By Megan Killian, vice president, member relations
Becoming a CPA is a challenging process, and by passing the CPA Exam you’re almost there! This is a huge achievement. Congratulations, my friend!
The learning isn’t over, though. Staying informed and educated on all the rules and regulations and learning from your peers are important parts of what make the CPA profession stand out among other professions. That’s why continuing professional education (CPE) is a requirement for keeping your license active.
Applying for Your Initial License
When you passed the exam will determine whether or not you’ll need to have completed CPE when you apply for your initial license. Generally, preparation for and taking the exam is considered your professional education IF (notice this word is capitalized, underlined, and italicized because this is a big IF) you passed the exam during the time when you would have otherwise taken CPE.
Let’s back up a moment: CPE is required education needed to get or renew a CPA license that’s valid for the next biennial period. Here’s an example of the cycle:
- Take CPE during Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2019.
- Renew your license December 2019.
- License is valid through Dec. 31, 2021.
- Take CPE during Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021.
- Renew license December 2021.
- License is valid through Dec. 31, 2023.
- And so on.
So, when you passed the exam and when you apply for your license will determine whether you’ll need CPE for that initial license (see chart below). If you’re unsure, I would advise that you confirm with the State Board of Accountancy as to whether or not you need CPE.
What Are the CPE Requirements if I Am Applying for My Initial License?
Passed the CPA Exam prior to 2016:
- Applying for initial license on or after Oct. 2, 2017: Required to have 80 hours of CPE in previous 24 months.
|Passed the CPA Exam between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017:
- Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017: No CPE required for initial license or to renew the license at end of 2017. Will need to take CPE during 2018 and 2019.
- Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2018, and Oct. 1, 2019: No CPE required, but will need CPE to renew license at end of 2019.
- Applying for initial license on or after Oct. 2, 2019: Required to have 80 hours of CPE in previous 24 months.
|Passed the CPA Exam between Jan. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2019:
- Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2018, and Oct. 1, 2019: No CPE required for initial license or to renew the license at end of 2019. Will need to take CPE during 2020 and 2021.
- Applying for initial license between Jan. 1, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2021: No CPE required, but will need CPE to renew license by end of 2021.
- Applying for initial license on or after Oct. 2, 2021: Required to have 80 hours of CPE in previous 24 months.
Renewing Your License
Meeting the CPE requirements for the first renewal is where some licensees can get tripped up.
The time of year you apply for your initial license and the valid dates on that initial license will determine whether you need to be taking CPE for the next renewal. Look for the expiration date on your initial license (or look it up here). If it expires at the end of the current biennial period, then you need to have your 80 hours by the expiration date. (And don’t forget the annual 20-hour minimum!)
You worked hard to pass the CPA Exam, and you don’t want to put your license status at risk. Contact the PICPA or the State Board with specific questions, and don’t take any chances that you won’t meet the requirements for initial licensure or renewal.
CPE Requirements in Pennsylvania
Every state has different requirements. In Pennsylvania, you need 80 credit hours every two years, with a minimum of 20 credit hours each year. The biennial reporting period ends on Dec. 31 of every odd numbered year (2019, 2021, 2023, etc.). Here are additional important points about the requirements:
- There are four categories of CPE: tax, A&A, ethics, and other.
- As part of the 80 hours, all licensees need four hours of ethics credits. If you work in attest, then you need 24 A&A credits as part of your total.
- A maximum of 40 credit hours can be self-study.
- When you renew, you don’t need to submit your CPE records as part of that process. However, you should keep all your records because the State Board does audit about 10 percent of licensees to verify compliance.
- Verify with your CPE provider that it is an approved provider by the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy and/or National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. The PICPA is a Pennsylvania-State-Board-approved provider.
There’s a helpful CPE requirements-at-a-glance guide on the PICPA website. You can find professional education requirements for other jurisdictions here.