What is CPA (Certified Public Accountant)?
A Certified Public Accountant or CPA is a respectable credential that is given to one by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). One can achieve this credential by successfully passing the Uniform CPA Examination and also by meeting certain educational and experience requirements. All over the world, different countries have certifications equivalent to that of CPA like the CA designation in India. The US CPA is one of the most highly respected credentials in the field of accounting and finance.
What is ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)?
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants or ACCA is a leading global professional accounting body founded in 1904, which offers the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification to learners who want to build a career in finance. Individuals who are Chartered Certified Accountants must be the members of the ACCA and also they must comply with certain additional regulations such as carrying liability insurance, having a practising certificate etc.
Differences between ACCA & US CPA
Application & Qualification:
This is one of the most crucial and vital differences between CPA and ACCA.
To appear for the CPA qualifying exam, the candidate must have any of the following qualifications.
- Member of the “Institute of Costs & Works Accountants in India.”
- Member of the “Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.”
- Member of the “Company Secretaries in India.”
- Master of Commerce.
- B.com graduates, pursuing Masters.
The basic requirement for a candidate to become eligible for the CPA exam is that one must have 120 or 150 credits and the total must include 30+ in accounting and 24+ in business-related subjects. However, these requirements may vary according to different states. Once you are approved to give the exam, the preparation method depends completely on you. For the CPA exam, the state board would not provide any study material; candidates have to take commercial review courses. That is a decision that would need to be made according to one’s level of comfort. CPA USA can be pursued from various accredited institutions.
The entry-level qualification for the ACCA is much lower than that of the CPA as the minimum requirements for the qualification are as follows.
Two A-Levels and three GCSEs (or their equivalent). These need to be in five separate subjects, including English and Maths. You can decide to do ACCA right after 10th, graduation is not really a necessity here. Another notable information is that if you have a bachelor’s degree in the relevant subjects, you can certainly apply for exemption on the part of all the papers at the fundamental level. Apart from this, there would be certain documentations that need to be submitted to write the ACCA exam.
CPA USA consists of four parts/papers which are related to Audit, Business Environment, Financial Reporting and Regulations. As mentioned above previously, CPA USA requires a student to study for at least 150 semester hours which is usually a graduate degree, before entering a CPA program. There are 4 parts of the CPA exam: Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR), Audit & Attestation (AUD), Regulation (REG) and Business Environment & Concepts (BEC). These papers are tested the same irrespective of the state or institute. Finally, another important particular is that one also needs to pass or get an exemption from an ethics paper.
The ACCA consists of three important particulars which are: 4 entry-level papers, 13 ACCA papers and also two outline modules which are based on professional ethics. There are four papers of the FIA or Foundation in Accounts which is an entry-level certificate and three initial papers of the ACCA. Then there are 13 ACCA papers which are further divided into two main groups – nine fundamental 4 professional papers. The candidate has a choice of whether he/she wants to finish off with the FIA or further pursue the ACCA qualification.
Exam Format & Content:
The US CPA examination content involves these four parts in detail:
- Auditing & Attestation (AUD)
- Business Environment & Concepts (BEC)
- Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)
- Regulation (REG)
To become a CPA, one needs to pass all the four sections within an 18-month testing window. Each part of the Uniform examination is a 4-hour paper that covers different subsets of topics and concepts related to business and finance.
The CPA exam is 100% computerized, and each part of the exam is arranged into test-lets. These testlets consist of several multiple-choice questions followed by many task-based simulations. There are also written communication test-lets in the exam.
One can choose to take four parts, one at a time or two at a time or even all four at once. That can be decided accordingly; you can sit for the exam at any of the Prometric centres and at any time during the first two months of every quarter.
ACCA covers the following subjects at the knowledge and professional level:
- Financial Reporting
- Cost and Management Accounting, Financial Management, Performance Management etc
- Ethics and other relevant theories
As mentioned before there are 13 papers which are divided into Fundamental Level consisting of 9 papers and Professional Level consisting of 4 papers. Candidates can also apply to waive off part or all of the given papers but only at the Fundamental Level. You basically first have to give the four FIA (Foundation in Accounts) papers as an entry-level certificate and then proceed to giving the 13 ACCA papers.
The ACCA exam isn’t computerized although some papers might be computerized but not all. This particular examination is offered about four times in a year.
