cpe creditsA “tsunami of change” is on its way according to the New York Times. New accounting rules will have an impact on large and small organizations. If ever there was an argument for continuing professional education (CPE) and getting your CPE credits, here it is.

“There is nothing permanent except change”. Heraclitus could have been writing about accounting standards and best practice. There is no alternative to continuing professional education for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) if you want to stay up to date and just as important, stay licensed to practice.

Read on to learn about what courses count as CPE credits for CPAs.

Certified Public Accountants, the AICPA, and NASBA.

To be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the United States, candidates have to pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. This exam is set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) administer the exams.

Although there is a national framework, licensing and certification are handled by individual states. This applies to CPE requirements too. This means that there are differences between states you need to look out for.

More on this later.

What is CPE?

It is generally accepted that continuing professional education or development is an expectation for professionals of all types.

Imagine consulting a doctor about a critical illness and discovering that he or she qualified 30 years ago and had no knowledge of the developments in medicine over the last 30 years. You would be out of that doctor’s surgery as quick as you can say “CPE”.

Your employer, clients, and colleagues need to know you are up to speed with the current requirements for accounting practice. Your license to practice is evidence of this.

The license to practice is only issued and re-issued if you report the continued professional education earned during the reporting period required by the state Board of Accountancy.

CPE credits are available through a number of means. All states require 40 CPE hours per year but they have different approaches to how many you need to complete each year of the reporting period. Some have 1 year accounting periods and others have 2 or 3 year periods. Check your state requirements.

Approved CPE Courses and CPE credits

There is an approval system for CPE providers to gain approval through the NASBA. Look for an ID which is issued for approved courses. They will specify the CPE hours associated with the course.

Technical and Non-Technical Courses

You may only be thinking about technical accounting courses for your CPE. Bear in mind some non-technical course also qualify for credits.

Non-technical courses include subjects such as personal development or behavioral skills. These aspects of professional development may be described as soft skills but can be both challenging and rewarding. They may not be directly related to your accounting practice but for some people, they can be the difference between career success and failure.

State boards set there own requirements for whether non-technical courses count for CPE hours. There may also be restrictions on the number or proportion of non-technical course allowed in any reporting period.

Ethics CPE

From 2011 several state boards make attendance on ethics courses mandatory. As with other requirements, the number of hours varies. Typically 2 hours is specified. The state board may also only recognize ethics courses that have been approved by that state.

If your state does not require you to attend an ethics course, you should still consider whether ethics CPE is beneficial for you in the mix of your continuing professional education.

Self Development

As with much else, you need to check your state rules about what CPE credit, if any, you get for personal development or self-study. The definitions vary as does the number of CPE credits you can earn.

Other Ways of Getting CPE Credits?

There are some other ways in which you can earn credits.

Webinars are an increasingly familiar delivery methods for all sorts of training. This is just as true in the area of CPE for CPAs. The interactive style and convenience of many webinars make them a cost-effective and attractive option. They are often recognized by state boards.

College Credits can often be converted into CPE credits with a semester typically being equivalent to 15 CPE credits and one quarter being equivalent to 10 CPE credits.

In most states, you can earn credits for delivering a lecture or talk and even for writing an article or book. The subject needs to be relevant and there are restrictions on how much credit you can claim. The learning you do in order to be able to deliver education to others is recognized.


When attending training you should obtain the necessary information you will need in order to make your reporting of CPE easy. A course certificate with the following information is the most convenient way of achieving this.

Many state boards require you to maintain records of your CPE for up to 4/5 years.

Failure to obtain and keep records will mean that your CPE course does not qualify as relevant CPE towards meeting your license obligation.

Report Your CPE

Some state boards require you to report your CPE with each license renewal cycle. Others are less rigorous.

Some state boards ask for reporting on a rolling basis. This means you need to maintain compliance with the number of required CPE credits on every renewal date. For example, if your state requires a 3-year rolling period, as each year passes you should be able to show you continue to meet the 3-year total required credits.

CPA CPE Requirements and Your Career

Continuing Education requirements for all states can be obtained from NASBA.

When planning your CPE consider your state board requirements but also consider the following:

Check out the CPE course in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania that are available through Basics and Beyond seminars.