The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is the largest trade organization for professional accountants. Founded in 1887, AICPA’s membership count exceeds 400,000 and includes members from 145 countries.
There are different membership levels in AICPA, but regular membership calls for successful completion of the requirements for a certified public accountant or CPA designation. To qualify for individual membership, you should have held or currently hold a CPA license, passed the CPA licensure examination and completed 120 hours of continuing professional education credits. Associate membership is open to those who have passed the CPA exam but who have not met the requirements for licensure or designation. International associate memberships are reserved for those who have earned their CPA designation from non-U.S. accounting associations recognized by AICPA. Other types of membership include non-CPA affiliate, CPA exam candidate affiliate and student affiliate. AICPA members hold positions in the government, educational institutions, public corporations or non-profit organizations. They may also be in private practice.
The AICPA performs specific functions for the advancement of its members and the practice of management accounting.
1. Setting Standards of Ethics and Best Practice for Accounting Professionals
AICPA guidelines define generally accepted accounting standards for various areas of practice for CPAs. In spite of recent developments that transferred some of the oversight for CPA practices in public companies, AICPA retains considerable influence in setting standards, enforcing ethical practice and monitoring service quality in relation to accepted accounting practices for CPAs in private practice or who provide services to individuals and privately held companies. The Financial Accounting Standards Board, under the helm of the Securities and Exchange Commission, establishes and authorizes accounting rules, and AICPA provides technical and administrative support as needed.
2. Developing Credentialing Programs to Enhance Member Competencies
CPE credits are mandatory for those renewing their CPA license and AICPA membership as well. AICPA offers seminars and training programs that count as CPA credits. These programs may be single-unit events or an entire course that will lead to a new credential for the member. The Personal Financial Specialist credential is for CPAs specializing in personal financial planning services. The Certified Information Technology Professional is a CPA who specializes in the intersection of technology and accounting practices while CPAs taking the Accredited in Business Valuation program learn about strategies in valuation and forensic litigation that could help clients maximize the yield of their investments.
3. Leading and Sponsoring Advocacies that Benefit Accounting Professionals
AICPA monitors legislative efforts and other issues that may have an impact on accounting practices and standards. AICPA collaborates with state CPA societies and other organizations to disseminate information and to educate federal, state and local policymakers on issues affecting the accounting sector. AICPA may prepare comment letters on technical proposals and contribute professional feedback for legislative initiatives that directly affect the accounting profession.
4. Undertaking Research
AICPA prepares white papers and technical briefs on pending and approved legislation. The organization may also create guidelines for compliance with new legislation while encouraging feedback on specific features of initiatives and programs that relate to the practice of accounting.
5. Preparing and Curating Publications on Industry-related Matters
Aside from its regular newsletters, AICPA maintains a library of resources that members can access for free or at discounted prices. These publications include books, journals and other trade publications covering topics such as accounting and auditing, business valuation, financial management and reporting, fraud and forensic strategies, practice management and financial planning.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants plays a key role in ensuring that accounting professionals are held to the highest standards. To ensure member success in all aspects, AICPA provides resources to help members gain more credentials and master the skills that would help them succeed. AICPA takes a leadership role in advocacies and research initiatives that benefit accounting professionals.