Last month we focused on technical fields of study as defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). These two organizations jointly issue the standards that define the Continuing Professional Education framework for programs used by CPAs to maintain their licensure. These standards are designed to ensure all CPAs are prepared with a wide range of knowledge, skills, and abilities. 

While the non-technical learning activities may not seem to directly relate to the profession of accounting and the CPA’s field of business, they are just as essential to the success of CPA. Continuing education courses related to non-technical skills should complement the courses designed to increase the technical competence of a CPA.  

The non-technical areas of study include behavioral ethics, business management and organization, communications and marketing, computer software and applications, personal development, personnel and human resources, and production. 

Behavioral Ethics

Behavioral ethics covers ethical decision making, ethical practice in business, personal ethics, and diversity, equity, and inclusion including unconscious bias training and awareness.  Ethics is one area of study that is required of all CPAs.  Individual state boards of accountancy determine the ethics requirements for licensees (the state-by-state requirements can be on the ‘CPE requirements’ tab found on the NASBA Registry website at www.nasbaregistry.org).

Business Management and Organization

Business management and organization encompasses all types of skills related to the management of an organization.  These skills cover the areas of organization structures, management planning, and administrative practices.  Specifically, this area of study includes organization and administration of a public accounting practice.  Within the administration piece, time and billing, collections, professional liability insurance and succession planning are covered.  Business management within a specific industry would also fall into this area of study. 

Communications and Marketing

This area of study covers the skills needed for to be a strong communicator as well as the development of marketing tactics for a CPA firm or other organization.  Courses within the communications and marketing field of study include business presentation and writing, interviewing techniques, public relations, social media, customer communications and marketing professional services.

Computer Software and Applications

This field of study covers the software and applications that are specific to a CPA’s usage in offering professional services.  The courses within this area provide ‘how to’ guidance for software and applications that can be used across many accounting areas.  Courses detailing software and applications for specific accounting areas, such as audit and tax, are classified within the respective technical area of study.

Personal Development

Personal development courses address career planning, leadership and time management skills.

Personnel and Human Resources

This area of study covers human resources management, the recruitment, development and retention of employees, operational systems for human resources, and diversity, equity and inclusion in recruiting and retaining of employees.

Production

Subjects in the production field of study include operations management, inventory management, and supply operations.  Within those areas topics include scheduling, inventory control, standards for pay and productions and quality control.

The Importance of Non-Technical Fields of Study

Now more than ever it’s crucial for CPAs to understand the non-technical fields as well as the technical ones. For example, behavioral ethics has proven time and again to be something that CPAs need to continue to learn as studies and research continue to evolve. Business management and organization is essential to CPAs building successful businesses and supporting their clients. Staying up-to-date on the latest computer software and applications ensures that CPAs stay aware of potential risks to themselves and their clients. 

While it could be easy to write off these non-technical fields, it’s just as important to focus on these courses as technical ones.