Getting Ahead of Your CPE Requirements

John Kogan's Profile

How does everyone feel about CPE?

Nobody I've met (and I know a lot of CPAs) likes their Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirement. Nobody! Don't get me wrong, they all like to learn, but CPE is different. A very good friend recently told me that for her, CPE is about compliance, not learning! That's a wonderful insight and it really cuts straight to the heart of the CPE conundrum: it's supposed to be good for you, but in the end it's a lot like eating veggies you just don't like. That's never felt good.

So a key to swallowing the CPE pill (quick metaphor change for you) is to do it up front, if possible, and get it over with. Don't leave 40 or 80 or 120 hours for a long holiday weekend the month before they're due! That just makes you regret becoming a CPA or whatever certification you hold, and that's a bad thing. 

So how do you tackle so much CPE? Have you heard about the best way to eat an elephant? "One bite at a time". In other words, don't try to do it all at once. And the best way to avoid having to do that is to build a plan.

Build a Plan

If the idea is to eat your CPE one bite at a time, it would be great to build a plan that accommodates that strategy. CPE for CPAs comes in 40 hour annual chunks. Either 40 hours every year, or 80 hours every two years or 120 hours over three years. When you do the simple math, that's a rate of 1 CPE credit needed every 1.3 weeks, or every 9 days. If you want to give yourself a bit of slack at the end of your reporting period, you could just build a plan for 1 CPE credit per week for 40 weeks. Then you'll finish early! 

So one credit, or roughly one hour per week isn't all that bad. Now let's break it up further and add some variety because mixing it up makes it all seem better. Let's consider online on-demand, webinars, seminars, and conferences. Online gets you any number of hours at a time, and when it's on-demand, you can schedule it easily. So why not schedule one on-demand CPE hour every-other week? Bang, that's 20 hours, or half of your CPE elephant right there. And despite how busy we all are, one hour every two weeks sounds pretty doable.

Many states require 'live' delivered CPE in some amount, so that brings us to live webinars, seminars and conferences. Okay, let's start with webinars b/c there's a ton of those! In fact, most of them are free webinars, which is squarely in most people's budgets! If you schedule one live webinar per month, that's another 12 CPE, and since they're "scheduled", we find folks are pretty likely to make it. Let's say out of the 12 scheduled you make 10, so that's 10 CPE down, plus the 20 from on-demand, and now you're only in need of the last 10 CPE credits.

Let's do those last 10 hours in-person. That's either a 1.5 or two day conference, or it's three to four live seminars - one per quarter. These take a bit more research, but they are generally findable near cities or with minimal travel. Yes, any time out of the office is a straight up beating due to email overload and work never stopping, but at least it breaks up that CPE monotony, and that's worth something.

Write It Down

None of this is going to work if you don't write it down. And by write it down I mean signing up for on-demand CPE and putting a placeholder in your calendar every-other week. And finding a great free CPE webinar site and getting those in the schedule, too. It has to be written down and you have to commit to it. Finally, a Google search will bring you to your in person events. No they're not cheap, but that will also make you want to not miss them! And book them throughout the year, finishing well before your CPE reporting period closes.

Doing all of this sets you up for variety and gets you ahead of the game, with a little time left at the end of your CPE reporting period 'just in case' you need it. Like anything else, actually building a plan and writing it down makes you far more likely to actually do it. And it's never too late, even if your late on your current reporting period. Just stop, take some time to get set up, and make it happen. You'll learn more, you'll feel far better about yourself, and you'll be turning CPE from a chore into what it's actually meant to be, a tool to help you advance your skills and find career success!