The American Institute of CPAs

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national organization that maintains the respect and standards for the CPA designation in the United States. Their goal is to provide Certified Public Accountants with information and guidance to ensure that they maintain a level of professionalism and high standards.

It is best for students and those considering a CPA designation to check with their State Board of Accountancy to determine the rules in their state for both the exam and the CPA designation.

With over 300,000 members, the AICPA's mission is to provide the following services for CPAs to maintain the highest standards within this designation:

  • Advocacy – The AICPA protects and promotes the members' interest by serving as the national representative of CPAs before regulatory commissions as well as state and federal governments.
  • Certification and Licensing – The AICPA establishes high levels of standards within their certification and licensing functions.
  • Communications – The AICPA promotes public confidence in the integrity, objectivity, and competence of the Certified Public Accountants.
  • Recruiting and Education – The AICPA supports the development of academic programs and qualified individuals.
  • Standards and Performance – The AICPA establishes professional standards and monitors a CPA's performance to enforce current standards and requirements.

CPA Eligibility

Recent changes to the eligibility requirements within the CPA industry have been causing some controversy and confusion. The new rule is known as the 150 hour rule and stipulates that CPA candidates must now have 150 hours of education in order to receive a CPA designation vs. the 120 hours that were required in the past. A college graduate majoring in accounting typically maintains the 120 hours within their college coursework, thus the rule adds a year of educational requirements to the standard.

What has become confusing with the 150 hour rule has been the fact that it has been adopted by all but two states and in some states only 120 hours is necessary. There is also the distinction in several states that 150 hours is required for the CPA designation while only 120 hours is necessary to sit for the exam.

It is best for students and those considering a CPA designation to check with their State Board of Accountancy to determine the rules in their state for both the exam and the CPA designation.

The CPA Exam

The most visible role that the AICPA performs is the administration of the Uniform CPA examination. All people wishing to earn a CPA designation must take the CPA exam, and it's known to be a difficult, long examination. Given over the course of two days and lasting a total of 14 hours, the CPA examination tests the candidate in four areas:

Accounting and reporting – taxation, managerial, and governmental and not-for-profit organizations

  • Business law and professional responsibilities
  • Auditing
  • Financial accounting and reporting – business enterprises

The exam is now computerized and 70% of the questions are multiple choice and the remaining 30% are simulations. A score of 75 is required to pass the CPA exam.

The exams are actually scored by the AICPA and they forward the results to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). NASBA then forwards the scores to the individual States Boards of Accountancy for their approval and release. Each state maintains its own process and schedule of releasing the scores to candidates.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has played a large role in making the CPA a well-recognized and well-respected designation in the field of accounting. They keep standards tight and eligibility standards high to maintain the standard of the Certified Public Accountant.