Get CPE Credits for Your CPA License Renewal from the Comfort of Your Couch
Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and wide-scale, enforced quarantine measures, there was already a large societal shift toward virtual, distance learning opportunities. According to the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization located in Washington, D.C., over seventy-five percent of schools in the United States utilized online methods for education during the 2018-2019 school year. While COVID has undoubtedly sped up the implementation process for fully virtual programs, it has not been the sole cause, and this shift cannot be relegated to the primary education sphere alone, as demonstrated by the growing popularity of remote work (again, predating the current pandemic). The American Psychological Association estimated that in 2019, more than 26 million Americans -- sixteen percent of the workforce -- worked remotely at least part of the time.
With those statistics in mind, it should come as no surprise that online continuing professional education opportunities have grown in popularity, since this is a basic combination of both education and business elements. Membership with organizations like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) carries a hefty CPE requirement, generally over a three-year period, and while these hours can be garnered through conference attendance and other in-person methods, the availability of online options for obtaining CPE credits through self-study courses and other accounting related activities has led to on-demand opportunities that work better for busy professionals.
CPE Online Courses (Self-Study)
The Benefits of CPA CPE Online Courses:
VTR Learning is one such provider of line continuing professional education courses and is a registered member on NASBA's National Registry of CPA Sponsors. This status guarantees that every VTR Learning course offered for AICPA members is counted as an acceptable method for obtaining self-study continuing professional education credit -- all from the comfort of home, and at a pace that works around any busy schedule.
The array of courses includes both technical and nontechnical subjects such as Accounting, Human Resources Management and Leadership, as well as a wide range of credit amounts -- from 2 CPEs for the shortest course to 28.5 for the longest. Unlike other online provider options, VTR Learning courses are purchased individually, on a pay-as-you-go basis. The lack of a subscription fee or annual charge coupled with the wide array of credit amounts available ensures CPAs never have to pay for more credits than they need.
Earning CPE credits online with VTR Learning is a simple matter. CPAs can browse the list of available courses in the shop, and once they've found one that meets their needs, they can add it to the cart, check out and start learning immediately. Once the course has been successfully finished, they will receive a certificate of completion, which includes a provider code that can be turned in to their certifying organization to receive the CPE credit due.
Live Stream Industry Events & Conferences
Self-study courses might make up a large portion of online opportunities for earning CPA CPE; however, they're not the sole option available. Many conferences and events historically geared toward live attendance have added secondary options for live virtual viewing,a feature which has the potential to drastically reduce costs of attending such events. For example, virtual attendance eliminates several significant fees including transportation, rooming accommodations, food and a host of other costs implicit in live attendance events.
These types of online attendance options are not new to the industry, though. The AICPA has been offering virtual conference opportunities for over a decade, and now offers a large selection of online events each year. Now, with the current pandemic still largely affecting the viability of hosting live attendance events, virtual options surpass mere convenience and lean heavily into necessity.
AICPA conferences take place all throughout the year, and vary significantly in terms of cost and available CPE credit amounts. For example, the 2020 Peer Review Conference, which begins August 3, 2020, is approximately $300 and worth 8 CPEs. However, the AICPA National Conference on Banks, which is a one-day event on September 16, 2020, is worth 20 CPEs for $2,045. So, depending on the details of any particular conference, even online attendance options can still be extremely expensive for the amount of credit granted.
As might be expected, the AICPA is not the sole provider of online conferences and events. Many are hosted by state organizations and local chapters. For example, the Florida Institute of CPAs is offering the Summer Vacation Cluster, a fully virtual event that lasts from August 6 through August 8. Each of the five sessions for this event cost $199, meaning CPAs can expect to spend approximately $1,000 for 20 CPE credit hours.
Another event, the Fall CPE Conference in Iowa, is a two-day event, where CPAs can earn up to 16 CPE credits. This particular conference costs $525, making it a far cheaper option than other events, like the aforementioned Summer Vacation Cluster.
When it comes to calculating and submitting credits from conferences and other virtual events, the process is much the same as it is for self-study options. CPAs must submit the appropriate documentation to their state Board of Accountancy in order for it to qualify for continuing professional education credit.
Webinars function in much the same way as virtual conferences do, though the length, cost and credit amount generally seem to be less. For example, where conferences are often multi-day, multi-lecture events, webinars often cover a singular topic and take place within a matter of hours. The AICPA site offers a list of available webinars, many of which fall between 2 and 8 CPE credits for attendance. A prime example is the Taxation of Property Transactions webinar, which lasts four hours, is worth as many CPE credits and costs $219.
Once again, credit calculation and reporting is handled by the individual CPA's state Board of Accountancy, so the webinar must be reported alongside all other CPE hours when that licensee applies for recertification.
Contributions to the Profession
Self-study online courses, conferences and webinars are potentially the easiest methods for obtaining CPE credit when it comes to license renewal, but remote opportunities go far beyond these options. Though the acceptable methods for obtaining CPE vary by state, in accordance with each state's Board of Accountancy rules, most jurisdictions allow credit to be granted for instances of instruction, authorship and active participation in university or college programs. Much in the same vein as the previous methods of continuing professional education, these alternatives are fully applicable in remote settings, as necessitated currently by the virus, and in some cases, made easier by isolation and quarantine.
Instruction is generally recognized as an instance of formal presentation over educational information and material, and can be done in person or virtually. Here, credit is normally awarded not only for the actual instruction time but also for the time spent in preparation, assuming that doing so has helped contribute to the CPA's professionalism and has enhanced the quality of their technical knowledge.
Authorship is, perhaps, the perfect option for CPAs who are practicing strict social distancing guidelines, as it is often a solitary task best undertaken in the quiet atmosphere of a private residence or study. That is to say, it's sometimes difficult to write educational or instructional material when consistently interrupted in a more traditional office workspace. One caveat to this method of continuing professional is that the work must also have been published to count toward the recertification CPE credit goal.
Many colleges and universities around the United States have opted either for a fully virtual format during this time, and for those that have not decided to enforce such a policy, there are at least partially-remote options for class attendance. In many states, Boards of Accountancy will allow CPE credit for active participation in above-basic courses dealing with Accounting, Auditing, Taxation and so on. This type of participation, if remote, is another helpful option for obtaining continuing professional education credit online.
Modern technology has made it possible to conduct audits and firm reviews electronically, without ever having to set foot in the physical space of a company or organization. Because of this possibility, and since many states allow limited CPE credit for these methods, instances of audit, peer review, system review and so on can also constitute remote opportunities to earn continuing professional education.
If you're unsure what methods your state Board of Accountancy has deemed acceptable for continuing professional education opportunities, check out this helpful blog post to learn more. To submit CPE credits for these types of opportunities, individual CPAs will need to visit their state's Board of Accountancy website for formal instructions on the license renewal process.
Braden is a proud husband and a father to a very rambunctious little boy. A few of his many interests include reading, writing music, and playing games. He is the Product Quality Manager for VTR and has been with the company since early 2017. In conjunction with his love for storytelling, he has a passion for story-based learning, believing that narrative is one of the most elementary ways humans can learn. A true nerd at heart, when not working on his premier novel, he can usually be found playing an RPG, reading comics, or watching Star Wars.