While we highly recommend checking with your state board of accountancy for specific information, we're answering some of the frequently asked questions around CPE. 

Is CPE mandatory for all accountants?

No. It is mandatory for all licensed CPAs and CMAs, but non-public accountants are not required to take CPE. However, we highly recommend taking CPE to stay up to date in the latest information. 

Can I choose any CPE course, or are there specific requirements?

Each state does have specific requirements, and if you're a government auditor, you'll need to follow Yellow Book CPE requirements. But there is also a lot of freedom to take CPE courses that interest you, align with your goals, and help you gain valuable skills. Again, we recommend checking with your state and choose a CPE provider who has the credentials recognized by your state.

How often should accountants engage in CPE?

It's never a good idea to wait until the last minute to try and meet your CPE requirements. Instead, it's better to take a class at least every few months - not only will this keep you from being overwhelmed, but you'll retain what you learn more effectively, too. 

Are online CPE courses as effective as in-person ones?

Yes! Becker instructors put together in-depth information and resources to provide highly effective, immersive learning experiences. However, if you prefer a more engaging experience, consider our online live webcasts over on-demand courses so you can ask questions in real-time. 

What happens if I fail to meet CPE requirements?

Every state has different protocol and practice for handling CPE noncompliance. However, most CPAs who don't meet their CPE requirements will face disciplinary action up to losing their license. CMAs risk losing their certification from the IMA if they don't meet CPE requirements. 

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