Free CPE

An ongoing educational requirement that helps professionals maintain their competency and skill sets to continue providing professional services.

Author: Alisa Zhu
Alisa Zhu
Alisa Zhu
I am an undergraduate student at WFU, majoring in finance and philosophy. I have experience with investment banks both in the North America and APAC. I try to bring a unique blend of practical insights and theoretical understanding to the field.
Reviewed By: Josh Pupkin
Josh Pupkin
Josh Pupkin
Private Equity | Investment Banking

Josh has extensive experience private equity, business development, and investment banking. Josh started his career working as an investment banking analyst for Barclays before transitioning to a private equity role Neuberger Berman. Currently, Josh is an Associate in the Strategic Finance Group of Accordion Partners, a management consulting firm which advises on, executes, and implements value creation initiatives and 100 day plans for Private Equity-backed companies and their financial sponsors.

Josh graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and is currently an MBA candidate at Duke University Fuqua School of Business with a concentration in Corporate Strategy.

Last Updated:January 29, 2024

What is Continuing Professional Education (CPE)?

Continuing professional education (CPE), as the name suggests, is an ongoing educational requirement that helps professionals maintain their competency and skill sets to continue providing professional services.

CPE is required for many fields, including, but not limited to:

  1. Accounting (Certified Public Accountants)
  2. Law 
  3. Engineering
  4. Information technology (IT)
  5. Healthcare 

The requirements for CPE vary by profession and jurisdiction. Professionals must check if they are required to take CPE, the requirements, and how many hours are needed.

Jurisdiction is determined by the states, including American territories, where they are registered. Let’s focus on the CPE requirements for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).

CPAs are professional accountants who have passed a standard national exam and have met additional education and/or experience requirements based on jurisdiction - it’s like the bar exam that lawyers must take, but for accounting.

The state’s board of accountancy licenses CPAs to provide a range of accounting services, including but not limited to auditing, tax preparation, and financial planning. Although the required number of CPE hours varies, CPAs must take some form of CPE.

Key Takeaways

  • CPE is an ongoing educational requirement for professionals to maintain competency in fields like accounting, law, engineering, IT, and healthcare.
  • CPE requirements differ based on the profession and jurisdiction. For Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), state boards of accountancy determine the specifics.
  • The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) offers free and paid webcasts and self-study courses. Examples include "Oversight of Corporate Culture" and "AICPA Peer Review Technical Reviewer Update Course."
  • CPAs should avoid last-minute rushes to fulfill CPE requirements to prevent license risks. Timely subscriptions to institutions offering CPE courses and seeking employer support can streamline the process.

General CPE Requirements

CPE requirements vary greatly depending on your jurisdiction - time, content, form, etc.

Let’s talk about the general requirements:

1. Number of hours within a time frame

Many jurisdictions require a certain number of CPE hours within specific time frames. For example, some states ask for 40 hours a year, while others may require 80 hours every two years or 120 hours every three years.

For example, in Arkansas, you can complete your CPE training with ‌40 hours every year or 120 hours every three years.

2. Numbers of hours in specific technical and non-technical fields of study

Most states require a minimum number of hours in both technical and non-technical fields of study. However, the specific minimums vary by state.

Technical fields of study include, but are not limited to, accounting, auditing, business law, information technology, regulatory ethics, specialized knowledge (of an industry), statistics, and taxes.

Non-technical fields of study include but are not limited to, behavioral ethics, business management and organization, computer software and applications, personal development, human resources, and production.

For example, Alabama requires at least 8 hours of accounting and auditing, 2 hours of ethics, up to 12 hours of Behavioral CPE, and up to 10 hours earned by the Nano Learning delivery method, contributing to the total requirement of 40 hours.


If you are unclear, you should check the exact CPE requirements in your jurisdiction so you don’t miss anything!

Free CPE Courses from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants 

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national professional organization of CPAs in the United States, with more than 428,000 members in 130 countries.

AICPA offers both free and paid webcasts and self-study courses on various topics, including accounting standards, tax laws, financial reporting, and more.

For example:

  1. Oversight of Corporate Culture: A Core Asset in Driving Performance: Online class about behavioral ethics for 2 CPE credits.
  2. AICPA Peer Review Technical Reviewer Update Course: Online class about auditing for 2.5 CPE credits.
  3. Education Planning: An online class about specialized knowledge offering 3.5 CPE credits. It is free for Personal Financial Planning AICPA members, discounted for other AICPA members, and available for non-members at a cost of $105.

AICPA also offers paid courses that range from tens to hundreds of dollars, providing various credits. To find free AICPA courses specifically, visit AICPA’s official website and use the search term “free CPE” in the search bar.


All free AICPA courses are online self-study programs.

To access these courses (free or paid), you must create an account on the AICPA website. Once you have the account, you can browse AICPA’s course catalog. 

Free CPE Courses from the Big Four

The Big Four are the four largest international professional services firms that provide auditing, consulting, advisory, tax, and legal services.

They are Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Let’s see each one:

1. Deloitte

Deloitte offers live webcasts called Dbriefs that provide valuable insight into important developments in the business world. Dbriefs feature practical knowledge from Deloitte specialists and count as CPE credits (all webcasts).

To receive credits, you must:

  1. View at least 50 minutes of the webcast and answer at least 3 polling questions to earn 1 CPE credit
  2. View at least 75 minutes of the webcast and answer at least 5 polling questions to earn 1.5 CPE credits
  3. View at least 105 minutes of the webcast and answer at least 6 polling questions to earn 2 CPE credits

If you miss a live webcast that you’re dying to see, Deloitte offers on-demand archives to their webinars. All webcasts are recorded and archived for 180 days since the first airing.

