Accounting associations offer you a number of ways to improve accounting careers and serve your clients better. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) are two large accounting associations in the United States. Accountants working in many fields are part of the AICPA; it includes certified public accountants, government accountants, auditors, and even those working in other professions related to accounting, such as financial planners and consultants. Its members include those who are self-employed as well as those who work for large accounting firms. The IMA is an accounting association that represents management accountants. While slightly more specific than the membership of the AICPA, the IMA offers membership at various levels so that it can serve everyone from accounting students to those seasoned in the profession.
Many accounting associations are governed by a board of directors. Some of these directors may be elected, while others are appointed. The board of directors of the AICPA includes members from all fifty states as well as several United States territories. Especially large accounting associations may also have a number of committees. For example, the AICPA has many executive committees that help shape policy in various sectors of the accounting industry, such as government auditing, forensic accounting, information technology, and ethics.
The AICPA and the IMA are responsible for creating their respective certification exams, the CPA exam and the CMA exam. Smaller accounting associations author and administer other certification exams, too. The IMA administers the CMA exam, while each state board of accountancy administers the CPA exam that was created by the AICPA. Passing these exams is the first step to membership in one of these accounting associations.
Continuing membership in these accounting associations is dependent upon completing the required amount of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits. Membership in the AICPA must be renewed every three years. When you pay your membership dues, you must certify that you have completed the appropriate amount of CPEs, which for the AICPA, is 120.
There are a number of ways you can earn your CPEs for membership in the AICPA, IMA, or other accounting associations. Most accounting associations offer classes, seminars, virtual presentations, teleconferences, and more that count toward your CPEs.