How Many CPE Credits Do I Need?

The acronym CPE stands for “continuing professional education.” It is a standard that is in use by people who are either training to become certified public accountants for the first time, as well as for those who already hold the CPA position and are renewing that certification after a specified period of time. CPE credits are a metric used to measure how far along a person is in their studies. The total number of CPE credits that you need in order to obtain the proper certification is based on information published by an organization called AICPA, also known as the American Institute of CPAs.

Accounting CPE for CPA

A large number of different CPE product descriptions make reference to a “recommended” number of CPE credits one needs to hold the proper certification. It is important to first understand a little bit about what CPE credits are and how they work before you understand how many you need. CPE credits are based on hours of study as experienced in the various courses that a person may be taking at the time. Unlike other educational bodies, the American Institute of CPAs defines an hour as 50-minutes of class time.

It is also important to make sure that you understand why CPE credits exist and what they are designed to do so that you can fully understand how important it is that you obtain the proper amount. Continuing professional education is required so that all certified public accountants can maintain both their professional competence and their overall ability to provide quality services that are of a professional standard to all of their clients. Because the rules and regulations that govern CPAs can change on a regular basis, it is important to make sure that a CPA is current on all of the required knowledge. If you were to miss a newly published rule or regulation, for example, you might not be providing the highest quality services to the customers that you are working with. Additionally, depending on the nature of the errors you make, you may be open to legal ramifications if you do a poor or incorrect job. The rules and regulations that govern certified public accountants can also vary as you go from state to state, which is why it is always important to make sure that you’re putting in the appropriate amount of time towards furthering your education.

If you want to become a regular member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, you need to complete 120 hours of continuing professional education during each three-year reporting period after you initially join. In three years, you would need to take enough continuing education courses to reach 120 CPE credits to continue with your membership.

CPE credit hours are determined in three different ways depending on the nature of how you are obtaining them. If you are taking college or university level courses, for example, you take the total number of semester hours that you experienced for equivalent classes and multiply that number by 15 to arrive at your CPE hours. If the college or university doesn’t use semesters and instead uses quarters, you take the total number of quarter hours that you experienced and multiply that number by 10 to arrive at your CPE hours.

If you are taking programs associated with continuing education units (also referred to as CEUs), you take the total number of CEUs you received and multiply that number by 10 to arrive at your CPE hours.

If you are currently enrolled in a program that does not state the total number of hours in any way, the calculation for finding your CPE credit hours is equally simple. Once you have determined the actual number of minutes that you spent in the program from its beginning to its completion, take that number and divide it by 50. Round the number you get down to the nearest whole hour to arrive at the total number of CPE credits you can associate with that particular course.

CPE credit reporting begins at the start of the calendar year after you first join the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. While the documentation of your CPE credits is not required by the AICPA, the organization recommends that it be maintained in the event that it is ever needed. There is also a two-month grace period that immediately follows the reporting period at the beginning of the calendar year for each three-year term. If you previously had a deficiency and did not have the total number of CPE credits required to maintain membership, any credit hours used towards that deficiency are not to be counted in the reporting period when they are taken. You cannot both make up for your deficiency and work towards the next reporting period with the same CPE credits.

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