Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) has become a powerful technique for measuring extremely low abundances (10/sup -10/ to 10/sup -15/ relative to stable isotopes) of long-lived radioisotopes with half-lives in the range from 10/sup 2/ to 10/sup 8/ years. With a few exceptions, tandem accelerators turned out to be the most useful instruments for AMS measurements. Both natural (mostly cosmogenic) and manmade (anthropogenic) radioisotopes are studied with this technique. In some cases very low concentrations of stable isotopes are also measured. Applications of AMS cover a large variety of fields including anthropology, archaeology, oceanography, hydrology, climatology, volcanology, mineral exploration, cosmochemistry, meteoritics, glaciology, sedimentary processes, geochronology, environmental physics, astrophysics, nuclear and particle physics. Present and future prospects of AMS will be discussed as an interplay between the continuous development of new techniques and the investigation of problems in the above mentioned field. Depending on the specific problem to be investigated, different aspects of an AMS system are of importance. Typical factors to be considered are energy range and type of accelerator, and the possibilities of dedicated versus partial use of new or existing accelerators.