CPA CPE – How to Survive Continuing Professional Education

In my opinion, thinking strategically about CPE is the key. Like any small business owner, you are in charge of your career and need to come up with a strategy. And strategy starts with answering some basic questions, doing some research, thinking, and putting together a plan. This is all the work of a busy professional – like a CPA!

Here are some important questions to answer:

What are my personal objectives, both in terms of career and personal development?

Where do I want to be in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

What are my personal strengths?

In what areas could I envision the most dramatic potential for improvement with some focused effort?

What potential improvements would have the most impact on my life and career?

What challenges and opportunities am I facing over the next 3-6 months? 6-12 months? 1-2 years?

What types of clients am I serving? What are their needs, and in what ways can I meet their needs better than today?

What are my relationships with colleagues? Are there opportunities for improvement here?

Do I have an effective network? What value do I hold for my network? Do I want to change that?

What are some key developments in the accounting field?

What are the major current developments in the overall business environment, or in the communities I serve? What is my program for keeping up to date and ahead of the trends?

These questions may seem very simple and basic. Frankly, they are not particularly scientific, but they are definitely a starting point for a strategic plan that includes personal development. We always need to remember that personal development is the key to moving forward, and that working on ourselves – increasing our capabilities and skill levels – always produces the best results in the long run.

So, what jumps out or emerges when you answer these questions? Think about your CPA CPE. Are there some things that you can do to satisfy some of the urges resulting from answering the questions that can be satisfied by continuing professional education? Here are a few ideas:

1. Identify the hard skills. These are the core accounting, finance, and law knowledge that you need to obtain in the coming period.

2. Identify the soft skills that you will need to achieve your near and medium term goals. These are the key people skills that will open some doors for you.

3. Identify the environments in which you want to operate. You may need some specific industry exposure. You may need to seek out some specific situations where you can network with other professionals with particular areas of expertise that you want to gain.

4. Identify your learning preferences. In many cases, due to constraints of both time and money, you will want to devise a blend of in person, on your own, and online work that optimizes your use of time. The training options are also an input to this decision.

5. Identify your networking needs. You may be able to kill 2 birds with one stone by attending education meetings for CPE credit where you also get the right mix of networking to expand your contacts.

6. Many professionals find that they want to supplement their current credentials – like a CPA – with another credential that will help them to differentiate themselves to their clients and in the marketplace, or sometimes even move them in a different direction altogether. CPAs and other professionals often satisfy CPE requirements while at the same earning a certification in IT, project management, Six Sigma, Business Analysis, or a related field.

These are but a few ideas for gradually developing a strategic plan for earning CPE credit to maintain your CPA license. Hopefully, looking at the CPE requirement from a fresh viewpoint, and incorporating your CPE activities into your own personal vision and strategic plan helps to satisfy the CPE requirement as much as it does to move you forward as a professional in your desired strategic direction.

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