the ways in which CE is regulated, conducted, and financed are examined.
Certified public accountants (CPAs) are, by virtue of their title, certified and licensed by state boards of accountancy. After initial certification, CPAs in 52 of 54 U.S. jurisdictions must meet continuing professional education (CPE) requirements to maintain their licenses.1 To provide a uniform approach to regulating the accounting profession, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) publish Uniform Accountability Act rules that include a requirement for 120 hours of CPE every 3 years (AICPA and NASBA, 2007). Although each state determines its own CPE requirements, all jurisdictions require either 40 hours each year, 80 hours each 2-year period, or 120 hours each 3-year period, with a minimum of 20 hours in each year (VanZante and Fritzsch, 2006).
Methods of CPE for CPAs are generally limited to self-study, either interactive (e.g., CD-ROM programs, web-based self-study) or noninteractive (e.g., journal reading), or live activities ranging from webinars to lectures and conferences. The National Registry of Continuing Professional Education Sponsors recognizes CPE providers that offer programs in accordance with nationally recognized standards (NASBA, 2009), while individual state boards of accountancy recognize providers from which CPAs can receive CPE credits for license renewal.
Recent accounting scandals have highlighted the importance of ethics in accounting (Mele, 2005). In line with this, some states, including New York and Texas, require CPAs to take some level of CPE related to ethics. Other states have specific requirements for individuals who perform tasks such as attest or auditing services (VanZante and Fritzsch, 2006), and the federal government has content-specific standards for CPAs’ performing auditing work (GAO, 2005). The price of courses and webinars, among others, generally varies based on the technicality of the program’s content, the number of credit hours earned, and the provider. A typical 8-hour course offered by a professional association (e.g., Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs, California Society of CPAs) averages between $200 and $300, while a 1-hour webinar generally costs between $40 and $100.