What is the AICPA?

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is a national organization in the United States that serves certified public accountants (CPAs). While the non-profit is recognized for its comprehensive ethical and practice standards for the profession, it is not a government agency and does not have official regulatory authority. However, it is responsible for the administration of the certification examinations for professional accountants and setting standards that apply to active professionals who work independently or as employees of private businesses.

Related resource: Top 15 Best Affordable Online Master’s in Accounting Degree Programs

Administration of the CPA Exam

Many people working in accounting don’t need to get certified to do their jobs, but many career-minded professionals eventually pursue this credential. Certified public accountants enjoy a slightly higher average salary than their non-certified peers and are qualified for a broader range of positions or tasks. The AICPA is responsible for overseeing the examination process, including grading, on an ongoing basis. Currently, the exam consists of four sections that cover the major aspects and responsibilities of the profession. Test-takers have up to four hours to complete each section and must pass all of them within an 18-month period to become certified.

Establishment of Professional Standards

While the organization’s standards are no longer recognized as official regulation, they still carry significant weight among accountants and private practices. The non-profit maintains a strict code of professional conduct and broad standards of practice for active CPAs. Members who commit serious or repeat violations of these standards may be subject to disciplinary measures, including possible revocation of their certified status.

Advocacy and Public Interest Efforts

The AICPA’s core objectives typically revolve around certification of accounting professionals, but they also participate in public outreach and education efforts. They maintain several active campaigns that encourage responsible spending and saving habits for members of the public. These outreach campaigns help people develop a deeper understanding of the principles of personal finances, including opportunities for retirement investments and wealth-building. The institute also advocates on behalf of its professional membership when it comes to public policy and law.

History and Membership of the AICPA

The AICPA has been operating under its current name since the 1950s, but it actually traces its roots all the way back to the American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA) founded in 1887. As the organization’s reputation and membership grew in the 20th century, it gained recognition and official authority to set regulatory standards for the accounting profession. However, authority over regulations for government agencies and public companies was transferred to a government-sponsored agency called the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) in the early 2000s. Currently, the organization boasts a membership of over 400,000 accounting professionals across more than 100 countries, according to the AICPA.

Accountants serve a vital role in all areas of modern business and society. There are many ways to enter the profession, some of which don’t even require formal education. However, anyone interested in maximizing a career in accounting should become familiar with the AICPA and the requirements for participating in the certification exam process.