2. EY

EY offers live webcasts frequently on insights into the finance industry. Not all webcasts are eligible for CPE credit, so be mindful when looking for live webcasts.


All of their webcasts are very insightful, so you should still learn from them if you have time!

To receive credits, you must:

  1. View 50-59 minutes of the webcast and answer 3 polling questions to earn 1 CPE credit
  2. View 60-69 minutes of the webcast and answer 3 polling questions to earn 1.2 CPE credits
  3. View 70-80 minutes of the webcast and answer 4 polling questions to earn 1.4 CPE credits
  4. View 80-89 minutes of the webcast and answer 5 polling questions to earn 1.6 CPE credits
  5. View 90-99 minutes of the webcast and answer 6 polling questions to earn 1.8 CPE credits

CPE credit is offered for live webcasts only (archive and podcast viewing are not eligible), and remember to log into your account before the live webcast!


KPMG has an open forum, the KPMG Institute Network, where peers can exchange insights, share leading practices, and access the latest thought leadership. As part of the forum, KPMG offers webcasts on taxadvisory, and financial reporting.


KPMG also offers CPE-eligible webcast replays.

KPMG often has “interactivity checks” during their webinars. In addition to answering polling questions, you must respond to pop-up notifications throughout the session to confirm your continuous presence and qualify for CPE credit.

4. PwC

PwC doesn’t host webinars as often as Deloitte or EY but offers quality content. They’re well-known for their quarterly updates and webinars

PwC’s accounting and assurance section provides CPE webinars focused on financial statement audits, accounting, governments, and other issues. Their tax section also offers CPE webinars focused on the role of tax in a global business environment.

To receive 1.5 CPE credits (the most you can receive for a webinar), you must stay for the entire webinar and respond to all questions asked during the webcast. Then, complete the course evaluation at the end of the program. 


Since PwC repeats webinars within a month, attending the same webinar with identical content will not result in additional CPE credits.

Free CPE Courses from Mid-Sized Accounting Firms

Many mid-sized accounting firms also offer CPE webinars - sometimes even more than the Big Four!

1. Crowe Global

Crowe is a multinational professional services network of accounting and advisor firms. Crowe offers conferences and webinars for CPE credit.

CPE credits for conferences and webinars vary from 1 to 2 credits per session. This is a great place to look for free CPE credits.

Conferences are in person, while webinars are online (you must attend live webinars to receive CPE credit).

To receive credits, you must:

  1. View 50-60 minutes of the webcast and answer 3 polling questions to earn 1 CPE credit.
  2. View 61-90 minutes of the webcast and answer 5 polling questions to earn 1.0-1.5 CPE credits.
  3. View 91-120 minutes of the webcast and answer 4 polling questions to earn 1.5-2.0 CPE credits.
  4. Meet the duration requirement and respond to a minimum of 75 percent of the polling questions.


BDO USA is the United States' regional form of BDO International (the Dutch firm Binder Dijker Otte & Co), a global accounting network. 

BDO offers webcasts, and most of them count for CPE credit. On BDO’s events & webcasts page, you can filter their events only for webcasts eligible for CPE credits. 


Most webcasts range from 1 to 1.5 credits, but there is a wide range of fields.

3. Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton is a global network of independent accounting and consulting firms providing assurance, tax, and advisory services.

Although they don’t offer webcasts as frequently as some of the other firms, it doesn’t discount the quality of their webcasts.

To receive credits, you must:

  • View 50 minutes out of the 60-minute webcast and answer 75% of the polling questions to earn 1 CPE credit
  • View 75 minutes out of the 90-minute webcast and answer 75% of the polling questions to earn 1.5 CPE credits
  • View 100 minutes out of the 120-minute webcast and answer 75% of the polling questions to earn 2.0 CPE credits

4. Forvis

Forvis is an accounting firm created as a merger between accounting firms BKD (Baird, Kurtz & Dobson) and DHG (Dixon Hughes Goodman).

Forvis offers webinars on the technical knowledge of accounting and economics and non-technical knowledge on behavioral ethics and personal development. In short, Forvis has a good range of areas for you to earn CPE credits.

CPE credits earned through webinars can range from 1 credit to over 4 credits, but only 1 CPE credit webinar is free. 


Forvis also offers webinar replays, but that does not count for CPE credits.

Although only four accounting firms other than the Big Four are listed, many more firms offer webinars that count for CPE credits. Just explore and find them.


One of the good places to look for free CPE credits is accounting firms. The Big 4 frequently offers webinars that count towards CPE credits, and small or medium-sized accounting firms may also provide such opportunities.

Finding your CPE credits for free online is very much possible if you plan it well. However, some CPAs procrastinate on fulfilling their CPE credits until the very last minute!

Procrastinating is terrible for anybody, especially CPAs, because they risk their accounting license if they don’t fulfill the CPE requirements. If left until the last minute, CPAs may have to scramble to find available courses or spend big bucks for classes.

You don’t want to be one of them.

In addition, remember to ask your employer if your firm covers the costs of taking CPE courses because some do - it can save you a lot of money!

If not, simply subscribe to firms or institutions that offer CPE courses so you’ll get the notification right when it’s out.

When you’re doing your free CPE search, remember that not only accounting firms offer free CPE courses. Other finance service companies, consulting companies, law firms, and more may offer free CPE because it’s a great way to connect with you!

Great journeys always start with the basics. So, if you’re considering becoming a CPA, consider exploring various resources, such as WSO’s Accounting Foundations, to take your first step!

Researched and authored by Alisa Zhu | LinkedIn

Reviewed and edited by Parul Gupta LinkedIn

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