Being a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is everything but easy.
After years of hard work, passing a CPA exam, and gaining the necessary experience, you still have to keep learning and earning your CPE credits. Sounds harsh, but professional accountants have to keep up with the latest regulations and industry standards.
That’s the reason why you need continuous learning. In this post, we’ll show you the best resources to earn CPE credits.
But before we get to that, let’s answer one question.
What are CPE courses in accounting?
Continuing Professional Education (CPE) courses help accountants to improve their skills and expertise throughout their careers.
Earning a CPE credit is a critical requirement for accountants in most jurisdictions to maintain their licenses. That’s because accounting standards change frequently — CPAs who don’t invest in lifelong learning can’t provide competent services to their clients.
Here are some key points about CPA CPE courses:
- Requirements: CPAs in most countries have to complete a certain number of CPE credit hours on a regular basis to maintain their licenses. For instance, US-based accountants must complete 120 hours of continuing professional education in a three-year period.
- Topics: CPE courses cover a range of topics (accounting, auditing, taxation, ethics, financial reporting, etc).
- Delivery formats: Continuing professional education comes in many formats, including live seminars, webinars, self-study courses, workshops, and in-person classes.
- Reporting periods: Each national association has specific reporting periods during which you must accumulate the required CPE credits. These periods usually range from one to three years.
Keep in mind that accounting professionals are responsible for staying informed about their state board's CPE requirements. In addition, you should know that CPE courses have many different features. Here are just a few examples:
- Format: Offline and online courses
- Pricing plans: Free and paid
- CPE credit: Varies from 1 to 10+ points
- Learning type: Self-paced, webinars, video, classroom type
- Access period: 1 to 3 years
Related: CPD for Accountants in Australia
Earn CPE credits: Top 5 resources
All it takes is a quick Google search to reveal hundreds of online CPE courses. But which ones are truly reliable?
We did some heavy lifting for you to identify the top five continuing education courses for accountants. Let’s check them out.
Each of these platforms offers hundreds of different CPE packages that may change over time. We encourage you to search for a specific course based on your professional background and CPE requirements.
- Pros: A comprehensive CPExpress bundle at a relatively modest price
- Cons: Their platform is somewhat user-unfriendly and harder to navigate compared to the competitors
As a renowned professional organization, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) gives you lots of programs to support your professional growth and continuing education. All of its CPE programs are current, relevant, and aligned with regulatory changes.
AICPA mainly focuses on self-paced CPE courses. Some of them are free, but the most important courses for the accounting profession are paid.
A program called CPExpress is what we really like about AICPA’s continuing education. It’s an online course with hundreds of CPE hours in 1 to 2 credits. This subscription-based program is available for a year upon purchase. It costs nearly $500, but AICPA members get a discount.
- Pros: CPE for CPAs available in multiple formats all year long
- Cons: Though there are some relatively cheap options, Becker keeps most of its prices on the higher end
With more than 900 courses, Becker is one of the most comprehensive professional education resources out there. This platform gives you different subscription options (one, two, or three years), so you can schedule and plan your course well in advance if needed.
We particularly like Becker’s superior search filters that allow you to search for courses based on numerous factors like:
- Product type (course, certificate, package, etc.)
- Field of study
- Knowledge level
- Many more
That way, you can narrow down your options and find relevant courses much faster. However, with quality comes a price — you should expect Becker’s courses for CPAs to be a bit more expensive than others.
3. Surgent CPE
- Pros: Top-level courses
- Cons: The most popular CPE solutions on this site usually come with a hefty price tag
Surgent CPE is a leading provider of high-quality, comprehensive learning resources for accounting professionals. This website offers a wide range of CPE courses, covering topics that span tax, auditing, accounting, ethics, and more.
And when we say a wide range, we really mean it — Surgent currently has 600+ online CPE courses listed, with over 200 of those covering accounting and auditing.
Most courses are designed by seasoned industry experts who know that continuing education is all about practical insights. This means you’ll gain valuable knowledge that can be directly applied in your work. Surgent courses come in three formats:
- Live webinars
- Self-study courses
This flexibility allows you to choose the mode that aligns with your schedule and learning style. You can earn unlimited CPE hours, while individual courses can earn you anywhere from 1 to 20 CPE credits.
- Pros: Micro certification programs for highly specialized fields of work
- Cons: Limited search filters
Only a handful of platforms can compete with Illumeo when it comes to the sheer flexibility of learning formats. These include everything from videos and webinars to self-paced modules and live online classes.
Self-paced courses typically range from $50 to $300 per course, while live classes have higher price points due to the real-time interaction with instructors. Illumeo also offers subscription plans ($199 per year) that grant access to a bundle of courses.
The only thing we don’t appreciate about Illumeo is its search capacity — you can look for courses based on complexity, certification interest, and learning categories. But with more than 1.6 thousand studying materials, it would be nice to have at least a few extra filters.
- Pros: Perfect for self-paced learners
- Cons: Limited learning formats
Lambers is a great resource for accounting firms and professionals looking for on demand video materials. It gives you around the clock access to all videos for one year, which gives you the freedom to learn at your own pace.
The price of a one-year all-access CPE with unlimited access and credit hours is $499.95 (though it may change over time).
The platform already contains hundreds of courses and topics, but it keeps adding fresh content each month. That way, Lambers keeps up with the ever-changing regulations and industry standards.
The only issue with Lambers is that it almost exclusively focuses on video content, which some CPAs may not find suitable for their learning styles.
What about other options?
The sources discussed above are well-known in the accounting business, but you can also try a few other options. We’ll list some of our personal favorites:
- Earmark CPE: If you’re interested in earning free CPE credits by listening to podcasts about tax and accounting, you should try Blake Oliver’s Earmark CPE app.
- Introduction to QuickBooks Online for Accountants: Those who are new to Quickbooks can get acquainted with it through this free course. It lasts for 4.5 hours, earning you 4.5 CPE credits.
- Encoursa: Accountants who like webinar-based learning will appreciate Encoursa, a platform that offers dozens of webinars each month. Almost all of them are free of charge.
Bonus tip for CPAs: Automate data collection to save time for learning
Too many accountants waste too much of their precious time on tasks like data gathering. It’s a pain in the neck, especially when you have to work AND study to obtain your CPE certificates.
The good thing is that you can solve this problem by automating document collection.
Yes, we are talking about our information gathering tool, Content Snare.
Our platform will help you gather files and information from clients in record time, so you can focus on continuing professional education. Content Snare gives you a bundle of advanced features:
- Automated document collection reminders to avoid back-and-forth emails
- Auto-saving lets your clients pick up where they left off
- Approvals and rejections to get the right information much faster
- In-form conversations to help out clients who aren’t sure what they’re supposed to do
What’s best, you can integrate Content Snare with popular accounting tools via Zapier. This enables you to further speed up your work.