Continuing Professional Education for CPAs

In most states, Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are required to earn continuing professional education (CPE) credits every year to keep their licenses active. The CPE requirements are as set by the state board of accountancy and vary from state to state.

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) also requires certain CPE for maintaining membership.

For example, in California, the CPE requirements for CPA are as follows:

General Requirements

80 hours during the two-year period immediately preceding the license expiration date, with a minimum of 20 hours due each year. 40 hours in technical subjects are due each reporting period, with a minimum of 12 hours in technical subjects due each year.

Ethics Requirement

Four (4) hours of ethics are due every reporting period. A two (2) hour, board approved, Regulatory Review course is due every 6 years. Self-study ethics courses taken must be tested and passed with a minimum score of 90.

Other Subject Area Requirements

  • Government: If the individual engages in planning, directing, conducting substantial portions of fieldwork, or reporting on financial or compliance audits of a government agency, 24 hours of government CPE are required.
  • Accounting & Auditing: If the individual engages in planning, directing, approving, performing substantial portions of the work, or reporting on an audit, review, compilation or attestation services on a non-governmental entity, 24 hours of A & A are required.
  • Fraud: For licensees who are subject to the A&A or Government CE requirement, an additional 8 hours of fraud CE, related to the detection and/or reporting of fraud in financial statements, is required. The fraud CE is part of the 80 hours of CE required for license renewal, but not part of the 24-hour A&A or government CE requirement.
  • Technical: A minimum of 50% (at least 40 hours) must be in technical subject areas such as accounting, auditing, taxation, consulting, financial planning, Board-approved professional conduct and ethics course, computer and information technology (except for word processing) and specialized industry or government practices related to public accounting skills.

Credit Limitations

  • A 50% cap (at most 40 hours) in the non-technical subject areas such as communication skills, word processing, sales, marketing, motivational techniques, negotiation skills, office management, practice management, and personnel management.
  • The maximum credit for instructors is 50% or 40 hours.
  • The maximum credit for writing articles/books/instructional materials/Uniform CPA exam questions is 25% or 20 hours of the total requirement.
  • Credits for authorship/publications are acceptable as long as the publisher is not under control of the licensee.
  • Half credits are accepted after first hour.
  • Academic credit limited to the following:  1 quarter hour equals 10 CPE hours; 1 semester hour equals 15 CPE hours; and 1 hour non-credit classroom presentation equals 1 CPE hour.

You can find out the CPE requirements for each of the 54 states from

The need for continuing education arises from the requirement of maintaining and increasing professional competence. Each state has its own requirements , and National Association of State Boards Accountancy (NASBA) serves as a forum for the 54 U.S. boards of accountancy. NASBA maintains a National Registry of CPE Sponsors. This program recognizes sponsors that are approved to offer CPE in accordance with nationally recognized standards. Everyone among state boards, CPAs and firms agree that NASBA approved CPE program sponsors provide a higher standard of continuing professional education to the CPA profession.