Proposed Bylaw Amendment on AICPA Membership Requirements

A Backgrounder on the Member Ballot

June 23, 2010

In May 2010, the AICPA governing Council unanimously voted for a member ballot on a proposed bylaw amendment to update the requirements for admission to the Institute. This recommendation is a part of the first major comprehensive review of membership requirements since the 1950s. The bylaw amendment would add a provision to the current CPA certificate requirement for voting membership (see Appendix A). Therefore, if the ballot measure were to pass, individuals could become voting members of the AICPA if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Possess a valid and unrevoked CPA certificate issued by a legally constituted authority, the present requirement for membership.

  2. At any time possessed a valid CPA certificate and the certificate was not revoked as a result of a disciplinary action (i.e., the certificate holder allowed the certificate to lapse because they were not providing public accounting services and therefore the certificate was not required by their state board of accountancy).

  3. Fulfill the education, examination and experience requirements of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) for CPA certification (see Appendix B) and are of good moral character but have never been granted a right to practice because they do not hold out as CPAs.


This document details the change this ballot proposes, why the AICPA Council is recommending members approve this change, and why the membership modernization is in the best interest of the profession and the public interest.

Proposed Bylaw Amendment
As the nation’s largest organization representing the accounting profession and one of the most influential accounting bodies in the world, the AICPA seeks to represent the diversity and breadth of the CPA profession. In this role, the AICPA brings together CPAs engaged in many disciplines to share insights, work to protect the public interest, access timely resources, support strong advocacy efforts, and adhere to a Code of Professional Conduct and continuing education requirements.

The AICPA repeatedly has sought pathways for the profession to remain at the forefront of market forces. Today, the profession faces constant movement in standard setting, financial reporting, business practices and legislative and regulatory matters. At the same time, the demographics of the profession have changed over the last 50 years from one of virtually all public accounting to one that is equally divided between public accounting and accounting professionals in business, industry, nonprofits, academia and government. In addition, a new generation of professionals with different career pathway choices is seeking entry into the profession.

Current AICPA members will receive their ballot packet (see Appendix A for bylaw amendment language) in the mail in August. In order to be counted, members must submit their vote to the independent tabulator before balloting closes in October.

Basis for Council’s Recommendation

  • Parity: The change would reconcile requirements for voting membership with the profession’s current diversity and membership composition, addressing market expectations and recognizing the various ways that individuals enter or participate in the accounting profession. AICPA membership and the profession itself are now about equally split between public accounting and non-public accounting (business, industry, nonprofit, government and academia). The bylaw proposal recognizes that many individuals in the accounting profession work in settings other than traditional areas of public accounting, settings in which an active CPA certificate/license is not required by the state board of accountancy. While these professionals working in non-public practice areas meet the criteria for CPA certification, they might choose not to acquire or maintain a certificate/license since it is not mandatory as a condition for their employment and they do not hold out as a CPA. The bylaw change would offer membership equity for individuals in this group, who either never provide public accounting services or who move from public accounting to a non-public accounting position.

  • Uniformity: The change would provide consistency in admission requirements for accounting professionals from any state by aligning AICPA membership with the criteria set out in the UAA for CPA certification. The UAA, approved by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the AICPA, requires 150 hours of education, passage of the Uniform CPA Examination and one year or more of work experience (see Appendix B). Professionals who fulfill the UAA’s standards for certification are recognized as committed to the foundation of the CPA profession and its hallmark values of integrity, competence and objectivity. In fact, the UAA has been successful as the regulatory basis of efforts to create uniformity among state accountancy laws, as well as to allow interstate practice privileges for CPAs in 47 states with more on the way.

  • Pathway: The change would recognize that newer and future generations would benefit from a closer and earlier association with the CPA profession. One characteristic of the profession that helps to draw new, talented candidates is the wide range of opportunities in business and finance it offers. Although many have met the UAA’s requirements, many young accounting professionals choose a career that does not require a CPA certificate. An affiliation with the AICPA would keep these young professionals in the CPA profession, allowing the profession to influence their careers as well as capturing their insights and input as the profession grapples with demographic changes and other future challenges.

Benefits of the Proposed Change for the Profession
The proposed change would benefit the profession. It would:

  • Require that all individuals who choose to become voting members of the AICPA adhere to the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct and its continuing professional education standards. People admitted as full AICPA members under the revised bylaw would need to meet the same high standards for continuing membership as current AICPA members. These members would continue to be prohibited from holding out as a CPA.

  • Enhance protection of the public interest by ensuring both partners in the financial reporting chain (preparers and auditors) have access to the same technical resources and professional networks. CPAs in public accounting work hand in hand with financial executives and accounting professionals in business and industry to ensure the highest quality financial statements are prepared for use by investors, banks, regulators and others. For a host of reasons, many accounting professionals in the corporate environment do not pursue or maintain a CPA certificate/license even though they have met the UAA’s or state board’s education, examination and experience requirements for certification. For these professionals, membership in the AICPA offers a way to maintain their competence and demonstrate a commitment to quality and standards.

For additional information and resources on the member ballot, visit, call 888.777.7077 (9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., ET) or email

Appendix A

Proposed bylaw amendment (underlined is proposed new language on which members will vote):

BL Section 220

  • 2.2 Requirements for Admission to Membership

  • Persons may qualify for admission as members of the Institute if they satisfy the criteria listed below:

    • 2.2.1 They are in possession of a valid and unrevoked certified public accountant certificate issued by a legally constituted authority, or at any time possessed the certificate described herein and the certificate was not revoked as a result of a disciplinary action, or meet the education, examination and experience requirements set out in the Uniform Accountancy Act and who are of good moral character and have never been granted a right to practice,

    • 2.2.2 They have passed an examination in accounting and other related subjects satisfactory to the Board of Directors, and

    • 2.2.3 With respect to those persons who are engaged in the practice of public accounting as an owner or as an employee who has been licensed as a CPA for more than two years, either they are practicing in a firm that is enrolled in an Institute-approved practice-monitoring program if the services performed by such a firm are within the scope of the AICPA’s practice-monitoring standards and the firm issues reports purporting to be in accordance with AICPA professional standards, or if authorized by Council, are themselves enrolled in such a program.

    • 2.2.4 With respect to persons who first become eligible to take the examination required by section 2.2.2 after the year 2012, they shall have obtained 150 semester hours of education at an accredited college or university including a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. After 2012, a person who does not meet the educational requirement set out in this section shall, nonetheless, be eligible for membership upon enactment (regardless of the effective date) of the education requirement set out in this section by the state which grants the certificate required under section 2.2.1.

Appendix B

Uniform Accountancy Act
The Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) is the certification/licensure model approved by both the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the AICPA. It is used to encourage uniformity in state regulation of the CPA profession. The Uniform Accountancy Act requires meeting the 150-hour education requirement, passage of the Uniform CPA Examination and at least one year of experience as a condition for the certificate/license. The UAA licensing requirements have been adopted in nearly all of the states and U.S. territories.