A Complete Break down About CPA certificate vs License: Comparison

CPA Certificate vs License: What is the difference? This question is often prevalent among the candidates who wish to do CPA. They often get confused between the two terms and use them interchangeably. But dont worry! This article will give you all the information about CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and the difference between the two terms. Read this blog upto end to understand complete details about CPA.
The CPA, accredited by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants), is a pretty sought-after certification when it comes to the professionals who are in the accounting and audit field. They search and get enrolled in the most prestigious CPA certification course to clear the exam and get CPA-certified. One such online institute that provides a well-organized and comprehensive course is NorthStar Academy.
So, before we move further, let us see what CPA actually is!  

What is CPA? 

CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant. It is also one of the reputed credentials in which qualified accountants get numerous job options not only in India but abroad as well. The person who clears the CPA exam is given the title of Chartered Accountant. In the US, CPA is a licensed credential, wherein the person provides accounting services to the people. Once an individual gets the CPA credential, he/she can work in all over the world. 
To do CPA, a person requires CPE credit hours, i.e., Continuing Professional Education. It is essential to ensure the license of the individuals. Now, here arises a question, i.e., what does a CPA do? 
Well, a CPA is a professional designation that allows mobility and flexibility in the career of an individual. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a CPA can work in the below sectors:
  • Public Accounting
  • Education
  • Non-profit Organization
  • Government
  • Business
  • Industry 
These are just some titles. There will be numerous job opportunities that can help get better job opportunities in the future. So, before moving on with the CPA certificate vs license, let us first understand that what is the difference between a CPA and an accountant? Are they the same?
All Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are Accountants. But that is not the case with Accountants. Accountants cannot be CPAs. An accountant is defined as a person who has the responsibility of keeping and interpreting financial records. 
On the other hand, a CPA has more responsibilities as compared to an accountant. They are not limited to one job role. Along with interpreting financial records, CPAs work in many areas. They are: 
  • Auditing 
  • Reviewing 
  • Financial Planning
  • Litigation Consultant 
  • Consulting Services 
  • Tax Preparation 
Acquiring a CPA license can take a lot of time, effort, and patience. Being a CPA means that one has to study hard and remain committed to CPE even after earning the designation. 

Why should I pursue CPA?

Before getting to know the difference between the CPA certificate vs license, it is essential why one must become a CPA. Here are the reasons why one must gain this prestigious credential. 


We all know that CPA is a reputed professional credential and the journey to achieve this credential is quite difficult. Once an individual earns the credential, it is a prestigious thing in itself. One becomes a distinguished part of the top group of accountants. It is a matter of respect. Isnt it? 

Career Opportunities

The best thing about Certified Public Accountants is that the credential gives you a career boost and opens a wide door of job opportunities. As a CPA one can work flexibly in any role. Within the accounting industry and outside it, a CPA enjoys career development in full form! 

Financial and Career Growth 

CPAs are very high in demand. That is why they have amazing financial and career growth. The starting salary of a CPA is way more than an accountant. The jobs for CPA are increasing in number. Thus, after one becomes a CPA, there are numerous career opportunities with high pay grades. 

Monetary Benefits 

After earning the CPA license, an individual has expertise in the accounting field. As a result, jobs with a high pay scale are provided to the individuals. A CPA is paid much higher as compared to ordinary accountants. Thus, there is job satisfaction and monetary benefits after one has become a CPA. 
Now, let us talk about the CPA certificate vs license. 
They are both completely different things. So, dont think that they are the same. They  provide you with different legal authorities and responsibilities in the accounting/CPA sector.
A CPA certificate is an acknowledgment that you have passed the CPA exam. On the other hand, a CPA license is a document issued telling that a person has become a licensed CPA. Let us look at the key differences between a CPA certificate and CPA license. 

CPA Certificate vs License 

S.NO. CPA Certificate CPA License
To earn a CPA certificate, no prior job experience is needed by the candidate. To acquire a CPA license, it is essential to have prior job experience by the candidate. At least 2 years of accounting experience is required to gain the license.
The candidate has to pass the CPA exam to gain the certification. There is no need of Continuing Professional Education to get the CPA certificate. To gain the CPA license and maintain it, individuals need to have Continuing Professional Education (CPE). The candidates must also pass CPA tests and complete at least 40 hours of CPE every year.
As a CPA certificate gainer, one cannot sign tax returns, audit reports, and other documents. An individual having a CPA license can sign audit reports, tax returns, and other legal documents.
A CPA certificate owner cannot be a partner in any public accounting company. A candidate having a CPA license can partner with a public accounting company/ business.
Only some states have allowed the candidates to use CPA designation on unofficial documents. All the states allow the candidates to use CPA designation on official as well as unofficial documents.
CPA certificate holders need to pay a small fee for renewing the certification. CPA license requires a significant fee in order to renew every year.
So, these are the main points of difference between a CPA Certificate vs license. It is important to note that every state board of accountancy has different rules and regulations in order to become a CPA. The common requirements might be the same but there are certain requirements that are different in different states and countries. 
After knowing the CPA Certificate vs License difference, let us look at how one can get a CPA certificate. 

What are the CPA Certificate Requirements?

To get the CPA certificate, one had to pass the CPA exam and fulfill the CPA certification requirements and eligibility criteria provided by the administering body. So, here is the eligibility criterion for the same. 
  • A candidate should pass 4 exams of CPA
  • A candidate should have a postgraduate degree in order to apply for the exam. 
  • He/ she should be a member of the Institute for Chartered Accountants, Institute of Cost & Work Accountants, or Indian Society of Company Secretaries. 
  • An individual having a Masters in business administration will be preferred more. 

What is the Syllabus of the CPA exam?  

