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The Complete Guide to Choosing the Right CPE for You

Oct 26, 2023
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Whether you’re newly licensed or have had the CPA designation after your name for decades, navigating your CPE requirements can feel like an added task on top of your daily workload.

Taking some time to reframe, plan and engage with your CPE can make a big difference in your experience. Before you get started, though, let’s review the basics.

Whether you’re newly licensed or have had the CPA designation after your name for decades, navigating your CPE requirements can feel like an added task on top of your daily workload.

How much CPE do I need in Indiana?

First, make sure you’re up to date with Indiana’s CPE requirements for license renewal.

  • Indiana operates on a three-year reporting cycle. This means that every three years a licensed CPA must acquire 120 hours of CPE.
  • At least 20 hours of CPE must be completed each year.
  • If you’re licensed in the middle of a reporting cycle, you will have a prorated number of hours to obtain before the end of each calendar year and the end of the reporting cycle. (See the table here for a full breakdown.)
  • The current reporting cycle is January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2023.

What are the requirements and restrictions for the types of CPE Indiana CPAs can take?

While there’s plenty of room for flexibility when it comes to hitting 120 hours of CPE, there are a few requirements set by the Indiana State Board of Accountancy to keep in mind over the 3-year reporting cycle:

  • 12 hours (10%) need to be dedicated to Accounting & Auditing
  • 4 hours need to be dedicated to Ethics (Effective October 22, 2016, licensees may meet their Ethics requirement by successfully completing a competency-based course or through Ethics-related volunteer work.)
  • Only 60 hours (50%) can be completed through self-study courses

How to make the most of your CPE experience

Understanding the requirements is a large part of the process. But too often it’s easy to put off your CPE and make a final push to hit your reporting requirements as the year comes to an end.

If this is you, you’re not alone. With a multitude of options now thanks to virtual learning, you have so many more ways to hit your hours. If you plan ahead, here’s how you can revamp your approach to make the most of your CPE experience.

Earning your CPE is not just about compliance. It's an opportunity to learn more about areas that interest you, can help you grow and can make a big impact on your career.

First, reframe your mindset

Earning your CPE is not just about compliance and checking it off the list. Remember this is an opportunity to learn more about areas that interest you, can help you grow and can make a big impact on your career.

You’ve worked hard for your license. CPE is your way to continue maintaining excellence and relevance.

Review your goals

What are your professional goals? Do you have a five-year plan? A vision for the next year?

It’s time to sit down and map how CPE goes hand-in-hand with these goals.

Take time to build out a plan of what skills you need to develop to make those goals happen and use that as your guide when reviewing your CPE options. Make sure you’re regularly building learning into your calendar in some capacity.

Ask for direction from leadership

If you want to advance within your firm or organization, take time to talk with internal leaders for insight on upskilling and reskilling opportunities. Understanding the overall organizational goals and how they align with yours is crucial for selecting impactful CPE.

Explore your CPE options

CPE comes in a wide range of categories and options, making it easy to tailor to your unique career situation.

First, let’s look at some of the most common and popular subject areas:

  • Accounting & Auditing and Ethics. Almost every CPA, no matter their location, is required to take CPE in these areas. As a result, you’ll find an abundance of options.
  • Taxation. Tax CPE covers everything from the basics of individual tax forms to need-to-know IRS updates.
  • Technology. Rapid transformation means staying on top of technology is critical. Factoring in CPE about technology into your 120 hours is smart for CPAs at every level, whether you’re learning the ins and outs of Excel or want to learn more about cutting edge solutions that aid in auditing, tax or day-to-day operations.
  • Cybersecurity. Cyber threats aren’t slowing down. That’s why cybersecurity education is a rapidly growing area for CPAs. Understanding the basics of how you can protect your firm, organization and clients should be a priority item on every CPA’s list.
  • Data and Financial Reporting. As the profession shifts, CPAs are increasingly expected to be able to analyze data and provide effective data storytelling. CPE focused on data and financial reporting will help you as the role of the CPA continues to shift.
  • Management. How can you grow as a leader in your organization? From managing multi-generational workforces to learning negotiation skills to improving communication, management courses help you navigate the challenges of the modern workplace for effective leadership.
  • General Professional Development. Every CPA needs strong soft skills to thrive. Gain presentation and communication skills, critical thinking and more that will help you thrive in the workplace every day.

CPE format also varies widely. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider when deciding between formats:

  • Virtual live CPE/webinars: This comes with the benefit of no travel and ability to enjoy right from your office or home. This format counts towards your live CPE hours. The drawback? Networking and connecting with others is not as easy as when you are face-to-face.
  • On-demand/self-study CPE: You can fit it into your schedule no matter what it looks like or where you’re located, but there’s no interaction with others and it also requires self-discipline to complete. If you’re easily distracted and have a hard time committing time for yourself, self-study CPE could be challenging.
  • In-person CPE: The classic option! In-person CPE — including workshops, one-off classes and larger, all-day conferences — offers the most opportunity to connect with peers and the instructors. You also run the risk of less distraction (How many times does a colleague pop in with a question when you’re in the office? How often does the Slack or Teams notification go off?) which can boost your experience. These options, though, require the most arrangements, whether it’s taking the afternoon off or traveling out of town.

The best learning plan incorporates a variety of subjects for a well-rounded experience, while also mixing up the formats. Invest in at least a few in-person experiences each year that can help you grow your network, another important skill for any professional. (A great option that comes with 8 CPE hours? The upcoming INCPAS Convention on December 13.)

Take advantage of INCPAS free CPE offerings

Free CPE options—like those included with your INCPAS membership—have their place and can provide great quality learning. Free options are often introductory and cover basic overviews of topics. Use this as a way to test out areas that pique your interest.

Consider the CPE provider

Let’s face it: CPE quality can vary widely, especially now that virtual learning options are more abundant than ever. Make sure you’re taking CPE from reputable organizations. If you’ve never heard of the provider, be sure to do your research to make sure you’re getting accurate, quality information.

Choosing CPE from INCPAS’ extensive catalog means you’re getting vetted options.

“We strive to make finding and taking high-quality CPE as easy as possible for CPAs across Indiana,” says Nichole Favors, INCPAS vice president - member services. “We also continue to work toward launching new solutions that help you meet your hours in cost effective ways, like the INCPAS Flex Pass discount program.”

As this reporting cycle wraps and a new one begins, it’s the perfect time to review and revamp your approach to CPE!

Have questions?

  • Visit INCPAS CPE Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about CPE basics and INCPAS CPE policies
  • Call INCPAS Member Services at 317-726-5000 or (800) 272-2054
  • Contact the Indiana State Board of Accountancy at (317) 234-3022 for more information about licensing requirements and questions about non-INCPAS courses

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