Do you like to get your education in a social setting or in solitude? The new standards for continuing professional education (CPE) allow either option. Whether you prefer learning by reading books, attending conferences, taking college courses or joining webinars with your laptop, there are so many ways to get your CPE requirements.
Some employees are lucky enough to have companies that let them to take CPE classes during work hours. In a new Robert Half Finance & Accounting survey, 26 percent of the CFOs said their companies allow all their employees to fulfill CPE requirements on the job; another 24 percent say it depends on the employee.
Employers provide such perks because it helps the company: The better informed employees are, the fewer technical, compliance and ethical mistakes they’re likely to make. It also shows support for professional development, which encourages accounting and finance professionals to accept the job offer — and stay.
Find out more about Learning On the Clock in our infographic, below.
Why worry about CPE requirements?
Once you've passed your CPA exam, getting CPE credits is a way to keep up with your career growth in this ever-changing profession. It encourages you to stay active in the financial community and keep up with new developments and reporting requirements in the industry. CPE credits are also required for meeting your state board of accountancy’s requirements for CPA license renewal.
You may be trying to boost your marketability as a job candidate, or you may need to accumulate a few more credits to meet your yearly CPE requirements. Either way, you should consider yourself lucky to have the excuse to continue your education.
Where is the best place to start your quest for training? How do you know if the courses are credible? What kinds of classes are offered? Here’s some information to answer those questions and help you fulfill your CPE requirements.
Where to find CPE credits
The best place to start searching for CPE credits near you is the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). With filters including subject area, date and credit hours, the search tool provides a comprehensive list of courses, including CPE finance training.
CPE credits are available through a variety of organizations, including recruitment and financial companies, educational institutions and industry associations. Whether you prefer on-site learning or online webcasts, there are numerous ways to earn CPE finance credits:
- Breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings
- College and university instruction
- Peer review
- Personal development
- Published materials
- Self study
- Podcasts and webcasts
Check for CPE acceptance
NASBA and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) added a new instructional delivery method last year called nano-learning. These mini-tutorials cover specific tasks or learning objectives in 10-minute increments. Each short video lesson counts for a fifth of a credit, unlike traditional CPA sessions, which are measured in hours.
CPE requirements set by state boards of accountancy vary widely, though, so CPAs are advised to check with their state boards before beginning any CPE courses to verify they will accept the credits. Most states don't accept nano-learning credits, and some don't accept any online courses, which are classified as “self study.” Many states also limit the number of online credits you can earn.
NASBA assists state boards and CPAs in making sure CPE credits are from reputable sources by providing quality assurance and lists of approved providers. When evaluating a CPE source, remember that a qualified source should be able to provide:
- A certificate of attendance/completion
- Organization/sponsor name and contact information
- Detailed agenda
- Background information on presenter(s)
One note of caution: A quick Google search for “free CPE credits” returns thousands of results — some from quality agencies and educational institutions, and others from more questionable sources. When choosing free CPE credits, be sure to check for NASBA approval and verify acceptance with your state boards.
Continuing with your education
The best financial staffing firms understand the importance of offering quality CPE credits delivered in convenient ways. AICPA members qualify for discounts on its courses, and Robert Half offers training courses and online reference materials to its registered financial professionals to enhance their skills and marketability.
Consider yourself lucky to have such a variety of ways to access relevant information that you can apply to your career. As you continue to meet your ongoing requirements as a CPA, you can choose to specialize in a particular area and, at the very least, broaden your professional expertise, whether your company allows you to study on company time or not.
Editor's note: This post was recently updated with new survey information.