How to earn CE credits during a pandemic: CPA, CFA, CIMA

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Like many things during the pandemic, continuing education credits have gone virtual.

Advisors looking to maintain their CIMA, CFA or CPA certification will find an increasing number of online options as certifying organizations move in-person events into the digital domain. One organization has taken a Netflix-like approach to continuing education. Another is leaning into webinars. Read on to see how learning opportunities are taking on a new digital spin.


Before COVID-19, the Investments & Wealth Institute already provided several online education options, including self-paced courses and video recordings.

“For us, the coronavirus has accelerated trends we were already seeing,” says Devin Ekberg, chief learning officer and managing director of education for the institute. “It had not overtaken in-peron learning, but online learning was on the rise.”

In May, the institute cancelled its annual conference and decided to go virtual. Taking a page from Netflix, the institute posted 20 hours of recorded CE video content that advisors could access on-demand and all at once.

“We heard a lot of good feedback. Advisors liked being able to watch a ‘season’ of content at their pace,” says Ekberg.

CIMAs who were supposed to renew their certification in the last three months now have until the end of the year.

Ekberg says that the virus has made it difficult to plan future conferences, but is hopeful that they will become a hybrid of live-streamed courses and smaller, in-person events.

“We know not everyone learns well online, which is why we’d like to keep some in-person learning opportunities,” Ekberg says. “These would be smaller groups focused on dialogue, networking, and discussion.”

The institute has long partnered with a couple universities on advanced education for advisors. The curriculum offered by the institute and Yale University has been online for several years, but now so too are those on offer at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

CIMAs need 40 hours of continuing education credits every two years in order to renew their certification. Two of those hours should be ethics oriented, and two should cover taxes.

According to the institute, there are 8,145 CIMA certificants in the U.S.

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The CFA Institute, which does not require continuing education credits, already offers flexible learning methods. Members can, for example, listen to podcasts or read articles for quarter credits.

Last year, the two most popular learning mediums were online readings and live events, says Keith Waitt, senior head of professional learning for the CFA Institute.

“COVID ground [live events] to a halt,” he says.

Like other organizations, the CFA Institute canceled its annual conference in May as well as all future in-person conferences. Waitt says there most likely will not be any such in-person events until June 2021.

“There’s just too much uncertainty for us to book event spaces or hotels, or to ask members to travel,” he explains.

But while in-person events are out the window, CFAs’ desire to learn hasn’t waned. According to Waitt, there has been a 28% rise in webinar use in the past few months.

The institute is planning to overhaul its online learning platform early next year, allowing for a more personalized learning experience.

“COVID has made us pivot to something that has been a highly successful medium for us. We are maximizing that opportunity as quickly as we can for our audience,” says Waitt.

It is recommended that CFAs earn 20 hours of learning credits per year. The credits are not required, but attestation of their completion is needed before renewal of CFA certification.

There are approximately 95,000 CFA charterholders in North America, according to the institute.


The American Institute of CPAs has seen a 600% jump in participation in virtual offerings, according to Clar Rosso, executive vice president of engagement and learning innovation.

“Outside of conferences, we’ve found that the ‘live virtual’ experience – for example a webcast or simulcasting of a live event – has been the most popular,” Rosso said in an email.

This year, the AICPA also made their annual conference this July virtual. The institute is also planning a conference in November in Washington, D.C., that can be attended virtually or in-person, though their website notes that it is ready to move fully online.

“The pandemic has forced many professionals into [the online] experience and early results are very positive, with attendees enjoying the enhanced virtual experience,” Rosso said.

“That said, I know many of our members appreciate the option of being able to attend events in-person, and we anticipate being able to bring back in-person events – coupled with the enhanced virtual experiences – as soon as feasible.”

CPA licenses are issued by states and each has their own requirements, though the general required amount of continuing education credits is 40 hours per year.

According to the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy, who are responsible for CPA licenses, there are 654,375 CPAs in the U.S.

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Continuing education Career advancement Professional development CFAs CPAs CIMAs CFA Institute AICPA IWI