Once you become a licensed CPA, you will need to take continuing professional education (CPE) courses upon license renewal every 1-3 years.
The follow is a general overview of CPA CPE requirements for CPAs across the states. Please click on the links below for specific rules for each state.
All states require an equivalent of 40 CPE hours per year, but the flexibility of completing the requirements can vary as the reporting period can be 1, 2 or 3 years.
Almost all state boards no longer have a list of pre-approved CPE providers. Instead, they rely on NASBA’s “approval system” — those on the approved list would be given an ID that can be easily tracked on this site.
Most state boards also ask for your own discretion as to which CPE courses are appropriate. Some have a few guidelines e.g. the minimum number of technical courses e.g. accounting/auditing, and maximum number of “soft” courses, notably the personal development and behavioral courses.
Since 2011 and 2012 many state boards have begun including ethics as mandatory CPA CPE requirements. The number of hours required varies, but in general you are asked to take 2 hours of ethics every year.
Some states only recognized ethics course approved by their own state board. Make sure you read the instruction from your state board carefully. If not sure, you can always get the information online or contact them by email.
Some states have a limitation on self-study classes or have a restrictive definition e.g. the self-study course must be graded in order to get accepted. The definition is slightly different for each state. Please read the Board Administrative Rule carefully or consult your CPE course provider.
Unlike self-study courses, live webinars are generally fully accepted because they are interactive in nature.
In most states you can get CPE credits by writing an article or book, or by being a speaker, lecturer or presenter on CPA-relevant subjects in your field.
In most cases there are restrictions on this rule. You can either claim the credit up to a certain amount (e.g. 30 CPE hours), or that the credit is discounted, e.g. if you have a 2-hour lecture, only 1 hour of CPE credit can be counted.
Rule of thumb:
By default the State Boards ask licensees to submit and report CPE credits in each renewal cycle, but increasing number of state boards are asking you to keep the documentation without the need to report. You should keep all supporting documents in file for at least 4-5 years (or as specified by your state board) for possible audit.
Some states ask the licensees to report the CPE credit once a year or once every 2-3 years.
Other states may ask you to report on a “rolling basis”. What does it mean? For example, the renewal date is June and compliance is based on 3-year rolling period. On June 30, 2013, you need to have 120 or more credits from July 1, 2010 to June 2013 (3 years of time). Each year, the previous third total drops off. On June 30, 2014, you will need to have 120 or more credits from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014.
The certificate is your proof of attendance. All necessary information should be there if you take the course from a reputable CPE provider. If not, make sure that the following info is included:
You will also find a recommended CPE provider that works for all state boards should you need help in finding a reputable company to fulfill this requirement.
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites