The American Accounting Association (AAA) is one of the most important U.S. - based accounting societies with a global reach. They aim to “shape the future of accounting through teaching, research and a powerful network.” After attending their annual meeting, I can attest firsthand that they are true to their word. Yes, I am a card-carrying member and no, it’s not free. The modest membership fee is worth it, though: the organization covers such an expansive range of topics that it provides a framework through which to understand the profession at large.

Loosely interpreted by myself, the organization serves what I will define as two main accounting career tracks, each of which is further divided into other subsets:

  1. Academic accounting, which is further bifurcated into the research track and the teaching track
  2. Public accounting, which is generally divided between CPA firms and private industry

In addition to the two groups above, the AAA also includes PhD candidates, PhD job seekers, and exhibitors/commercial vendors looking to sell products to all of the above (enter Accounting Play Apps).

Some individuals may be hyperfocused on one particular track, but over time, members likely change paths at different career stages. Some twenty-year industry veterans, for example, start a PhD later in life. Conversely, other academics leave teaching and theory so they can pursue private industry careers.

Why Does the AAA Matter?

On the Accounting Play Podcast – APP 026, “Get an Accounting Job” we discuss the importance of connecting to accounting societies. For many reasons, joining such an immense network at any stage of your career can be tremendously beneficial.

Anyone interested in the accounting profession should explore the AAA website. From there, you can take the next step by attending an in-person event. It’s not cheap, but neither is life, or your education. Invest in yourself to invent yourself.

The variety of meetings available is immense. The AAA offers teacher conferences, PhD lecture series, regional meetings, a diversity section, and technology and blockchain discussions, just to name a few. No matter your accounting background or objective, there is something for you . Need a job or exploring a PhD? Teaching and looking to get published? Want to explore the commercial side of the profession? There are many, many possibilities. Worst case, if you attend an event and don’t enjoy it, then you’ve eliminated a possible career choice without wasting too much of your time or money.

The annual meeting is the ultimate accounting-fest. There are service projects, pre-conference workshops, research symposiums, an exemplar awards luncheon, exhibits, a career fair, the early bird reception, refreshment breaks, prize drawings, plenary speeches, research interaction forums, round tables, panel sessions, section business meetings (American Taxation Association), a financial accounting and reporting section, and plenty of networking.

AAA Reflective of the Accounting World With a Theoretical Core

The weeklong program in the annual meeting reflects the different accounting tracks available. As a whole, it’s reflective of the accounting profession at large. Therefore, understanding the AAA and who it primarily serves makes for an excellent framework for understanding the accounting profession in general.

AAA events are comprehensive enough to reflect the accounting profession. They typically include tax, audit, and even some advisory sections that further include academic focus and then industry focus, both private and public.

That being said, the AAA definitely focuses mainly on academic theory. This likely furthers the aim of thought leaders within the profession and allows time to explore the future. Theory is respected. By contrast, the California Society of CPAs offers a plethora of professional development courses designed for practitioners.

Example of the Specific Sections Available to Members

My personal favorite section of the AAA is the Conference on Teaching and Learning in Accounting (CTLA). The CTLA section focuses on Accounting Pedagogy in the academic environment. It features a weekend of sessions prior to the main event and also appears in the main conference. It is organized around keynote speakers, panels, poster-sessions, and round-tables that explore teaching strategy. Major themes include student engagement, data driven testing to improve classroom results, creative ways to teach, and use of technology. I diligently attend these sections to understand teacher needs and how Accounting Play can continually improve as free apps, immediately useful for principle lessons. This is just one example of the many sections within the AAA that allow members to pursue their passions within the profession.

Importance of Organizations in General

Whether an academic or in industry, organizations allow significant personal and professional opportunities. Humans are boring without other humans and so connecting in significant professional ways has long-lasting impact. Trade shows, conferences, and events are big business for important reasons. Following this last event I am not only inspired to continue developing the Accounting Play apps so they are free and immediately useful in class, but embrace more technology in my accounting firm, Gillingham CPA.

The conference hummed with the buzz of exponential technological change and how important it is to our personal and professional lives. The only way to adapt is lifelong learning in our field where we can offer lasting and significant value--in our case, accounting.