After becoming a licensed Certified Public Accountant, you’re required to complete about 40 hours of continuing education credits each year (depending on the state you’re licensed in). Forty hours in a year doesn’t sound like much - it’s roughly the amount of time you work each week - but balancing it with your full-time work as a CPA isn’t easy.
If you don’t steadily complete course credit hours throughout the year, rushing through 40 hours of continuing education courses in a short time period can be almost impossible. The best course of action? Start planning now and think of your CPE courses as an obligation that is just as important as your full-time job.
It’s essential to find ways to fit your CPE studies into your schedule and avoid being overwhelmed with your courses near your CPE reporting deadline. Here are our best tips to balance your CPE studies with your full-time job.
Complete CPE Courses Online
Taking CPE courses in a classroom setting can be beneficial if you enjoy social interaction, but when you’re working full time, it’s hard to find the time to attend. Take the pressure off by taking advantage of online, NASBA-approved accounting courses that allow you to study and work whenever it’s convenient for you.
Online CPE courses are abundant and available at every price point. You can find courses that meet your state board of accountancy’s requirements online for free or as low as $19.95. If you’re resourceful, you can rack up more than half of your required CPE credits with free online courses.
Check out the American Institute of CPAs’ website for a list of free courses you can start taking now. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy also provides a course library with paid and free courses that count toward your required CPE credits without ever stepping foot in a classroom.
Build a Schedule You Can Stick To
As a CPA, you know that a lack of time management at work can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed. The good news is that planning ahead and being purposeful with your schedule will help you avoid the stress that comes along with an increased workload.
Your CPE studies need a permanent spot on your calendar, so start finding little ways you can fit it in without sacrificing other responsibilities.
It helps to note your busiest days and times. If you know work is typically slow on Wednesday mornings or if you don’t use all of your one-hour lunch break, you might decide to schedule an hour for CPE studying during that time.
Once you’re home from work and ready to relax after looking at numbers on a computer screen all day, CPE studies may be the last thing on your mind. That’s okay! You don’t have to dive right in, but you may be able to make a little time for it later in the evening. Dalia E., CPA, notes that sticking to a schedule helps her fit in time for dinner, parenting responsibilities, relaxation, and a round of CPE studying before bed:
“While working full time and being a single mom...Structure is the key. Kids are fed and bathed by 7pm, 1 hour of TV time, always a bedtime story and hit the books from 8-11pm. It was exhausting and difficult, but also doable.” – Dalia E.
Attend Webinars and Conferences
Your CPE credits don’t have to come from online or in-classroom courses. Approved webinars, conferences, and books can contribute to your CPE credits, too. Look for NASBA-approved webinars on subjects your state board of accountancy requires to earn CPE credits in less time than it takes to complete a full course.
Once you complete an approved course, you will receive a certificate from NASBA in your email inbox within 2 weeks of the webinar. Visit the Institute of Finance & Management for more information on NASBA CPE webinars.
Check on Workplace Study Policies
A possibility you may not have considered yet is taking CPE courses while you’re at work. Not all employers will allow you to do this, but it’s worth asking about. A Robert Half Finance & Accounting study found that 26% of CFOs allowed their CPA employees to take CPE courses during business hours, while an additional 24% said they would consider it depending on the employee.
Why wouldn’t they? Completing CPE courses is a necessity that supports professional development, keeps you immersed in industry ethics standards, and grows your skillset, making you even more of an asset to the company.
If you’re self-employed, you should try to find time throughout the day to view webinars, complete coursework, or read approved books for self-study CPE credit.
Working toward fulfilling your CPE requirements throughout the year will keep you from being consumed by studying all at once. Choosing convenient online course options, sticking to a structured schedule that works for you, taking advantage of approved webinars and conferences, and asking about completing CPE courses at work are all ways to balance your full-time job with your continuing education requirements.
When it’s time to report to your state board of accountancy with your credits for the year (or every 2 or 3 years, depending on your state), you can confidently submit your certificates of completion and know that you’re staying informed, growing your skills as a Certified Public Accountant, and quite frankly, knocking it out of the park.