What Are CPE Credits for Accountants? 

You’ve passed your CPA (certified public accountant) exam—hooray! But to keep your license active, you need to receive CPE credits according to your State Board of Accountancy’s requirements. So, what are CPE credits, and how can you earn them?

What does CPE stand for in accounting?

Several fields require that professionals undergo ongoing training to make sure their skills, knowledge, and competencies are up-to-date. In accounting, this ongoing training is known as CPE.

CPE stands for continuing professional education. CPAs need to go through continuing professional education to maintain their active licenses. 

Other fields that require continuing education include lawyers, teachers, engineers, and nurses. For example, lawyers need continuing legal education (CLE) credits.  

What are CPE credits?

Accountants receive credits when they go through qualifying continued education. These credits are known as CPE credits. CPE credits are based on the length of the approved learning. For example, accountants can earn one CPE credit for 50 minutes of qualifying continued education.  

So, what are CPE credits used for? Accountants use CPE credits to maintain their CPA licenses. Generally, your State Board of Accountancy requires that you earn a certain number of CPE credits during a specified time frame, or CPE reporting period (e.g., annually). 

You can receive CPE credits through learning activities such as:

  • Webinars
  • Workshops
  • Conferences
  • Online self-study courses 

Some CPE courses cost money, but there are also free CPE credits available. Before you enroll in an education program, make sure it is from an approved CPE program sponsor, like Patriot Software. 

Accounting CPE courses: Fields of study

There are several fields of study that qualify for CPE credits. Each field of study falls under a “technical” or “non-technical” field. 

Technical fields of study are learning activities directly related to accounting and your field of business. 

Non-technical fields of study are learning activities that indirectly relate to your field of business. 

Here are fields of study divided under the technical and non-technical categories:

Technical Fields of StudyNon-technical Fields of Study
AccountingBehavioral Ethics
Accounting (Governmental)Business Management & Organization
AuditingCommunications and Marketing
Auditing (Governmental)Computer Software & Applications
Business LawPersonal Development
EconomicsPersonnel / Human Resources
Information Technology
Management Services
Regulatory Ethics
Specialized Knowledge

Your state may have specific requirements about how many credit hours you need in each specific field (e.g., auditing) or field group (i.e., technical vs. non-technical). And, there might be alternate fields that qualify for CPE credits. Consult the CPE sponsor offering the credit for more information. 

In addition to the field of study, the CPE activity you sign up for should give information about how the course is presented—aka the delivery method. For example, a “group internet-based program” is a course that lets participants learn a subject through interaction with an instructor over the internet (e.g., a webinar).

CPE requirements by state

State licensing boards require that CPAs maintain their professional competence through continued professional education every year or every two years. Generally, you need to complete about 40 hours of CPE annually and pay a renewal fee (e.g., $50 – $150). But, your State Board of Accountancy has specific CPE credit rules for license renewal. 

Check with your state to learn more about:

  • Credit hour requirements
  • CPE reporting period
  • Subject area requirements
  • Credit limitations
  • Other state CPE policies 

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is a forum for the 55 State Boards of Accountancy. This includes the 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. You can see your state’s specific credit requirements and view a complete list of CPE sponsors on NASBA’s registry website.

If you’re part of a membership or professional organization, make sure you adhere to their requirements, too. For example, members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) must complete 120 hours of continuing professional education for each three-year reporting period. The AICPA developed and graded the CPA exam. 

CPE credits for CPA: Recordkeeping and reporting 

After you successfully complete the learning activity, you should receive a certificate of completion. 

The certificate includes information about the activity, date, and number of CPE credits. Keep these documents in your records for at least five years, according to the AICPA

You must report your CPE credits to your state and any other membership organization you’re part of. 

Looking for free CPE credits? Patriot Software is registered with NASBA as a sponsor of CPE on the National Registry of CPE Sponsors. Check out our upcoming webinars for accountants for more information!

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.