Regarding your article CPE is Broke; Lets Fix It (JofA, Dec.98), we must first ask what we are measuring and why. What is the purpose of continuing professional education (CPE)? We must fall back always on the basic premise that the reason the CPA designation exists is to protect the public from incompetency in the profession.
The reason for CPE is not to specialize in a field and not to increase competency, but to keep up with changes in the professionto maintain competency.
One way to ensure competency is maintained, of course, would be to administer the CPA exam to CPAs periodically on an ongoing basisbut it would be expensive and time consuming and would certainly not be popular with the profession.
There is another approach, however, that would still measure a CPAs knowledge: a test on only the changes in the field since the CPA exam was last given to the individual, covering for example, the new FASB statements, SASs and changes in tax laws, and recent trends in business law.
An accounting changes exam would still require educational input, but only in the sense that one would need it to pass the exam. That input could come from CPE courses, on the job training, self-study or in-service education.
The impetus to diversify or specialize would come from the market, not from requirements.
While current CPE requirements do not ensure that CPAs are up to date on recent changes in the field, an accounting changes exam would. The exam would be outcome-based and would still provide the impetus toward lifetime educational planning and professional development as mentioned in the article. And the public would be protected from incompetency resulting from lagging knowledge. That protection is the true function of boards of accountancy.
Michael E. Paul, CGFM
Director, Accounting and Reporting/
Acting Revenue Manager
Central Massachusetts Area
Department of Mental Health