Many credentials and licenses in the accounting profession—including the CPA, CMA, CIA, and EA—require continuing professional education (CPE) courses to maintain those designations. The process to get your CPE credits doesn’t necessarily have to be hard if you take my advice offered in this article and stay on top of the requirements for your specific credentials. Nowadays, you can even do your accounting CPE online. And with some planning, you can take online CPA CPE courses that will advance your career and keep you in the know. My highest CPE recommendation goes to Becker CPE though, and there are always discounts available on their website.
With so many online CPE courses available, you might be wondering which are the best CPE courses. I’ll break down three of the most popular CPE online courses and give my unbiased reviews to help you narrow down the field.
As you search for courses, you’ll probably find a lot of CPA CPE online courses. However, you might have a harder time finding courses specifically marketed for CMAs, CIAs, or EAs. But don’t worry—with so many online CPE for CPAs out there, you’ll be able to find some CPA CPE online courses that still fits your content area. And, you’ll be able to find courses that are approved by your credential’s governing board (like NASBA, Boards of Accountancy, the IRS, the IIA, and the IMA).
If you’re wondering why you have to go through the hassle of getting CPEs in the first place, the reasoning is quite simple. When you first received your CPA, CMA, CIA, or EA credentials, you had to know all of the up-to-date regulations in your field. However, in our rapidly changing world, regulations and best practices can evolve. Therefore, by taking CPE courses, you’ll refresh your skills and become informed about your profession’s pressing issues.
Here’s a summary of the CPE requirements for different accounting-related credentials.
According to NASBA, or the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, continuing education for accountants is required to maintain your CPA license. The AICPA generally recommends that CPAs get 120 hours of CPE every 3 years. However, the specific requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, some states want proof of annual accountant CPE courses or require courses in certain technical topics or ethics.
Just to show you how varied these benchmarks can be, here are a few examples:
If your state isn’t listed, check out NASBA’s website for each jurisdiction’s CPA CPE requirements.
EAs, or Enrolled Agents, specialize in federal taxation. They have licenses from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service that allow them to prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, trusts, and estates. They can represent their clients (taxpayers) in cases before the IRS regarding audits, collections, and appeals.
The IRS requires a certain number of enrolled agent CE (or continuing education) credits every few years. Enrolled agents need 72 hours of additional education every 3 years to keep their license active. At least 16 hours of EA CE must be completed each year, so agents can’t wait until the last minute to squeeze in their hours. Plus, at least 2 of those 16 hours must be related to ethics. Moreover, all CPE hours must be gained via an approved provider, which the IRS has listed on its CPE website.
However, for EAs who are members of NAEA (the National Association of Enrolled Agents), EAs must complete additional hours each year, bringing the total to 90 hours every 3 years. The NAEA requires additional hours from its members because of the organization’s high standards of excellence.
Certified Internal Auditors have their own set of continuing education requirements. CIA CE standards are set by the Institute for Internal Auditors. CIAs must start to gain continuing education in the third year after they acquire their license.
The IIA has different requirements for practicing versus non-practicing CIAs. Actively practicing CIAs perform internal audits or related activities must acquire 40 hours of CPE annually, but non-practicing CIAs only need 20 hours to keep their license. At least 2 of the required annual hours must be in ethics training.
(If you’re looking for a full-length article about CIA CPE requirements, jump over to this article.)
The Institute of Certified Management Accountants sets the CPE benchmarks for CMAs. The certified management accountant CPE requirements are similar but slightly different from the other professional qualifications we’ve already covered. Each year, CMAs must accumulate at least 30 hours of CPE credits; at least 2 of those hours must be in ethics training. If you take more than 30 hours per year, up to 10 hours can be carried over into the next year.
(I have more detailed information about CMA CPE requirements in this full-length article.)
In the old days, it was hard to find CPE courses. But thanks to the increasing availability of CPE online courses, it’s getting much easier to build up your CPE hours. So now, many of the companies who provide review courses for your professional exams—like Becker, Gleim, and Lambers—also offer online CPE courses.
As you start to scroll through the offerings for online CPE courses, you’ll note that most providers do not differentiate between CPE courses for CPAs versus CMAs, CIAs, or EAs. In contrast, they offer classes in broad areas like accounting, taxation, audits, or attests that could appeal to multiple professions. For instance, Becker CPE courses could be just as appropriate for CPAs or CMAs as Enrolled Agents.
Before you sign up for CPE classes, however, be sure to check on your specific requirements.
Let me ask you one simple question: Do you have the time in your busy schedule to look for CPE opportunities in your area constantly? If the answer is “no,” then yes, you need to purchase an online CPE course to make your life easier. It’s just as simple as that.
|Price Per Course/Hour||$29+ per course||$12 per hour||Not Available|
|Price Per CPE Package||$299-$699||$160-$600||$699.95|
|Webinars Available?||Yes, with live Q&A||No||Yes|
|Number of Courses||600+ webinars, 600+ on-demand courses||93||200+|
|Test Required for Credits?||No||Yes||No|
|On IRS Approved List of CE Providers?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|On NASBA National Registry of CPE Sponsors?||Yes||Yes||No|
|Meets IIA CPE Standards?||Verify with IIA||Verify with IIA||Verify with IIA|
|Meets IMA CPE Standards?||Verify with IMA||Verify with IMA||Verify with IMA|
You’re probably familiar with the Becker brand from your days studying for your professional qualification exam. But Becker isn’t just for candidates at the beginning of their careers. Becker CPE offers continuing education courses for a range of accounting professionals. The Accrediting Council (ACCET) accredits Becker’s CPE courses for Continuing Education and Training.
