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AICPA Core Competency Framework for Entry into the Accounting Profession (The Framework)

The Core Competency Framework is available as a resource for educators to use in development of accounting curricula. An objective of the framework is to prepare students for careers as CPA's.

Competency Definitions - A set of requisite competencies for all students preparing to enter the newly envisioned accounting profession that is positioned higher on the information value chain. Competencies are categorized as functional (technical competencies most closely aligned with the value contributed by accounting professionals), personal (individual attributes and values) and broad business perspective competencies (relating to understanding of internal and external business contexts).

A practical perspective of incorporating realistic exercises into the classroom is presented by Angela Jing Wu in a 2008 CPA Journal article. She integrates the AICPA Core Competencies and her perspective from CPA practice into accounting course activities.

Each one of the 3 areas of competency (functional, personal, and broad business perspective) include leverage technology. Students must understand how technology is used in buiness and be able to leverage technology to analyze data, evaluate risks, understand the organization's operations and processes, document analysis and findings, and communicate ideas and reporting. This is an important area!

Functional Competencies

Functional competencies are technical competencies performed by accounting professionals (bullet points are elements of the competency idendified by the AICPA in the Core Competency Framework :

Decision Modeling

  • Identifies problems and potential solution approaches
  • Uses quantitative techniques to determine relative importance and likelihood of alternative scenarios
  • Employs model-building to quantify problems or test solutions
  • Evaluates the cost/benefit of alternative solutions
  • Organizes and evaluates information, alternatives, cost/benefits, risks and rewards
  • Links data, knowledge, and insights together for decision-making purposes
  • Objectively identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with a specific scenario, case, or business activity

Risk Analysis

  • Identifies risks of negative outcomes (including fraud)
  • Evaluates controls that mitigate risk of negative outcomes through prevention or detection and correction
  • Assesses and controls unmitigated risks through, for example, designing and applying tests
  • Communicates the impact of identified risks and recommends corrective action


  • Identifies what needs to be measured
  • Determines an appropriate, relevant and reliable measure for the intended use
  • Measures items using appropriate methods of measurement
  • Presents the measurement results objectively using applicable standards of disclosure or reporting
  • Resolves ambiguities when estimates are required


  • Prepares reports with objectivity, conciseness and clarity
  • Describes work performed and conclusions reached in a manner that enhances the reports' usefulness
  • Employs appropriate media in report preparation and presentation


  • Employs relevant research skills
  • Accesses relevant standards, rules, and other information
  • Evaluates different sources of information and reconciles conflicting or ambiguous data
  • Analogizes from existing rules to problems not explicitly described
  • Identifies relevant information such as industry trends, internal performance history, benchmarks, and best practices

Leverage Technology to Develop and Enhance Functional Competencies

  • Accesses appropriate electronic databases to obtain decision-supporting information
  • Assesses the risk of technology and automated business processes
  • Uses technology assisted tools to assess and control risk and document work performed
  • Builds appropriate models and simulations using electronic spreadsheets and other software

Personal Competencies

Personal Competencies are the attitudes and behaviors of individuals preparing for a career in the accounting profession.

Professional Demeanor

  • Cultivates growth in personal conduct and capabilities
  • Diagnoses the need for change and takes appropriate action to gain competencies
  • Measures oneself against evolving standards and meets or exceeds those standards
  • Accepts professional development as a life-long process
  • Performs reliably under changing demands
  • Evaluates information in a manner free of distortions, personal bias or conflicts of interest
  • Recognizes situations where professional ethical standards apply and behaves accordingly
  • Conducts oneself with honesty
  • Respects confidentiality
  • Commits to quality and efficiency
  • Manages stress and adapts to unusual demands with composure
  • Objectively considers others' professional criticism or evaluation
  • Adheres to a level of personal appearance appropriate to the environment
  • Identifies and prioritizes career and personal goals and is accountable/learns from mistakes

Problem Solving and Decision Making

  • Makes valid and reliable evaluations of information
  • Uses experience and comparison in forming opinions
  • Evaluates the significance of evidence or facts
  • Synthesizes novel or original definitions of problems and solutions as circumstances dictate
  • Adapts to new contexts and promotes constructive change
  • Verifies information for problem definition and solution
  • Proposes and evaluates alternative solutions
  • Seeks consensus where appropriate
  • Considers contingencies and future developments
  • Reasons carefully and thinks effectively in abstract terms or generalizations
  • Analyzes the impact of potential actions
  • Considers unconventional approaches and solutions to problems
  • Knows when to follow directions, question plans or seek help


  • Recognizes the value of working within diverse, cross-functional teams
  • Interacts and cooperates productively and maturely with others
  • Facilitates free expression and constructive activities of others
  • Coaches or mentors in appropriate circumstances
  • Commits to achievement of common goals when working on a team
  • Accepts suggestions and guidance of team leaders and other members
  • Recognizes and accommodates the protocols and expectations of teams


