Navigating the Complexities of Professional License Compliance
08.22.22 | Operations Chat
As a professional license holder, you spent a great deal of time, money, and energy to attain your credential. Make sure you are up to date with your license’s compliance requirements and remain in good standing with not only your regulator, but also your clients.
Understanding Your Regulatory Body
First and foremost, it is important to understand who your regulator is. These bodies set the rules for maintaining your license and are the source of truth for obtaining information on your continuing education requirements. For example, in New York, CPA licenses fall under the jurisdiction of the State Board for Public Accountancy. This is not to be confused with an organization like the New York State Society of CPAs (NYSSCPA), a professional membership association that represents the interests of CPAs in New York but does not govern licenses.
The remote working model has enabled many to serve clients that may be outside of your state. Should you wish to perform services in a target state outside of your principal place of business, first verify that mobility applies to your license. CPAs can check their mobility on NASBA’s website. Restrictions may apply depending on the services you are looking to perform.
If you are already licensed in your principal place of business and want to gain licensure in another jurisdiction, check with your target state’s regulatory body for their rules on reciprocity. You may be eligible for licensure by endorsement, a streamlined process for applicants who already hold the same license in a substantially equivalent jurisdiction.
Mandatory Continuing Education Requirements
Mandatory continuing education (MCE) requirements can vary depending on several factors, including the state in which you are licensed, your scope of practice, and when you were originally licensed. For example:
- In New York, newly licensed CPAs are exempt from MCE until the first January 1st within their registration period, meaning that a new CPA licensed on January 2, 2022, is not required to comply with MCE until January 1, 2023.1
- In New York, newly admitted attorneys (those admitted to the State Bar for two years or less) must complete 16 transitional CLE credit hours in each of the first two years of admission to the Bar. Transitional courses are specifically tailored to help newly admitted attorneys develop a foundation in the practical skills, techniques, and procedures that are essential to the practice of law. These requirements differ from those for experienced attorneys (those admitted to the State Bar for more than two years).2
Make sure to read your regulator’s rules, usually found in your state’s administrative code and accessible through your regulator’s official website, to understand the specifics of your MCE requirements.
When researching this information, take note of what types and sources of continuing education are accepted. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many regulators offered flexibility with respect to format and eased rules surrounding live webinars, pre-recorded webinars, and self-study. Now, more than two years later, some of this flexibility has expired. Check on your regulator’s most up-to-date information to ensure that you are staying compliant during this transitional period.
It is paramount to learn from reputable, accredited continuing education sponsors. Prior to investing time and money into an MCE course:
- Verify that a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) provider for CPAs is registered with NASBA or with your state’s Board for Public Accountancy (link for New York).
- Verify that a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) provider for attorneys is accredited by your state’s CLE Board (link for New York).
Additionally, ensure that the sponsor is approved for the specific format of learning you are looking to take (live classroom, live webcast, pre-recorded audio or video, or self-study); some sponsors are approved for some formats and not others.
Make a Plan to Stay Compliant, But Be Flexible
Just as MCE requirements vary, so too do license registration periods.
- New York CPA license registrations renew every three years based on the initial registration date
- New York attorney registrations renew every two years within 30 days following the registrant’s birthdate
Though registration periods can span multiple years, MCE requirements can have annual minimums, as well as special regulations, including Ethics courses. To ensure that you are compliant with all requirements, make a plan for when, how, and what topics you will take for continuing education, bearing in mind that flexibility is key. Client workload, personal obligations, and hot topics in your profession are dynamic and can change throughout the year; it is important to assess and re-assess your plan accordingly.
Maintaining your records from MCE courses not only helps you keep track of credits earned but is also a requirement for many regulators. Check to see for how long and what materials you need to retain according to regulations. You may not be asked to present proof of MCE completion upon renewal, but you will need to show documentation in the event of a random audit by your regulator.
Keeping your address and contact information up to date with your regulator is crucial to being able to renew your registration with ease. Many regulators issue renewal notices by mail. Any time you have a change of address, notify your regulator so that you receive renewal notices without delay. When your notice arrives, renew as early as possible and pay any associated fees.
If you are no longer practicing your profession, many regulators offer the option to place your registration in inactive status. By registering for inactive status, you may have a reduced fee or free renewal, and you will maintain good standing with your regulator. While you may no longer be entitled to use your professional title or designation, should you choose to reactivate your license, you will encounter a lower barrier to re-entry than if you choose to simply allow your registration to lapse.
Receiving your initial professional license is a great achievement. Though maintaining your license may seem complex, understanding where to turn for regulatory information, knowing the specificities of your license’s requirements, and making a plan to stay compliant ensure that you can practice at your best through the span of your career.
Questions? I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org | 646.993.7068
Arianna Magrini is an Education and Learning Coordinator who assists professionals and organizations with their regulatory needs so they can focus on the needs of their clients. She guides colleagues through the compliance process while also emphasizing their personal and professional growth through the opportunity of learning. In her experience in education and compliance, Arianna has encouraged professionals at all stages of their careers to be lifelong learners and take the learning experience from the classroom into day-to-day professional practice.
1 New York State Board for Public Accountancy. (2022, January 14). NYS Public Accountancy – MCE Q&A. New York State Education Department – Office of the Professions. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/cpa/cpace.htm
2 New York State CLE Board. (2018, January 1). CLE Program Rules. New York State Unified Court System. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://ww2.nycourts.gov/sites/default/files/document/files/2018-03/programrules.pdf