CPAs are constantly having to take continuing education courses not only to keep up with changes in the field, but to maintain their licenses. According to the AICPA, they must complete a minimum of 120 hours of education every three years to maintain their membership. And each state has their own rules and guidelines that CPAs must follow to maintain their licenses. But how is a CPA to decide which topics to focus on for those hours of continuing education? Here are the top five topics for CPAs. 

1. Fraud

Fraud is a topic built for continuing professional education (CPE). Even though it is now covered in most regular college curriculums, it’s a topic that is always relevant. While fraud assessment is often a focus of auditing, all CPAs would do well to continue to learn about fraud, especially the new tactics, workarounds, and real-life cases that spring up every year. Choosing to satisfy the CPE requirements with a fraud-related course is the perfect way to stay up to date on fraud issues and learn interesting information along the way.

2. Governmental Accounting

Do you know what the Yellow Book is? You should. It’s what is used to perform much of a governmental audit. While only CPAs who perform Yellow Book audits are required to take a set number of CPE hours directly related to Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS), it’s a topic that everyone could use a refresher on. What kinds of topics are covered in Governmental Accounting CPE courses? Typically things related to GAGAS, as well as from sources like American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) Statements on Auditing Standards, Applicable AICPA Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements and Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services, among others. 

3. Tax Updates

As tax compliance is a constantly shifting area, taking continuing education courses in the most recent tax updates can be beneficial for any CPA.These courses can be as narrow as looking at a specific type of business education category or as broad as an overview of the year’s tax changes. There are also evergreen areas of concern, such as how to defend yourself or your client in and IRS audit, how to respond to common IRS notices, and cyber security. In recent years, evaluating employee vs contractor has become a popular and divisive area of concern, so continuing education courses in this area could be beneficial as well.

4. Internal Auditing

Internal auditing is typically a choice of auditors in particular, but is an option for accountants across all sectors. While every CPA has to have a certain knowledge of auditing to pass the CPA exam, many who do not focus on auditing may overlook internal auditing. That’s why internal auditing can be a fun choice for CPAs for continuing education courses, as they may not have learned much about it since college courses (if they learned much then).

5. Finance

While many CPAs are familiar with basic finance topics, most seem to lack in-depth knowledge of finance. For them, a CPE course covering finance topics like the time value of money, investments, financial ratios, and advanced analyses could be incredibly important. A course or two in these areas would help the accountant become more well-rounded and prepared to leverage their financial skills for a higher salary and more clientele. Of course, more finance knowledge could also benefit their personal financial lives as well.

How to Choose

While certain types of CPE are required based on a CPA’s chosen area of focus, there is always an opportunity to broaden your horizons and learn something new every year. Consider trying a new topic as you earn your required hours for 2021, or start planning ahead for your continuing education hours of 2022.