  • Motivates others to achieve excellence
  • Rallies the support of others to accomplish objectives
  • Chairs teams or volunteers for projects
  • Values inputs and points of view of others and responds appropriately
  • Facilitates development of consensus or compromise as appropriate
  • Persuades others to a course of action by reasoning or incentive
  • Practices principles of effective governance


  • Organizes and effectively displays information so that it is meaningful to the receiving party
  • Expresses information and concepts with conciseness and clarity when writing and speaking
  • Receives and originates direct and indirect messages as appropriate when listening, reading, writing and speaking
  • Uses interpersonal skills to facilitate effective interaction
  • Places information in appropriate context when listening, reading, writing and speaking
  • Selects appropriate media for dissemination or accumulation of information.

Project Management

  • Determines project goals
  • Prioritizes and delegates as needed
  • Allocates project resources to maximize results
  • Effectively manages human resources that are committed to the project
  • Effectively facilitates and controls the project process
  • Measures project progress
  • Takes corrective action as needed
  • Sees projects through to completion or orderly transition
  • Realistically estimates time and resource requirements
  • Recognizes situations where prompt and determined actions are needed and responds accordingly

Leverage Technology to Develop and Enhance Personal Competencies

  • Exchanges information using appropriate communication technologies such as e-mail, discussion boards and video-conferencing
  • Explores new technologies and their application to business and accounting scenarios
  • Acquires skills through technology-based learning modules when available and appropriate
  • Addresses privacy, intellectual property rights and security issues related to electronic communications

Broad Business Perspective Competencies

A broad business perspective is necessary to understand the context in which accounting services are delivered. The Broad Business Perspective Competencies consider both the internal and external business environments and how their interactions determine success or failure of the enterprise.

Strategic/Critical Thinking

  • Articulates the principles of the strategic planning process
  • Identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with a specific scenario, case, or business activity
  • Identifies and gathers data from a wide variety of sources to provide insightful interpretations for decision-making
  • Transfers knowledge from one situation to another
  • Analyzes and prepares strategic information (e.g., market share, customer satisfaction, competitor actions, product innovation, etc.)

Industry/Sector Perspective

  • Identifies the economic, broad business, and financial risks of the industry/sector
  • Articulates an organization's key competitive advantages and disadvantages
  • Recognizes market forces that make a given organization a candidate for merger, acquisition, and/or strategic alliance
  • Communicates the financial and nonfinancial performance of an organization's operational processes

International/Global Perspective

  • Analyzes the cultural and financial impacts of moving into new markets, and expanding existing markets
  • Considers global consequences of human and financial resource management
  • Analyzes global customer demographics
  • Identifies and analyzes the social costs and benefits of relevant decisions in the global marketplace/environment

Resource Management

  • Articulates how resource availability affects the organization's business functions, processes and administrative procedures
  • Identifies both traditional and non-traditional performance criteria and measurement methods by selecting appropriate success factors and measures of their achievement (see functional competencies)
  • Articulates how organizations make decisions to allocate scarce resources, including recognition of both quantitative and qualitative constraints on these decisions (Specific examples include decisions regarding capacity and resource utilization.)
  • Identifies and addresses the social costs and benefits of business decisions and evaluates the fiduciary performance of public sector and not-for-profit management
  • Identifies the effects of market forces on organizations' costs of capital, labor, commodities, etc.
  • Analyzes the implications of an organization's lack of access to supply sources, financial markets, and intellectual capital (barriers to entry, expansion, or survival)
  • Facilitates analysis of the organization and the application of continuous improvement principles to the organization

Legal/Regulatory Perspective

  • Describes the legal and governmental/regulatory environment in which entities operate and the significant costs and benefits of regulation
  • Analyzes potential threats and opportunities for the organization from changing legal requirements
  • Identifies and explains the political and environmental forces impacting both the accounting standard setting process and the regulation of the profession.
  • Recognizes the dynamic nature of political and environmental forces and their implications for organizations and the ways in which they operate.

Marketing/Client Focus

  • Identifies factors that motivate internal and external customers to enter into relationships or continue doing business with an organization
  • Recognizes and understands employer/client protocol and expectations
  • Builds good working relationships

Leverage Technology to Develop and Enhance a Broad Business Perspective

  • Recognizes commonly used information architectures
  • Recognizes business opportunities and risks associated with electronic commerce
  • Mines electronic data sources for business and industry information
  • Uses technology to develop and present strategic information


American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). AICPA Core Competency Framework for Entry into the Accounting Profession. New York, NY: AICPA

Wu, Angela Jing. 2008. Integrating the AICPA Core Competencies into Classroom Teaching A Practitioner’s Experiences in Transitioning to Academia. CPA Journal (August). Available at:

The secret of what anything means to us depends on how we've connected it to all the other things we know.

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