In order to qualify CPA exam, an individual must have expertise in four areas. Here is the syllabus of the exam. 
  • Auditing & Attestation 
  • Financial Accounting & Reporting 
  • Regulation 
  • Environment & Business Concepts
Now, coming to the fee structure, CPA is a bit expensive. This is the situation, wherein NorthStar Academy comes in. NorthStar Academy offers bundle discounts on the fee so that the candidates can appear for the exam without thinking about the fee structure. 
The academy helps in clearing the exam in just 12 months. With a record of 85% pass percentage, the academy has made many successful CPAs across the globe. Whats more? Well, NorthStar Academy is the premium learning partner for AICPA
Now, you must be wondering why one must choose Northstar Academy. So, here are the reasons why Northstar Academy is the best for getting a CPA certification or license. 
  • Indias best mentors, like M Irfat Sir, help in strengthening the basics and advance of finance and accounting for beginners. The CPA classes ensure that the students learn properly even if they are from Science or Arts backgrounds. 
  • The CPA course starts from scratch and covers every topic and concept in detail to make you exam ready. 
  • NorthStar Academy has its own app that ensures that the candidates can take the class anytime, anywhere. The study material, live session, pre-recorded classes, and much more is available on the app. 
  • NorthStar Academy provides you with 100% placement, thereby helping your career reach new heights. The placement team works to provide you with excellent career and job opportunities. 
  • The academy provides you with exclusive study material that can help the candidates pass the exam in one go! 
So, these are the reasons why NorthStar Academy is better than any other institution to get a CPA certificate. Moreover, you can prepare with the CPA certification online course with Northstar Academy. 
Now, when it comes to CPA certificate v/s license, we are always confused that which is better between the two. Well, as we have seen till now that both the certifications are better. But there are certain perks provided to people having CPA certification and CPA license. 

Perks of having a CPA Certificate 

The CPA certification provides many perks to individuals after one has cracked the CPA exam. So, let us have a look at the different perks provided by the CPA certificate v/s license.  
  • Job experience is not needed in the majority of jurisdictions that take place before the exam. 
  • There is no need to have Continuing Professional Education (CPE) to maintain the CPA certification. 
  • After gaining the CPA certificate, ones area of job and career are limited because certificate holders cannot part in CPA or accounting companies. 
  • After clearing the exam, the individual cannot use the CPA designation in official or unofficial documents. 

How to get a CPA license in India?

  • 2 years of work experience is required by the candidate in order to get a CPA license. 
  • CPE hours are important to maintain the CPE license. Many states demand 120 hours of CPE for over three years, i.e., 40 hours for each and every year. 
  • Candidates can use the CPA designation to sign several legal documents and work in a CPA firm. 
This is the requirement for a CPA license India. Let us have a look at CPA for international candidates.  
  • There is no difference whether one operates in a one-tier or two-tier jurisdiction. The CPA certification is provided to the candidates after passing the CPA exam. 
  • The next step is to gain a license by undergoing a practice for gaining the CPA designation. 
  • Most states have shifted to two-tier jurisdiction which helps in making the process of gaining the designation easier. 
CPA is a lucrative career option that can provide you with numerous job opportunities. We have seen the CPA certificate vs license difference. The difference lies in practice, authorization, designation, job roles, and responsibilities.    


1.What is a CPA License?

A CPA license is acquired after one has gained the CPA certificate. To maintain the license, it is important to have CPEs as they help in maintaining the license. Also, to have a CPA license, one has to have 1-2 years of work experience in the financial and accounting fields. 

2.What is the best certification for accountants?

ACCA or CPA could be the best certifications when one wants to become an accountant. Both provide numerous jobs in many fields apart from accounting. So, to get job roles in various fields, it is essential to get a CPA or ACCA certification. 

3.What is a CPA license in Deloitte? 

The CPA is the most prestigious credential that helps one in getting jobs in top companies like Deloitte. To get job opportunities in top companies, one must earn a CPA certificate and license. A CPA license is a must-have to get hired in the companies like Deloitte. 

4.How can I get a CPA certificate in India? 

To gain the CPA credential, the candidates must have a bachelors degree from a recognized university or equivalent CPE for 150 hours in the relevant field. Moreover, they should have 2 years of work experience in the relevant field. Furthermore, you can get enrolled in the top institutes like NorthStar Academy to receive training and clear the CPA exam. Clearing the exam will get you the CPA certificate.

5.Is CPA available in India? 

The CPA exam is available to be taken in India. It is available in all the cities and can be applied online via the AICPA official website. CPA is a great field that helps individuals in getting jobs in the finance and accounting sectors. The course provides financial security to the candidates. 

6.Is a CPA degree valid in India? 

CPA is the highest credential that is globally accredited. It is valid in India and across various countries. 

7.How much does a CPA cost in India? 

In India, the CPA costs Rs. 73,000 on average. However, the international fee can go up to Rs. 109,500. 


CPA is the best thing an individual can do to upgrade his/ her career. But before giving the CPA exam, it is important to know all about the CPA certificate vs license. 
Be it a CPA certificate or license, it is important to have complete information about CPA. After gaining the CPA certification, the candidates should go for attaining the CPA license as well. It will play an integral part in your career rather than just being an accountant.
 Now, to gain the certificate, it is essential to apply to an institute that helps you in earning the required CPE credits and assists you in the preparation for the CPA exam. NorthStar Academy (NSA) helps you in gaining CPA certification and license.
NSA provides the best study material, live sessions, continuous support, and guidance from top mentors in the CPA certification course. As an individual, one can have amazing career opportunities with Gleim and Northstar Academy. Apply today and avail the benefits of getting a CPA certification and license.
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