Becker constantly updates its course offerings, which are written by highly qualified experts. Popular courses address issues in accounting, auditing, ethics, and taxation. Plus, Becker has courses to give you GAAP and GASB updates. Finally, Becker identifies current trends in the field and builds new CPE courses designed to keep you in the know. In fact, Becker offers more than 600 different on-demand courses and over 600 webcasts. No other CPE provider gives you that many choices.
Becker offers both webcasts and on-demand CPE courses. Webcasts are presented weekdays at 9 AM, 2 PM, and 7 PM CST; this regular schedule means that you can plan ahead to get your CPE hours. The webcasts even have live Q & A sessions if you have questions. The on-demand courses combine video, audio, and text and come with downloadable material.
I really like Becker’s “Lunch and Learn” series of webcasts that air each weekday at noon CST. These short webcasts are only worth 1 credit hour but are easy to fit into your daily schedule. So, they are a great way to stay informed in your field and build up your CPE hours with ease.
It’s also important to note that Becker doesn’t make you take a test at the end of their courses to get your CPE credits, unlike some other CPE providers.
I also appreciate that Becker has courses of different lengths with different associated credit hours. I mean, sometimes we just don’t have time in our schedule for lengthy courses. With a variety of both short and long courses, you can find the right fit.
Becker offers several tiers of CPE packages to fit your budget and the number of credit hours you need. If you just need a few hours or are looking for particular content, you can purchase single courses. However, the most economical option is to purchase a package that offers unlimited course access for 90 days to a full year. The increasing package levels offer more specific content. If you’re getting bored with CPE courses, I recommend the Becker Prime CPE package because you can take more interesting and cutting edge courses.
Gleim is another big name in the exam prep market that also offers CPE courses. Professionals highly respect Gleim’s online CPE accounting courses. Consequently, they are accepted by all State Boards of Accountancy (so they’re a great choice for CPE CPA online credits), the Institute of Internal Auditors, the Institute of Certified Management Accountants, and the IRS.
Gleim regularly updates its online accounting CPE course content. So, Gleim’s CPE topics are relevant to your career.
Gleim currently offers 93 courses in a mix of audiovisual presentations, video lectures, and guided quizzes explaining the answers. Although Gleim doesn’t offer as many courses as other providers, like Becker, there are still enough choices to allow you to gain all of your required CPE hours. At the end of Gleim’s courses, you may have to pass a “qualified assessment” to get your credits.
Gleim has CPE courses that range from 1-6 hours, but most are 3-4 hours in length.
Basically, Gleim sells its CPE courses by the hour. You can purchase 7 different “packages,” with the smallest package being only 1 hour for the very affordable price of just $12. Additionally, once you purchase larger packages of 20, 40, or 100 hours, the price drops even further, as low as $6 per hour.
Believe it or not, Gleim even offers some free online CPE courses. Currently, Gleim has two free courses: one in accounting standards and SEC reporting and another in lessons for 2020 tax preparers. Consequently, you can take one of these courses for free (and still get your CPE credits!) and see if Gleim’s CPE courses are right for you.
Lambers, Inc. has been providing reviews for the CPA, EA, and AFSP exams for over 50 years. While their CPE courses are specifically designed for CPAs, they also have some IRS continuing education courses for tax preparers.
Even better, Lambers adds new course topics each month to stay on top of important issues and updates in the accounting profession. For example, current subjects include accounting, auditing, computer software and applications, ethics, information technology, finance, management, marketing, regulatory issues, taxation, and personal development as a CPA. Plus, Lambers also has state-specific ethics courses for CPAs.
Additionally, Lambers has also developed a special CPE product for tax preparers. The Tax Resolution Series is for professionals who plan to work with clients to resolve back taxes. This exclusive package will help navigate the tax and deduction issues related to the CARES Act and the Payroll Protection Plan.
The Lambers CPE has over 200 on-demand online CPE CPA video courses and live webinars. Additionally, the company also offers what they refer to as “self-study PDF courses” that provide you with downloadable content without the requirement to watch a video. Check out their current course catalog.
Their CPE courses come with a range of credit hours from 1 all the way up to 13! However, most courses are 3-4 hours.
You should note that the webinars are usually offered on weekdays starting mid-morning CST and last for about 4 hours. So if you have a tight daily schedule, you’ll have to plan ahead to attend the webinars.
Unlike some other CPE providers, Lambers does not allow you to purchase single courses. However, the Lambers One Year Unlimited CPE package gives you all the access to CPE materials you’ll need for the whole year. The cost of the package before discounts is $699.95. You can utilize my Lambers CPE discount to avoid paying full price for your CPE.
If you’re looking for CPE discounts, look no further—I have them for you!
Once you pass your exams, finish your education, gain your work experience, and apply for your advanced accounting credentials, your homework still isn’t over. So, you will need to meet your CPE requirements to maintain an active license or status. Therefore, it’s important to learn about and prepare for your CPE requirements in advance so you’re not struggling to make up your hours at the last minute.
And I always love hearing from readers! What are your questions? What topics do you want me to cover in this blog? Drop me and a line and say hello! I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!