The accounting profession is constantly evolving, with new technologies, regulations, and global economic shifts shaping the way accountants work. As a result, the need for continuing professional education (CPE) in accounting firms has never been more critical for accountants.
As the financial backbone of any accounting firm, accountants must stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends, regulations, and best practices to ensure they remain effective and valuable assets to their clients. Let’s explore the importance of CPE for accountants, the benefits it offers, and how it can help accounting firms stay ahead in a rapidly changing world.
What is CPE exactly?
CPE stands for Continuing Professional Education. Continuing professional education, or continuing professional development, is how professionals maintain and develop the qualities required in their working lives. This covers changing regulations to software updates and soft skills like communication or financial advice shaped to current economic moods.
If run a CPA firm (Certified Public Accountant), continuing education is essential and mandatory. In the US, CPAs are required to complete a specific amount of formal continuing education to maintain their license as defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). In fact, the AICPA published a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) standard for accountants to have on hand and check these requirements.
Have in mind that these requirements may vary on:
- The state.
- The professional roles.
- The memberships to relevant associations.
Benefits of pursuing CPE
Staying Compliant with Industry Regulations
One of the primary reasons accountants need to engage in CPE is to stay compliant with the latest regulatory changes and avoid potential penalties or loss of licensure.
Expand Skills and Knowledge
CPE courses offer accountants the opportunity to expand their understanding of various accounting topics, such as taxation, auditing, financial reporting, and more. Expanding technical skills and knowledge is always an opportunity to provide better service, gain new clients and contribute more effectively to their accounting firms' success.
Embracing Tech Evolution
The accounting profession has seen significant technological advancements in recent years, with tools like artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data analytics transforming the way accounting firms work. CPE courses include these technological developments, enabling them to leverage new tools and techniques to improve efficiency and deliver better results.
Developing Soft Skills
Developing soft skills is probably the weakest factor in accounting roles. Although this is changing in recent years, CPE courses can help accountants develop essential soft skills, such as communication, leadership, and critical thinking, which can enhance their overall effectiveness and accounting firms’ growth.
Building a Competitive Edge
In a competitive job market, accounting firms that invest in CPE for employees can set themselves apart from their peers. Showcasing their commitment to ongoing learning and development can make them more attractive to top accounting talent.
CPE courses often provide valuable networking opportunities, allowing accountants to connect with other professionals in their field. These connections can lead to new business opportunities and partnerships helping accountants expand their firm's professional network.
How Accounting Firms Can Support Continuing Professional Education
Accounting firms can play a crucial role in promoting CPE among their employees by:
Offering In-House Training Program
Accounting firms can develop in-house training programs or partner with external providers to offer CPE courses tailored to their employees' needs. This can help ensure that staff members have access to relevant, high-quality learning opportunities that align with the firm's goals and objectives.
Attending major accounting conferences can be a great way to start earning CPE hours, as they often feature a diverse range of industry leaders and offer talks that cater to a variety of interests and schedules. Letting your team participate in popular conferences such as Quickbooks Connect or the one organized by the AICPA is an easy and effective way to promote continuous learning among accounting firms’ employees.
In-Person Classes and Workshops
One effective way to support CPE for CPAs is by providing financial assistance to cover the cost of attending classes or training courses. This option can be particularly helpful for individuals who are unable to attend larger conferences or events, and who would benefit from more local and convenient learning opportunities, such as seminars or workshops offered by state CPA associations.
Providing Financial Support
Accounting firms can offer financial support for employees pursuing CPE, such as covering the cost of courses, materials, or exam fees. This can help remove financial barriers and encourage employees to invest in their professional development.
The Culture of Learning
Continuing professional education is essential for accountants in a rapidly changing world. Fostering a culture of learning within the accounting firm can help create an environment where employees feel supported and motivated to engage in CPE. This can include recognizing and celebrating employees' achievements, providing opportunities for knowledge sharing, and encouraging open dialogue about professional development.
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Kevin Mitchell, CPA
Senior Manager and CPA with over 20 years of experience in accounting and financial services, specializing in risk management and regulatory compliance. Skilled in managing audits and leading teams to deliver exceptional services. Proud father of two.
McCann, E. (2018, November 26). How to Pursue Continuing Education as a Certified Public Accountant — Method. Method. https://www.method.me/blog/how-to-pursue-continuing-education-as-a-certified-public-accountant/
The Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE). (n.d.). NASBA Registry. https://www.nasbaregistry.org/the-standards