AICPA membership eclipses 400,000

BY KEN TYSIAC

The AICPA’s continuing growth trend has pushed membership past a significant milestone, as the world’s largest membership organization representing the accounting profession announced Tuesday that it recently surpassed 400,000 members.

“I’m particularly proud of the growth we’ve seen in the past seven years, a challenging period for many professional organizations because of the economic downturn,” AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, said in a news release.

Founded in 1887 as the American Association of Public Accountants with 22 members, the organization changed names three times in the first half of the 20th century before settling on its current American Institute of Certified Public Accountants brand in 1957.

Membership grew dramatically following World War II, nearly tripling from 1945 (9,051 members) to 1955 (26,345 members). Over the past 50 years, membership has multiplied nearly eightfold, expanding from 50,413 in 1964 to cross the 400,000 threshold this year.

Accounting historian Dale Flesher, CPA, CGMA, said the AICPA’s focus on its mission has helped it grow. Flesher, associate dean of the school of accountancy at the University of Mississippi, served as a member of the AICPA’s governing Council from 2005 to 2008 and said the organization has grown without embarking on heavily publicized membership drives.

“We’ve been more concerned with what we’re doing and what we’re providing,” he said. “Maybe there’s a good message there.”

The AICPA’s activities include providing continuing education, a rigorous framework of ethical standards, technical guidance on accounting and auditing, and advocacy on issues important to the profession and the public.

“Hitting the 400,000-member mark is a testament to the multifaceted services offered by the AICPA and its commitment to the public interest,” Melancon said. “And it’s also a reflection of the high regard in which the CPA credential is held in today’s complex world.”

Jennifer Highsmith, a 27-year-old senior audit associate from Florida, is the organization’s 400,000th member. She will be honored with a certificate noting her status as the 400,000th member and has been invited to the AICPA’s fall Council meeting in Boston for recognition.

She works in the Jacksonville, Fla., office of regional public accounting firm Johnson Lambert, and said she joined for multiple reasons.

“The AICPA is a great professionwide organization to be part of, with a lot of volunteer opportunities,” Highsmith said in a news release. “Once you have your license and a job as a CPA, it’s kind of the cherry on top.”

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA editorial director.

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