The Earn, Learn, and Experience (ELE) program is a collaborative effort between the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) aimed to provide a new pathway for aspiring Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) to obtain the required 150 credit hours and work experience for CPA licensure. The program integrates online learning with work experience at a participating CPA firm. Although the ELE program offers a more efficient pathway to CPA licensure, it has its strong points and limitations. This article aims to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the ELE program in-depth.

Pros of the ELE Program

  1. Practical work experience: The ELE program is structured in a way that provides students with an opportunity to work in a professional CPA firm while earning credits towards their CPA licensure1. This practical work experience will offer an added advantage to students while exploring accounting careers, as they are exposed to real-world situations and gain valuable insights into the profession.
  2. Flexibility: The ELE program offers students a chance to earn credits on a flexible schedule as some of the coursework is online2. This flexibility mitigates some of the challenges that students face, such as the constraints of attending classes physically and allows them to gain a better understanding of their work-life balance.
  3. Cost savings: The ELE program has been designed to help students complete their educational requirements at a more cost-effective rate than traditional academic programs. The program’s partnership with participating CPA firms means that students could potentially obtain compensation during their time working and earning credit3. This added benefit can reduce the financial burden of education, making it more accessible for a diverse range of students who may not have considered accounting as a career option due to the expense involved.
  4. Streamlined path to licensure: The program has been designed in such a manner that it helps students meet some of the necessary requirements to obtain their CPA licensure effectively4. The comprehensive program alleviates some of the burden for students, as they can balance coursework requirements with practical work experience, ensuring that they are gaining the appropriate skills to be successful in their future careers and meet the demands of the profession.

Cons of the ELE Program

  1. Limited options: The ELE program is still in its early phases, meaning that the available participating CPA firms can be limited5. This could potentially lead to restricted career prospects for students who are seeking opportunities that match their personal interests.
  2. Reliance on participating firms: The effectiveness of the program is closely tied to the commitment and involvement of the participating CPA firms. If there is a lack of participation from the firms, the intended benefits of the program may not be entirely realized, leading to negative experiences for the students.
  3. Limited access: Although the ELE program is a fantastic option for aspiring CPAs living in participating states, it is not yet available on a national level2. As a result, the program’s accessibility is still limited, meaning that students who live outside the program’s geography are unable to access the program.
  4. Limited utility: One of the weaknesses of the ELE program is that while it provides some courses for the CPA licensure, it is only for students who have already completed all of their core accounting courses. This means that for many students who decided later in their academic careers that they want to pursue a career in accounting this program will not be very helpful. In addition, for professionals with experience in other fields who want to change careers into accounting this will likely not be helpful.
  5. It is interesting that although has provided a much better solution for potential CPAs to earn the educational credits they need, flexibly, affordably, and conveniently, without the above limitations, the AICPA has not yet opted to work with them.

In conclusion, the ELE program provides an innovative solution to the challenges faced by aspiring CPAs, including obtaining some of the necessary qualifications and work experience needed for CPA licensure. The program’s practical work experience, flexible schedules, and cost savings make the ELE program an attractive option, offering various advantages over traditional programs. However, the limited options, reliance on participating firms, limited accessibility, and limited utility for many potential accounting professionals poses potential drawbacks.

The ELE program is still in its early days. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the program will continue to evolve as more policies and features are introduced. With that said, the ELE program remains a good option for some aspiring CPAs who are drawn to the advantages that it offers, such as practical experience, cost savings, and flexibility. For anyone else who is interested in becoming a CPA and who needs a solution without the ELE’s limitations, is the obvious choice.



  1. AICPA. (2022). Experience Learn Earn. Retrieved from
  2. Journal of Accountancy. (2022). Program to ease path to CPA licensure partners with Tulane University. Retrieved from ↩2
  3. NASBA. (2022). The Earn Learn Experience (ELE) Program. Retrieved from
  4. NASBA. (2022). The Earn Learn Experience (ELE) Program Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from
  5. Georgia State University. (2022). Earn, Learn, Experience (ELE) Program. Retrieved from