Surgent CPE’s platform offers a healthy course catalog (including ethics options), daily webinars, an easy to use platform, and a good variety of CPE. The downside is that those features will cost you, as the platform offers various levels of packages for on-demand courses and live webinars. To get all the features, on-demand courses, and live webinars, it’s $799 a year. The courses themselves cover a wide variety of topics, though the format is a little boring, offering only on-demand webinars and text-based options with no instructor interaction.
Surgent CPE platform has a healthy variety of on-demand course, a large number of live webinars, and an easy-to-use platform, but the courses are only a variety of webinar recordings, not purpose-built, on-demand courses, and written pdfs and “textbooks”. That is an odd combination relative to the competition.
Courses/CPE – Solid & Dated
The platform currently has nearly 500 on-demand courses available. Courses are available on the online platform, though all learning comes from previously recorded on-demand webinars, traditional PDFs, or even more dated textbooks. However, whichever style you choose, exams are graded immediately and certificates are awarded. They offer more than 250 webinars a year, covering a great variety of topics. These webinars range from basic 1-hour webinars to full-day webinars lasting 8 hours. CPE is available for several certification types, including CPA, CFP, YB, CTEC, and EA, and although they have a fair number of on-demand ethics courses, few of them are state-specific (meaning you may need to go elsewhere if your state requires its own, unique ethics course).
Platform/Features – Easy
Everything about Surgent CPE is easy to use, from searching the course catalog to accessing your portal to taking courses or checking your CPE certificates. Most courses provide ratings and reviews, so you can see what other users have thought about the course. As for reviews of Surgent itself, we couldn’t find any reviews on vetted 3rd party platforms (e.g. Capterra). One disappointing element of Surgent is that we couldn't seem to find any bios for the course instructors. It would be nice to know more about who created the course, what kind of experience they have, and what their credentials are. The learning platform is easy to use and is truly mobile-friendly (unlike many others we’ve seen). There is no true CPE ‘compliance tracking’ option that knows the state-by-state CPE rules and how you’re doing against them, but there is an area in the portal where you can easily access your certificates from completed Surgent learning activity. Currently, they offer only one micro-certification (in Excel), though they do offer a few ‘packages/collections’ of courses for things like Internal Audit, Yellow Book and Enrolled Agents. Unfortunately — especially given the price — there are no free courses to sample and no free trial option. Thus, if you want to try out the platform, you’ll have to buy individual courses or dive into the pricy packages.
UX – Top of the Line
Surgent CPE’s user experience is one of the best we’ve seen. Once you log in, you can easily access everything you need in the sidebar, including your packages, webinar registrations, self-study courses, certificates, and order history. There’s no need to search for sneaky links or hidden features here. Things do get a little tricky when you start to take a self-study course — at least, if you take one that was based on a previously recorded webinar. Clicking the “Watch Webcast” link opens a new window (though one that does not seem to trigger pop-up blockers, thankfully). It’s unclear if this is the true learning platform, or if this is just an additional part of it. But even it is fairly easy to use. Not quite as clear or easy as the portal (it could use with some better labeling) but it is far easier than others we’ve seen. To complete the course with the final exam, you have to exit out of the webcast platform and return to the portal. Not too much of a hassle, but it is an additional step.
Cost - Not Cheap
The platform offers a variety of purchase options. Individual courses can be purchased a la carte and run from ~$39-$225, depending on the number of credits each course offers. Most users would probably choose from one of the five primary packages. There are two packages that offer just on-demand learning and no webinars. The first is $225 and only includes 16 credits, so you can choose 16 credits from the non-premium courses available. But be warned, you don’t have 12 months to take these courses. This package expires at the end of the calendar year! The second is $499 and includes unlimited on-demand courses — as long as you don’t want any premium courses, as those are not included. This package does give you the full 12 months, so no need to rush at the end of the year unless that’s part of your CPE requirement. There are two packages that offer strictly live webinars. These two are only available for the calendar year, and there’s no discount for buying mid-year. The first is $399 and only includes 16 credits, allowing you to choose 16 credits from any of the non-premium webinars offered. The second is $599 for unlimited webinars. The truly unlimited option is Unlimited Plus, which costs $799 annually. This package includes unlimited webinars and unlimited courses (including premium courses).
Team/Firm Capability – Good
The platform offers general firm solutions for firms with at least five CPAs. These firms are able to develop tailored CPE programs that include courses in any format desired, like live in-firm training, live webinars (both those already scheduled and custom webinars for your firm), on-demand webcasts, and traditional PDFs. Surgent also offers a Flexible Access for Firms option that provides 12 months of firm-wide access to any Surgent live webinar, self-study PDFs, or on-demand webcasts. You buy hours, not seats or licenses, and can adjust hours if needed. It’s unclear (not mentioned on the site that we could find) if Surgent offers things like corporate LMS integration or SSO (single sign-on). Their site also doesn’t mention offering custom curriculum, internal (client) course creation and CPE for client-built courses, or creation and calendaring of internal CPE events/webinars.
Surgent CPE is a quality CPE solution for both individuals and firms. With nearly 500 on-demand courses, daily live webinars, and an easy-to-use platform, it’s a great choice for CPAs, CFPs, and anyone else looking for CPE. Unfortunately, the actual course formats are a bit dated, there’s only one micro-certification, and no CPE tracker. The price is a bit steep for the unlimited package, and the other packages have meaningful limitations. Surgent does offer good topic coverage, it’s just heavily based on written materials and it’s a bit pricey.