Five Tips CPAs Should Heed for Continuing Education

By Jason Bramwell

Whether it is watching a webinar on their laptop, taking an online self-study course, or attending an educational session at a conference, CPAs have several avenues they can take to accumulate CPE credits.

"There are more educational opportunities available now for tax and accounting professionals than ever before," Ken Koskay, CPA, vice president of learning solutions for the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters, Carrollton, TX, told AccountingWEB.

Koskay briefly provides five tips that CPAs should consider when pursuing their continuing education requirements.

1. Determine if you are a minimum or maximum learner: CPAs should decide if they want to maintain their credentials with less effort and expense, or if they want to develop competencies or an understanding for their job with a more comprehensive learning program, Koskay says.

2. Research the reputation of the presenter and provider: When choosing an online self-study course, a webinar to watch, or an in-person educational seminar to attend, CPAs need to be able to trust the trainer's knowledge of the subject matter, as well as the credibility and consistency of the company from which the trainer is employed, according to Koskay.

"Knowing that the CPE you complete will be accepted by your state board of accountancy is obviously very important," Koskay says.

CPAs can use an Internet search engine of their choice to find a listing of training courses offered by providers. Koskay recommends typing "CPE" in the search engine, along with the topic, location, and medium – either self-study, in-person seminars, or webinar.

Through its Checkpoint Learning online website, Thomson Reuters offers more than 500 CPE courses, as well as training and workflow solutions, such as learning plans, automated CPE tracking, and compliance, for tax and accounting professionals, Koskay said.

"Whether you're an individual seeking training or a decision-maker creating comprehensive learning and development plans for staff, our Checkpoint Learning has the courses, tracking, and workflow tools needed to meet requirements, gain necessary knowledge and skills, and efficiently manage training and continuing education," he added.

Two other providers of training resources are the American Institute of CPAs and CCH.

Koskay recommends that CPAs should make sure the CPE provider they choose for continuing education is licensed by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

"The NASBA regulates the industry to ensure that providers offer high-caliber training that meets certain standards," he says. "If you go with a provider that is not NASBA licensed, the CPE credit will not be accepted in an audit."

Koskay adds that one advantage in-person seminars have over webinars is the opportunity for CPAs to network with their peers.

3. Look at value and pricing: Subscription packages are more cost-effective than choosing one course at a time or using multiple vendors, Koskay says.

"For example, an individual eight-hour course can cost between $125 and $300, depending on the choice of media. An all-you-can-eat annual subscription package will generally cost less than $500 per year for a library of courses that would cost thousands of dollars if purchased separately," he adds. "For example, Thomson Reuters' Premier CPE Package offers an unlimited number of courses in online self-study, webinars, and in-person formats, plus automated CPE tracking and compliance, for $299 per year. You couldn't afford that on an individually purchased basis."

4. Consider the level of depth of the course information: A couple of providers link their course materials to a database of relevant research content, according to Koskay.

"This enables an accountant to look up primary source materials, such as those from the IRS, court cases, news articles, and expert analysis," he says. "For example, we hyperlink between courses on Checkpoint Learning and our research content on Thomson Reuters Checkpoint."

5. Examine the benefits of CPE management tools: Koskay says some CPE providers provide a portal or home page that displays courses that the accounting professional is currently taking or has completed, licenses needed, and state requirements.

"You may want a system that emails status reports and tracks and submits certificates of completion to you as the learner, which will assist in the process of filing license renewals with state boards," Koskay concludes. "The more courses taken and the more states you have licenses in, the more time these tools can give back to the accountant for higher-priority work."

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