When shopping for continuing professional education (CPE) courses and providers, there are an overwhelming number of options available for professionals.  Fortunately, the large number of choices means that all professionals can find the best courses and providers to fit their needs.  

Free Courses v Paid Courses

Free courses can be inexpensive as well as a quick and easy way to earn CPE credits without incurring a big expense.  These free courses are a great resource for professionals who are paying for their own continuing education courses out of pocket instead of having the costs covered by employers.  However, the number of free courses available is few, and the topics covered in free courses are often not in high demand.  Also, free online courses may not be of the best quality; sometimes the courses have technical issues or mediocre instructors.  However, there are some great free courses available if the professional is willing to search them out.

It is much more likely that paying for a CPE course will result in attending a high-quality class on an applicable topic.  It is easier to locate courses covering relevant topics when the cost is not an issue.  These courses will likely have better instructors with fewer technology issues.  However, the costs of attending these courses can really add up, and it is hard for an individual on a budget to pay for all the courses needed to meet the licensing requirements.  Even accounting firms that pay for their employees’ CPE have to be cognizant of the amount being spent on continuing education as it would be easy for the costs to add up and go over budget quickly.  Paying for a course may also mean that the professional receives too much information; they may receive access to source materials or discounts that are not relevant and are included in the high cost of a course.

Finding a Quality CPE Provider

One of the best ways to determine if a CPE course is a good fit for you is to evaluate CPE providers.  Below is a list of characteristics to look for when evaluating a CPE provider:

  • Content quality: the courses offered are up-to-date and the content is free of any errors.  
  • Top instructors: the instructors engage with the attendees and offer more than a slide presentation.  Often the best instructors provide real-world examples from their own accounting careers.
  • Reporting: a good CPE provider will offer certificates with the required documentation included once a course is completed.  Many providers offer a compliance monitoring program that tracks the courses that a professional has completed as well as how the courses align with the applicable state board’s requirements.  This feature is especially helpful for making sure that the correct number of ethics credits are earned and if the required number of credits are achieved in specialty areas.
  • Cost: a reputable provider finds a way to pair affordability and quality together.  They recognize that to reach the most professionals, their offerings must be relevant and budget-friendly. 

Making the Decision

Ultimately, the choice is yours when it comes to selecting the right CPE courses and providers for you. With so many options available these days, the choice may seem harder but in reality there are many platforms that will work for your needs.