The ACCA exam is also computerized in India and during the pandemic there is remote proctoring.
Duration & Passing Criteria:
Usually, candidates need to pass the CPA USA examination within 12 to 18 months, but if you are highly committed and passionate about this, you can choose to take all the four parts of the exam in a single go which will indeed be a great achievement. In this case, the course would be completed within 3 to 6 months. The passing criteria for the CPA papers are 75%.
Given that the number of papers in the ACCA course are a lot and also the fact that these exams are held only twice a year, candidates usually complete all the papers and become an ACCA member within almost 4 years which is definitely a long time when compared to CPA. The passing criteria for the ACCA papers are 50%.
The job of a CPA is related to finance and accounting service for the public. The designation of a CPA is highly respectable and Internationally recognized all over the globe. A CPA can work for large and small public accounting firms. A Certified Public Accountant is a trusted financial advisor who diligently helps various individuals, businesses and other organizations to reach their financial goals. The CPA license is not required for corporate or private accountants, but it is necessary for public accountants who work either solo or for companies that provide accounting services to others.
CPAs specialize in many areas like:
- Financial Analysis
- Internal Auditing
- Management Accounting
- Information Technology Auditing
- Tax accounting
There are multiple career options available for ACCA professionals too. An ACCA can work as a management consultant, financial planner and so on. Their work is related to the inspection of the accounting service of public and private entities. They usually also deal with international accounting standards. They need to have the certification before the inspection. Other than auditing, taxation, etc. ACCA can mark their presence globally across the field of finance, controlling, and financial analysis. ACCA India has no authority for signing, and hence he cannot mark his signature on audit reports. Similarly, he cannot set up his auditing firm as well. However, an ACCA India professional can carry out auditing jobs in the UK.
Key Differences between ACCA and CPA USA
|CPA is organized by American Institute of CPA||ACCA is organized by Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.|
|Requires Master’s level of qualification for eligibility.||Requires post-secondary level of qualification for eligibility.|
|Can be completed in 18 months.||Can be completed in 3 to 5 years.|
|Passing criteria is 75%||Passing criteria is 50%|
|Feasible because it consists of 4 exam papers in total to be completed.||Is complicated since it has about 13 exam papers to clear.|
|It is an American accountancy diploma therefore is recognized internationally.||It is a UK based study and is also equivalent to a UK Master’s degree.|
Why should one pursue ACCA?
The ACCA certification prepares you for both financial and management roles; this will help you choose careers in different industries. ACCA is definitely recognized all over the globe, and since it is a UK based study, it might not be possible for an ACCA India to run its own auditing firm in India. But ACCA India professionals can carry out an auditing job in the UK successfully.
Though the exams are lengthy and there are a lot of papers for the ACCA qualification, exams can be attempted twice in a year with around 300+ locations to choose from around the globe which just makes it easier for the candidate to find the nearest exam location. One can appear for the exam right after completing their 10th, unlike CPA, ACCA doesn’t require graduation to be completed.
Why should one pursue the CPA?
AICPA is an extremely prestigious body for Certified Public Accountants, and the Uniform CPA exam that is conducted by the AICPA is looked upon with high regards since it is the highest qualification that a CA (Chartered Accountant) can achieve. Therefore, CPA is a very prestigious credential. CPA receives the valid license that allows them to practice in the USA successfully. They also enjoy other advantages of getting to work with large organizations, public accounting departments and also in various reputable American MNCs.
Earning the CPA license demonstrates a commitment to the profession and often shows potential candidates for management and leadership positions. The CPA is less confusing and feasible as compared to the ACCA, and this is computerized. CPAs are multi-talented professionals as they get to perform various specialized jobs like international financial reporting, tax advisory services, business and management and also information technology.
ACCA and CPA are both very well-recognized all around the globe. One has to choose between the two qualifications based on their individual study on various aspects like future plans, background, career interest, jurisdiction, country preference and many more like this. The decision depends completely on the individual, but this article will help understand both the courses in every way which will help make a more informed decision. Requirements also might vary in different cases when it comes to one qualification or another and even state wise.
Hope this article will be of help as it contains all the required basic information for both the courses ACCA and CPA. Despite this, if any more queries need to be dealt with, you may drop your comment below.
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