Looking Back: The Journal in 1917

How did the profession first begin to regulate who could become a CPA? An article from the July 1917 issue of the JofA describes the first steps in the efforts toward uniformity of examination. In the age of the computerized CPA exam, it’s clear that testing has come a long way. This excerpt is part of our ongoing series of articles from past JofA s leading up to our centennial issue in October.

Looking Back

“T he June examinations of the American Institute of Accountants [ a predecessor of the AICPA ] marked the beginning of an important era in the history of accounting in the United States…. The profession, for the first time in its career, set up its own standards, and insisted that applicants for membership in the national organization should demonstrate their ability by measurement with those standards.…

“The rapid spread of CPA legislation has been little short of amazing. The statute books of every state in the union, except Alabama, Mississippi, Arizona and New Mexico, now contain legislation relative to the certification of public accountants, and among the forty-four laws now existing there is the widest diversity of language, intent, effect and administration.

“Therefore, it becomes necessary for the national organization, which is charged with the maintenance of high standards in all parts of the country, to do all it can to bring about a uniformity of standard among the so-called CPA states.…

“With this aim in view, the American Institute’s board of examiners approached the examining board of all CPA states. To each of them it offered the use of the questions of the Institute’s board, provided the examinations were held at the same time and conducted in accordance with the rules governing the examinations of the Institute.

“Various replies were received from state boards. Some thought there might be a loss of prestige in consenting to any such proposal. Others, while recognizing the advantages which might accrue, found statutory obstacles in the way. Others have indicated their intention of adopting the proposal at the earliest convenient moment. Three states not only saw the advantage of the proposal but immediately availed themselves of the privilege.…

“If the plan which has now been so auspiciously begun is generally adopted in future it will probably be feasible for applicants to obtain their membership in the Institute and their CPA certificate at the same time, provided applications to the Institute and to the state boards of accountancy are both filed in due form.

“It is manifestly unwise to predict the success which will attend the plan of co-operation; but, if one may judge by the expressions of opinion which have reached the office of the Institute, and by the sentiments of applicants for membership, it may be safely assumed that the way to establishing uniformity has been found. Whether it will be generally adopted is another matter.…”


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