Continuing professional education (CPE) hours, those pesky requirements needed to maintain your CPA license, are also necessary to ensure that you remain current on tax codes and other legislative developments in the field of accounting. But they can also be an excellent opportunity to increase your value to your employer, broaden your professional knowledge, and choose a CPA specialty. In other words, it may be time to look at fulfilling CPA requirements as an ongoing process that continues throughout your career. (Tip: Each state’s CPA requirements differ, if you want a full list of CPA requirements by state click here)

Today’s CPE providers understand that CPAs often want to do more than brush up on the new tax laws; they want to explore new opportunities and expand their skill set to include everything from ethics and management to communications and marketing. CPE courses are now quite diverse and creative, covering everything from today’s hot button topics and trends to the current economic climate and personal development.

With advances in technology, many CPE programs are offering a variety of formats for the delivery of their course material, thereby making achieving your CPE requirements easier than ever. Online education, satellite programs, podcasts, and webcasts are just a few of the ways CPAs are satisfying their CPE requirements.

CPE courses are evolving to meet the demands of today’s CPA, so it may be time to consider the many ways in which CPE can benefit your career:

CPE allows you to build upon your professional knowledge and expertise.

Your expertise as a CPA professional, as you are no doubt well aware, doesn’t end when you receive your CPA license. Therefore, when assessing your CPE options, it is important to consider expanding your skill set with both “hard” skills and “soft” skills.

CPE courses that build upon your hard skills may cover accounting technology, such as the newest accounting software or enterprise management software, as well as key business skills, such as Six Sigma, project management, and portfolio management. Although obtaining these skills certainly is not essential to accounting, they certainly allow you to become more effective at your current position and allow you to begin achieving specific business and career objectives.

CPE courses that concentrate on soft skills will allow you to concentrate on communicating better with clients and interacting and collaborating better with colleagues. Soft skills cannot always be measured, but they are, without a doubt, essential for achieving success and long-term growth. Soft skills may include leadership, team building, communications, international business relations, and public speaking.

CPE allows you to enhance your career options.

CPE is likely the most effective way to enhance your value to your current employer, as well as future employers. For ambitious accountants, CPE is the perfect opportunity to gain specific skills that allow them to increase their earning potential and move to higher-level positions within their company. If you’re a CPA seeking a supervisory role, CPE courses in human resource planning or organizational skills may arm you with those specialized skills needed to climb the professional ladder.

In short, extensive and well-rounded CPE training allows you to expand your skills, surpass your employer’s expectations, and satisfy your specific professional goals.

CPE allows you to expand your scope of practice.

A CPA specialty may be just what you need to take your career in a new direction, and CPE provides you with the opportunity for doing so. CPE allows you to expand on your general accounting skills, but it may also provide you with the opportunity to explore an area of expertise. For example, you may want to begin exploring CPE in financial planning, forensic accounting, or international accounting practices.

CPE allows you to gain a competitive edge in the industry.

One of the most effective ways to stand out from the competition within the accounting industry is to show employers you have an expansive and well-rounded skill set that sets you apart from other CPAs. Your CPE should show employers your ability to offer a number of value-added services to their business. It should also reflect your commitment to your profession and your willingness to not only remain current on specific, tax-related issues, but to also stay current on those skills that enhance your career in different ways, such as communications, marketing, and customer handling.

A business’ goals are never static, so your professional goals should never be static, either. When choosing CPE, consider practice niches in which you may want to gain more knowledge, and consider your overall professional development goals and the skills you want to bring to your current employer or future employers. Your CPE portfolio should represent a commitment to personal and professional growth, and it should be uniquely yours.

Guest Blogger: Tony Smith