Continuing professional education (CPE) is ongoing training that is required in order to remain certified as a professional in certain fields. The intent behind requiring this training is to force professionals to continue to update their knowledge of pertinent information that can improve their ability to serve their clients. In the accounting field, the state boards of accountancy all require a significant amount of CPE for certified public accountants (CPAs). Though the exact training requirements vary by state, the general requirements are:
- To take 40 hours of training per year, with some minimum number of hours spent on accounting or auditing subjects; and
- To take an ethics course every other year, which in some cases must pertain to the specific ethics requirements of the relevant state board of public accountancy.
If a CPA does not meet the CPE requirements of the governing state board of public accountancy, there is usually a requirement to make up the missing training time. If this does not happen within a reasonable period of time, then the person's CPA certificate is revoked.
There are a number of ways to fulfill the CPE requirement. A person may take classes from a CPE provider that is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, or which is registered with the applicable state board of public accountancy. These classes can take the form of online self-study training, online webinars, in-person training, and so forth. A recent change in the rules is nano learning, where extremely short courses are offered that grant fractions of a credit hour for course completion. Some proportion of a person's CPE hours can also be earned by teaching classes or writing relevant professional articles or books.