One marketing campaign challenges CPAs and financial professionals to “Prove it.” Another urges, “Get ahead of the curve.” Today’s Certified Public Accountant (CPA) has a new opportunity to demonstrate the skills and knowledge earned in practice and augmented by formal continuing education to their employers, clients and the public: the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has launched a digital badging program for their Single Audit and Employee Benefit Plans Audit certifications.
What makes the AICPA’s digital badging program noteworthy is how seamlessly it has been integrated into continuing education programming and the degree to which the AICPA has educated its membership about what to expect from their earned badges. This approach has prepared the organization to roll out badges to seven other programs this year, enhancing the well-established educational quality of these programs and promoting the organization and its commitment to its members.
The AICPA offers a range of services to those members, including ongoing professional development. Over 412,000 strong and hailing from over 144 countries, the AICPA ranks as the world’s largest member association representing the accounting profession. In order to maintain licensure, member CPAs must earn a number of continuing professional education (CPE) credit hours per year. The AICPA already offers a wide selection of CPE opportunities developed in conjunction with leading subject matter experts and testing the learner’s ability to plan, perform and evaluate audits in accordance with the latest standards and regulations. The AICPA’s optional courses and resulting certifications are closely aligned with industry’s competency standards published in free professional competency frameworks available on competency.aicpa.org.
The AICPA’s digital badge initiative introduced its membership to a new approach with a familiar goal: professional development and a representation of their knowledge and skills. As Clar Rosso, Vice President, Member Learning and Competency, explains in an AICPA Insights blog, digital badges are “much more visible than paper certificates” by virtue of their portability and ability to be shared online. Her post informs their membership of additional benefits such as the fact that each badge is verified by the AICPA. That verification, along with the rich information included within the certificate and the industry-valued alignment with the AICPA, makes these new certificates a more valuable currency.
Rosso’s blog post is part of the overall plan to educate members about how digital badges work and what to expect. When the program was conceived, the initiative sought to “maximize the value of our training program to our members and to ensure that, once trained, those members are empowered to communicate their knowledge and skills to the public as effectively as possible,” according to Rosso. The AICPA has held several presentations for members to provide an overview of the digital badges and links its one-page overview on badging to each individual badge.
So far, AICPA members have responded positively to the initial roll-out of digital badges, posting their achievements to LinkedIn, Twitter and other social and professional networks, as well as proudly displaying the credentials on their websites, helping them secure new clients. Rosso says that the AICPA intends to expand the digital badging program across all of the AICPA’s continuing education programming. “We have always been committed to helping our members advance their careers,” Rosso said. “Digital badges allow them to showcase their abilities in a transparent, verified way to a far wider audience than would otherwise be possible.”