FAQs: Credential Pre-Certification Requirements 




1.  What are the requirements needed to apply for an AICPA credential?

Applicants of the AICPA’s Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credentials, and who obtain the credential through a traditional U.S. pathway must:

  • Hold a valid and unrevoked CPA license, active permit or certificate issued by a legally constituted state authority (for the PFS and CITP, it must also be in an active status);
  • Pass the credential exam (or an approved non-AICPA exam if applicable);
  • Complete the online credential application; and
  • Attest to meeting the minimum business experience and education requirements, and pay the appropriate credential fee.
    • Business or Academic Experience: Business of academic experience varies by credential. Refer to the relevant online Application Kit for examples of business experience. All business experience must occur within the five-year period preceding the date of the application. 
    • Education: Credential candidates must complete 75 hours of pre-certification education within the relevant credential body of knowledge, based on the definition of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). All hours must have been obtained within the five-year period preceding the date of the application. Refer to the online Application Kit for further details.

Those applying for a credential that has an approved pathway outside the U.S. must hold a valid non-U.S. accounting credential from one of the select, approved professional organizations, governmental entity or similar accountancy body approved by the AICPA Board of Directors as outlined on our website. For additional details on International Associate membership and credentials offered through the AICPA, contact our Member Service Center at 1.888.777.7077. 



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2. What is changing?
In March 2017, the National Accreditation Commission (NAC) unanimously approved moving from Continuing Professional Education (CPE) to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as basis for the 75 hours of pre-certification education requirement for the AICPA’s ABV, CFF, CITP and PFS credentials. This change goes into effect May 1, 2017. All 75 hours must have been obtained within the five-year period preceding the date of the application.

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3. What is the difference between CPE and CPD?
CPE is the set of learning activities approved by NASBA or a legally constituted state authority that enables CPAs to maintain their license and improve their professional competence.

CPD is a broader term that includes both structured learning activities such as CPE approved by NASBA, a legally constituted state authority, or training by other professional bodies; and unstructured learning activities as outlined by the AICPA that enable credential holders to maintain and improve their professional competence.

Like CPE, CPD is designed to help CPAs achieve and maintain quality in professional services. In contrast to CPE, CPD includes both structured and unstructured learning activities, opening new possibilities for growth as you work toward your immediate and future career goals.



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4. Why are the requirements changing?
The AICPA recognizes that not all learning happens in a classroom. The expanded definition of what qualifies for the education requirement provides you with more diversity and flexibility. You have more control to select the learning activities that will best develop the professional competencies you deem necessary for your success.

These changes are designed to reflect best practices in education and align with the strategies outlined in the AICPA Future of Learning — an AICPA initiative to help CPAs maintain relevancy in a rapidly evolving global marketplace. The competency-based model focuses on building relevant skills and real-world learning as the primary metrics of success.


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5. Does this have any impact on my CPA licensure requirements?
No. CPA licensure continues to use CPE and does not recognize the broader CPD learning activities.

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6. How does it benefit me?
The pre-certification education requirements for AICPA credentials now include additional ways to meet 75 hours of CPD. CPD includes work-based learning, learning from other professional bodies, mentoring and coaching. The AICPA recognizes that learning and development can take place in different ways and in a variety of environments.

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7. When will this go into effect?
This will go into effect in May 1, 2017, and will impact all applicants of the AICPA’s ABV, CFF, CITP and PFS credentials.

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8. What qualifies as a structured learning and professional development activity?
Structured learning is a learning activity where a sponsoring organization can independently validate that you participated in the course or event, such as with a certificate of completion. Examples may include self-study text or online courses, webcasts, live or virtual conferences or courses with a formal structure and an explicit, expected outcome.

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9. What qualifies as an unstructured learning and professional development activity?
Unstructured learning is more individual or one-on-one in nature and has greater flexibility, but also carries the greater responsibility to proactively identify about how the activity will result in increasing your competency in your profession.  Examples of these activities may include coaching, mentoring, peer-to-peer learning, on-the-job training and taskforces. When considering whether you should include an unstructured activity, think about the following:
  • How is what I am learning relevant to the credential body of knowledge?
  • Is what I’m learning related to current or future standards, guidelines or best practices?
  • How are the learning outcomes of this activity relevant to my competency development?
  • What benefits does the activity offer toward my current or future credential-related career goals?


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10. How do I record my unstructured learning activities to gain CPD credit?
To be counted as CPD credit, certain information about the unstructured learning activity should be immediately recorded. This includes the date and description of the activity, the type and length (in hours) and, most importantly, a short description of how this activity supports your continued development in your credential-related field. Recording this not only prepares you in the event of an audit, but forces you to consider how your activities continue to sharpen your professional competencies.

To make it easier for you, the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website includes a “My Learning” record in your profile to record both structured and unstructured learning activities. Select the “Report more learning” button to record unstructured learning activities.  If you are selected for audit, you will be required to submit all your CPD, structured and unstructured, to the AICPA through this “My Learning” record.



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11. Am I required to have a certain number of structured hours?
No. The 75-hour pre-certification education requirement may include either structured learning, unstructured learning, or may include a combination of both. Understand that traditional CPE is part of the structured learning in CPD. Consequently, if you continue to get all your learning as CPE then this change in requirement will not impact you. If you have questions about the different types of learning opportunities, please email credsupport@aicpa.org.

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12. Where can I find unstructured learning and professional development opportunities?
Many unstructured learning and professional development activities may already exist within your organization or professional associations to which you already belong. The AICPA offers unstructured learning and professional development activities designed specifically for credential holders. More information can be found on the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website.

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13. Can I use my current learning and professional development toward this requirement?
Yes. Structured and unstructured learning and professional development activities completed within five years prior to your application can be used to meet the new requirement. However, as noted above, the unstructured activities do need to be recorded with a description of how the learning added to your professional competence at the time.

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14. Is the auditing process changing?
The audit process is not changing; however, credential holders who are audited will be able to submit their learning and professional development records directly through the AICPA | CIMA Competency and Learning website.

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15. Does this change the likelihood that I will be audited?
No. The changes to the requirements do not increase the likelihood of an audit. Up to 10% of credential holders will still be audited each year to confirm they met the pre-certification education requirements.

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16. Can I count my learning and professional development toward more than one credential?
If a learning or professional development activity is relevant to the body of knowledge for more than one credential, the activity may be used to meet both credential pre-certification education requirements.

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