Should Accountants Be Allowed to Earn CPE on the Job?

Jul 26th 2017
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Are employers willing to let their accounting and finance professionals pursue continuing professional education (CPE) opportunities while on the clock? Not so much, it seems, according to a new survey from recruitment firm Robert Half Finance & Accounting.

Only 26 percent of managers report that their organizations allow their accounting and finance teams to fulfill CPE requirements at work, and another 24 percent say it depends on the employee.

That leaves 50 percent of managers who say their firms rarely or never let their staff take classes during business hours.

“Businesses do themselves a disservice by prohibiting employees from taking CPE courses during company time,” Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, said in a written statement. “Webinars, seminars, and online courses, some as short as 10 minutes, allow professionals to earn the needed credits and help their employers by staying on the cutting edge of industry trends.”

Investing time in staff members’ ongoing professional education provides lasting benefits, McDonald added.

“The better informed your employees are, the fewer technical, compliance, and ethical mistakes they’re likely to make,” he said. “Moreover, a generous training program that includes allowing staff to obtain continuing education during work hours shows support for professional development and is a powerful recruitment and retention tool.”

Accountants should follow the following four tips for requesting to earn CPE credits during the workday:

1. Be your own best advocate. Managers may need to be convinced to let employees take courses while at work. Build a business case for how the firm will benefit from the skills you’ll acquire.

2. Start with small sessions. If your boss frowns on continuing education during work hours, choose sessions that can be scheduled during your lunch hour. Not sure where to start your search? Try the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy for more information on requirements and courses for each state.

3. Emphasize the big picture. Is there a gap in your team’s knowledge base? Let your boss know how CPE classes will enable you to shore up those weaknesses and support the team.

4. Look at different options. While some CPE courses are online and others in-person, offerings from providers, including professional organizations, are evolving. For example, in some states, accountants can earn credits through a series of shorter events. Check with local professional associations to find opportunities that fit your needs.

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