CPE Formats

The continuing professional education market is broken into three credit categories:
  • Group live
  • Group internet-based
  • Self-study
Group live courses consist of live content offered in a face-to-face presentation setting. CPE providers will either develop proprietary educational content or they will contract with an outside speaker. Courses are delivered in a conference setting (typically called seminars), with PowerPoint content being the primary medium for exchange.

Group internet-based courses, typically called webcasts or webinars, are also live since they are offered in real time. The most common delivery software packages are Adobe Acrobat Connect or GoTo Meeting, both of which allow for live streaming of video, audio, and screen-sharing. CPE providers are required to incorporate some form of monitoring, which includes passwords, polls, and other pop-up methodology. Participants are then required to participate by interacting with the presenter or software, or by noting passwords for later verification.

Both group live and group internet-based credits are based on the number of hours of participation, which requires 50 minutes of content per credit hour.

Finally, the self-study format primarily consists of e-book content, which is licensed by CPE providers. Participants are expected to the read the course materials and then take an exam to earn credit. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) requires five final exam questions per credit hour awarded and sets a minimum 70% exam score to attain credit. The number of self-study credits to be awarded are based on the number of words in the e-book. However, with the availability of new technology, CPE providers are starting to develop new modes of delivery, including video-based self-study modules.

In general, state boards accept group live and group internet-based credits for all credit requirements, while some states cap the number of credits obtained through the self-study format. All CPAs are encouraged to periodically review their state requirements.

CPE Providers

CPE providers hail from a diverse mix of institutions, including universities, state accountancy chapters, training firms, and industry specialists. Each state has its own accreditation requirements, but most states conveniently accept credits from NASBA-approved providers. A variety of firms offer CPE to CPAs in an effort to distribute information about their consulting services, software, or networks, while the sole purpose of others is the direct sale of CPE content. According to our recent survey of the CPE marketplace, there are approximately 2,100 NASBA-approved providers.

CPE Pricing

During the spring and summer of 2015, we reviewed a sample of NASBA-approved providers. Sample pricing was drawn from courses with varying durations (1 hour to 40+ hours), credit categories (Ethics, Statistics, Accounting, Finance, Tax, etc.), location (throughout the U.S.), and format (group live, group internet-based, self-study).

According to our analysis, which was based on a sample of 132 group live CPE courses, the average CPE price per credit for a live seminar was $69 with a median of $47.

Our group internet-based sample was based on 106 live webcasts and saw an average CPE price per credit for a live webcast equal to $60 with a median of $40.

Finally, self-study pricing was based on a sample of 132 courses and exhibited an average of $24 and a median of $12.

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