Do you know who is responsible for initiating the effort to make CPAs licensed professionals, or for awarding over $1 million in scholarships to worthy accounting students each year?How about for providing thousands of continuing professional education seminars and conferences to assist CPAs in maintaining their professional competency, or helping maintain the positive image of the profession through public relations campaigns and community service projects? And for pro-viding opportunities for CPAs to develop leadership skills?
If you answered "state CPA societies" to all of the above, you are correct. And this is only a partial list of the various programs and services that state societies provide to their members, the profession and the public.
State societies are not new kids on the block either. They have been around for nearly 100 years or more in most states.
While state societies do many things, their primary programs and activities can be categorized into four principal areas: advocating, educating, communicating and participating.
State societies were instrumental in coordinating the effort in the early part of the 20th Century to convince state legislatures to pass laws for the licensing and regulation of CPAs. Today, state societies still lead in the role of advocating for the profession in their state legislatures regarding issues that directly affect licensure and regulation of the CPA certificate, but also on a host of other legislative and regulatory issues that can affect members, ranging from taxes to tort reform.
In the area of education, various state societies lead by promoting the CPA profession as a wise career choice to young people and to teachers and guidance counselors who help shape students' career choices. State CPA societies help coordinate speakers to promote the profession in the classroom and at career days. At the college level, they support on-campus student organizations through their student memberships and auxiliaries. Also, they provide numerous scholarships to assist needy and worthy students to pursue a degree in accounting and to sit for the CPA Exam.
And state society efforts in the area of education do not stop at the secondary and college level. Societies also have as a major emphasis the continuing education of CPAs to assist them in staying current in their field and complying with the CPE requirement that most states have for relicensure. Societies are leaders in offering a broad range of high-quality CPE for members and non-members alike.
Communication is another central focus for all state CPA societies. Helping members stay on top of what is happening in their profession is part and parcel of what all state societies seek to do through their various publications and Web sites. In today's busy world, having a source to help CPAs cut through the clutter of information is a big plus, and state societies lead the way in keeping their members up to date.
State societies also communicate with the world at large to make sure that the public understands the role that CPAs play in our free market system, and the services and expertise that they can provide as trusted advisors to benefit the public. Media and public relations are important programs that all state societies pursue to ensure that business writers and the media fully understand the role and responsibilities of CPAs.
State CPA societies also participate in their state and local communities to help make them better and to be good corporate citizens.
State societies carry on a broad range of public service projects that give back to their communities while providing their members with an opportunity to serve. The current efforts in most states on financial literacy and the response in many states to the ravages of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are but two examples of the many good works that the state societies provide for the benefit of the citizens in their states.
Finally, CPA societies provide an opportunity for CPAs to participate, be involved and develop and learn leadership skills. State societies are member-driven organizations that rely on the time and talent of their members to carry on all the various activities that they provide for their members and the public. They are each an example of the democratic, participatory organizations that so fascinated Alexis de Tocqueville nearly 200 years ago during his visit to the United States, and that still uniquely help define us as a nation.
It is hard to imagine where the profession would be today if state CPA societies had never been created. Certainly, much of what has been accomplished by and for the profession over the past hundred years can be traced directly to the effort of state CPA societies and their members who have provided the necessary leadership and talent to achieve success. They have made, and continue to make, a difference.
Collectively, they form the cornerstone of a dynamic and honorable profession.
John Sharbaugh, CAE, is president of the CPA Society Executives Association and CEO and executive director of the 27,000-member Texas Society of CPAs.
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