ACCA vs CPA (USA): Which Is Better for Your Career?

If you are an accountant and want to further your career by pursuing a certification, should you choose ACCA or CPA?

ACCA vs. CPA: Organization Structure

There is no centralized body for CPA, each state has differing CPA exams and licensing requirements, and the CPA license is granted by each of the 55 states or jurisdictions in the USA. 

International candidates are often confused about the complicated application process.

ACCA is based in the United Kingdom. It operates as a single entity with a much simpler application process.

International ACCA candidates generally consider the certification as a global brand, and it is most widely recognized in the Commonwealth nations.

ACCA vs. CPA: Application & Qualification

The biggest difference when it comes to ACCA vs. CPA is the qualification.

For US CPA, candidates must have a minimum of 120 credits for some states with each academic year equivalent to 30 credits. Some states require 150 credits. This means you must have a 4-year bachelor’s degree and preferably a master’s degree to fulfill the 150 credit hours, which is equivalent to 5 years of a college education. 

The CPA exam is a “qualifying exam” and not a “program.”

For the CPA exam, the State Boards do not provide any courses or study materials. Candidates may take commercial review courses on their own to prepare for the exam.

For ACCA, the entry-level is much lower – you are qualified for ACCA as long as you have 3 GCSEs and 2 A-Levels in 5 separate subjects, including Math and English. Most high school graduates can qualify. If you have a bachelor’s degree in relevant subjects, you may apply for exemption from a few papers at the Fundamental Level.

Unlike the US CPA, once candidates have registered for the exam, ACCA takes active participation in helping you to prepare for the exam by providing study guides, textbooks, and sample exam papers so you can follow a syllabus and study accordingly. ACCA also runs a database of ACCA Approved Learning Partners.

ACCA vs. CPA: Exam Content and Format

There are four parts of the Uniform CPA Exam: Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR), Audit & Attestation (AUD), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment & Concepts (BEC).

The exam is 100% computerized consisting of multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations (similar to case studies), and a written communications component called essays.

For CPA, you can choose to take the four parts one at a time, two at a time, or even four at the same time but you must complete all parts within eighteen months of taking the first part. You can choose to sit for the exam any time (Monday to Friday / Saturday) during the first two months of each quarter and at any of the Prometric centers available throughout the USA as well as in Japan, Brazil, and four Middle Eastern countries.

For ACCA, there are 14 papers divided into Professional Level (5 papers) and Fundamental Level (9 papers). 

Some but not all papers are computerized. The exam is offered four times a year in over 170 countries.

ACCA vs. CPA: Time Required to Pass

Most candidates aim to pass the US CPA exam within 12 to 18 months. Those who have the time and commitment can choose to take all the exam parts at once and complete the exams within 3 to 6 months as well.

With the number of papers and the fact that the exams are held only twice a year, candidates generally need 3 - 4 years to complete all the exam papers and become ACCA members.


Hope the above article helps you make a sound decision about what career path to follow. If you have any queries, feel free to comment in the section below. Happy Learning!

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